An effective website planning process will set you up for success when it comes time to launch. Before you even start thinking about how your website will look, there are a few key preparatory steps to take. Having a plan in place will ensure that the creation of your website runs smoothly, whether you’re building it yourself or working with a web developer. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” If you don’t know where to start with your website, follow the 5 steps I’ve outlined below, and as always, feel free to contact me or leave a comment if you have any questions.
1. Determine your budget
A crucial step in the website planning process is determining your budget. There are multiple expenses involved in building and maintaining a website, and the cost can vary widely depending on how you decide to go about it. Will you hire a web designer or build it yourself? This is likely the biggest determining factor for your budget. In addition, your budget will help determine which hosting service and website platform you’ll use. If you decide to use a platform such as WordPress or Squarespace, you’ll also have to consider the costs of premium themes and plugins.
Setting a budget before getting started on your website can save you stress down the line. Most web developers will outline all the costs involved in building your website outside of their fee. If they don’t, be sure to ask before you commit to their process.
2. Create a cohesive brand identity
Branding is an essential component of the website planning process. Your brand identity will determine not just how your website looks, but also how it functions. You should have a clear focus on who your website is for, and what value it provides them. Your brand is ultimately what attracts your audience and keeps them coming back for more. Through the use of colors, personality, tone of voice, and even font choice, branding helps people form an emotional connection with your business. It doesn’t matter whether you are a “solopreneur” or a large corporation–if you have unique and professional branding, you will stand out from your competitors and attract a loyal following.
3. Register a domain
Registering a domain name for your website is a relatively simple step of the website planning process. Usually, your domain name is just the name of your business. A good practice is to check for availability of various domain names before you settle on your business name. You can use this tool to search for available domains. If your domain name is different from your business name, people are going to have a hard time finding your site and remembering its URL.
Domains run anywhere from $2-$20/year. GoDaddy and Namecheap are two popular and affordable services for domain registration. Most hosting providers also sell domains, however you can purchase your domain separately if you find it cheaper elsewhere.
4. Purchase a hosting plan
Choosing the right hosting service can be a daunting task. Certain website platforms, such as WiX, Squarespace, and Shopify, include hosting. However, if you’re building a website using WordPress.org (which I use for most of my clients), you’ll need to purchase hosting separately. There are a number of different hosting providers, and each have their own pros and cons. For an affordable and reliable option, I recommend Siteground. For a larger site with more advanced features, you may wish to consider a premium host, such as WP Engine. Keep in mind that WordPress sites require a WordPress-specific hosting plan.
If thinking about hosting is giving you a headache, you’re not alone. Explore a few different plans and take note of their prices and features. If you hire a web designer, he or she can help you choose the right plan for your specific needs and thus save you a lot of time and energy. Some designers will even set up hosting for you. You can always switch to another provider later on if you’re unsatisfied with the service or need additional features.
5. Prepare your content
Last but not least, the website planning process is not complete without content. Content includes copy, images, videos, and brand assets, such as your logo. It’s extremely difficult to design a strategic website without at least having an outline in place for your content. After all, your content is the focal point of your website. Your copy needs to be engaging and grammatically immaculate. Your images should be relevant, high quality, and match your branding. If you’re creating a blog, you should have a few posts prepared before launching your site. If you need a copywriter, you’ll have to account for that in your budget.
If you hire a web designer, they will likely ask you to provide content. Some designers, myself included, help curate stock images, write and edit web copy, and create custom graphics. Let your designer know if you anticipate needing any of these services.
If you’ve completed all of the above steps, congratulations! You’re ready to start working on your website. If you’re feeling intimidated or simply don’t have the time to put in all this preparatory work, consider outsourcing. My services encompass strategic branding, web design, and copywriting. I specialize in WordPress, although I occasionally work with other platforms. Contact me today to get started.