If your business is considering its first website or update of or your existing company website then you may find yourself among the many who set off on the venture just not knowing what is involved with building a new website.
So many of our first meetings with businesses often center around some fundamental basics about getting the project up and running and it’s equally important for those heading up the project to have an understanding of what it involved from start to finish. Hence this simple guide!
Planning your new website
It is true what they say that the more you plan the better the result, but when you start examining it there’s a whole lot to plan too. Most important and most obvious is the aim of the website. You may be opening a new online shop, selling subscription services, you may want to sell holidays or simply create a new brochure site that promotes your business. Be absolutely clear about what you want the site to do, what you don’t want it to do and be realistic in your expectations. Chat this through with your teams and get your results down on paper, it will help sharpen your idea and provide invaluable material for your chosen web design agency.
Start thinking about your content
So soon? I thought this all came at the end? – The sooner you start planning and writing your content the smoother the process will be throughout. Content is key to long term success and no matter how good your site looks your visitors will soon want to scratch under the surface and see what you have to say if they are really interested in passing business your way. If you’re not a writer it will be a worthwhile investment in getting your content properly copy-written from the start, have a chat with your agency. Good web design agencies should be able to advise you on this. When you start planning your content you may find that your thoughts on flow through the website may change which can have a big impact on elements of the site such as navigation, SEO (search engine optimisation) and even the number of physical pages.
SEO – That’s what we call sorting stuff out for Google
SEO or search engine optimisation will matter to you. Once your site is launched you want to have it visible as soon as possible and getting found by your customers. As an agency ourselves we put strong focus on this element and narrowing your search phrases, terms and competition early on can save a lot of heartache down the line. SEO should be built into the site from the ground up unfortunately nowadays it’s not just adding a few key-phrases here or there.
The website sitemap
Once we have analysed the brief and looked at the structure of your content we can then draft up a sitemap, this should include all of the main pages that will be in the website from the start, it will form the basis for the design of key areas such as your navigation menu, home page and blog. Sitemaps can take various forms from a spreadsheet, flow chart or something much more elaborate. Either way this should be agreed by both agency and client before any design work starts.
Allow time to plan for your new website – no doubt your new company website will become central to your marketing and business operations. The more detailed a brief the smoother a journey through development which can save valuable time and money down the line.
For certain types of website or where there may be some complexities that need ironing out before the design, some agencies may recommend producing wireframes. These are simple sketches as such which enable client and agency to better understand certain functions of the website or play with various layouts in order to build a strong basis from which to design from.
Website Design Concepts
It’s taken a long while but finally we get to the bit that everyone looks forward to, when we start to see the project come to life. Usually we start with the home page design. You should expect a couple of different concepts if your web design isn’t based on a theme. Some agencies will stipulate a certain amount of changes, others will be more flexible, but ultimately it’s important that you are delighted with the result. Once the home page is agreed the concept is extended to sub pages, mobile views and particular design elements that may exist within the new website.
Website Development – The website build
Once the designs are signed off and your confident that all basis are covered, the agency will typically write the code for the website. This is a complicated and often time consuming process however in simple terms though it is the process of deconstructing the design and converting it into HTML code that will be read back through your visitors browser, mobile or tablet. Done right by professionals the final build of the site should look pretty much exactly like the design you agreed to although there will always be some subtle discrepancies between design and code. Good agencies will ensure the site is tested across the multitude of internet browsers and adhere to those all important SEO fundamentals throughout.
Inserting content into your website
Once the build is done, we’ll be ready for your content, hence the importance of not leaving it until the end as this can cause long delays for the launch of the website. If your website is built on a CMS (content management system) it may be an idea to get involved with this yourself, especially if you’re planning to update your own site ongoing. You’ll understand what’s involved, how long it will take you and what you can and cannot do so you can hit the ground running as soon as the website is online.
Test, test and test again
We always deploy new websites onto a staging environment before it is launched. This enables you to interact fully with your website, review performance and content and make sure everything is working great before the big switch over.
D-day – Getting your website live!
So we have reached launch at last and the moment all of your efforts are made live to the world, you’ll probably want to hit your social channels or get the publicity machine whirring as soon as it is online – so that’s it yes? Sorry there’s still a few more things that need to be done, and it is all equally as important!
In reality getting your new website live is just the start, the hard work really starts now when you consider promotion, driving traffic, referrals and delivering consistent quality content to your audience – you may find our guide to blogging basics for small businesses a useful read also.
Telling Google you’ve arrived!
So you need to let Google know that you’re online and ready for business. Agencies should submit sitemaps, feeds and site submissions and if you’re replacing an old site ensure that everything is correctly redirected from old to new.
Analysing the early days
It’s important that the website is doing what you expected following launch. We study analytics of the website to ensure your visitors are interacting as expected, that your enquiry forms are coming through and that elements like payments are arriving safe and sound! It’s difficult to mimic everyone’s browsing habits, so speak to your customers and get their feedback on the new site, you’ll find it invaluable and may highlight something that just might have been missed!
And finally that’s it, you’re online and underway to what should be a strong professional grounding to your online venture. We could go on and talk about how you can maintain and grow your site for the future but that’s a whole other story. Rest assured follow these fundamentals and hire a professional agency and you’ll be well on the road to success.