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Planning to build a new website and not sure where to start? No sweat, we have a cool guide from 12 points that will help you to define your website goals, target audience, choose the images and create the right look and feel for your site. All you’ll need is a sheet of paper, 10 minute access to the internet, a friend and a cup of coffee or tea. Let’s get into work.
Starting on website creation the very first questions you should ask yourself is “Why do I need a website?” The answer “because everyone has it” is wrong. Let’s imagine you have a small bakery in a small town and people come daily right to your door to taste your cakes and candies. Do you really need a website in this case? I guess you don’t. Now let’s imagine that you have enough time, equipment and resources to deliver the pastries to the nearby villages. Now this is the case when having a website can be a pretty good idea. Here come just a few most common reasons why you may need a website:
Photo by Stefan Tell
Once you’re sure you do need a site let’s think about your future website audience. If you are making yummy pastries then your audience is the whole world, but if you are a pool cleaner for example, then you need a serious think. If you are targeting a nearby village make sure that there are pools in there and if you work as Santa make sure people who live close to you celebrate Christmas as well.
This one is closely connected with point two. The bigger your field of experience and expertise is, the larger is your audience but at the same time the bigger your competition is. Say you are the only person in your city cleaning pools and everyone knows you. Now let’s imagine there’s exactly the same person in the other city and everyone knows him and invites for a cup of coffee? Right, why would they ever call you even if they find your website? Well, there’ one simple trick you can make to beat the competition- offer something special and unique. Offer lover pricing, some free services, ask your clients to put some reviews for you and put all that on a paper or make a document with notes on your computer.
Photo by will nickelson
Now when you know your audience and your competition you can start thinking about the website itself. Do not hurry and don’t panic. Check the websites of your competitors and websites of the top companies in your area of business. Make notes about what you like and what you don’t, what’s convenient for you as a user and what is not, how are the products presented, is it easy to find the products/service you are looking for and if it is easy to order it online. Choose several websites you like most and ask your friends to test them for usability. Compare your notes and draw conclusions.
Once complete divide your notes and conclusions into the following categories:
- design likes and dislikes: color scheme, website layout and general design direction;
- functionality: what is convenient and what is not, navigation, how quickly you can get to the product page, what’s the registration/checkout process etc;
- calls to action: what buttons, phrases or banners made you interested in the product; what made you feel the product/service is what you need and where would it be appropriate to add the buy/order/call or learn more buttons on your website.
While you can still act like a website visitor and not like a website owner think of the keywords you would use to find a website like yours. Ask your friends to help you and put the keywords down. It’s better to think about it now while you still have enough time before website design and development starts as these keywords will further drive traffic to the website. Do not forget about geo-targeting, people in CA won’t order cakes from NY.
Photo by Lunabee ^_^
Let’s make sure your future website looks professional and attractive. Most of the website design companies will ask if you have the photos to use and will be pleasantly surprised if you do. Professional photos of your delicious cakes or neat stylish hand-made jewelry can make and indelible impression on your website visitors and push them to place the order right away. Do not use stock photos if you make the products yourself, seeing thousands of them everyday online people will know this is not yours and will subliminally feel cheated and disappointed and thus not likely to place the order. If you are creating a corporate website for say an IT company using stock photography is a usual practice and you can rely on a design company to choose the appropriate images for you. Still, if you can make photos of your stuff this will give a more personal feeling, thus more trust and comfort. We all like to see people we work with, right?
Coming to the point of brand recognition you need to think of the company logo and name (if you don’t have one yet). As a rule, if you don’t need a company logo for your offline business you won’t need it online (and if you have one you are more likely to use it online as well). Think of some nice company name and make sure it’s not taken yet. When talking to designer don’t forget to mention that you don’t have a logo but would like to have the company name written in some nice font matching the website style, look and feel. This will also help you to keep the design costs down which is very important when you are just starting your online business.
Logo by vissago
Now let’s remember how you’ve been visiting the websites of your competitors. What information was useful and what was not, what you have found interesting and what was boring, what calls to action made you actually act? Think what you’d like to tell to your customers, what it is so unique in you that they can find irresistible and place the order right away, give you a call or add the website to the favorites to check back later? Do not forget about the list of the keywords you have put down. Use them in your text as this will greatly help to rank good in the search engines when your website is up and running. At this stage you can either make one big text or start dividing it into sections.
Photo by Daniel Y. Go
We have come to the stage when you can plan the website structure and layout. You already have the info you have put together in point 8 and now we can use it to form the menu names. Divide your draft into the sections like about us, our products and services, why choose us, how to find and contact us etc. Ask your friends if they since something else might also be of an interest to the website visitors and add it as well. Do not tend to create many separate pages for a simple website, in most cases all the important information should be located in no more than one click from the home page. If your website is complicated, have lots of info or you plan building some kind of a portal, break the related sections into the groups, define main pages and sub pages, use the experience of your competitors and your notes from point 4 ( where you made the notes about websites friendliness and usability).
The website color scheme is one of most important elements to consider. Colors act differently, gray and blue are calm and confident, red is aggressive while yellow sand and brown are cozy. What impression will your website make? Is this color appropriate for your business at all? Read some small studies and find the perfect matching colors. You can also look for colors solution on a website like colorlovers where designers have gathered thousands of color schemes pleasant to the eye and which are free to use. If you have several ideas in mind and not sure which one to choose you can consult with your designer when discussing the project details or simply ask him to try several approaches for additional fee or just make some basic sketches before working on all the details.
Photo by jakerome
If you are not sure what website style is, let me give you some examples: corporate, business, urban, grunge, wallpaper, clean web 2.0, minimal, retro, fashion, cartoon etc. You can actually create your own style or make a mix. Nowadays more and more designers tend to create minimal designs with the use of big fonts and obvious calls to action. They make an accent on uniqueness of one or few elements like an intro, photo on the splash page, creative navigation or cool slideshow portfolio.
Now when you have prepared all the info a designer usually needs to create a perfect and very special website for your company, make sure you can deliver all that you are promising. You may skip this point as it’s not directly related to getting ready for website design but it is vital part of the online business. Surfers will find hundreds of websites offering same products and services one by one and even with the perfect, cool and super-friendly design you can’t stand out from the crowd if you don’t keep to your promises. Deliver it time, give the promised discounts and finally, provide a perfect service.
Photo by Basil Gloo
Well, here we are. You have a big batch of notes, texts and photos and now you need to find a designer. My advice is to look for young companies as they take less, have friendly customer support and create cool things. Check their portfolios, ask questions, see if you can get some kind of a discount :) And don’t panic, with the tremendous info you have prepared a candy is guaranteed!
Photo by nhussein
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