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One of the most important things a business owner can do is build a website for their business. But before you buy a domain name or set up a theme, here are five things to do before you make your website. If you’ve already built your website, that doesn’t mean you should skip this post. Instead, look at it as a chance to celebrate what you’ve already done (like securing your domain name!), and an opportunity to review the basics to you’d like to make any updates or changes.
Step 1: Know Your Goals
Why are you building a website for your business? Besides, “Brandi told me I needed one?” When you’re getting started, identify how you’re planning on using your website in your business. Will you be selling products (or services) directly through your website? Are you using it as information to connect with potential partners? Is it primarily to grow your email list?
Having clearly defined goals for your website will help you with the next step – choosing your platform and template.
Here are some common website goals:
- promote brand
- sell products
- sell services
- grow your email list
- promote client base
- connect with potential partners
Be sure to be specific about all your goals – both primary and secondary.
Step 2: Choose platform & template.
Once you’ve identified the goals, then you’ll need to identify the right content management system (CMS) for your business. Some systems come with hosting built-in (like Squarespace or Shopify), while others you’ll need to host your site yourself (WordPress, WooCommerce).
The first step to picking the right platform is to create a checklist of your needs based on your goals.
If you’re primarily selling a selection of products, whether it’s shoes or art or printable planner pages, then you’ll want a platform that focuses on eCommerce. On the other hand, if you’re going to be doing a lot of content marketing, including blogging, then a content-focused site is the best way to go.
Most content management systems also have a variety of themes that you can choose. A website theme gives consistency to your website, including the colors and page layouts. Before you start searching for themes, sketch how you want your pages to look. Consider where you want your logo (upper left or center), and how you want your navigation to look. If you’re planning on adding a blog to your website, then you’ll also want to look at how the blog category pages and blog post pages are formatted.
For an eCommerce site, you’ll look at category page and product page layouts. It's also an excellent time to look at how the sites you like look and function.
You should also make sure that your chosen theme has styling options (like making it easy to change the colors to your brand colors) and is optimized for mobile display.
Step 3: Check Your Name
Are you surprised I’m not recommending that you buy your domain until step 3? Well, there’s more that goes into picking your domain for your business. First, brainstorm several different domains that could work for you – especially ones that go beyond your brand name if your brand is relatively common.
Once you’ve got a list, it’s time to check them out and see if the following are available:
- Domain Name: The fastest way to check to see if a domain is available is to visit it. If there’s a website there, then you’ll need to go to your next choice on the list. On the other hand, if you get an error page for a site not loading, then use a WhoIs tool to see if the domain is owned but merely unused.
If a domain is owned but unused, you may be able to purchase it directly from the owner. You’ll usually pay a higher price if you do this, but if you can’t live without the domain name, then use the contact information from the WhoIs search to contact the site owner.
Another choice, if you’re just in love with a domain, is to wait and see if the owner renews it. This is what I did for my website, www.minimumviablemarketing.com. I knew I wanted that domain to go with my book, but someone owned it. Luckily the registration was expiring in a few months, so I just kept watch and was able to purchase it when the previous owner didn’t renew. I wouldn’t count on this happening, so grab another one on your list, and keep checking back! 🙂
- Social Names: Getting the right ‘handle’ on social media is almost as important as your domain name these days. Its easiest for your followers if your domain name and social media names are the same. You can add punctuation to your social names if you need to – like my Instagram account is hey.brandi since heybrandi was already taken.
- Legal Entities: If you haven’t already registered the LLC for your business, make sure you check for your business name with your Secretary of State now as well. You can also work with a service like CorpNet to set up all the legal side of your business.
Step 4: Get Your Brand in Line
One of the things that can become painfully clear when you start building your website is that your brand is all over the place. So do your homework in advance and get your brand identity and assets lined up. Your website will thank you!
- Logo: Get your logo sized appropriately and with the right color background (or even better – a transparent background!)
- Color Scheme: Don’t just eyeball colors and think “that’s close enough.” Get the hex codes for your brand colors and use them throughout your website. If you don’t have established brand colors, either ask your logo designer or take your primary logo color and enter it in a tool like Adobe Color to find more colors that compliment your primary selection.
- Fonts: You should have two core fonts that you use on your website: one serif, one sans-serif. Serif fonts have lines on the ends of the letters (like Times New Roman or Calibri), while sans-serif doesn’t (think Arial or Helvetica).
- Image Styles: Finally, it’s good to have a general direction for your image styles. Do you lean more toward minimalist with bright white light and uncluttered spaces? More eclectic and textured? Natural and earthy? Defining your image style will make it easier to select images from stock image websites (or take your own!) for your website.
Step 5: Write Your Copy
It’s best to write the first draft of your copy before you start building your website. Otherwise, it’s tempting to create to fill the space that the template has, rather than thinking strategically about the content and how it’s going to connect with your ideal customers.
Then when you put the content on the site, you can revise and touch it up to fit the space.
Here are the key pages you’ll need when you start your website:
- Home Page
- About Page
- Product/Sales Page
- Contact Page
If you’re ready to get started building your website and want a copy of my website content framework that helps you write each of these pages, step by step, then sign up for the Minimum Viable Marketing Foundations Course. In this course, you’ll get everything you need to build your first website and email list.