Basic Steps to Plan and Build Your First Website
Create Your First Website
Now that you’re ready to build your first website it’s time to start planning, but where do you begin? In this first lesson let’s talk a little about some of the things you need to think about before you start building.
– Which platform?
This is just what the name implies; it is the base that your website will be built on, think of it like your foundation. For beginners WordPress is one of the most popular choices. It’s a CMS (content management system) platform.
It’s used by millions of website owners and developers because it’s free, powerful and relatively easy to use.
Other free CMS options include Joomla and Drupal, which are also very functional, with a slightly bigger learning curve. There are also drag and drop options like WIX, SquareSpace and Websitebuilder.com that offer a free version, but do charge monthly fees for fully functional website.
See also: Turnkey Niche WordPress Sites
– Domain Name
One of the first things you will need to buy is your domain name. This is the web address (URL) of your site. When it comes to choosing a name, ask yourself these questions:
- What will your site be called?
- What is your website about (your niche)?
- What is your focus?
Use these answers to come up with a name.
Write down several and then check online to see if the one you want is available. You can purchase a domain on website like GoDaddy, Namecheap or Domaincheap.com. You can also use a domain name generator, that will spin out names based on keywords you type in.
It may take a few tries to find one you like that no one has taken.
It is a good idea to associate with your business, niche or topic so that people will have a good idea of what your website is about just by looking at your URL. You also want to keep it as short as possible so it’s easy to remember. Buying a domain name will cost a few dollars for a year’s registration, but it’s worth it to have your own business name.
– Web hosting
You can’t have a website without a host. The hosting service is where your data will be stored, on their servers. Depending on how much space you need now and in the future, it might be worth a few more dollars a month to ensure that your site won’t crash or get turned off. Keep in mind that there are free web hosting services, which is fine for a personal blog, but they usually don’t provide enough bandwidth for a business website and most of them display ads on your webpages.
– A site map
Before you begin building your website, you need a plan. Creating a site map can be as simple as jotting down a list of pages you need on a piece of paper. You can also sketch out your pages: headers, content, images and positioning of these elements.
My preference is to use a note card for each page I plan to build, that way I can lay them out on my desk and arrange the way they will link to other pages, how they will link, pull-down menu options and the like. Knowing roughly how you want it to look will help the building process go much smoother.
– Install your platform
For this we are going to assume you’re using WordPress. This can be installed with one-click from inside your hosting account. If you aren’t sure that your hosting has it check with your provider and they should be able to help you. You can also find plenty of tutorials online that can help you through the process.
Once it’s installed you can then log into the dashboard, have a look around and see how to set up pages, edit posts, upload content and more. There are many options with WordPress you can create a simple website with only a few pages or set up a full-blown eCommerce site ready to take sales.
– Start building
Now it’s time to start building, WordPress offers a variety of options that make your job easier. From free themes for design to plugins and widgets that add functionality. These are all available from your dashboard. Don’t be afraid to click around and test out different themes until you find one that looks good, you won’t break anything. If you can’t find a free theme there are also paid themes available simply do is search online.
- If you know a little bit of coding, you can use HTML or CSS to change the pages to look like you want them to.
- HTML can be used in a simple text editor to get your content to show up the way that you want it.
These steps will work for Joomla and Drupal as well. If you decide to go with a drag and drop builder, they should provide you with all the documentation and tutorials you need to get your website up and running.
If you have questions or need assistance please feel free to contact me. I will be happy to help!
Fine Tuning the Details of Your Website
While you are designing your website pages, it’s a good idea to keep the “big picture” in mind. It’s the detail that will make or break your website. They are what separates a good website from one that people click away from after a few seconds.
When readers see mistakes some of them may overlook them, others may give you a chance to fix them, but most people will simply move on to the next website. This is true for everything from spelling errors to images that don’t load quickly. If you want your visitors to stick around, then you must have a website that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
With that said, is your job to make sure that your website up to snuff. This may require you to take a step back from your design so you can see what you couldn’t before. You may also want to ask a trusted friend to look at your work from a visitor’s viewpoint to find any errors you may have missed.
Here are a few more tips to help you make your website visitor friendly:
– Overloaded pages
Don’t try to put everything on the same page. While, you may have a lot of relevant images you want to display, but they won’t convey the desired effect if they are all in one place. People won’t be able to view them properly if their focus is distracted. It will also make your page’s load slowly. Instead use a lightbox or spread them out on multiple pages.
Vigilantly check for spelling errors. After viewing your web pages for several hours, your brain may just gloss over those missing letters because it knows that they were supposed to be there. Come back in a few hours with fresh eyes and catch those errors before you go live. Spelling mistakes are annoying and can slow down reading efforts. Besides, it’s just downright unprofessional looking.
– Add space
Don’t be afraid to use content breaks. It is hard for your readers to focus on a long piece of content. If you want readers to keep reading, be sure to include, headings, sub-headings, bold typing and bullet points. This way they will be able to hit the highlights and focus better.
Contrast is the difference between two or more elements on your website. With contrast, you can create interest and direct the attention of your visitors to certain locations on your pages. The content on your pages blend together when there is no contrast to break things up and draw the eye. This will make your website more aesthetically pleasing to the eye of your visitors.
Attention to detail matters to your audience, so that means it should be among your highest priorities.
The Importance of Making Your Website Responsive
It used to be that the only way that websites were viewed was from a desktop computer. Now, just about everyone has a mobile phone or device and that means your website must load well on multiple platforms.
– What Is Responsive Design?
Have you ever accessed a website via your smartphone and had to scroll around? Maybe you turned it sideways to see the text in one screen or kept resizing with your fingers to read the text. It’s frustrating.
What responsive design does is code each webpage so that it automatically adjusts to the platform you’re using to view it.
Whether a tablet, large smartphone, small smartphone, laptop or a stationary desktop computer, each person will see the page in an optimized fashion for their device. Sounds great, doesn’t it. So, why isn’t everyone using it right now?
Updating your website with responsive design tools right now will have several positive effects.
– Higher conversion rates
People aren’t stationary and neither are their devices. Someone who wants to check out a product on your website to compare a price with something they see in the store, wants an immediate response. A mobile-ready site allows them to click a few buttons and order the lower-cost product you offer instead of paying more in the store.
– User experience
Responsive design says to a user that you are meeting their needs. For someone who uses their mobile device 90 percent of the time, this is huge. They can make dinner reservations, make appointments, book a hotel and even shop, all from their phone using websites that have implemented responsive design.
– Less work
Using responsive design from the beginning allows you to focus on the most important aspects of your site and deliver that to viewers on a smaller platform. From there, it is easier to add more content for larger devices.
– Better search engine rankings
Make Google happy with responsive design web pages. It is the same website but optimized for viewing with different devices. This is easier for you and the search bots than utilizing a separate mobile site.
Your site will automatically adjust to multiple devices. You can add different content to be seen on each device as added value. The content will expand to fill the space given on each device, with the main content and design remaining constant across all devices for a seamless experience.
Common Website Design Mistakes
No doubt that you want your website to get noticed and a unique design is one way to stand out from the crowd. This is a danger zone for first time site builders because it’s not hard to go overboard with the bells and whistles, which isn’t always a good thing! Before you’re tempted to add every cool effect, you can think of to your website let’s look at some of the more common mistakes you should avoid.
– Poor navigation
The first thing your visitor wants to know when they visit your website is how to get around. They need a menus and map. Menu’s need to be clearly visible and self-explanatory. While it might seem like a good idea to use catchy words as menu links to your pages, like “good stuff” for your blog or about us page, you’ll get a better response if you just use “Blog” or “News” instead. It’s also a very good idea to create a site map with a list of all your pages and put a link to it in your website footer.
– Fancy fonts
It might seem cool to use a gothic style font on a costume website, but for your visitors, who are trying to read it, not so much. Fancy fonts are hard to focus on and it’s important to keep in mind that just because you have the font on your computer, doesn’t mean that your visitor will, which means your page will look different to them than it does to you. Worse yet, sometime your text will be unreadable.
You can have as many pages as you want on your website. Everything doesn’t have to be packed on the same page. In fact, too many images, buttons, text and sounds lead to sensory overload. Only include content and images that are relevant to the topic of the page and don’t forget to leave a little space between your text blocks. It makes it much easier for your visitors to consume your content.
We have touched on this before, but it is important that your website have the right degree of contrast. This can apply to more than just the colors on your site. It can include the different headings, font and images sizes that you use on your pages. For example, a dark font on dark background or dark images with a dark font won’t be easy for your visitors to digest, which means they will most likely move on after a few seconds of straining to read your content.
– Keep it cohesive
Images and color schemes should add to the purpose of your website. From page to page, vary the images and content but not the color scheme to provide continuity. Too many styles mixed together gives a chaotic feel to the entire site and visitors will become distracted easily.
Creativity does make your site unique, but too much of it and it can quickly become a disaster. Do your best to avoid some of these more common mistakes while you’re building your website and you can rest assured that your visitors will thank you.
Ways that you can keep your website fresh
Adding fresh content regularly solves that problem by enticing visitors to check back often. It also makes the search engines happy and helps your site get indexed better, which is a whole different topic that you should dive into after you get your website online, because it will help you generate traffic.
Here’s a few ways to keep your visitors keep coming back to you for more:
What do visitors want when they search online? They want information! Whether it’s and information about a product they are thinking about buying or help with a problem they are having, the first thing most people do is start surfing.
To keep people coming back, the best practice is to deliver what they want. The first place to start is by updating your site with fresh content on a regular basis. Consistency counts, whether its daily, weekly or by-weekly it’s a good idea to set a schedule and stick to it.
– A blog
A blog is a great way to do that. If you are using WordPress, then you’ve got this. Not only does it make it easier to keep your site fresh it’s a great way to interact with your audience, which also helps with your search engine rankings (BTW). You can use your blog to exchange ideas; announce new product launches; host surveys; get feedback. A blog can be updated more often than your website and provide readers with something new to digest each time they return.
– Content woes
Creating content can be a full-time job for even the best writer, so sometimes you need to get creative. It’s especially challenging if you are publishing frequently. To help in a crunch you can re-purpose previously created content like articles (if you have them) and turn them into blog posts, quick tips and quotes for images. One article can be turned into a variety of new forms for you audience when you think outside the box.
You can also hire a writer to help fill in the gaps or purchase pre-written content with white or private label rights, that you can use as your own.
– Check out the competition
If you get stuck for ideas, then check out your competition to see how they’re keeping visitors happy. Are they offering incentives? Do they run contests, post surveys or encourage social sharing?
– Ask for feedback
Visitors are usually more than happy to share their opinions. In fact, many people go online simply to search for comments and reviews of things that interest them. Make sure you’re providing your visitors with a way to interact with you and provide you with feedback. This can be as simple as allowing comments on your blog, using polls or using surveys as I mentioned above.
Always strive to remain relevant to your viewers, and you will have no problem keeping them interested in what you have to offer!
As we close this final lesson I would like to thank you again for joining me for this short course. I sincerely hope that you have learned a lot about how to plan and build your first website and even though your lessons have come to an end you can still feel free to contact me if you have any questions about how to build your first website. I will be glad to help!