What Goes Into a New Website?
If this the first time you’ve started thinking about building a new website, you might be a little overwhelmed. You probably have questions, like: How much does a website cost? What does it take to create an innovative and compelling online presence? There is a lot that goes into determining what your website will cost, but it may be best to first talk about what goes into creating a new website.
Your Identity, Goals, and Audience
At our agency, every new website starts with a long and detailed series of questions. In fact, we wrote about it in a recent post. In order to be effective, your website must reflect the core identity of your business, it needs to address both your short-term and long-term goals, and it must act as a useful resource for your target audience. If any one of these key components are missing, the project will eventually fail. That is why most successful professional website developers have a detail-oriented and (sometimes) lengthy onboarding process for new projects. Be prepared to fill out a lengthy questionnaire and answer a lot of follow-up questions over the span of a few days. If a client needs help creating goals, building a stronger brand identity, or conducting research on their target audience, those important tasks can be built into a new website project . Ultimately, answering these deceptively simple questions is the first step on the road to launching a successful new website.
Location, Location – Part 1
Let’s pretend for a moment that we’re selecting a brick and mortar storefront for an upscale bakery. We want our bakery to be situated in a pedestrian-friendly area with complimentary businesses nearby, such as craft shops, clothing stores, or an open-air farmers market that sells fresh produce. The approach selecting your website’s domain name should be similar. If you’re building a nonprofit website, you might consider a .org or .net address. If you’re building a tech startup website, you might be looking at .com , .io , or .biz. Just like we wouldn’t nestle our upscale bakery between two warehouses in the middle of a dusty industrial park, we don’t want to choose our domain name too hastily. Once you know what “part of town” you want to park your domain in (i.e. .com , .net , etc.), the next step is to choose the domain name that works best for you. If your developer is registering your domain name on your behalf, it is important that you reach an understanding on who owns that important piece of internet real estate.
You wouldn't let someone else sign the papers on your new home. Who owns your domain name? Click To Tweet
If you look, there are some really interesting stories out there surrounding domain names. There are entire businesses built up around the process of buying and selling domain names that they feel might be valuable in the future, also known as “domain prospecting”. If you’re running a successful online business, the last thing you want is to find out that someone else bought the rights to your website’s domain name after you let it expire.
So far, we’ve covered goals, identity, audience, and location. But, that is just the beginning. A website’s functional needs is the next big hurdle in the process of creating a new website. At the most basic level, we need to determine how many pages are going to be on the new website, what type of content is going to be on those pages, and how those pages will be structured (a.k.a. the sitemap). Perhaps you would also like some lead capture for a newsletter? Would your website benefit from dynamically re-sizable text for the visually impaired? How about a full eCommerce website with multiple products for sale and custom shipping options? Or, is this a members-only website with a simple front page and everything else is password protected and invisible to search engines?A website is a tool. Ask yourself: What is my website doing for my business RIGHT NOW? Click To Tweet
The examples used above are all from actual websites we have built. As you can see, the functional needs of a website can vary greatly and are tied directly to a business’s identity, its goals, and its target audience.
Content is King
At this point, we have what is referred to as a “wireframe”. The website has taken shape and the moving parts are being put in place. Without compelling content that attracts the right traffic and is useful to your target audience, the website is an empty vessel. Filling the vessel is often the hardest part, as it is the client that usually provides text and pictures to the developer in order to fill out the site. For example, an eCommerce website would need a general description of their company values, product names, product descriptions, and high-resolution pictures of the products from multiple angles — And that’s the absolute minimum. Here is another major risk factor: At the end of the day, who is retaining ownership of all that content that you’re creating for your new website?Check your website developer's contract: Do you own the rights to your own content, or do they? Click To Tweet
If one of your goals is to increase search engine visibility, the initial content on your website often isn’t enough. Adding content to your website regularly through blogging, video, or other means is the central component of any viable SEO strategy. Luckily, there are those that can help with developing a search engine optimization strategy and can even create content on your behalf.
Now we’re getting somewhere! We have our location, we have our functional needs, and we have great text, pictures, video, and more to fill in our new website. Like a gift for a birthday party, we need to package it and wrap it with beautiful wrapping paper. An effective website needs to not only be visually compelling, it also needs to strongly represent your brand or core identity. More established businesses will have a branding guide that establishes standards for color, font, and logo styles for dark backgrounds, light backgrounds, and print / watermark so that their brand is easily recognizable, whether it is on a website or official letterhead.
Another component of design is the user’s experience when browsing your new website. Can they find the information they need easily? Are they going where you want them to go? These are important questions as we’re finalizing and fine-tuning a project.
Maintaining Your Investment
So far, we have reviewed everything that goes in to creating an innovative and compelling new website. Now what? Unfortunately, with the ever-shifting and evolving nature of the internet, your new website will need regular check-ups, updates, and adjustments if it’s to stay looking its best. And even with a robust maintenance schedule, with how rapidly new technology is developed and distributed, websites are generally replaced every three to five years.
Website Maintenance: The Car Analogy
Let’s say you purchase a new car. Here it is: