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If you’ve decided that you need to build a new website (maybe because you read my article about why every business should have a website) then there’s often a tendency either to leap in and start building it yourself or to start searching for someone to build it for you. Before you do that please take a few minutes to read this article. Doing so will save you time, money and hassle!

Choose a domain name

Your domain name is your address on the internet. For example – yourname.com or yourname.co.uk.

If you choose something memorable then there’s a pretty good chance that people will be able to find your website easily because they’ll just type in the address that they remember rather than having to search in Google. By way of an example, if you search Google for Martin Durham you’ll find that there are a surprising number of us – most of whom are more famous than me – so you might not find me easily. But I’m banking on there being a fighting chance that you’ll remember that my website is MartinDurham.co.uk.

Your domain name is an essential part of your business branding. You’re going to include it on your letterhead, your business card and in all of your advertising – and, if you have one or more sign-written company vehicles you’re probably going to put it on those too.

Your domain name should also form a critical part of your email address (you@yourname.com looks so much more professional than random223@hotmail.com and advertises your business with every email you send).

(Choosing a domain name isn’t easy so I’ve written an article that takes you through the main things you need to consider and linked to it at the end of this article.)

Establish the aim of your website

At the most basic level your website exists to provide people with information about your business (even if that’s little more than confirmation that it actually exists).

But give some thought to what else you want it to do. For example, you might want it to:

  • Make it easier for potential customers to contact you.
  • Stop people from contacting you unnecessarily.
  • Allow people to buy your products or services from your website.
  • Encourage people to come to your premises to buy your products
  • Allow people to book appointments online.
  • Showcase your skills.
  • Be the home of a community.

Identify your website’s target audience

There are approximately 7.8 billion people on the planet and it’s probably fair to assume that you’d like some (not necessarily all) of them to visit your website so it’s important that you take some time to narrow down who it is that you specifically want to visit your website.

Let’s start with four categories of people you might want to attract to your website:

  • People who might want to buy the products and/or services your business provides.
  • People who want to work for your business.
  • People who want to invest in your business.
  • People who don’t want to do any of the above, but who might influence others.

Obviously, not all of these categories might apply to you, and there may be other categories that do.

For each category that does apply to you you can create further subcategories. For example, the first category (potential customers) might be sub-divided into:

  • People who have problem but don’t know what sort of product would solve it.
  • People who know what sort of product they want, but don’t know which particular model they should buy.
  • People who want to buy a specific product and want to know how much you sell it for and when you could deliver it.

You might also sub-divide categories in other ways, such as where they live, or the language(s) they speak.

Collect ideas about how you want your website to be

We all visit websites that we instinctively like and websites that just don’t work for us. Whilst you’re at the planning stage for your own website I’d suggest you keep a notebook where you create a page for each website you visit that you specifically like or dislike and add notes that explain what it was that you did or didn’t like.

Look at websites that have similar aims to yours – even if they are in completely different business sectors. For example, if the aim of your website is to sell products online then look at other websites that sell products online. Look at your competitors’ websites.

What do they do that you like (you might want to replicate those things on your own website) and what do they do that you think is a bit rubbish (you’re going to want to be better than them at that).

Plan & create content

It’s never too early to plan and create content for your website. In my experience, far too many businesses create a website based on a design and then struggle to work out what they should put on each page. You don’t need a website to create content, you can use a notepad, a packet of Post-It notes, or a word processor.

Similarly, given that so much of what you think makes a website attractive is down to the images it uses, give some thought to the images you’re going to use on your website.

Decide whether you intend to build your own website

The world is full of website “designers” and “developers” who’d like to make you think that you couldn’t possibly build a successful website without employing their services. If you choose to use their services then the thinking you’ve done if you’ve followed the advice in this article will save you time and money, and take you a long way towards getting the best possible result.

If you like the idea of building your own website there are two main methods you should consider:

  • Website builders are all-in-one packages where your website is hosted by the service you choose to build your website with. Examples are Wix, Squarespace, Weebly and Shopify.
  • WordPress is what is known as a content management system. It offers more flexibility and power than website builders but it is often described in articles like this one as being more complicated to set up because you choose a hosting package from a hosting company (of which there are many) and then install WordPress on the package you’ve chosen. (In practice, most hosting companies offer one-click WordPress installation so I don’t really think the difference is worth getting too stressed about!)

What next?

If you’re looking for advice about choosing a domain name for your website then you might want to read my article about the things you should consider when choosing a domain name.

If you want to try your hand at creating a WordPress website then you should take a look at my step-by-step guide to setting up a WordPress website which allows you to get started for free!