I was at a small biz conference over the weekend and the subject of designing websites came up. There’s so much to do and learn when one is starting.
Back in 2006 I paid a guy $1,000 to make a Go Daddy website from a template (I know, times have changed). He didn’t get my vision and that was my fault. I didn’t explain it well enough. Second, I hesitated to insist on my design. It was one of those websites that had a black background, very dark and mysterious and pretty awful and nothing like the bright, cheerful writing website I had in mind.
So I dumped it and created my own.
Since then, except for one site, I’ve been making my own websites using templates, you tube and google. I build what I can then hire a web designer for any advanced techie stuff and changes that I can’t figure out on my own.
So, if you want to delve into creating your own site, I’m sharing exactly what I do in this blog post: this is the essentials of what you need in a site. The essential parts of a website for your business:
- (mostly) finished home page
- Email subscription box with a call to action button
- About Page
- Services page (with contact box inside page)
- Navigation Bar with Essential Tabs
- A few photos that a) reflect your brand and b) you really love
- The main colors of your brand: at least two, a main color and an accent
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the thirty-eleven things you need in a website. However Rome wasn’t built in a day, it was a work in progress. You need a few things to get you up and going. Developing a website is a work in progress.
It’s possible (and not terribly hard) to put up a basic, attractive, workable website in a day, in just a few hours. Then, you can keep adding and changing things as you go along. I choose to use companies with amazing customer support because this #OnlyALittleBitTechy girl needs the help.
You may need to get a site up for financial reasons (hiring a web designer can get expensive) or for speed reasons (no time to find and hire the right web designer) or you hired someone who missed the mark with their work and now have to create something that reflects your company, start-up or creative venture ASAP.
It is challenging, but it’s not impossible. If I learned how to do it, anyone can do it.
Ready to get going?
The Technical Part
To start, you need a few things up front: domain name and hosting. I use Go Daddy for my domains and hosting, but there’s many options to choose from. This article highlights the top ten hosting sites as of 2016. One of the reasons I like Go Daddy is that they have an amazing support group. When I buy a domain and need to attach it to the hosting account, I always forget how. So I call them and they walk me through the process.
Next, after the domain is attached to the hosting platform, I attach Word press to it, again, through the Go Daddy portal. If I’ve forgotten how to do this, I call Go Daddy again.
Once all that is done, the fun begins. Here’s more specific steps.
In the beginning I played with a number of different themes. I fell in love with Studio Press. They have a beautiful system. Every one of their beautifully designed child themes gets placed on the Genesis theme. I’ve heard it explained that the Genesis theme is the engine of the car and the child themes are the outer body. It’s a good analogy. Genesis provides security, SEO, quickness and mobile responsiveness among other things.
Regardless of what theme you choose, make sure you can do the following things:
- have the ability to change the header and tag line (shows up in Google and other search engines)
- Sign up for Mail Chimp; it’s a free email service for lists under 12,000.
- install a email subscription box. (Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, Aweber).
- Add a blog
- Add google analytics to measure and track traffic
Get to Work
Once the above tech stuff is done, the rest will take 4-5 hours. I’m including the writing part as well. If you want to separate the tasks, you can do the writing in one session and the putting-it-all-together in another session.
First, I add in my header. If the theme allows for a subtitle I add that too. It helps with the search-ability factor.
Next, I add in the email subscription box. Okay, I cried the first time I tried to do this, it was so frustrating! But now there are lovely tutorials to use I follow Katrina on you tube and I use this video. She shares specific videos on how to add and change different things on a WordPress website.
Once that is done, I begin to format the blog. Studio Press gives step by step instructions on how to format each part. I want to get the essentials done so I can send people to the website. The essentials include:
- The front page. Each website has a flow that, when completed, looks professional, clean and crisp. For example, on the home page of this website (using the wellness theme) I included the different pages to create the streaming pages. I don’t have the books like the theme does, so I left that part out.
- An About Page : People do like to know about the business and if they can relate to it. Hint: about pages should act as a guide to the reader. It’s not so much about “this is the story of my great-grandfather’s dream” but how this business relates to the reader. It’s more of a “I went through these struggles and this is how I came out” kind of thing. I still struggle writing my own. If you want to hear how to write a stellar about page, check out Amy Porterfield’s interview about how to write an enticing about page with Melissa Cassera.
- Service page: If you’re in a business, people want to know what you do. This page should include specific services (speaking, workshops, packages, etc). You can combine the service and contact page because underneath the services, there should be a place to contact you. Plus, you’ll save space on the valuable navigation bar on top.
- Navigation Bar: this gives a frame to your website, pointing out where visitors can go to find what you have to offer. The navigation bar adds a professionalism to the site. The common tabs are ‘home,’ ‘about,’ ‘services,’ ‘contact’ which I add to services. I’m told that things like ‘books’ should have a separate website and this is a good idea. However, for the time being, I’ll be keeping books under a ‘books’ tab in my website.
- A few great photos (pick ones you love!) You gotta make a connection with readers/customers and real pictures from your business, studio, and of you personally, add to that connection. Unless, you’re a content marketing machine, use stock photos sparingly. Go for real life.
- The colors of your brand: at least one bold color and one complementary color – The colors and style of your brand are the loudest non-verbal communicators of your business. Use colors that reflect you. And, make sure the seasons are right: spring (warm, light & bright colors), summer (cool, subdued & light), autumn (warm, rich and weighty) or winter (cool, dramatic with weight). To learn more about the seasonal archetypes in branding, check out this post.
A few more tips I’ve learned and either have already implemented or am in the middle of doing so. At the business boot camp, the speaker, Katrina Sawa pointed out that the essential parts of the blog should be at the top navigation bar, while the less important parts should be in the footer navigation bar. I thought this was genius and it cleared up my top navigation.
I’m constantly changing things up. If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know I’ve had ten or so different websites over the last decade. I say that to emphasize your website is not set in stone. It’s a fluid process, you can change it up as you desire or you can leave it the same for ten years. There’s so much flexibility these days.
You really can do all of these things on your own.
If you choose to hire a designer, make sure you give them a numerical list of what needs to be done. If the techy stuff is why you’re hiring a designer (versus having a time crunch) make sure they also install Google Analytics for you. You can open an account with Google Analytics here.
Give yourself a huge round of applause.
After I finish a website, I feel like I’ve just finished a marathon! It is a big endeavor and it’s a big deal. We’ve just created something brand new!
Do something to enjoy the moment. Savor your accomplishment, tell a friend, eat a piece of chocolate, treat yourself to a buying a book. You’re amazing!
Did I miss anything that you think is essential to starting a beautiful branded website?
Curious about the best colors for your brand? You can check out the blog post I wrote on how to create a cohesive, beautiful style using the seasons as your guide. Check it out here.