Step By Step Guide To How to Make a Professional Website in 2020
Creating a website by yourself is now easier than ever - but is it the right option for you? When first setting up a business it may be your only choice as you need to keep costs low. But once your time is worth more than the cost of hiring a professional web developer you have to hand the job over to someone you can happily work with and who understands what you are trying to achieve. The same can be said for taking on an search engine optimisation (SEO) provider, Content Creator, Marketer, Social Media Manager and PR. Outsourcing or becoming an employer are signs you have a healthy growing business. Once you start outsourcing to others you'll really notice how much of your time gets freed up to do the more important things in your business that really do need your attention.
Websites are still a hub for all your business activities, from online stores, booking systems, calendars to generating revenue, nurturing a community of fans, and promoting your brand. A website is the centre of any business that wants to survive in the online world. You really can't afford not to have one.
Whether you've decided to do it yourself with Wix, Wordpress, or one of the other DIY website companies, or you're working with a professional developer, you'll need some basic knowledge to help you on your journey to the best website you can have.
If you choose a professional designer/developer they will do all the work for you, and guide you through the entire process, but it's a great idea to check out websites and find ones you like. Your chosen developer will then have something to work with, although they are perfectly capable of coming up with great designs with little input from yourself.
This guide is about, choosing your website builder or developer, to claiming your domain, creating your content, and getting found in the search engines, here are all the steps you need to consider to make a professional website:
- Set your goals
- Choose a website builder or professional developer
- Define your layout
- Claim your domain name
- Create your content
- Add the right pages
- Put your customer first
- Do search engine optimisation (SEO)
- Pick the tools you need to update and run your website efficiently
- Make your website accessible to everyone
- Engage with your visitors
- Optimise for mobile
- Ask for feed back
- Launch your online business
- It is never over
1. Set your goals
Before you start thinking about the design of your website you need to know what you want your website to achieve. There are many different types of websites, including:
- eCommerce - selling products online
- Services - detailing services
- Portfolio - showcasing art
- Landing Pages - marketing campaigns
- Blog - sharing knowledge
- Events - weddings, parties, concerts etc
What we try to get our clients to concentrate on is the thing they want their visitors to do once they arrive on the website, this should involve - signing up, registering, contacting, buying.
Once you understand your goals, you'll understand what type of website you will need.
2. Choose your website builder or professional developer
Now you know the type of website needed to meet your goals you'll be able to pick the right tool or developer to reach those goals. If you decide to build your own website you'll need a content management system (CMS) such as WIX, Wordpress, or one of the many other options. A CMS will make it easy for you to create, personalise and publish a website all by yourself.
You can choose to work with a web design/developer who will create a beautiful goal orientated website for you, that has a CMS you can use to update your content as and when you need to. All you really need to do is look at the designers portfolio to see if you like what they do and if they can produce the type of site you need. Also look at their customer reviews then have a chat with them to decide if you can work together.
There are dozens of DIY platforms available on the market, some are free because you have to do all the work yourself, some start charging for each add-on which will eventually bring the cost in line with a professional designer. Once you're at this stage start looking at using a professional web designer with a solid portfolio who will take the stress of designing, maintaining and updated a site off your shoulders; costs for a professional will start around £1,500.00.
Choosing to produce your own website will give it that DIY look, which is quite trendy at the moment as everyone moves towards mend and make do. But if you require a sharp professional design because you are selling a high end product, then you really should be using a professional from the start.
Here at DRA we are independent professional website designers and developers, we don't use anyone else's CMS. We created our own CMS that can be adapted to meet any businesses requirements. We buy template designs that we alter to make them unique as well as creating our own designs from the ground up.
Our CMS allows you to run all your online activities in one place, from blogging, newsletters, user databases, calendar, booking systems, analytics and more. They are all accessible from one interface. We make sure our designs are of the highest standards, from desktop to mobile displays through to SEO so your website enjoys instant indexing by the search engines.
Whether you choose to go DIY and use a drag and drop system, or instruct a professional designer, you won't have to worry about knowing anything about design, selling online and marketing. The DIY path just means you're giving up your valuable time, which could be spent doing other things.
3. Define your layout
You have seconds to impress, so having a great layout (the visual structure of your page) is crucial.
DIY websites will have templates for certain business types, making it easy for you to choose what you want at the click of a button.
A professional designer will take care of this for you so you don't have to worry about it. If you've seen websites that you like the look of, designers will be more than happy to take a look to see how they can implement your preferences.
4. Claim your domain name
Your domain name is your address on the internet, it should incorporate your company name which internet users will perceive as more trust worthy and professional, then a domain made up of generic terms and locations. Having your own domain name also allows you to have a custom email address.
Domain name example:-
Custom email example:-
If you choose the DIY route, you'll need to pick and register your domain name yourself and make sure you renew it every couple of years. When companies host with us, we take care of the registering of the domain in the owners name, and renew it for them when required as part of our hosting fees; this is not something every design company offers.
A domain name has to be short, simple and transparent. The longer a domain name is the greater the chance your visitors will misspell it. Keep it simple by not using symbols, special characters or numbers.
5. Create your content
Content includes images, slogans, videos, text and more. Your content needs to be original, you know your product best so you should be able to put this together yourself. If you don't think you are a good writer, use a professional copywriter. There are different copywriters for different jobs ( marketing, advertising and blogging) it is important you use the right one depending on which page the content is for. If you are going to purchase images ensure you can legally use them on your website.
A professional web designer can point you in the right direction when looking for copywriters or images. Here at DRA we have access to thousands of images that can be used on websites and on printed material.
Put quality before quantity, showcase your best content and get to the point. Use links within your text or menus to go to deeper pages that can hold more in-depth information about your product or service. It's a slower process reading from a screen which leads to impatience, so keeping it simple will help people to read your content faster. It also helps your website page load faster on peoples computers.
Keep colour and fonts consistent across all your marketing efforts. A web designer will be able to match your branded colour scheme, fonts and photos throughout your website to your real world material, such as business cards, shopping bags etc. A DIY system may not be able to do that, and you'll have to change all your real world marketing to match your website.
6. Add the right pages
We all like to think our business is unique and our website is too. But rarely is that the case, if you take a look around the internet at other websites you'll notice there are common pages they all have, but there will be only a few that have unique pages that no one else uses.
Below you can find the most common pages all websites have:
The homepage: Most of your visitors will land on your homepage. It has to look clean, uncluttered and organised. Only have the most crucial information on this page, such as, your logo, your business name, your tag line and an easy way for customers to contact you, visitors can then scroll down to see a little bit about your most important product or service. Customers should be able to click on these to be taken to pages with more details.
Product or service page: This is where your visitors discover everything they need to know about what's on offer and how it can benefit them, and where they can pay or contact you. These pages will need high quality images, a product/service description, shipping, return policy, etc.
The about page: Most people don't care about you, they are just interested in what they are getting. But that doesn't mean you can get away with not investing in an about page, customers who are going to stay with you long term may want to know more about you. Speak to the customer in their language (us, I and we) as it makes things a bit more personal, it doesn't hurt using a bit of humour either. Adding pictures of yourself and your team can make you feel more approachable as people can see the face behind the business.
The contact page: Keep this page simple, your telephone number, email, postal address and social media accounts. If you have multiple locations have a search field people can use to find an address near them.
A blog: Creating articles for your blog can showcase your expertise, helps build a community around your product, and can be good for SEO purposes if your content is unique and of the highest quality.
You can write about case studies, success stories, interviews, and company milestones. The best content is to share your expertise and answer questions. Your community will get far more from discovering tips, methods and solutions to their problems.
Testimonials: For those who don't have a relationship with you, a testimonial can be all that is needed to make someone part with their hard earned cash. Consumers enjoy recommending companies they have had a good experience with, ask them to review your company and let word-of-mouth work its magic.
7. Put the customer first
You have probably heard of the term 'user experience' it's the most important aspect of your website. By putting your customer first they will be able to navigate your website easily and get to the content that matters to them.
Here's what needs to be included for user experience:
Architecture: Your main menu as well as internal links between pages need to be implemented in a way that makes sense to your visitor, making it easy for them to find all of your pages. Try to make sure your visitor only has to click, at most, twice to get access to any page on your site from whatever page they are on.
Colours: As a general rule stick to three shades - one primary colour, one secondary colour, and one accent colour.
Call to actions (CTA): These are used to tell the visitor what you want them to do (sign up, buy, register etc) they can be placed on a button, or as a link within some text. They should be short, have an action word, and create an element of urgency.
Fonts: Stick to three fonts that work on a desk top and a mobile, if your visitors can't read your content then you've wasted your time creating a website.
Footer: this is a great place to help your visitors out. It's at the bottom of your web page where you can link to social media, have your contact details and link to your sitemap.
Menu: visitors expect to see a menu as soon as they land on your website, it makes navigating to different categories within your website simple and it should appear on every single page.
White space: do not fear white space, this is the area of your website that doesn't include anything. White space gives your visitors a rest between images and pieces of content, giving them a much better user experience.
8. Do search engine optimisation (SEO)
SEO requires time, patience, and persistence in order to get results. It involves lots of research, and testing. If you are doing this yourself and you have no SEO experience, it will also involve lots of trials and errors.
Keywords: The fastest way to know what keywords to use is to look at your competition and list what they have. Do a search in Google using those keywords to see what websites get ranked, if they are within your industry then these are the correct keywords to use. Pick one or two main words, and a couple of secondary ones. You don't need any more than that to get started, otherwise you'll be doing this for a year. These keywords will need to be placed in the title tag, meta description and H1 tag, as well as sprinkled throughout the text on your web page. Whichever content manager you use, it should have an SEO feature that covers these few areas to make it easy for you to implement. Otherwise hand the information to your designer and they will know where to put them.
If you have a bricks-and-mortar shop and you ideally want people to come in store over purchasing online, then include your towns location in your keywords for your title tag.
Google can not see photos and GIFS. Use the Alt text feature so you can give a description of the photos and GIFS you use throughout your website.
Internal linking: The more your pages are inter-connected, the easier it is for Google's bots to navigate through your website. Try to keep links below one hundred per page. Even Google doesn't have all the time in the world to crawl thousands of links on one page, and you don't want them leaving before they have seen every page.
9. Pick the tools you need to update and run your website efficiently
Bookings: websites can take bookings. You'll find an add-on available with DIY websites or let your web developer know this is something you will need.
eCommerce: If you want to sell your goods online you will need an eCommerce website, you'll need to pick this first before you do anything else with a DIY website. It is also best to let your website developer know your intentions to sell online so they can develop the correct type of website you need, it can be done further down the line, but overall it will cost you more, so it's best to know what you need right at the beginning.
Spas, Hotels and Events: From managing reservations, sending confirmation emails, and taking payments online there isn't anything a website can't do for you.
10. Make your website accessible
If you plan to sell your business internationally then you will need a multilingual website. Again these can be purchased using a DIY website. But trading in other countries can be a mine field of rules and regulations, also you have to understand other cultures - read our article when marketing goes seriously wrong this shows how some well known big brands got it wrong when they entered countries they didn't understand.
Don't forget the elderly and disabled who may have visual impairments, or can't use a mouse or a keyboard. There are things you can do to make their lives easier when they visit your website.
11. Engage with your visitors
People expect so much more from websites than they did 5 years ago. It's no good your website sitting there being passive. It needs to be updated regularly to keep bringing people back.
Things such as live chat are great at keeping people in the purchasing funnel, this works best when someone experiences a problem or want to clarify a point, they can get an immediate response and continue with their purchase.
Use social media to make your customers laugh, offer promotions, business updates, what's new etc. Do everything with the aim to get the customer back to your website to make a purchase.
Newsletters and email is still a major source of traffic to websites. Newsletters are a nicer way of sending out an email to customers. They can be personalised and look like a brochure to tantalise your customers into coming back to your website to see your latest sale offers, read your newest articles, or sign up for a competition.
Forms can be used for customers to give feed back, ask a question, leave their contact details and more. Limit the amount of fields a person has to complete, only ask for essential information, as with each additional question you'll lose potential customers. Forms work because customers understand they are a safe and secure way of communicating with you.
12. Optimise for mobile
It makes me shudder when I meet someone who wants to show off their mobile friendly website for me to discover it's not. Having to use your fingers to pinch, move or squeeze content so you can read it does not make it mobile friendly.
Mobile friendly means your website fits the screen of all devices and can be read easily without doing the above mentioned manoeuvres.
Websites are mobile friendly as standard, whether you purchase a DIY one or use a web designer. Run from anyone who tries to charge for a desktop and a mobile responsive design as two separate items.
More people use mobile devices to search the internet and visit websites, but most purchases are still carried out on a desk top computer, but this is likely to change very quickly as technology and security get better.
13. Ask for feed back
If you are designing and building your own website then you will need feed back. Ask friends and family to use the website and give you feed back about anything that tripped them up. Friends and family aren't always the best people to use as they want to be nice to you and will say your website is great even if it looks like a pigs dinner, and rides like a camel. Paying for an independent panel to review your website would be better, prices can start from as little as £50.00.
The things that need to be checked before a website goes live:
- proof read every page, check spelling and grammar
- check navigation is easy and makes sense
- check the mobile version is easy to read and navigate
- check all the links work
- check all the SEO elements are in place
Even if you use a web designer, you are responsible for the content being correct.
14. Launch your online business
Now it's time to launch your website, here at DRA we try to make it fun for our clients to launch their websites. We have a big red button on the home page that you get to press to launch your new website onto the internet.
You may find out blog, understanding the process of how to launch a website of interest.
15. It is never over
Your website will need regular updates and regular testing to see what works the best when turning visitors into paying customers. You'll need to put as much effort into your website as you put into your bricks-and-mortar business.
There are people who say their website doesn't work for them, it usually comes down to two factors, there are too few customers for the amount of businesses selling in their market, or they have done nothing with their website since the day it launched 5 years ago. The 'open your doors and they will come' mentality doesn't work anymore, think of your website as a leaf in the Amazon forest, you need to do something to get noticed.
Use Google Analytics and Search Console to see what is happening on your website - it's completely free. They will tell you how many visitors you've had and where they went, where they are from and what keywords they used. You'll be able to see how often your website is shown in the search engine results and how often it is clicked on and which keywords are used.
Having a website is still a necessity in 2020. But having a website that is up-to-date and is keeping on top of new technology really makes a difference. So keep yourself in the loop with what is happening on the internet, as well as understanding customer buying behaviour and update your content as often as you can.
If you enjoyed this article, you may find some of these articles of interest:
Understanding Search Engine Optimisation And Why Businesses Need It