You have decided that you need a website…GREAT!
Building a website is like remodeling a house – a lot of moving pieces!
When my husband and I first got married, we had to remodel my grandparents’ old house.
There were so many decisions. I was so overwhelmed!
I am so glad my father was around who understood construction, plumbing, and wiring. He had the knowledge and connections to get everything done before we married.
I didn’t understand a thing about rewiring the house or replumbing. All I could do was pick out paint colors, flooring, and draperies.
Truth is, I was a bit overwhelmed with the paint choices!
But thanks to my great mentor, Daddy, everything went fine and was under budget.
For the remodel, I first determined the foundational choices that I needed to make. These choices would affect all other decisions.
That is what we will do here concerning your website.
Ready to start building your awesome website foundation?
OK!

Seven decisions to make before building your new website.

Here is a quick checklist of what I will cover:
  1. What is my URL?
  2. What is going to be on your site?
  3. What does your site need to do?
  4. What are your future plans for your organization?
  5. Who is going to build it?
  6. How is it going to be built?
  7. Where is your site hosted?
Now let’s dig into each of these.

Decision 1 – What is my URL?

If you already have a website, then you already have a URL. But for those who do not have a website, then you need an awesome URL!
Other names for this are IP web addresses or domain names.
Think of your URL as the internet road map to your business.
Your domain name tells the internet where to send visitors when they type your domain into a browser.
Here are a few quick things to consider when picking out your URL/domain/IP address.
  • Choose the right domain name extension. There are so many to choose from right now; .com, .org, and .net are the most popular. There are many more, but I would stick to one of these. These are the ones people will use if they are guessing what your URL is.
  • Make sure your URL makes sense and is as close to your business name as possible. I would recommend not using numbers for letters like 8 for make. People won’t remember it.
  • Keep your domain name short. People have short memories, so they won’t remember a long URL. Case in point. Mine is too long. But I didn’t think about that when I set it up. In the future, I will rethink my initial strategy.
  • If your company name is hard to spell, buy those variations of your domain name. You can redirect those to your official website.
  • Make sure it can be read easily and doesn’t say any bad things.
  • Choose a website host and stay up to date with your payments. More on this in Decision 7.

Decision 2 – What is going to be on your site?

Outline the pages you think you will put on your site. Then, think about the functionality of those pages.
At this point, I would look at competitor websites and see what they have. You will see patterns in the pages and information your competitor uses. You can even get some design ideas from doing this.

A few of the most common pages are:

Business:
  • Home
  • About
  • Staff
  • Services
  • Products
  • Events
For nonprofits:
  • Home
  • Contact
  • About
  • Donate
  • Volunteer
  • Get Involved
  • Events/Fundraiser

After you have a rough list of pages ask yourself:

  • What types of information do visitors need or expect to find on each page?
  • What kind of information do my competitors have? Is there something I can offer that they don’t?
  • What kind of images, videos, brochures or links need to be included?

Decision 3 – What does your site need to do?

Look at your rough list of pages. Consider if certain pages need extra functionality.

Do any of your pages need to:

  • Be more than words? What images, charts, and integrations are needed?
  • Take requests?
  • Have an email, application, or intake form?
  • Allow people to sign up for events?
  • Collect payments?
  • Sell products?

Does it need to integrate with existing systems:

  • CRM
  • Inventory
  • Billing
  • Events
  • Donor management
  • Online donations
  • Email marketing
  • Scheduling software
Make a list of the different systems that will need to integrate into your website.
This will help decide what website platform you will use to build your website.

Decision 4 – What are your future plans for your organization?

  • Are thinking about expanding to multiple locations?
  • Do you want to be able to host events or have online webinars in the future?
  • Incorporating email marketing?
  • Start a blog?
  • Offer online training?
  • Allow customers to view their invoices or pay online?
  • Taking orders online and integrating the process into your point of sale system?
Consider how these plans might impact the website. Knowing the changes you have planned can help you determine what type of website you need to build today.
If you are planning on selling products online, you want to build that functionality at the start.
These decisions will be part of your hosting platform research. Your platform has to support your planned growth.
More on this in Decision 7.

Decision 5 – Who is going to build it?

There are different ways to go about this. You can hire someone cheap (a friend, coworker, or someone on Fiver). Or you can hire a professional.
You need to think about their availability to support you when something goes wrong. Will they have the time to get you back up and running during your time requirements?
If you are thinking about doing this yourself, look over the decision you’ve already made. Ask yourself, “do I know how to make those things happen on my website? Do I have the time to learn? Or do I need some help?”
You can take courses on how to create a website. But you must be careful about the quality of the course. Make sure you read the course reviews.

So, if you have decided you need help, how do you determine the right one?

Some web developers are business advisors. They guide you through the process as painlessly as possible.
Other web developers like to get their hands dirty by doing.
Professionals who are actually doing the work keep their skills up. I really like working with people who have hands-on experience in their trade.
Some, like me, can do both.

But, do you need an advisor or a doer?

You can tell by now which camp you fall into.

Other things to consider:

  • Do you need the company/person to work locally or is remote ok?
  • Web developers charge prices that are comparable to their region. Make sure their prices fit your budget.
  • Verify that they have experience building sites like yours.
Again, do a bit of research and interview your prospective website developers. You don’t have to pick the first one you come to.

Decision 6 – How is it going to be built?

Consider these two things before answering.

  • What does the site need to do now and in the future?
  • Who is building the site?
I recommend using a hosting company that uses WordPress. WordPress is so flexible! It can extend however I want, and not every website platform does that.
WordPress can be a bit overwhelming at first because it is so flexible. And according to who sets up your website, the backend that you are left with can be very user-unfriendly.
You might decide to use Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, or some other platform.

Make sure to pick a platform that’s widely used by web developers. Make sure it has a good library of support documentation too.

That can be a lifesaver!

Decision 7 – Where is your site hosted?

This is a huge decision which is why I left it for last.
When I first started, I was getting requests that I host and build the website.
That is not what I do.
I do not host.

I do make recommendations and guide you to the best one for your needs. But the ultimate decision on which platform you will use is yours.

The companies I recommend for WordPress are BlueHost, HostGator, IONOS, DreamHost, and GoDaddy.
But there are many others that use WordPress themes. WIX, and Squarespace are examples.
But they have limited WordPress Themes. So this may not be the right fit for you. Remember your future growth plans. You don’t want to be stuck on a platform that will be hard to grow and customize how you envision. Those kinds of site can be very hard to transfer to a different platform.
Make sure in your research to include questions about transferring your website to a different platform if your requirements change. They will be able to tell you the cost and if they will be able to transfer your site easily.
This decision relies on how you answered all the above questions.

I cannot stress this enough: always keep your future plans and budget in mind.

I will review Squarespace/Wix/Weebly to WordPress soon.
I hope you feel more in control.
Knowledge is the best thing to counteract overwhelm.
Just like Daddy was guiding me through the remodel of my grandparents’ house, I can be your mentor.
No one wants a website that doesn’t fill your needs or constantly needs tweaking.
By this time, you should be seeing your website as a valuable asset to your business. You are building it for a reason.
Please leave a comment if you have questions.

 

 

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