The bug has bitten.  You want to design (or redesign) your website.  You want it to be beautiful, capture interest, draw visitors and get noticed.  But before you even begin thinking about the design itself, spend time in preparation and save yourself hours of extra work, money and aggravation.

#1 Do your research.

Check out your competitors and note the things about their sites that you like. If another site has elements that appeal to you, there’s no reason not to start with something you like and then make it your own.

Use Google’s Keyword Planner tool .  You’ll need a Google account to use this tool to search words or phrases related to your products or services.  It’ll help you find keywords that are relevant to your business.

Keep a list of the keywords that you like and that apply to your specific business. 

If you currently have a website, run an analysis on it.  Look at the structure, the page speed, your key words (ones people are most likely to be using to search for your type of site) and the number of words on each page. Two good (and free) tools are Varvy SEO tool (which identifies how well a web page follows Google’s guidelines) and GT Metrix (a website speed test).  If your existing  site has an analytics tool (like Google Analytics), drill down and find out where your site visitors are reaching you.

#2 Write your text.

Based on your research, start writing.  Each page of your website should have 500 – 700 words (or more, if you’re a writer or blogger).  All websites will include a home page, an about page, a services (or products) page and a contact page.  If you’re selling something, you’ll need a detailed description of the item.  For each distinct service you offer, you’ll need a description of the service.

Write with the answer to the question “Why” in mind. Why would someone want to work with you? Buy something from you? Use your services? Contact you?

#3 Know your absolutes.

Figure out what your vision for the website is.  Do you want hip and trendy?  Professional and elegant?  A simple layout so that your text shines?  Then figure out what you absolutely must (or must not) have.  What colors must you have to match your branding?  If you know you don’t want a traditional landing page, make note of it.

Make a list of these non-negotiable items.

#4 Collect your resources.

Put all the things that will go on your website into one place.  Collect photos, videos, illustrations, and original artwork for your logo. If you don’t have them, now’s the time to hire a professional photographer!  Don’t forget to include photos and bios for your team, as well as product photos.  If you already have a hosting account and domain name registration, make sure you have the log-in information handy.

Getting all the pieces together is the biggest slow-down in the design process.

#5 Define your site goals and analytics.

What do you want your website to accomplish?  Do you want someone to sign up for a newsletter, make a purchase or leave a comment? Are you planning on having social media or a blog?  If you know what you want your website to accomplish, you can make sure you have the right analytics tool(s) to measure how effective your website is at meeting those goals.

Without knowing what you want to accomplish, you may end up with a site that has either too little information, too much information, or even the wrong information. 

#6 Set clear  — and realistic — deadlines.

Do you have a firm deadline for when your site needs to be live – say for a product launch?  How long will your photographer take to get you photos of your products?  How much time does your graphic designer need to complete a logo?  How long will it take to have your website built? If you know your deadlines, you can determine if the companies you plan on using are the right fit.

 

The old adage, “Form follows function” is as true for websites as it is for architecture and industrial design. Only after you’ve prepared are you ready to start thinking about design.

Remember: Good websites take time. If you want the best results out of your site, be prepared for several months of work.

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