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So you've decided you want to make a website, but... you don't really know what you need to make it happen. This list is here to help walk you through the major steps of building a successful website.
9 things you need to start building the website of you've always wanted:
Buying a domain can be confusing, right? There are so many different options, extensions, and unnecessary upsells that you don't need. So how do you choose?
You want to choose a name that's
- easy to remember
- simple to spell
- doesn't use punctuation (you don't want people to have to remember where the dash in your name is)
Abbreviate your business name when necessary, but make sure you don't accidentally spell something that sounds funny. I worked with a client once whose domain name implied they smelled unpleasant. 💩
Choose a .com for your extension, or pick a spiffy new top-level domain (TLD). There are a ton of options to choose from but depending on your target audience a non-standard TLD may not be the wisest decision.
I purchase my domains from Namecheap. I personally don't buy any upgrades or privacy options. I discuss a bit more on why in this post about buying your first domain.
Domains and hosting go hand in hand, and you can't have one without the other. Choosing a good host is paramount, and not the place you want to pinch pennies in your business.
Stay far away from Bluehost, HostGator, and other EIG companies. They have dismal customer service and their overcrowded servers will slow your site down. You have precious few seconds before visitors click away, don't waste them on a loading screen.
I host my sites with Siteground, and I really can't recommend them highly enough. Their customer support is quick and knowledgeable, and so helpful (and friendly). They care about keeping their customers' websites fast and secure, and they make getting your website setup a breeze (even if you're technophobic).
Business Email Address
If you're in business you need a professional looking email address, one that comes from your own domain.
Most website hosts include email hosting as a standard feature. For instance, Siteground provides unlimited email addresses and forwarders. You can create full email accounts, forwarders, and access webmail by using your host control panel.
An alternative to using your web host for email hosting is a monthly subscription to G Suite by Google. You get your own Gmail branded for your company email, as well as have access to your company Drive so you can use Docs and Sheets with your business email.
There are some standard email addresses you'll see, like sales@ or info@ but you don't have to use any of those. Choose your name@, hello@, or whatever you want customers to use to contact you.
Website Building Software
Self-hosted WordPress (.org - not .com) is my favorite software for building websites. Its dashboard isn't exactly as appealing as site builders like Squarespace, but the learning curve is shorter than it appears and the benefits of owning everything about your website far outweigh the initial ease of avoiding figuring out WordPress.
If you know you're not up for any headaches caused by learning new tech, then using Squarespace is absolutely a great option. If you do decide to go with a managed site builder like SS, avoid Wix and Weebly because they produce, erm... not-so-nice websites from design and technical standpoints.
But if you're even a little bit good at googling how to fix things and using a word processor, then you've got the skills to use WordPress.
The giant user base (27% of the internet is powered by WordPress) means if you run into an issue, someone has already probably run into that same issue, posted about it, and solved it. Easy peasy.
Website Template Design
There are a bazillion templates to power your website out there, and it can so incredibly overwhelming trying to find the perfect one for your website.
If you're going with WordPress, then allow me to present to you my secret weapon for creating fast and stunning websites using two amazing free tools...
OceanWP + Elementor. This combo of theme and plugin makes WordPress as easy to design as Squarespace, even if you're allergic to tech. With these easy tools, you can drag and drop your way to a beautifully crafted WordPress website without ever having to touch a line of code.
Your business logo is a cornerstone of your brand. It has to be concise, easy to read and distinguish, and unique to your message.
No pressure. 😅
Just like your hosting, this is not the place to scrimp and save pennies. It's better not to have a logo at all, then to have a newbie do it for next to nothing on Fiverr.
Instead, you could buy a professionally made logo template from Creative Market and edit it yourself with the free Adobe trial, or you might consider ordering one of my custom designed Brand Starter Kits to make sure your logo and brand is on point.
High-Quality Stock Images
If you've got a website, then you need traffic (more people's eyes on it). And one way you get traffic is by using pretty, pretty pictures. Don't worry, there are tons of high-quality free stock image sites, so this is one place where you can pinch your pennies.
If you're looking for something more feminine like the trendy flat lays and minimally styled stock, there are a few great resources both free and premium. A lot of these companies have freebies you can sample too.
Depending on your needs, you can use a free editor like Canva to create nice graphics that are geared towards sharing on social media. Canva is basically like an Easy Bake Photoshop. It's got templates to get you started but it's also not suited for image resizing or print design, so you don't want to make your logo or printables with it.
If you want more control over your brand and you like to DIY you might think about subscribing to Adobe CC.
I use Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign regularly to create logos, mockups, social media graphics, and content upgrade workbooks and sheets so it's an expense that could easily pay for itself in added value to your brand.
So, how do you know if traffic is hitting your website? Google Analytics tells you how many people are visiting, for how long, their demographics, and how they find you.
You need to add a snippet (or let a plugin like Monster Insights do it) to your site so Analytics can start tracking the people that visit. Give it a little time to collect some data, then check out how many visitors you've had, where your referrals come from the most, plus tons of other valuable data to track your progress with. It also integrates into email and social campaigns, as well as e-commerce and advanced goal tracking.
Need some help getting your website going?
If you know your strengths and think designing a website might not be one of them, check out my handy estimate wizard or get in touch and we'll talk about making your dream website a success.
Estimate Wizard: Step 1
Let's get started with the basics. Next, we'll narrow down what you're looking for in a website or branding package.