Website Creation – Initial Planning for Success On The Internet
If you have a business or plan to start one, or if you just want to build an internet business to make money online, you have probably given at least a little thought to the website creation process to help your customers find you online. People are turning to the Internet more and more to find the information they need. No matter what business you are in, you are placing yourself at a serious disadvantage if you don’t have a website to communicate online with prospects and customers.
Effective website creation must begin with good planning. Assembling all the various pieces of technology, content, and marketing is a process that will be guided by your initial planning, so creating some kind of plan, however simple or complex, should be a priority.
Let your goals guide you with your website creation
The very first step in your website creation plan is to define your goals. You should clearly understand what you are trying to achieve with your website, and what actions you would like your website visitors to take.
For example, one goal that I hear repeatedly is that people want to make money with their website. But nearly everyone would like to make money from their site. You must dig a little deeper to determine exactly how you intend to accomplish this. Here are some of the questions you should be asking:
- What is the primary goal of the site – To drive customers to your physical location, to place an order immediately, to gather contact information for prospects, or for image and brand building?
- Do you plan on making sales directly from the website?
- Will customers actually be able to place their order and pay with a credit card directly on your site?
- Will you provide basic information on your site and encourage people to call you to follow-up?
- Will you provide detailed pricing information or just a list of your products and services?
- Do you need any special interactive elements on your site like access to a database, a special search function, live chat, a data feed, or secure areas that are not accessible to the general public?
The answers to these questions will be very helpful to guide you through the rest of the website creation process. If you are not sure about something, understand that all these elements can be added at a later date, but if you know you will need them, it is easier to include them in you plan now.
Outline your website pages for a perfect flow of information
Now your website creation process requires a page by page outline. You don’t have to get too fancy with this to make it work. If you are comfortable doing it with Word, Excel, or any drawing software, that’s fine. If you prefer making quick sketches and notes on paper, that works too. Just for speed, I almost always start with my plan laid out on paper to get a visual concept of the project. Then, after I refine my notes a bit, I start adding details in a Word document using text-boxes to visually represent pages. Just work through this process any way that seems easy to you. But don’t skip it, it’s important!
First, start by listing the required pages for your site. For any website, I recommend you include the following pages:
- Contact Page – complete contact information and location of your business
- About Us – Brief outline of your business to build trust
- Compensation Disclosure – Disclosure of how your site earns money and conflict of interest for the editorial content (Now required by current FTC Regulations for)
Your site may require the use of additional pages depending upon your specific business and the legal requirements for your industry. It is always wise to seek guidance from your legal adviser and your insurance agent to be certain you have basic protection in place. For the majority of webmasters, the above pages will provide your visitors with adequate disclosure, satisfy the requirements of the FTC, comply with recommended practices of the Google webmaster guidelines, and help to assure a good user experience.
Now, with all that legal stuff out of the way, you are ready to begin the most interesting part of website creation, building pages to hold all your great content. Make a list for each page of your website and start making notes about the purpose of the page, what kind of content you want on that page, and how each page should be linked to the other pages through your site navigation. Remember, this if a preliminary list, so just be as thorough and accurate as possible. You can (and will) make changes later as you refine your website plan.
For ideas, visit other websites in your niche to see what kind of information they provide online, how its formatted, and note what you could do in your website creation process that would rise above your competition.
I like to start by creating the main categories for my site. I recommend that you not try to cover too many main categories. I would plan on a minimum of two categories, with a maximum of perhaps 6, or even 8 categories. Any more than this will make the website creation process unnecessarily difficult by making the site navigation too complicated, and it may actually interfere with your visitors finding the information they need.
Once you are satisfied that you have identifies your main categories, and have outlined the pages to hold all the content you want on your website, you are ready to begin collecting and/or creating it.
Website Content Creation – Gather and create great content for your website
Working from your page outline you can now begin to collect and create all the content for your new site. This includes writing all the articles you’ll need as well as gathering any photos, graphics, company logos, tables, or any other information you want to share with visitors on your website.
Although I thoroughly cover all the details of SEO content writing in other articles, each article page should typically have a few basic elements:
- Compelling Headline – To grab attention and offer a benefit to the reader
- Introduction Paragraph – To introduce the content and create interest
- Body Content – The actual nuts and bolts of what you are trying to communicate
- Closing Paragraph – A brief summary of what was covered
- Call to Action – To encourage the reader to take action by buying, calling you, providing their email address, or any other action you want.
It’s also a good idea to add some graphics or visual elements to the page to break up the blocks of text to make it more readable. You can do this simply by adding a photo, drawing or illustration, and by formatting your text with appropriate headlines, sub headlines, and bullet points or numbered lists which all add some visual variety to the page.
Website creation architecture – choose your content management system
There are many content management systems to choose from when creating your site. The most popular systems used today for website creation are static HTML sites and sites built using WordPress.
Static HTML sites have been popular since the beginning of the Internet and are as versatile and effective today as they were in the past. An experienced web designer can easily create beautiful sites that are efficient with resources, well optimized, and attractively display all the necessary content.
The only downside to website creation using static HTML sites is the learning curve required to actually do the coding work. If you understand how to write HTML code and how to write and modify CSS, a software editor like Adobe Dreamweaver is hard to beat. However, if you don’t currently have these skills, and have no burning desire to become an advanced web designer, I recommend you take a different and much easier path with your website creation.
Using a content management system like WordPress you can design and build your site quickly and easily by using basic computer skills and a bit of trial and error. The WordPress platform was actually designed for bloggers and was specifically designed for easy website creation. In fact, it is easy enough to use so that just about everyone can master basic skills quickly. Of course, like any system, there are many advanced ways to use WordPress to increase functionality and make your site unique and special, but these advanced skills are not necessary to turn out a nice looking site that is both attractive and functional.
WordPress also utilizes a system called themes to help you control the look and functionality of the site. A theme is like a complete site face-lift that changes the layout, colors, functionality, type face, and the SEO optimization controls. There are many themes to choose from depending upon the look and functionality you need. Many themes are completely free to use, while some can cost up to a few hundred dollars.
While I still have some old HTML static sites live on the web, in the last few years I have converted many of my sites to WordPress, and I use WordPress almost exclusively for new website creation. In fact, this very site that you are reading this article on is created using WordPress. It’s easy to manage, it’s reliable, and perhaps best of all it’s free. That’s a combination that’s difficult to beat!
Going “live” with your new website on the internet
The final step to the actual website creation process is to put your site on a computer called a server, where it is connected to the internet so that anyone anywhere in the world can see it. The server that provides your site with access to the internet is known as a web-host or a hosting company. For a small monthly fee, they provide the electronic equipment and the technicians to keep everything operating as it should.
Website creation is never really finished – Now it’s time to test, tweak, and optimize
Congratulations! Your website creation is nearly complete, but for real ongoing success, the process is never really finished. There is always something else to be done to make your site better like add new content, communicate with customers and site visitors, and analyze what you are doing, what is successful, and what needs improvement.
You will also want to continue your link-building and SEO to maintain and improve your rankings in all the search engines.
To help you understand how visitors are interacting with your website, you need the help of website analytics software, and there are many such programs to choose from. A favorite for many, and the one I use and recommend, is a completely free tool from Google called Google Analytics. This program, along with the Google Webmaster Tools, provides all the information you need to monitor and improve your new website creation to keep it running efficiently and profitably.