So you want to start a website, huh?

Why Is Creating a Website So Complicated?

Starting to build and design your own website can be incredibly confusing. The process can be long, complicated, frustrating and some may even feel hopeless when they dive into the world of web development. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be so bad. I’ve tried to compile a list of things that most newbie’s get wrong, along with adding in other tips and tricks of the trade from my 8 years in the business.
Still Need Website Planning Help?

Many companies offer free web design consultations, and this company offers a free downloadable Website Planning Guide. It has proven to be a good reference when trying to put together an actionable plan for launching a website.

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How to Simplify Your Life

When you start a website you will want to get organized first and foremost. Learn what you need and write it down in a detailed plan. You will want to look at your budget and what you need your website to do. This isn’t an easy process either. Their are tons of questions you need to ask yourself before you start a website. Service businesses with only 1 – 5 pages may be much esaier, but content writing can get difficult and time consuming when you have a larger website. E-Commerce sites will have much more to think about as well. Below is a checklist of the main things you will want to include in your plan.
Website Design Checklist

See a list of items you need to think about before starting your website. This is a rough list, you will want to flesh out each section as you work through the project.
#2 Domain Name

This is really exciting when you first start out, but can easily become one of the most difficult parts of starting a website. You will say at some point “Everything is taken!” and get discouraged. My best advice for this is to get creative. Use something other than .com. Their are many options available, including

.biz – Sites for businesses
.co – Sites for companies
.edu – Educational sites
.firm – Sites for businesses or firms
.info
.net – Administrative sites
.pro – Professional sites for accountants, lawyers and physicians
.store – for e-commerce sites
.us
.web – Internet sites about the World Wide Web

The above list refers to sites generally in the US, for other countries you can check out this list of Country related Suffixes.
#1 Goal of your website

You will want to assess what you are trying to do with your website. Whether it is draw traffic, give a name to a brand, sell things, inform customers, interact with customers/clients, client interfaces, inform public, etc. It’s amazing how many people don’t have a good idea of what they want their website to do for them. This is where you will also roughly plan out how much money you have to build your website with – more on budgeting below!

Without a good idea of why you are building your website you will really put yourself at a disadvantage. This type of planning, or lack thereof, will lead to extra costs creeping up that can really damage a company just starting out.

This part of planning will serve as the brains of the website. It will outline your needs so you can describe them later to whoever needs to build or provide information for the website (think employees, or a contracted web developer, or development team). This list doesn’t have to be very detailed at first, specifying an e-commerce site with paypal check-out process, and customer service space might be enough to start. Chances are that it will likely grow and turn into a more detailed plan as you go through the process of developing your ideas and website.

A good exercise to do is free write for 5 minutes about your website. Write anything down you can think of, from colors, to functionality, to description words. Things like red, elegant, scripts, grow client base, sell products, increase brand awareness, social media, about us, trusted brand, etc. can really help give you an idea of what you want, and also gives a raw list of attributes to any web developer, who can then hone in, more effectively, on your needs and wants for your site.
#3 Who will be in charge

You will need to define a very clear understanding of who will be in charge of what portions of the website. Everything from colors to fonts to content will have to be decided on, and the process will go much smoother if your team knows who is to make those decisions during the development process.

If you are designing your own website be prepared to write, write, write. A website is mostly writing, and if you aren’t a strong writer, it may be in your best interest to hire someone to write good content for you.

#4 Timeline

What is your timeline… how quickly do you want your website up and running? It’s silly how many people expect a website to take “no time at all”. And while this can be true if you are building a one page service site using something like Wix.com, but if you want a custom site with personal touches, good content, functionality and technology you will need to plan out, realistically, how long this process will take. The best way to do this is to take your list of wants and needs, that you made in point number 1 above (Goals of your Website), to some web design companies and see what they would quote you, then add at least 30 days to that estimate.

Here’s a secret web developers rarely tell you, everything takes longer than expected, EVERYTHING. Whether their were changes at the last minute, the content wasn’t ready, the payment system was acting wacky, whatever the case may be, it happens all the time! Just expect it, and plan for it. Having the site ready early is much nicer than getting to the last hour and having to delay launch.

Another benefit to having a timeline is that when it’s time to fill in content you will have already had a hard date for that content to be written and proofed. If you have a team this is incredibly beneficial for all involved, and leads to less stress and better content.