Updated: May 15, 2020
You've got a great new startup you are ready to share with the world. Exciting, I know! Congrats to you! When it comes to designing the website for your startup, there are many questions to consider before you begin in order to generate the best outcome and results for your business.
When consulting small businesses and startups, I encountered the same problem again and again, many of them simply put the cart before the horse when designing their website.
They want to build a website first, then come up with a digital marketing strategy after the fact. This is one of the most costly mistakes a startup can make. Your website will be the cornerstone of your digital brand and marketing program. It is the central point within the digital media hub - in other words, it is the one place everything flows to and from online in relation to your business.
Your presence on other channels like social media is linked back to your website, search result listings on Google and other search engines will drive people there, etc. For many customers your website generates the first real impression of you business. For these reasons, it is really crucial not to skimp on this step of your branding.
With that in mind, here are 7 things you need to do and important questions to consider before you dive in to designing your website.
1. Purchase your domain name. Do this as soon as possible. You don't have to let an agency or designer buy your domain name for you. Your website domain is a business asset. You should maintain control of your domain. Any agency or designer you may work with will be able to manage it or do anything necessary after you have purchased it. I say this as a word of caution because I have seen a few bad scenarios around domain names over the years. Competitors might buy your desired domain name if you don't act quickly or in some cases I have even seen agencies charge huge markups in order for a business to secure their own domain name if the client chose to leave them. Either scenario is bad, but most importantly your business should maintain control because it is such an essential piece of your brand.
2. Define your digital strategy before you begin so you can align your website to meet your goals and support your growth in a meaningful way. You need to clearly understand the purpose of your website before you even think about designing it.
3. You are not just building your website for your company - you are really building your website for your audience. So, you need to get to know and understand your target audience. Develop your buyer personas and define audience segmentation.
4. You need to understand how customers might search for your products or services today to develop your first list of target keywords. This could be done with traditional internet search, voice search, mobile search, map search, image search, video search, etc. This will be a big part of your content and SEO strategy. You can use these keyword ideas to generate your content around your customer's interests.
5. Think about and clearly outline your buyer's journey. Keep in mind exactly how you want a user to navigate to accomplish your set goals. Think about lead generation tactics and potential user flows to make that process as smooth and simple as possible. Removing friction increases the likelihood of conversion.
6. After your buyer's journey and keywords are established, you should outline your pillar content around your top priority keywords for SEO and in such a way that it compliments your buyer's journey taking them through each step of the funnel from awareness to conversion.
7. Finally, you need to think about your business needs before you pick a website designer or a platform. The required functionality, complexity, and overall purpose of the website will ultimately help you determine how to choose the right website solutions for your business. Here are some important questions to think about:
Will your website need e-commerce functions like shopping carts, payment systems, subscriptions, etc?
Will your website need a database function or need to be integrated with a CRM platform to capture and record leads generated from your website?
Does your business deal with or collect protected private information? Is security a strong concern?
Does your website need to be able to host rich multi-media content like videos?
Does your business need a private server? If not, you might save some money by choosing a shared server plan for your hosting.
Will the website need a content management system or a blog?
Who will be involved on your end with the website development or content updates? Do you have an in-house designer who will be able to maintain the website after it is complete or do you need to hire a freelancer or agency to handle that part for you? Does anyone else need access to your website dashboard to manage content like your marketing team?
Does your website need to be able to be displayed in multiple languages?
Will you need membership or community functions or for users to be able to login to an account?
Will you need a calendar or scheduling feature?
Are you going to provide online support? Either with live support from a team member or with chat bots?
Understanding these fundamental questions about the features, functions and purpose behind your website will help you get started more smoothly and confidently with your website design project.
One additional aspect you want to tackle before the final design begins is building the Wire-frame. It is a two-dimensional illustration or diagram of a web page's interface that focuses on space allocation and prioritization of content, functionalities and intended behaviors. It is designed to establish the general form, function and flow of your website across all of your web pages. Specifics like colors, graphics and other extras won't be necessary at this stage, but this is a very helpful tool to provide clear direction for the design team on the desired fundamentals of the project.
In our next article, I will follow up with a review and comparison of the current most popular website design platforms with tips to help you choose the right platform based on your business needs and budget.
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