If you see many ads about building websites, they make it seem so easy. Tools like Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress make the process seem simple—like you can build a site in a day or two. Which isn’t completely wrong!
For example, look at this from the Squarespace home page. It’s a three-step process, and step one is just “create a website”. Voila!
It’s that simple if you want to build a simple, basic website. But what if you want to go beyond that? Building a great and effective website for your business changes things.
The tools above can help you create a website quickly, and they’ll often look pretty nice, but that’s not what you’re after. Building a great website takes a good bit more work, and very little of it has to do with the “building” phase of the site.
There are a few things you need to do to take your website from “pretty nice” to “great”, so let’s dig into them.
It might be the most boring-sounding of all of the steps, but it’s crucial. You need to figure out who your audience is, what matters to them, and how to position yourself in a way that they’ll appreciate. A great-looking site with amazing visuals will help, but at the end of the day, it’s your words that matter.
We generally spend a few weeks digging in and building out a solid messaging strategy for each of our clients. This strategy is used on the website, but can also be used on other channels post-launch (social media, email marketing, etc).
2. Content and Layout
Tightly related to planning is content. Once you know who you’re trying to reach and how to speak to them, you need to put it into words—lots of words. Even a relatively small site will have thousands of words on it, but they need to be chosen and placed carefully.
Just like poorly-written words on a beautiful site won’t help, neither will amazing words on a poorly laid-out site. A clear and concise hierarchy of content (such as the various headings in this blog post) will make it easier for users to skim your content to find what they need.
Taking your content and thinking through a detailed wireframe for your key pages will help you really think through the flow of each page and lay them out in a way that will help users find what they’re looking for.
All of the above isn’t to say that design doesn’t matter, because it certainly does. We’ve all visited websites where the design was so bad that the words didn’t matter.
We believe that the words are what ultimately matters most, but they’re of no value if your design is too antiquated or confusing to encourage users to dig into what you have to say.
4. A Precision Build
When actually building out your website (which is well beyond step one, despite what Squarespace promotes), precision matters. Building a website that is lean enough to do only exactly what you need, yet robust enough to prepare you for the future is a challenge.
Most software leans toward the latter part of that statement and includes anything you might need someday down the road. This could be helpful but generally leads to larger and slower sites, increased security vulnerabilities, and (ironically) issues with future expansion due to conflicts with some of these bloated pieces.
When development of the site is completed, the final phase is testing, and it’s crucial to not skip this step. If you are careful with your planning and build, the testing phase shouldn’t uncover too much but it’s worth doing.
Much of this testing is simply making sure everything works the way you intended, and will hopefully make for a more efficient launch day. In addition, this is a good place to make sure your accessibility is strong so that everyone is able to use your new website when it launches.
Testing can be a time-consuming phase, but one that will make sure that your site performs according to your plans, and is appreciated by Google and your visitors.
Why You Should Take Your Time
At the end of the day, though, building a site isn’t where most people fall down. While there are still issues with some website apps, most of them (like WordPress, Squarespace, and others) really do a pretty good job.
The problem is that for most of them, step number one is to “pick a theme” and then go from there, which sets you off in a very bad direction. If you pick a theme without considering your audience and content first, you’re not likely to organize things in a way that meets their needs.
That said, there are certainly times when speed is an important factor and shortcuts need to be taken.
If you’re releasing a new book next month, then having your website ready four months later would be a pretty big problem. If that’s the case, then quickly creating something on Squarespace might indeed be a good move until you’re able to sit back and take the time to do it right.
That just goes back to the first step in here: planning. If your book comes out next month, you’ve had a lot of time to get ready for its release.
Beyond just planning for your website, planning of your entire marketing strategy can provide huge dividends, including allowing plenty of time to build that great website.
Need Help Building Your Website?
You know what’s more frustrating than taking too long to build a website? Investing money into a website that doesn’t work. It’s worth taking the time to create a business site that actually helps your company grow. Because an effective website is like your best salesman.
Don’t rush this. Don’t skip steps in the process. And if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed, do work with a professional to help get the job done.
GreenMellen was founded on building effective business websites—it’s one of our favorite things to do. Our website process takes time, but they’re built to be strategic and lasting. If you’re ready to have your website impact your company’s marketing, feel free to contact us today.