- 1. Buy a domain name
- 2. Select a web hosting provider for your smart website
- 3. Decide on what kind of website you need
- 4. Have your website copy ready
- 5. Collect your visual materials
- 6. Gather your brand assets
- 7. Give the website design project your undivided attention
Not that I’d want to scare you off, but before you reach out to a website designer to hire them for your project, there are a few things you need to think over and prepare. This helps not only you to get clarity around what exactly you want to achieve, but also speeds up the process.
You know, time is money. And I assume you are eager to get that new smart website launched asap anyway to
- generate more leads,
- grow your business, and
- make money while you sleep.
So let’s look at the things I’d need from you before I can start working on your website design.
1. Buy a domain name
Trivial as it sounds but you need a domain name. This is the unique identifier of your future website. How people will know your business and find it in the maze of the online world.
Finding the right domain name takes time and some serious thoughts. You need not only decide about your top-level domain name but also on the second-level domain.
Don’t worry. It’s nothing fancy. And you probably know about it anyway. Just didn’t know it’s called top-level domain in tech terms.
Let’s take this example: https://arradesignstudio.com
top-level domain is: .com
second level domain is: arradesignstudio
The most common top-level domain (TLD) name is .com, but beyond that there are several other TLDs that may suit your business.
If your main target audience is on your local market a country code top-level domain like .ie, .de or .au can be seen more trustworthy by your clients. Also it’s quickly recognized as a local business.
New top-level domains include among others: .accountant, .design, .biz to name a few. Some may come with certain restrictions so make sure to comply with them before choosing one.
The second-level domain is to identify your business in case of a business website.
Things to consider:
- Do you want to use your own name, a business name, or a brand name?
- Look at your main competitors and compare their domain names with yours.
- Are they easily distinguishable?
- What you want to avoid is to drive traffic and customers to your competitors with a poor domain name choice.
- Beyond that the best is to keep your domain name sweet and as short as possible.
- Lengthy domain names comprising of several words are prone to typos and spelling mistakes.
- And those can prevent your customers to reaching your website.
2. Select a web hosting provider for your smart website
Your website needs to live somewhere, so you need to buy a dedicated online real estate for it.
There are big global companies and smaller, local hosting providers that you can choose from. Selecting the right one depends on a lot of things. As a starter look at the below prompts.
Be honest and answer these questions for yourself first and then compare your shortlisted web hosting providers before hitting that buy button!
How tech savvy are you?
Do you think you’d need to contact them often for help? If yes, you should select a web hosting provider with a good customer service feedback rate. Best is to have a local company or one that offers support in your native tongue (in case it’s not English).
Customer support can vary and could mean access to
- email or chat support,
- a ticket system or
- phone support.
Don’t forget to check the turnaround times, too.
What is your budget?
Because paying for the hosting service is an ongoing cost until you want your smart website up and running. Most hosting companies calculate their prices and packages based on storage. That is how much space your website and all its content occupies on their server (in MB for small sites or in GB for big sites).
And the other main factor is bandwidth, aka how much traffic your website generates. If you expect thousands or millions of website visitors daily, that needs a robust enough server to handle that much traffic swiftly. And would cost you more.
Don’t forget about security!
Make a thorough research also about the companies’ reputation and how secure they are. Knowing that more than 40% of websites are compromised because of a host’s vulnerability,” it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Look out for technical details like firewalls. Check if they have regular monitoring services and what kind of safeguards they have implemented to secure their servers (and your data on it) from potential hacking attacks.
Even if not in their basic package, but if they offer security add-ons that you can buy as extras, that’s a good sign. Always secure and protect your website!
3. Decide on what kind of website you need
Before I can design your smart website you need to be clear on a few things that have an impact on the website project, including but not limited to
- how long it would take to build your website, and
- how much it would cost.
The more information you know in advance, the easier it is to have the first project meeting with me as your designer when we discuss the exact scope and all the expected deliverables.
Content Management System (CMS) vs hand coded website
What kind of information do I have in mind? Let’s see:
- Do you need a personal or a commercial website?
- Is this a website for service based offerings or selling physical products?
- Would you focus on a local country market only?
- Or is your business a globally available, remote service?
- What are your plans for the near future?
- Let’s say 5 years from now, if everything goes smoothly as expected: where do you want to be?
- Would you still need a similar website?
This could help deciding whether your business could benefit from a CMS solution, like a WordPress website that can be expanded with tons of functionalities as your business matures. Or maybe some other solution.
Also know your budget. If you want a hand coded, unique website that’d cost you tons of money. It also takes longer to build. Not to mention you’d need your website developer in the future for any updates and even for the smallest changes. So increased ongoing costs.
Long-form one pager vs a classic website structure
A long form one pager can be a good choice if you
- want to start small,
- have only one service or product to offer.
- About page,
- Services/Products/Courses page,
- Contact page,
Also do you want a Blog with your website? Even if not right away, but maybe a few months later. Because it’s better to know and prepare for its proper placement and function both in your navigation menus and marketing plans.
What about future updates and maintenance?
Do you want to be able to update and maintain the website yourself or are you prepared to pay for it (regularly)?
If you want to be able to update your smart website and want to write your own business blog posts, you would need a user friendly Content Management System that handles this. Without the need you having to code even a single line. That’s why I use WordPress to build websites for my clients.
WordPress is a well documented open-source platform, with millions of Youtube videos sharing tips and tricks. So even if you hire a website designer to create your site, you don’t necessary need to hire someone just to add minor updates. Or if you want to publish a new blog post. For small businesses especially at their start-up phase this could save some money.
But if that’s not your priority and you’re willing to pay for a 3rd party for
- website updates,
- blog post editing, and
- website maintenance,
it’s better to hire a website designer/agency that offers this as in-house service. Prices can significantly vary so make your research before signing a contract.
While I don’t offer this as a stand-alone service in my SMART website design packages, but for existing clients I’m available for WordPress website updates and assistance at my hourly rate or for bigger changes based on a special project quote.
What is your business goal with the website?
Your business wants to make money. No-one questions that. But what goals does your smart website have in your business and marketing strategy? Where do you want to focus?
- Do you want to sell physical products?
- Do you offer remote services?
- Is your main goal for visitors to hit the Buy Now button?
- Or The Contact us for a free Quote button?
- Do you want them to Book a table at your Restaurant?
- Schedule an Online Coaching session?
- Do you focus on collecting email addresses?
- Or rather on new subscribers for your software as a service product?
Knowing what your ultimate goal is helps you and your website designer when laying out the foundation of your future website.
What features/functions does your smart website need?
There are zillions of features and functions your website could potentially have. But let’s not get carried away. You only need those that are aligned to your above business goals and help you accomplish them the best possible way.
If you’re a restaurant owner you need different features on your website than someone who sells products. You may want to show your website visitors
- the interior of the place,
- the menu, and
- give them the option to book a table online or by calling you.
The best is to add a map as well, and telling your visitors how best to approach the area by car, public transport, or on foot. If there’s no parking facility in the immediate proximity, tell them the nearest car park location.
If you’re selling products, you need
- a shopping cart feature,
- with various payment methods,
- money back guarantees,
- shipping policies.
If it’s an e-commerce business, then providing a map or even showing your storage facility is not needed. Nor knowing where your online shoppers can park their cars.
Service based businesses offering a non-binding call need a
- calendar booking feature
- combined with the option to run an online meeting e.g. via Zoom.
A picture gallery of their recent client projects or a Case Studies page showing how they have transformed the lives or businesses of past clients can build trustworthiness.
4. Have your website copy ready
This doesn’t need much explaining. I’d need the copy planned for all your web pages to design your site. So, let me ask you?
How good are you at copywriting?
Do you need help or you are confident to do it on your own?
Not all website designers are good at copywriting. I know that I’m not. But if you plan to write your own copy I can help with a website content planner template. Using such a web page content planner can ensure that you
- don’t miss anything important,
- structure your website copy so that it supports your business goals, and
- help your visitors to find everything they need on your web pages.
If you’d rather leave it to an expert, because let’s face it good copywriting’s a whole new profession on its own I can recommend you a talented writer.
Reach out to Maya Saric at SharpshineCopy and let her tackle this part for you. She can help with service based businesses and offers website copywriting packages, but reviews your own written copy if needed and gives personalized suggestions how to make it pop. And how to optimize it better for conversions.
Who wouldn’t want that?
5. Collect your visual materials
A website with text alone is not what most visitors would expect when they land on your homepage. You’d want to spice it up with strategically placed multimedia features be it
- animations, or
And this needs to be available along with your website copy.
So before hiring your website designer, make sure that you have all visual materials you need. Depending on your business it could mean to invest into a professional photographer to capture the fabulous interior of the consultation room you’ll be having your coaching sessions with clients in person.
If you’re a restaurant, it’s worth having some mouth-watering images from your menu for an image gallery on your website. Also if people can hire some function rooms for private events, it’s worth showing them via the lens of a pro.
But not all businesses are the same and some might have budget limitations. There’s no problem with selecting a few good quality, paid stock images for your first website. Just make sure that the main topic of the images represent well what your business is about and what it stands for. With a well selected filter or pre-set the images can be made similar in tone to show a cohesive look.
You can search for stock images yourself or alternatively ask your website designer if they would curate a list of images for you for selection. Some website designers have it in their packages. Others are more than happy to assist for a small fee. It never hurts asking. And that part is always for free.
6. Gather your brand assets
Your website should be an integral part of your overall business image and marketing landscape. Your professional image includes but is not limited to your
- business logo and its variants,
- brand colours,
- suggested typefaces,
- certain values and feelings that your business wants to evoke in customers and clients.
If you’ve already worked with a brand designer you should have all the necessary files at hand. Your website designer will want to look at them and needs you to answer any clarifying questions they might have.
If you completely start from scratch and need not only a website but a professional logo and look & feel, too, select a web designer who covers both aspects. ARRA design studio offers both
- branding & graphic design services, as well as
- SMART website packages.
7. Give the website design project your undivided attention
What is your availability and timeline for the project?
Are you ready to commit your time and effort to this website project?
This is one of the most important things that you need to clarify with yourself.
Yes, you heard it right. It’s not only your website designer who needs to be available. You are responsible for the success of your website as well. Even if you don’t need to learn to code and design, you need to be free for email questions, online or personal meetings and timely feedbacks.
If you expect meeting with your designer just once at the very beginning, and then leaving everything up to them… Then don’t be surprised at the end-product either!