Starting a website? Lay the groundwork first.

7 ways to prep

When you decide to start building a new website, it’s pretty easy to want to rush the process. You get an idea or think of a project, and you want to launch the site yesterday. But as much as you want to jump in and get started, you’ll thank yourself for taking a breath and doing these seven things before you begin.

Whether you are building your website yourself or hiring someone to do it for you, these prep steps will substantially improve your process and final product.

1. Identify the primary purpose of your website.

The purpose of your website might seem obvious. You might immediately think the purpose is one of the following:

  • Attract traffic and grow an audience
  • Show your products
  • Share what you know
  • Advertise your business
  • Entertain your readers

While those are reasons why you have a website, the true purpose of your website is deeper than that. Start at the purpose that seems obvious, then keeping ask yourself “why,” until you get to the real purpose.

Obvious purpose True purpose
Attract traffic and grow an audience Sell an ebook to your audience
Show your products Sell more products
Share what you know Build authority and get speaking engagements
Advertise your business Get clients to register for a consultation
Entertain your readers Build your newsletter subscriber base

 

As your site grows and evolves, it will likely have multiple purposes. But in the beginning, identify the primary (and most valuable) purpose for your site. That way, you will have one main focus to shape your site around.

2. Decide what you want your audience to do.

Once you identify the primary purpose of your site, identify how your audience can help you reach that goal. Then create a main call-to-action that directs them to act and move toward it.

This call-to-action might not be directly connected to your goal. It might require a few steps to get to your final goal. But at least create a call-to-action that gets the ball moving in the right direction. It is also a good idea to create a call-to-action that prompts your audience to provide their email address — as you can use this later to continue to communicate with them.

True purpose Call-to-action
Sell an ebook to my audience “Subscribe to this Blog”
Sell more products “Register and Get Free Shipping on Your First Order”
Build authority and get speaking engagements “Download My Free eBook”
Get clients to register for a consultation “Register for a Free Consultation”
Build your newsletter subscriber base “Sign up for exclusive members-only content”

 

Now that you have a main call-to-action, you will be able to position your content to lead the audience to that action on each page.

3. Write an About page.

It’s pretty intimidating to set up your website and stare back at a bunch of blank pages. So create some content to get you started. Start with an About page that is short and sweet. Say:

  • who the site is for
  • what visitors can do on the site
  • why the site is different than others like it

Your About page will likely be one of the most visited pages on your site. So, if you are rushing to launch, get something up quick. Then when you have more time, go back and fine-tune your About page.

4. Write one blog post about your launch.

Since you are already on a roll writing about yourself, go ahead and keep the momentum going by writing a blog post about your website. It’s good to have a few starter posts when you launch, and one of them should be a story about your launch.

Tell readers about you, your inspiration, and what you hope to accomplish with your site. By welcoming readers and introducing yourself, you will start to build your relationship early on.

5. Write a blog post that shows readers what’s to come.

Now that you’ve introduced why your site exists, write another blog post that will show readers what they can expect to find there. Write a post that is an example of what your readers can come to expect from your site when it is totally up and running.

6. Create and/or collect design assets.  

Having written content to fill your site is only half of the battle. You also need to have design elements ready to plug into your website as you build. Create or collect those assets before you begin.

If you have products, take professional, high-quality photos of them. Get three to four shots of the product to show it from different angles.

If the website is about you (i.e. a personal or professional blog, consulting website, etc.), get a few high-quality photos of yourself. Make sure whoever is taking the photos understands that you will be using these on a website. You will want a variety of shots and angles. Take photos where you are near the edge of the frame as well as in the center.

If you are selling a service that has an end result, take photos of your finished work. This would include screenshots if you are a designer or photos of a completed project if you are an artist.

If you are selling an abstract idea or lifestyle, find stock photos (that don’t look cheesy) that represent the feeling you want people to have about your brand.

If you hire a designer, these assets will also give them inspiration for creating your site.

7. Pick out a theme.

The best way to figure out what you want out of your website is to look at what else is out there. Browse through website theme showcases and identify what you like and what you don’t.

If you are building your site yourself using WordPress or a template-based site builder like GoDaddy Website Builder, pick out a theme you like. You also can browse themes you like to use for reference if you decide to design your site from scratch.

If you are hiring someone to build your site, pick out two to five themes that have elements (such as color schemes, layouts, functionality, fonts, etc.) that you would like to see on your site. Provide these themes to your designer. It will help them to know what you like and dislike.

It’s a rush when you decide you’re ready start building a new website. But remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. If you do it right, your website will be around for years to come. So, delay your build a few days and follow these steps to prep and lay the groundwork for building the best site possible.