Creating a Website
Have you ever wanted to create a website? If you did, you may have had a conversation with yourself that went something like this:
I know the domain I want, and I have an idea of what I want on my website. Now what?
Your first instinct might be to go search for your domain availability – not a bad idea, but what now?
Designing and building a website seems daunting if you’ve never really done it before. Even someone with an eye for design might be challenged by the logistics. Whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring someone to do it for you, it’s always a good idea to know what goes into the web design and development process. Here are 6 steps to help simplify that process:
- Sketch (Wireframing)
- Domain & Hosting
- Create | Maintain
First, define your purpose. The purpose is your foundation. What do you want to do with your site? Do you want to showcase your business or brand? Maybe you want to create a portfolio of your work or sell products. Perhaps you just want to start a blog to share your perspective or expertise with the world.
Whatever your reason, it’s important to define it. Your website’s purpose acts as the guiding principle by which you establish the goals for your site. The purpose guides the entire web development process enabling you to make smarter decisions about effective use of your website, and the tools and resources you’ll need.
The tools depend on a number of factors. Will you hire a web developer to build the site, or will you do it yourself? From there, depending on additional factors, such as time, money and expertise, you also need to determine whether you want to create it from scratch or use one of many capable content management systems (CMS) out there.
There are plenty of comprehensive CMS with tens of thousands of nifty plugins that can do almost anything imaginable (for most websites). WordPress is the most popular. According to W3Techs, 27.9% of all websites use WordPress. In addition, WordPress has a 59% CMS market share (w3techs.com). Just to put that into perspective, the next closest has a market share of 7%!
As you can see already, there are many directions you can go with this project. Your purpose is your compass.
Next, draw up an outline. If the purpose is your foundation, the outline is your frame. This is where your website begins to take shape. Your outline provides structure which helps you decide what type of content and functionality you want built into your site.
There are many functions of a website. For example, some websites have basic functionality that allows visitors to comment, subscribe or even fill out a form. If you or your web developer uses a CMS template, many of them come with that basic functionality built in. Additionally, you can accomplish many functions with a plug-in, in most cases. Occasionally, you may need custom programming requiring a firm understanding of various programming, scripting and/or mark up languages.
Website content can be anything from the site copy to images and graphics displayed on the site. Copy development is not as straightforward as one might think. The verbiage and placement plays a huge role in your website’s discoverability. Some copy needs to be produced on an ongoing basis. Who will produce the content? Depending on the complexity, you may need to bring in a graphic artist and/or copywriter. Many web developers have one or both of these skills in their skill set.
These are only some factors to consider when developing your outline. If you haven’t gone from concept to execution before, it may be challenging or time consuming determining your website structure. A keen web developer should be able to ask the right questions to formulate a solid outline.
| Sketch (Wireframe)
Once you’ve come up with a clear purpose and basic outline for your website, it’s time to sketch it out. In the web development and design world it’s also known as wireframing. This can be done using one of many applications dedicated to creating wireframes, or by simply sketching out each page of your website on paper.
The wireframe serves as the blueprint for your website. It dictates the layout of your site content and elements. The layout is important to ensure a logical and pain free user experience. Generally speaking, a website should have three main elements: header, body and footer. A wireframe helps you to visualize the arrangement of these main elements and any sub-elements therein.
You and/or your web developer may go through several iterations of your wireframe until you’re satisfied with an effective representation of your website.
| Domain & Hosting
With a good gameplan in place, it’s time to find the right domain and hosting plan for your website.
Your domain should be short and memorable with no special characters. Be sure to use the natural language of the audience you’re trying to target. Make it easy to type. There’s plenty more to consider, such as target area, brand, or the reputation you’re trying to build. Most importantly, it needs to be available. Top domain registrars will have a search function for you to find the perfect domain name to purchase.
Once you’ve decided on a domain, you’ll need to host your website. Web hosting typically refers to the server your website and all its data is stored on. Companies such as GoDaddy and BlueHost provide server space for a fee. Depending on the CMS you use to create your website, hosting may be included in the usage or licensing fee, typically billed on an annual basis. The company you purchase hosting from dictates the payment options.
When deciding on your domain, hosting and CMS do your research. Again, an experienced web developer should be versed in the many options available in the marketplace.
Whether or not you decide to use a CMS or create your website from scratch affects the manner in which you create your website. Many CMS typically include design templates that allow you to plug and play. Some even come packaged with applications that allow you to drag and drop web elements. With this functionality comes limitations, especially if it’s not an open-source CMS. Navigating some of these CMS can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for or where to look.
Designing your website is only part of the build process. The type and amount of content you include affects the performance of your site. If you’re working with an open-source CMS like WordPress, there are ways to optimize the performance. Other CMS, such as SquareSpace have built-in optimization measures, but with these capabilities again comes limited customization options. There is nothing wrong with either type of CMS as long as it comes equipped with the functionality you need to serve your website’s purpose.
Besides optimizing for performance, you also want to optimize your website for search engines. This is where copy development and knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO) techniques come into play. You should consider doing keyword research to optimize your webpages for better search engine ranking.
Moreover, web development requires ongoing maintenance. Your website is an application. Just like the applications on your cell phone, your website needs to be updated on a regular basis to run smoothly and ensure site security.
Beyond performance and security, your brand or business may evolve requiring you to update or refresh certain elements of your website. Even if you’ve thoroughly vetted out the web development process, there will always be components you missed. It happens to the best of us. As with anything, the more you’ve done it the more adept you are at foreseeing potential pitfalls, obstacles and challenges in the web development process.
If you’re a small business owner or creative professional, your website helps you connect with new customers and build awareness and credibility within your profession. If you’re looking to create a new website or redesign your current one, it’s best to have a guide to help you prepare for this crucial and necessary undertaking.
Web development is a very involved and tedious process. By no means does that imply first-timers can’t successfully deploy a website of their own. This blog post is intended to provide a high-level approach to get you started in the process. As a web developer, I’ve encountered clients and friends who needed an explanation of what goes into the web design process. My goal was to give you some general knowledge to either research the process for yourself or find the right web developer for the job. Either way, I hope it was informative and cleared up some of the mystery of web design and development.
Lastly, if you’re ready to build or redesign a website for you or your business, I specialize in creating affordable, modern, responsive websites.
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– Eric (E’finit Media)