Exciting times! You’re about to embark on creating your new website.
Whether you are starting a website from scratch or refreshing your existing site, this article will help guide you through what needs to happen.
Warren Buffet said, “An idiot with a plan can beat a genius without a plan”.
Preparation is key, having everything you need before you even start touching a template website or custom build ensures fewer stops and starts throughout the website development stage.
In this article, we’ll be taking you through our process of planning, creating and gathering assets, and finally developing a new website, as if you were a client.
At Lime Digital, when a prospective client comes to us for a new website we first take a brief to gather as much practical information as we can. We call this ‘The Scope’.
This allows you to get clear about who you are and what you need so that no one gets distracted along the way by the many things your website could be.
You or anyone you work with can refer back to the scope document to get a grasp of what the project is, where it’s at and what needs to be done.
If you’re doing this yourself, open up a document and ask yourself these same questions to get a better understanding of what you need from your website.
Questions to ask yourself
- What’s your business?
- What are your business goals?
- What’s the biggest challenge you’re currently facing?
- What does your brand stand for?
- What do you want to achieve in your business?
- What’s the primary objective of the website?
- Who’s your target audience?
- What markets are you wanting to reach/target?
- What’s your tone of voice?
- Who is your competition?
- What websites inspire you?
- What are your brand colours?
- What’s your USP vs the competition?
- Are there seasonalities to your business?
- If you sell products:
- How many products are you looking to catalogue on your website?
- Are there variations of products?
- How often do you upload new products?
- If you sell a service:
- How many services do you offer?
- Do you offer different packages?
- Do these services change often?
- What type of functionality do you need from your website?
- Easy ability to upload products, accurately track inventory, third-party logistics (3PL), payment gateways, online calculators, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), etc.
These are the questions we generally ask clients, however, each website is different so it’s worthwhile putting in what you feel is applicable.
After answering these questions, the next one is: What are the next action steps?
This is uniquely dependent on you, your business and the answers to your questions.
Make your next action points as concise and aligned with your goals as possible, then start getting to work on them.
More often than not, as you begin working on your action points you’ll find things pop up along the way. If this is the case, analyse whether they align with your goals and if so update your list.
Having someone experienced in planning new websites can be an incredible asset. If you want us to help plan, guide and develop your new website get in touch with the team. We’d be happy to address any questions you may have.
Research is crucial to validate your plan. There are several stages to this type of research, competitor, audience and keyword research.
Each of these will help you get a solid understanding of who you’re competing against, who you are marketing to and how you will get in front of them.
This can be an inspiring opportunity to see other businesses in your industry, what you like about their business and website and also what you don’t like about them.
Take note of the user experience, is the site fast, is the design complimenting the brand, is it a seamless journey from start to checkout, is the website optimized for mobile, what are their socials and blog content like, do they have an engaged audience on their socials, check the reviews and testimonials, and so on.
Take the notes from your competitor research and define what are the key takeaways.
- List of websites you like and the features you specifically like. These can inspire the design and functionality of your new website.
- What are your competitors doing well? This sets the bar for your website.
- What are your competitors aren’t doing well? Here you can fill the gap and meet the needs of your market.
- What plugins/technology are your competitors using that would be beneficial to your website?
- Where do your competitors advertise and are you going to do the same?
- Are there any social media strategies that you can take advantage of?
- What are your key takeaways about your audience based on your competitor research?
The purpose of this type of research is to tailor your content to speak to your target audience through your copywriting, content and advertising.
Conducting this research is dependent on whether you’re creating a new website from scratch or refreshing your existing one.
If you’re updating your website you’ll presumably have existing clients that you can engage with and ask for feedback on your product/service. Additionally, you can look at your Facebook manager demographics and the psychographics of these audiences to help optimise your targeting.
If you are creating a new website for a new business, you’ll have an idea of who the audience is and then you need to validate it through research.
To begin, list out a set of questions to focus your research so you won’t get lost in the overwhelm of what’s out there. These questions could relate to your audience’s relationship to your type of product/service, the user’s lifestyle and habits and so on. Collect as much relevant information and data as you can.
Analyse all the research you’ve gathered to find the keywords, phrases, patterns and overlaps. Then put that data into action, with how you write your website copy, curate your content and structure your advertising.
Using websites like Google Analytics, Facebook manager, Google trends and paid tools like Semrush have numerous audience insight capabilities (note that Semrush does have a free trial which you can utilise).
Additionally, research the market itself, how is it performing? What’s the latest data? What are the trends? Are there any market gaps?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is another fundamental aspect of your website development. When executed well it can grow your traffic, generate leads, convert customers and as your website becomes a credible source of information, improve your organic ranking on search engines.
Keyword research is where this all beings.
Here at Lime Digital, we use Google Keyword Planner. It’s free, all you need is a Google ads account to start using it. There are many other tools out there you can use, like SEMrush or Moz, the choice is yours.
Whatever tool you decide to use, you’ll begin with listing the core keywords related to your services, market or products. Then you’ll research each search term in your keyword researcher tool. Begin compiling a list of keywords and phrases for each core keyword, this will help you reach deeper within a market.
There are three main things to consider when choosing your keywords. Relevance, authority and volume.
- Relevance – your keywords will only rank if it is relevant to providing a quality answer to what’s being searched for.
- Authority – search engines want to deliver the best answers to their users. Having a website that consistently delivers useful, relevant information to users, that is being shared via social media and backlinks, will give weight to your website ranking authority.
- Volume – is how much traffic the keywords get across all audiences and is measured in MSV (Monthly Search Volume). If the keyword has a very low volume, few people are likely to search for it.
Start researching the topics related to your industry and then start narrowing down what are the most appropriate keywords to target for you.
Once you have a list of keywords related to your business, you can include these in your website copywriting, your FAQ and blog, as well as in your titles, descriptions and advertisements. All of this will help the search engine algorithms to ascertain if the information on your page is appropriate for someone searching for those search terms.
The purpose of a search engine optimisation (SEO) plan is to improve your organic rankings on search engines and help customers find you. The SEO plan for your new website should consider these three aspects:
1. On-page SEO
Here you’ll be taking the keywords and phrases from your research and working them into the content on your website pages. From your list of keywords, you can branch-off and dig deeper into the topic, answering questions that your target audience is searching for.
By branching off from the main topic you’ll be able to cast your net that bit wider, to potentially pique the interest of people just outside your target audience.
A great place to answer these questions would be on an FAQ or in blog posts on your website.
Additionally, within the copywriting on blog posts and FAQs, you should have internal links to pages on your website that directly relate to the keyword you’re trying to rank for. For example, if we do a blog post on “How do I build an eCommerce store?” we can also link, within the article, to our service that offers just that.
2. Off-page SEO
This is where other sources from the internet are referencing and linking to your page. This builds the reputation of your site as being a good and trustworthy source of information. Thus boosting your ranking organically over other less verified but related websites.
The name for this is link building and you’ll need to come up with a plan of all the different ways you could get people to share your content.
3. Technical SEO
Is looking at the technical functionality of your website, your code, sitemap, URL structure, page speed, duplicate content, etc. All the technical aspects that could impact a user’s experience. Search engine bots are constantly crawling through websites looking for errors. Improving your technical SEO allows them to crawl through the code without hindrance and thus ranking you higher.
We’d highly recommend hiring someone with experience to make these technical fixes. If you insist on doing these yourself make sure you always have a backup of the old site before attempting to make any changes.
While building your new website, the main two areas to focus on are on-page and technical SEO. By all means, in the SEO planning stage, you can have an off-page SEO plan in place allowing you to hit the ground running when you launch.
Here we are going to bring together all the elements that are to be included on your website. This can often be the biggest hurdle in creating a website because more often than not people don’t know where to begin. With all big goals, it needs to be broken down into more manageable tasks.
Having a place where you can store all your content and organize it is important. This can be an organized folder on your laptop. If you need to share this information with people, a cloud folder would be the way to go. We often use Google Drive but there are many alternatives out there that you can use.
Having a sitemap is not only helpful when it comes to breaking down what content you need for what pages but it will also become useful for technical SEO. Search bots use site maps to help understand where each page is and what content is on it.
Below is a mock-up example of a sitemap using Gloo Maps, it’s free and easy to use. At the top, you have the project you’re working on. Below that, you have the parent categories, which will be in the main header navigation of your website. Under each parent category, you have daughter categories, and the list goes on depending on how vast your website will be.
Once you have your sitemap in place, this can help structure what copywriting you need for each page.
If you are going with a template design for your website, you’ll need to write copy that will fit into each of the prescribed areas for text. Most templates are adaptable to a certain extent but knowing what you want it to look like and where the text is going will save you time once the development process is underway.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll need a title for each page, a description of what the page is, and body text to further describe the product or service.
For each product page, make sure to include the right keywords and phrases. Refrain from using them more than four times, as overuse of them can be a red flag to search bots.
Remember you’re speaking to another human through your website. Keep the copy easy to read, with a consistent tone of voice and a distinct call to action button to move users through the funnel.
Photos & Videos
Photos and videos help convey your message and bring life to what you’re selling.
It would be ideal to have your own professional videos and images that you can use on your website. People are accustomed to seeing exceptional images everywhere they look on the internet a simple unedited photo or video taken on your phone won’t suffice.
Stock photos and videos are another great way to fill out your website if you’re lacking imagery. You’ll need to be very selective with stock images if you’re using them throughout your whole website as they tend to be very staged and generic.
Icons can help visually represent different features and aspects of a service or product. Placed next to the text that they are representing, to help differentiate the text blocks. They can also be used as links to other pages on your website like contact us or social media pages for example.
iStock has a great selection of icon packages to choose from, but a quick google search will deliver you hundreds of options for icon packages. An alternative option is to hire a designer to design your own unique icons specific to your website’s needs.
Working alongside a designer, you’ll be discussing with them what you are envisioning for your website. What colours you want to use, what elements you require, website designs that inspire you, functionalities required.
You’ll present them the site map of all the pages you’ll need as well as the copy document for these pages. By having the copy document already written, the designer can read over this and accommodate for all the text and images already prescribed. This makes less margin for error in the development stage because all aspects have been taken into consideration when the design was put together.
Having an experienced designer on your team is a great asset for bouncing ideas off and they can give you their professional opinion on the matter.
A designer can even be of great use to you if you are building on a template website. They can create a brand book that will set clear guidelines for the brands’ visuals like logos, fonts, colours, etc. They can advise and oversee, making sure the look of the website is true to the brand book, consistent on each page and across platforms and that your business translates well through the design.
Once the design is finalised, you’ll move into the final stage of development.
This is the build-up you’ve been waiting for, all that hard work finally being put into motion.
You’ll need to make sure you’ve got your domain name secured, hosted and have an SSL certificate.
If you’re building your website on a template, our method is to go page by page. Updating all the colours, logos and fonts to match your brand. Uploading all the copywriting, images, icons, links, etc. Once the first page is complete, then move on to the next. Make a note if you do have to move on without completing a page so that you can come back to it.
With custom builds, an experienced developer is a must. At Lime Digital, we predominantly use WordPress to create custom websites. We begin with mapping out the layout of each page based on the design, then we import all the content and lastly, we do the design to match what you have approved from the designer. This is all created on a test website that is not live to the public until it’s been fully tested and looked over with a fine-tooth comb.
At any point, you can also install your necessary plugins. Be selective with what plugins you’re using because too many can slow your site speed down, some can compromise security and others may not work at all. Before you install a plugin make sure to take a backup of the website just in case something happens, there’s something you can revert back to.
There you have it, how to plan out and develop your new website. We hope this article has helped give you an understanding of how you can plan your new website and what goes into it.
We are here to help you at any step along your journey. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or come up against any challenges.
We wish you the best of luck in building your new website and every success that comes with it.