Article updated 5.6.16-still relevant.
I thought I would frame out a few simple steps at the beginning stages of building your website to save you time and money in the process here in my blog. These simple steps are all things you can do to prepare for your meeting with your web designer and show them that you are serious about launching a web based company and (after you have done these steps) be oriented as to how your idea will connect with the world.
Step 1. Decide on a URL
I have had many people come to me saying “I want to build a website” and when I ask them what their URL is, they haven’t gone so far as to think about it yet. It is one of the most important elements in creating your brand and marketing yourself on the web. There is more about this below so please read the entire post before you buy your URL. One of the most important parts about owning and maintaining a site on the web is that you own the URL and have the hosting set up in your name. So many people have come to me wanting to update their existing site and have either lost their log in credentials, do not know who purchased their domain name or where their site is hosted. One clients father had started a large web based company (in the early 90’s) and when he passed away, his son had no idea where the site was hosted or how to get in touch with the person who built it years earlier. Also, unfortunately, some web builders will hold your site hostage if you upset them. So avoid all of this and get your own URL and hosting now.
Here are some rules of thumb when choosing a URL:
a.) Keep it short and simple
b.) Don’t choose a crazy name like “kewlzips.com” to build your boutique zipper website unless you have a size able marketing budget to inform people as to what kewlzips is. Again keep it simple so search engines can index you easily, people can remember it easily and when web users search for what it is you have to offer, your URL it comes up in their results.
Example: uniquezippers.com might actually show up if someone searches “Unique Zippers”.
And if you want an idea of competition on Google, open another tab and search “How to build a new website” you will see many ads and paid search site literally bury this page. Important: To start any new business today (even in 2016) you must understand the modern web in every way possible. SEO, PPC, AdWords, Engagement and the top five social nets.
I like to start people off at Godaddy unless they are going to build a highly dynamic site that requires considerable security. By clicking on the image the link to the upper left of the page, you can purchase your domain name (URL) and set up your hosting. If you have a dynamic site you need built click on the contact button above for a consult.
Step 2: Setting up Hosting
Godaddy has many packages to offer for hosting and whether your site is simple or complex just go for the cheapest one. You can always upgrade in a few clicks, Godaddy are great about refunds and adjustments. When you buy your domain name (URL) you will be asked to add hosting, so simply click “yes” and follow the steps. Godaddy will also try to sell you a hundred other things in the process, but you can skip all of that and if your web designer decides you need it, add it later.
Note: Once you have your URL and hosting set up you can give your web designer your user name and password and when they are done you can always change it to something else so that only you have access to the account.
Step 3: Building a Brand
There is so much more to this concept. You could ponder this for months. But here’s an idea of what to ponder if you don’t already know. This is a very abstract idea to some people but the way I try to get it across is with the story of the Mobil “O”. Sometime in the 80’s Mobil gasoline hired an ad executive to “re-brand” their company. Their brilliant idea was to move the red Pegasus to the side of the building and change the letter “o” in Mobil to red. This very small change raised their business by over %25. So you have an idea, ask yourself these questions:
a.) Who would I like to buy my “idea”? The answer to that is your “demographic”. Example: Men and Women ages 23-34.
b.) What kinds of things are people in that demographic buying?
c.) How are those things “branded”? What colors do they use, what fonts do they use, what kind of imagery…
d.) How does my idea both fit into that and stand apart from it as to be unique and interesting?
e.) Where will my images come from? Do I need to hire a photographer, can I shoot them myself or can I just buy stock photos online.
(See Dreamstime link to the left for stock photos and prices)
Now that you are thinking like a marketing company would about your idea, get out a box of crayons or open photo shop and sketch up a rough draft of what you would like your logo and website header to look like. Here’s an example of a header created and donated to physiciansforhaiti.org along with a website (logo inside the header.)
Now you are ready to hire a web designer! They will ask all of these questions and you will be informed and have all the answers.
Please leave comments and questions below and I will be happy to answer them. Good luck!