Everything is moving into the online space these days. People can now connect to the virtual world anytime, anyplace. If you’re thinking about making a foray into the online world to build your first company website, there are a few things that you need to know. Today, we’ll talk about how to go about building a website and what to do to make yourself stand out.

Building a website is a process. First and foremost, it’s important to give some thought as to what you want to get out of the website. Some websites are created to deliver information, others to sell products, but all website have a purpose. The problem occurs when you build a site that doesn’t line up with your business objectives, which is why it is essential to think about your business goals right from the outset, so that the process gets started on the right foot. For example, if you have an e-commerce site, you want to create a website that makes it easy and efficient for someone to find the product(s) they want and checkout. The important question to ask yourself is, what experience do I want visitors and potential customers to get from my website?

Once you have put some thought into what you want, it’s time to decide who is going to design your website for you. There are many different ways to design a site and many different design studios/web designers who are willing to do it. When it comes to making a decision, quality matters most; try and get word-of-mouth recommendations about which designer to choose. A good website pays huge dividends over the long run, so don’t just go with the cheapest option.

To help create an idea of how the website will look, feel and flow, web designers usually take clients through a process called storyboarding. A storyboard acts as a map for your website and helps consolidate any ideas related to the website design. It is essentially a sketch of your website (see example) and it gives you an opportunity to brainstorm the creative elements of the site. You can look for content or design components that are inspired by the vision for your business; websites you like/dislike, inspiring photos, favorite colors, all can be useful in developing an initial theme and design for the website. As the elements come together, the story comes alive and the site design begins to take shape.

With the process for getting started in mind, it is time to answer the fundamental web design question. What do you need to do to make your website stand out?

  • Be Creative: don’t build something that looks exactly like your favorite site or that of your closest competitors
  • Keep it Simple: sites that have too much going on are distracting and annoying. Don’t try and do too much; too many videos, colors, photos or flashing ads are a big turn off. Think about how simple the most popular site in the world is (Google).
  • Start with the end in mind: Imagine how customers will interact with the site. Optimize the landing page and any other prominent pages for their viewing/surfing/buying pleasure. Make it easy to get to and read the most important parts of the site.

Beyond these three general tips, there are a number of key considerations to keep in mind when developing a website.

  • SEO: for search engines to index your site, they must be able to crawl it. Keep link structures clean, incorporate keywords into the content, and remember that search engines can’t read Flash content. For a great beginners guide we recommend The Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
  • Cross-browser compatibility: there are four major browsers that people use (Firefox, Explorer, Chrome and Safari). Make sure the site works on all four.
  • Content Management: if you don’t know html, then it is important to have an easy-to-use content management system (CMS) on the back-end of your website. There are many CMS options, some easier than others, so select one that’s right for you
  • Blog: embed your blog in your website. Blog content gets indexed in search engines, plus it’s a great complement to a website to keep it fresh and active

Overall, building a website can be a somewhat daunting task, but the long-run payoff can be enormous. In our experience, it has been a lot of fun, as it gives you a chance to be creative and use your imagination. The sooner you get into the online world, the quicker people can see your story.


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