The process of creating a successful website can seem like a daunting challenge and it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why we’ve pulled together our ‘Guide to Creating a New Website’ which explain the steps that you will need to work through.
We create and manage websites for clients across many all different sectors and with different types of businesses. The process and thinking remain the same! The Guide is based on the process we go through with our clients and takes you from establishing whether you need a new website in the first place, through to how to look after your new website once it’s up and running.
- Why do I need a website?
- Do your research
- Fine tune your visual brand
- Collate the words and pictures
- Draw the customer journey
- Let the creative juices flow
- Put it all together
- Help customers find your business
- Love and cherish your new website
Creating a new website or having a website created for you can seem like a hurdle for any business. It needs to reflect your business and act as your public profile, a task that can seem a little daunting – with decisions and jargon rife.
In this blog, we will take you through the process of creating a new website – from deciding that you need and want a new site, to the choices regarding ongoing hosting and maintenance of your new website.
Let’s begin at the beginning – why do I need a new website?
Why do I need a new website?
You don’t have a website
If you are just starting out, the decision to have a website is an easy one in many respects – these days potential clients expect to be able to find you online.
But having your own website is not the only route. Depending on your sector and scale, for instance, if you are a plumber working on your own, another easier option might be to list yourself on industry directories, with Google My Business, or create a Facebook page with your contact details and images displaying recent work.
However, for most businesses, especially those looking to grow, then having your own website is a must.
Three benefits of a website:
- It’s a valuable marketing channel
With the power of search engines, websites are a portal to your potential customers. A website is a marketing channel that works for your business night and day, available whenever a potential customer is looking!
Customers expect to be able to find you online before making the decision to purchase from your business. It lends your business credibility, reinforcing what they might have heard about your business from other sources.
A website can showcase all that your business has to offer, including the services you provide. It should convey to potential customers why they would benefit from using you over your competitors. It can also answer questions that potential customers might have as they go through the buying process.
Your existing site isn’t working for your business
If you already have a website, what are the main problems you’re experiencing with it? What is driving you towards creating a new website?
There can be a whole host of reasons why businesses consider they need a new website. The main reason we’re asked to create new websites is that clients feel their existing website no longer reflects their business, their brand or their ambitions.
Reasons to choose a new website:
- It looks outdated
An outdated website can put off potential customers. It raises red flags around your business – for customers who don’t know your business already, you can lose credibility.
- Out of date content
Over time businesses change and adapt, so your website needs to reflect these changes. Whether your business has diversified, transitioned to other services, or changed business priorities, the issue is the same – your potential clients are no longer finding information about what your business actually does.
- Websites need love and attention
Once you’ve had a website designed and developed, it will need to be maintained and is all the better for having content regularly updated. If you don’t want to do this yourself, or the platform your website is built on doesn’t easily enable you to do so, you’ll be reliant on a website designer/developer to make any changes. However, if you have lost contact with your website designer/developer, or they are hanging up their coding mitts, you may need to find a new supplier, which is an excellent opportunity to go through a website audit and review.
Creating a new website takes time, and investment, so whatever your reasons for wanting a new website, be clear on what you want your new website to deliver that your current website doesn’t.
How we can help
At Energy Creative, we are happy to discuss whether we think a new website is the right move for your business. We want our clients to make informed choices regarding the steps their businesses take, so if we think all your website needs is a new banner image and a shift in phrasing, we’ll say so! Request a quote to find out more about how we can support you and your business.
Do your research
Once you’ve determined that a new website is the right way forward, it’s time to put your head down and do some research.
The purpose of your website and the needs of your audience will inform the direction and functionality. Considering your potential customer and their requirements when you are making decisions about your website will be key to its success.
Have a look around – take a look at the websites of your competitors, businesses in your industry and brands you like. Try and work out what appeals to you about their websites, what you feel they are doing well and how this could influence decisions you make regarding your own website.
Consider the customer journey through the site to find specific content, buy a product, contact the team and so on. What works well about these processes? How will your customer find this journey on your website? Are there any ways that you can improve this experience for your customers?
Visually is there anything that really appeals – use of video, images, icons or colour?
Equally, it is important to work out what you don’t like or don’t feel works across the websites you view. Is there anything that you think would hinder a positive decision from your audience?
With an amalgamation of content, design and functionality your website needs to appeal to your target customer and audience. It needs to visually align with the rest of your brand, clearly defining your unique selling points and what your business has to offer.
How we can help
If the thought of researching for your website causes you to shudder in horror or you simply don’t have the time, we can explore options for your – a couple of quick phone calls will be required though! Request a quote to start a conversation about how we can support you and your business.
Fine tune your brand
Branding is the emotional connection to a company, encompassing every touchpoint you have with a company on any level. Read more about branding here. Projecting the same style and tone across all your platforms to help distinguish yourself from your competitors.
Your brand encompasses multiple elements to let your audience know it’s your business at a glance. By using your brand across your marketing channels – including your website – you gain brand recognition and increase the credibility of your business. It’s an important part of creating a cohesive and consistent look and feel as your business grows, so don’t underestimate the value of getting this right.
Elements that make up your brand include:
- Tone of voice
- Image treatments/styles
- Graphic devices
If your business doesn’t have these brand elements defined or they no longer reflect your business, it is a good idea to look at this before moving on to the design of your website.
Business branding documents can be hugely varied in scale, from a document that includes as little as a logo, colour and typeface to a full, multi-page document defining logo placement and space, colour breakdowns and pairing, stationary, messaging, values and tone of voice (just to list a few!). The size of this document is often reflected by the scale of your business. A 30+ page document might be overkill for a start-up or small business! However, for any business, a single page or couple of pages is extremely valuable to keep your brand consistent.
Your website is a marketing channel so should align with the rest of your marketing assets, from your business cards through to your company brochure or exhibition stand.
How we can help
At Energy Creative, we create new brands and refresh old ones. Whether you are a start-up with only ideas, or have parts of a visual brand but need other elements to make up a complete package, we are happy to help. Request a quote and let’s start the conversation about how we can support you and your business.
Collate the words and pictures
Now that you have made a good start on your research, and your brand is spot on, it’s time to pull together the content for your new website.
Some people choose to write their own website content, but writing doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Writing for the web is also quite different to writing for a printed document. Professional copywriters, like those at Energy Creative, are able to make sense of even the most convoluted paragraph and create something digestible to the rest of us!
People want to feel like they are doing business with real people so write meaningful content which helps them figure out a solution to the problem they have.
After collating some of the information to be included, it can seem hugely disjointed and scattered. We find that the most logical method is to write out a list of pages for the website then begin to populate each page with relevant content. We suggest adding in an ‘About us’ page that tells the story of your business.
Don’t forget the pages of ‘must have content’ detailed below.
Must have content
In the UK, there are several pieces of content legally required on your website.
- Terms and conditions
For e-commerce websites, there are a bundle of other requirements you will need to consider and make sure that your website complies with.
According to The Electronic Commerce Regulations 2002 your website also needs to include the following business information:
- Companies House registration information: Company name; Place of registration e.g. England or Wales; Registered office address; and Registration number
- Contact information: Postal address; and email address
- VAT number
- If relevant, authorisation schemes and supervisory authority details
- If relevant, regulatory body details
Where’s it all going to go?
As mentioned above, we find the most logical way to start writing content is to work out the pages that are needed and define your tiers of navigation. In the industry, this is referred to as a sitemap. A sitemap includes every single page on the website and develops a structure of navigation to enhance the user experience.
The larger the site, the more complex this is likely to get! In particular, with e-commerce websites, you need to consider product pages and the physical buying process. Even for a business website that includes a blog, this can lead to a string of pages that at first glance you may not consider, including category pages and archive pages.
If you are going to have a go at writing the content for your website, here are our top tips for writing website content:
- Write content people want to read – keep sentences snappy, bitesize and easy to digest.
- Include plenty of keywords – keywords are an important part of Search Engine Optimisation. You need relevant keywords in your content to rank well for those terms in search engines like Google and Bing.
- Don’t duplicate content – try to make sure that each page has unique content, as this is another ranking factor for search engines.
- Avoid industry jargon – unless you are only aiming your website towards individuals in your sector.
- Write original content – don’t take content from other websites, it doesn’t reflect well on you. Plus, it’s not nice and it’s against the law, so a big NO.
- Use language that conveys your company values – write to attract the audience you want and reflect your brand.
Remember to keep this key question in mind – ‘Who am I talking to?’
The style of images that you use will have a huge impact on the way your website feels – just have a look at the difference between a website with illustrated graphics and one with bespoke photography. Neither is better, it just depends on how you want to be perceived by your audience.
Whilst discussing photography, we would normally advise that bespoke photography wins over stock. A tailored photoshoot will provide you with a set of images that have the same tone and can visually describe the uniqueness of your business. However, for a number of reasons, bespoke photography isn’t always possible. If this is the case, there are plenty of stock photography websites which offer ‘free for commercial use’ photography or allow licenses to be purchased.
And no, you can’t save images from another site and reuse them on yours.
If you don’t have any images that you’d like to use, your website designer will be able to help!
Take advantage of on-page SEO
Write keyword focused copy to help you climb the search rankings. Choose a focus keyword for each page, but be careful not to keyword stuff! Talking in depth about the page topic will naturally include keywords related to your focus keyword.
Including rich content such as images and videos to add colour and interaction, will also help with your on-page SEO.
How we can help
The task of putting pen to paper can seem an impossible one. Luckily, at Energy Creative, we love crafting content! If you would like us to create your website sitemap and generate content for your new website, please request a quote to start the conversation.
Draw the customer journey
Once your content has been collated, the next step is to decide on the journey your visitors will take through your website. How are they going to get from a to b? In what way do you want users to navigate between your pages? How are visitors going to find the content relevant to them? What functionality are you going to use? What actions do you want your website visitors to take?
In the industry, we call this process wireframing. A wireframe is like a website shell, made up of simple lines, little or no colour and no imagery. It simply allows you to navigate around and move through the website without the distraction of design. We use the wireframe design process to determine the best placement for website elements.
Elements included on a wireframe:
- Navigation e.g. main header navigation, footer navigation, sidebar navigation
- Calls to action
- Content areas
- Functionality e.g. forms and newsletter sign-ups
- External links e.g. social media
In the studio, we use some fancy software to create wireframes which are interactive, allowing us and our clients to click through and really get to grips with how the website is going to flow. If you want to give this step a go, there are various free wireframing tools available online.
How we can help
At Energy Creative, we love to get stuck in to a good wireframe discussion! If you would like us to create the website wireframe for your new website, please request a quote to start the conversation.
Let the creative juices flow
This is one stage where we would highly recommend sourcing the support of a website designer and developer. Unless you’re super web-friendly and able to code, it’ll save you masses of time and steer you clear of some common mistakes.
As mentioned in a previous step, your website is a key marketing channel that needs to visually reflect your business and appeal to your audience. From your research, you will probably have an idea of the visual style of website that you would like, and this will form part of the brief to be discussed with your designer.
Using the wireframe to guide element placement and your branding document to influence the appearance of your website, your web designer will bring your new website together. Most web designers will, as we do, put together a couple of design options for you to choose between and provide feedback on before a final design is agreed.
How we can help
At Energy Creative, we have lots of experience creating bespoke website designs for developing in WordPress! If you would like us to create the design for your new website, please request a quote to start the conversation.
Put it all together
You’re getting there!
Once you’ve understood what you need your website to do and the functionality required, the next question is which platform do you want your website built on?
It’s fine not to know the answer to these questions by the way – we can guide you if required.
Each of the above options have pros and cons, which we can talk you through.
Custom built websites generally take longer and are more expensive to build. However, they can meet complex functionality requirements and suit larger sites. You are normally tied to the agency or developer who built the website, with either party likely to maintain the website on an ongoing contract.
A website built using WordPress will normally take less time to build than a custom website. It’s one of the most popular website platforms, and with good reason. WordPress is an open source CMS, with a huge community of developers. With coding knowledge, it is highly customisable and offers great flexibility. If you are designing and building your website yourself, there are plenty of themes with customisation options to help you get started. However, there are ongoing maintenance requirements, which either you or a website developer will need to manage. Most WordPress designers and developers will offer a maintenance package.
Drag and drop website builders like Weebly and Wix offer a good option for those looking to build a website themselves. Plus, hosting is taken care of by the chosen provider. However, the ability for customisation and functionality is limited.
Your website developer will be able to guide you through the process of deciding on what platform your website should be built, the launch, website hosting and options available after the website is launched.
We tend to build our client websites in WordPress because it offers the most flexibility without having to code from scratch. A lot of other companies agree with us. According to hostingtribunal.com, WordPress is used by 33% of all websites.
How we can help
At Energy Creative, we love WordPress! It offers us, and therefore our clients, the best balance between design and customisation, whilst working to a tighter budget than fully custom-built sites require. If you would like us to create the design and build for your new website in WordPress, please request a quote to start the conversation.
Help customers find your business
Direct traffic, paid traffic, referral traffic and organic traffic. All traffic, and exactly what you want to arrive on your website.
Your businesses marketing efforts are hopefully going to lead to direct, paid and referral traffic. Organic traffic is what we are interested in for this section.
To drive traffic from search engines, your website will need to rank for search terms that are relevant to your website. The task of ranking your website on search engines is called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Remember we talked earlier about writing for the web and using keywords? This is where those come into play.
Plus, there’s a whole host of SEO techniques that can be used to improve website rankings. Brian Dean has written a fairly comprehensive list of these techniques on his blog which is well worth a read.
How we can help
At Energy Creative, we enjoy the challenge of raising a website through the ranks of popular search engines! If you would like us to help with your website's SEO, please request a quote to start the conversation.
Love and cherish your new website
So, your designer has created a sparkly new website, crammed with useful content and SEO’d to the max. Congratulations!
After you’ve invested both time and money in your new website, wouldn’t it be nice if you could sit back and relax? Unfortunately, a website is a living entity, it needs to be developed, amended, adapted and updated. Only then will it deliver what you need it to.
There are two sides to keeping your website fresh and current:
- One is around updating content, uploading new images and keeping on top of posting new blogs (if your site has one). Using analytics can help you adapt with your customers needs, to understand how people are using your website so you can refine and develop your website based on data. Sometimes the results can be surprising!
- The other is around keeping your website secure. We think the statistic ‘61% of infected WordPress sites are out of date’ from Sucuri’s hacked website report highlights the importance of keeping all your WordPress core, theme and plugins up-to-date.
Even with security in place and regular updates, websites still have the potential to be targeted. If this happens, back-ups give you the peace of mind of being able to get your website up and running again.
How we can help
At Energy Creative, websites are part of what we do. From initial discussions about whether a new website is the right approach for your business, through to managing your website after launch, we’d love to help with your website project. If you would like to talk to us about any part of the process, please request a quote to start the conversation.