For the people…
1. Choose website name
The first step is one of the most difficult. The internet is saturated with “already-in-use” names, and it can take hours to find a domain that fits your business that isn’t taken. Popular domain search websites include GoDaddy, Name, NameCheap, Hover and Gandi. Start brainstorming a list of website names you find acceptable, and then search them in one of these domain sites. To generate an original business name, try Panabee. Try avoid using hyphens or weird acronyms that new website guests won’t understand. Expect to pay $5 – $15 per year (more than that is pretty damn expensive).
2. Choose the .com, .org or .ie?
Everybody wants ‘.com’, as it is what people assume your website will have. Getting a ‘.com’ is the most challenging, with high competition for normal-sounding domains (but not a problem if you are going for “wheretofindlotsofgreatbathroomaccessories.com” – but please don’t make it so long). Essentially, if you SEO your website to the max then using ‘.biz’ shouldn’t be a problem. But, psychology is important to bear in mind here. As creatures of habit, a person may assume that “blah.de” caters specifically to Germany. If you are providing a localized service in Germany, this is the best way to go. A ‘.com’ for a local delivery company may put some people off. Equally, if you have an international scope, choosing ‘.es’ may cause people to think you only serve Spain.
- choose the local country suffix if your service is only relevant there
- choose one of the most popular (.com, .org, .net) if your customers are not so technically orientated (i.e. the average Joe who will assume ‘.com’) and you have scope outside of your country
- choose the more obscure ones a) if you really need that perfect website domain and b) if your SEO skills are good
- be creative – if you want, take a word (like “google” did) and make it your own!
3. Where to build: the WordPress world
One of my shortcomings is only being familiar with WordPress. There are certainly other options to explore. Just don’t have your website on Tumblr. I don’t think it looks very professional! Alternatives to WordPress are Joomla and Drupal (full analysis compared to WordPress is available here). With WordPress, you can map your purchased domain name into your ‘example.wordpress.com’. It costs a little ($13 per year on top of what you are paying to GoDaddy or whatever) but is half the price of doing it with WordPress directly (currently $25 p/a).
4. Choosing the decor
If you need the scientific backup, check out KissMetrics’ infographic on colour psychology. Treat your website like the inside of your store and take care to make the colour scheme and layout match the customers you want to attract. Think about the websites you like best and critically analyse what it is about them that you like and don’t like, at a visual level and use it as a guide.
5. The Landing Page
You want people to take action when they arrive at your site, such as sign up for something. Following this great advice by Peep Laja as closely as you can will serve you well in avoiding pitfalls that a novice may not notice. Here’s a quick summary of his advice:
- use unclear, boring writing
- have no clear goal
- display fake, unrealistic product/service/advice/pictures
- require long forms to be filled out
- trick people
- have a generic design
- have irrelevant stuff
Learn how to describe what you are offering in a clear, logical and pleasant-to-read manner. No cliches!
6. Rest of the website
Have an “About” page, a “Contact” page and a “Company Blog” page. These are the basic essentials to show that you and your team really exists, and that they are genuinely interested in engaging with the public. In the “About” page, have a succinct and clear history and your goals for the future. Make it personal, with “we” and “I”, not “Giant Bank takes care of it’s customers…” – and invest in a decent photo of you and your team. The “Contact” page is standard enough – make it short and sweet, with minimal filling-out. Directly providing your email address could be problematic. The “Company Blog” is highly valued by many start-up companies. It has many functions. A landing page can often look static. However, writing an article every couple of days for the blog and posting it around social media can make your website look active, up-to-date, and caring. It can be used as a marketing ploy by enticing people to click on an interesting-looking piece. Take care to write good pieces or you will lose credibility. And add all the major social media sharing buttons!
7. Multiple sign-up spots
Have more than one “sign-up”/”call to action” box available to those visiting your website. It can follow as you scroll or it can be at the top, middle and end of the page. You want conversions – make it easy for the masses to be converted. Make your message clear and concise.
8. Favicon and logo
The favicon is the little icon you can see on tabs. As a general rule, simple is best. It also needs to link somewhat to your logo. Start with the logo and boil it down to a favicon. You can generate a favicon here and install it into your WordPress site using a plugin.
For the bots…
SEO – search engine optimization
This tutorial is specific to WordPress, but you can find almost any tutorial on the internet to SEO your website. Make SEO a habit for everything you add to your website, including alt-tags on your pictures. This will make your website appear higher in search engine results. Most people rarely look past the first page of search engine results, so you really want this to happen!
Google analytics at the moment is unbeatable as a free analytics service. It is incredibly important to notice who comes to your website, how they travel around it, and how much time they spend on different pages. The source from where they found you is valuable information. Analytics will help you define various demographics where you can focus your marketing and advertising campaigns. It can also tell you where you are wasting your time, and what strategies work best. If you want to really push your analytical capabilities, KissMetrics comes highly recommended but at the steep price of $150 per month.