Building a website has become an essential task for any business – but creating a website for yourself can be a difficult process. At +24, we’ve worked on simple websites for around £500 through to fully bespoke developments for more than £10,000. However, if you’re looking to set up your own site, we’ve created this five-step guide to get you started.
Step One: Choose Your Content Management System
A Content Management System (CMS) is “a computer application that supports the creation and modification of digital content using a common user interface and thus usually supporting multiple users working in a collaborative environment.” (Cheers Wikipedia!)
Essentially, it’s the platform that you will use to build your website from. We recommend using WordPress. In our opinion, it’s the most user-friendly setup, and if you end up struggling and want to outsource the project then it’s the simplest for a development company to pick up halfway through. However, if you want to test out different CMS’ then have a look at Drupal or Joomla.
Step Two: Choose a Theme
Once you’ve picked your CMS it’s time to choose a theme. This is more than just picking pretty colours; you need to make sure that your theme not only has that WOW factor, and is in line with your brand, but is also responsive so that it’ll look good on mobiles, tablets, desktops and huge TVs.
If you use WordPress, you can choose from free themes as well as premium themes. There are some very good free themes that you can use, however, premium ones can be easier to edit as well as having some plug-ins built in. Which leads us nicely onto…
Step Three: Plug-Ins/Functionality
Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty. Plug-Ins are “a software component that adds a specific feature to an existing computer program. When a program supports plug-ins, it enables customization.” (Again, cheers Wiki).
The first plugin we recommend installing is a contact form. What’s the point of your new fancy website if your visitors can’t get in touch with you?
Our favourite contact form plugin is Ninja Forms, it’s very easy to edit and style to your website. If you want something slightly more basic, then Contact Form 7 is a great choice for WordPress.
We also recommend adding a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) plugin such as Yoast. In its own words, Yoast “is the most complete WordPress SEO plugin that exists today for WordPress.org users. It incorporates everything from a snippet editor and real-time page analysis functionality that helps you optimise your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions and more to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimisation options in between.” It also allows you to control what someone sees when Facebook visits your page, for example, what text and images that show up, and it’s very easy to use.
It’s also worth adding a structured data plugin, as this translates the important parts of your content into a language that’s easy for search engines to read. Ensuring your site is accessibility friendly through things like “alt” tags on images will not only help search engines to read your site further but will also mean users with physical or visual impairments can access your site easier. It’s also becoming more and more important to make sure your website has an SSL. In layman’s terms, it’s what makes a website HTTPS rather than just HTTP. This helps make sure your website is properly secured, and Google has started making this a factor in how they decide where your website is ranked. This will only become more important in the future, as not even all of Google’s sites are using an SSL, but you can be sure that the importance of this will increase. You can track Google’s progress to a more secure web here.
Step Four: Content, Content, Content
Now you’ve got your site setup, searchable, and accessible, it’s time to provide some value. Obviously, you need to make sure you’ve got all the information about your business, services, products etc. but once you’ve got that you need to give people a reason to go to your website.
The simplest way to do this is via a blog (just like the one you’re reading right now). Identify the type of person you want to appeal to and create content that appeals to them. Ideally, every piece of content you create should either entertain, inform, and/or educate your audience.
Keep uploading content as often as you can to consistently give people a reason to visit your site.
Use social media to push your content out, and don’t be afraid to reshare the same blog several times – just keep it spaced out. Identify which platforms are best for your target audience, and focus your time on those.
Step Five: Analytics
We strongly recommend using Google Analytics for your site. It’s very simple to setup (literally just copy and pasting some code onto your site or use one of the many available plugins) and the analytics themselves are very clear and simple to use.
You can literally track users in real time on your site and see what pages they’re viewing. It also allows you to see clear demographics of who is visiting your site and their interests. Therefore, if you are attempting to sell your products/services to 40-50-year-olds with an interest in cars (for example), and you can see that the majority of your site visitors are 20-30-year-olds who are travel buffs, you know you need to make a change to your content or products.
Setting up a website is a time heavy project, but all businesses need a digital presence in the modern business age. There are far more complicated parts that you can add to your website, but if you stick to these five steps to start with, you’re off in the right direction.
If you’d like any further help or advice with your website then call us on 01282 792568 or email firstname.lastname@example.org