The World Wide Web wouldn’t exist without websites. After all, the web is, in essence, a collection of millions of websites that just about anyone with a browser can access. Building your dream website will require some thoughtful planning on your part, beyond just color schemes and fonts. Whatever tools you choose to create your site, it’s important to lay a foundation by planning it out in advance.
STEP 1: Map Out Your Site
Before you do anything else, you should decide what you want your website to do. Do you want a place to share your thoughts on a particular topic? Perhaps you need an online space to share your body of work in a certain field. You might choose to go with a blog, an online portfolio, a message board, an ecommerce site, or perhaps a combination of the above. Ask yourself these questions:
- What do I want to accomplish with my website?
- How can I accomplish it?
- What tools or outside help will I need to accomplish this?
If you want to be more specific, create a mission statement for your website, one that could possibly serve as an About page.
STEP 2: Choose a Domain Name & Keywords
A domain name and keywords make a website more identifiable on the web. Instead of looking at keywords on their own though, think of them within the context of your entire website. They should occur naturally throughout your website, in a few key places in particular: H1 title tags, URLs, internal and external links, content, and alt picture tags. When you use keywords consistently in key places on your website, they send a consistent message to search engines about what your site is about.
You might already have an idea of what keywords you would like to be known for. This is a good starting point for the rest of your keyword research. Use a combination of long tail and short tail keywords. For example, if you own an ice cream parlor in Denver, you might use “old fashioned ice cream parlor in Denver, Colorado” as a long tail keyword. A short tail keyword might be “ice cream in Denver.”
The next step would be to perform keyword research to see what other keywords your site could rank for. It’s important to go according to what people want, and not rely too much on your ideas about what ideal keywords are. If you’ve branded yourself as an IT networking specialist, and people are searching for “internet specialist,” go with what people are searching for.
It’s also a good idea to make keywords a part of your domain name too, though this won’t make or break your website. The most important thing is to make your domain name something unique yet easy to remember. A rule of thumb is to stick to less than four words, and to make it easy to identify with you or your organization.
STEP 3: Choose a Host
There are different types of web hosting to choose from, and the one you choose will depend on your needs and budget.
- Free hosting: This is a popular option for those wanting to test the website waters without making a financial commitment. Sites that offer a free website plus free hosting include Blogger, WordPress, and Weebly. The downside though is that free hosted sites might post advertising to your website, or require you to have a subdomain instead of your own domain name.
- Shared hosting: This is a popular option for people just starting out with their own website. Your website shares a server with several other website accounts, with each account sharing a bit of the cost. Shared hosting plans are quite affordable. However, a site with increasing traffic might eventually outgrow shared hosting.
- VPS or Dedicated hosting: This is hosting for websites with large amounts of traffic, or for organizations with several websites. Dedicated hosting is when your website or group of sites gets a private server which no one else uses. VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting partitions your website across several servers instead of one single server, and is thus a sort of halfway point between dedicated and shared hosting. Due to operating costs, these options can sometimes be the most expensive.
STEP 4: Create your Site
As mentioned in the intro, you have a lot of options for creating a website. The method you choose will also depend on your needs and budget, as well as time constraints and ability.
Blogging websites: Blogging sites are perhaps the most familiar site creation services right now, with Wordpress.com and Blogger being two of the most popular. Blogging sites offer user-friendly setup including pre-made site templates and simple customization options. They are free to use with the option to upgrade to additional features. The downside is that you don’t have complete control over customization, like with templates and site features.
Site creation software: If you have at least a cursory knowledge of HTML and want more control over the look and feel of your website, then site creation software might be just the thing you need. Adobe Dreamweaver is the industry leader in site creation software, though Siteweaver and Xara Web Designer are also competitive options.
When to hire someone: Not everyone has the time, patience, or vision to create a truly appealing website, so there may come a time where outsourcing is the best option. Hiring a web designer might also be for you if your current website isn’t getting you the results you want. A great web designer will listen to your ideas, offer their expertise, and work with you until your dream website is complete.
Whichever method you choose, be sure to use an engaging, inviting layout for your website. This means using attractive colors (preferably ones that don’t clash), clear website navigation, and uncluttered pages.
STEP 5: Get The Word Out
Marketing your website is just as important as building it. After all, there’s no point in building and maintaining a website that no one visits. Implementing your keywords solves part of this problem, but there is more you can do to get the word out about your website.
- Tell friends and family: Appealing to people who already know and like you is a good place to start.
- Join social media: You might be on Facebook and Twitter already, but consider setting up accounts or a fan page for your business or website in particular. Find out where your ideal fan base spends most of their time, and make yourself visible there. For example, you’re likely to find an audience for your accounting website in a LinkedIn business professionals group.
- Your marketing materials: Add your URL to your business cards, flyers, branded promotional items, and other marketing tools you use.
- Engage online: Join message boards, forums, and blogging communities where your audience hangs out. Participate in and start meaningful discussions that show your passion about your topic.
Building your dream website is a multi-step process that involves mapping out what you want and how to go about getting it. Not only do you need a beautiful design, but you also need an SEO strategy, a dependable web host, and a way to get the word out about your labor of love. The more willing you are to get into the nitty gritty details of building a great site, the more likely you are to succeed at having the website you’ve always wanted.