Day 20 - Website 101: The Planning Stage
Welcome to Day #20 of the 31 Days to Better Branding series! To learn more about this series, click here and find links to the other days so you'll be able to follow along or catch up if you happen to miss anything. I am by no means an expert but after hearing a lot of the same questions, I figured others could benefit from a few lessons in branding. Hopefully it will give you a place to begin or even just a few tips to improve your business and bring you more clients. Feel free to add in your thoughts and what has worked for you in the comments!
"I'm starting to plan out my website. Where do I start?"
A website is definitely an essential in your business. Have you ever needed quick info about a business or organization and searched for them online only to find they didn't have a website? It's frustrating, right? So I'm not going to try to convince you why you need one. We can all agree it's a necessary element.
If you're just getting started, I know it's overwhelming to know where to begin. I would suggest starting with what you can afford. Don't take out a loan to pay for your website. If your budget doesn't allow for a full out custom site right now, that's okay. It's fine to begin small and maybe use a template. Just get it published. You can always build your dream website later or update as you go when you have more funds. Okay I'm just going to jump into it today and give you a quick checklist to help you cover the basic planning.
A good website has the following...
O Eye-Catching Home Page // The home of your webpage can be as exciting or as simple as you want. But it should always grab attention. You can do this through a featured image/header, sliders (slideshow images), image buttons, your tagline, product images, or even a video.
O Prominent Navigation // Your navigation should be easy to find. Sometimes designers can get too creative so that it's almost like hide-and-seek to find the links. If your viewers don't have a lot of time, they may give up looking for it and leave your site. Your main navigation links should be simple, usually 5-7 links max so viewers aren't overwhelmed.
O Basic Pages // It's generally expected now to have the following pages at the very least: Home, About, Portfolio, Blog and Contact. I would write out all the information/wording you want on these pages and then take it to your designer to make them look nice.
O Pleasing to the Eye Appearance // Everyone has their own taste and style, but you can work with your designer so that it's at least pleasing to the eye. A few suggestions would be keeping everything lined up (picture an imaginary grid) with even spacing, using quality images, a nice hierarchy and balance, and not overrun with ads. You can check back to Days 8-14 in this series for additional tips.
O Answers To Obvious Questions // Purpose of the website, how it got started, who's behind the scenes, where to find/how to contact you
O SEO // Search Engine Optimization. Along with setting up your site for people, you also want to set it up for search engines. This takes a lot of work but you want people to be able to type in relevant info on Google and find you easily. You can download a beginner's guide here.
O Quick Loading Speed // Most people hate to wait. So make sure your images are all set to screen resolution (72px). Any higher resolution will only slow down your page. Also avoid using too many ads or images (other than sliders) that might be animated. You can test the speed of your website for free here.
We will get into making your website more fun tomorrow but for today, here's some quick resources to help you get the basics...
Prophoto is excellent for making a blog style websites for photographers
Showit is a company that lets you build drag and drop websites
Sitehousedesigns designer Promise Tangeman makes really cool designs to use with Showit
Bluehost is a place to buy web hosting and domain names.
Behance is a place to find really talented designers.
SiteInspire is a fun place to find website inspiration.
I'm sure there are million more great places to get started so feel free to add any good resources you know of in the comments!
Homework:If you don't have a website, seriously consider getting started with one. It doesn't have to be perfect. Just get it published and tweak it as you go along. If you do have a website and it just needs some updating, go through each of the elements in the checklist. Ask yourself if these items could be changed to better enhance your brand.