Maybe you want to break into the online world for your business. Or maybe you just want to blog about your interests and meet similar people. Regardless, websites are not always cheap and can be time-consuming, so you should always do it right the first time. These steps will help you navigate through the world of web design.
Step #1: Choose a domain
Before doing anything else, it’s almost always best to buy your domain. Your domain is the website URL. Our domain is “ink2pixel.com.” Domains sell like hotcakes, so even though a domain is available now, it may not be available a day or even an hour from now.
This is especially important if building a business website. Your domain name is likely going to be your business name. It’s always possible that a business in another state has the same name, and they may purchase the domain before you, meaning you’ll have to settle for an alternative.
Even if just developing a personal site, you may find a domain name you really like and someone ends up buying it before you do.
Check out the ink2pixel domain availability tool by typing in the domain and clicking “Check Availability.”
Step #2: Research your audience
Your audience depends on what type of site you are running and its intentions.
If you are designing a business site, you will need to decide who will be buying your products or services. If this is an existing business, you already have your information. If this is a new business, you will need to research your audience.
If this is a personal site, your audience will likely be your friends or family, whom you should already be very knowledgeable about.
Once you have your audience narrowed down, you will need to determine their age and other factors, such as economic status. If you’re targeting an older audience, they will likely want a simple, easy to understand site. A younger audience will prefer a vibrant, upbeat site.
If your audience is of lower economic standing and your site appears to be very high-end and expensive, even if you’re selling very affordable products, you may cause some visitors to leave before even looking around.
Step #3: Develop some design ideas
Even though it may be hard to put into words, most people will envision a design idea in their head. Maybe try drawing it out or write down some bullet points that highlight the main points of your design idea.
You will want to use your audience research from the previous step to determine some of the design’s elements. But you should also take into account your own personal interests and – if running a business – how the design highlights your products or services.
Teenagers and young adults will prefer a bolder, modern, outgoing design. You will also be able to get more elaborate with the design, incorporating more complex interfaces and elements. Older visitors will prefer a modest usage of colors and a simple, easy-to-understand navigation and layout.
If running a business, you can incorporate colors and elements that represent your products or business type. A florist, for example, may want the main theme to be green for nature, pastels from light-colored flower petals to add hints of color, and a light usage of bold colors from bright flowers to add accents. To get creative, a florist could also have the main content of the site surrounded by vines, with flowers as accents.
It’s also good to look at sites for similar audiences for some inspiration.
Also keep a list of features you want. If you’re a photographer, you’ll want to have a photo gallery, a way to upload your work, and a way for people to contact you. If you sell items online, you’ll want a full shopping system, a way to add products, and a secure (SSL) website to make buyers feel at ease.
Step #4: Find a designer or DIY solution
Many people may ask, “Why would I find a designer when I could pay less for a DIY service?” That is true if developing a simple website, but if you’re running a business, you need to be brutally honest with yourself:
- When design could mean the difference between making a sale or losing it, do you have the skills necessary to make an appealing website?
- DIY solutions are often monthly commitments. Would you prefer to pay $40/month for your own design or pay several hundred one time for a professional design?
There are many DIY solutions available, such as Simple Nerds, Intuit Homestead, and Go Daddy. These often incur monthly fees such as the $40 mentioned above, and only provide designs suitable for personal websites. They have business designs too, but you have to decide if it’s worth it when another website could have the exact same design as you.
Also, DIY solutions should only be used if you’re keeping your site simple and minimal, such as a restaurant using it to provide contact information, a menu, and dining hours. Any kind of shopping system or other complex systems would be very difficult – if not impossible – to implement on a DIY platform.
We provide our own custom web designs for personal and business websites.
Step #5: Design the website
Now that you have a designer or DIY solution picked out, it’s time to design the site.
If you picked a designer such as ink2pixel, the designer will sit down with you, discuss what you want on the website, what designs you had in mind, similar sites you like, and other necessary information to get an idea of what exactly you would like your site to look like.
The designer will often provide an initial design then offer multiple revisions to it.
With DIY solutions, you will often have the ability to change colors or website themes, drag-and-drop photos, and place text wherever you want.
Step #6: Test the website
In a perfect world, one could design a website and it would work the same way for everyone. Unfortunately, with various browsers such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari, getting a site to work for everyone can end up being an unexpectedly difficult task.
It’s best to test your site out on many browsers, computers, and computer screen sizes. If your site is mobile-friendly, you should test it out on various mobile phones and tablets.
Take a look at Adobe BrowserLab. It will allow you to preview your website in many different browsers. All you need is an Adobe registration, which is free.
Step #7: Pick out web hosting
This is only applicable if you didn’t use a DIY solution, as those usually have hosting built-in. If you went with a designer, the designer should actually recommend hosting for you. ink2pixel offers affordable web hosting for everyone.
It’s always best to do extensive research on a host and read reviews. Many hosts are unreliable and experience a lot of downtime. Other hosts don’t provide decent customer support.
You should pick a hosting package based on your site’s needs and expected traffic:
- If you’re designing a personal website for yourself or family, one of the lower end package should suit you well.
- For businesses focusing on local areas (suburban or metro), a mid-value package will handle the necessary traffic.
- And for blogs and national websites, a high-end package is best, though blogs usually start out small and grow larger, so it may be ideal to start on a low-end package and scale up.
However, even if your site won’t have a lot of traffic, it’s necessary to take into account the kind of content that will be on your site. If your site is going to be multimedia-heavy where you will be uploading a lot of videos, photos, and/or audio files, it will be best to get a higher-end package so you have enough storage space.
If your site will be interactive, take into account what your users will be doing. Will they be uploading videos, photos, or music? You will need a larger hosting package to handle all of the content.
Step #8: Go live!
The best part is simply uploading your files to your web host (your designer will do this if you hired one) or clicking “Publish” in your DIY solution.
Step #9: Plan your marketing
Okay, having a site is great, and if you hired a designer, you should make your investment worth your while. A million dollar site that has no visitors isn’t worth a penny.
The best way to get people to your site who are actually looking for what you’re offering is to get your site to the top of the search engines. When you search something, such as “Houston apples and bananas,” 10 sites show up and usually, like everyone else, you will go to one of those 10 sites and find what you need.
If you sell apples and bananas in Houston, you will of course want your site to be one of those 10. A good search engine optimization (SEO; provided by ink2pixel) campaign will help you with this. The most effective form of online marketing, SEO can bring hundreds or thousands of visitors to your site.
You will also need to integrate the site with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media platforms. With Facebook over 800 million members and Pinterest exploding like wildfire, your site can be shared among thousands of people in the blink of an eye. Set up pages for your site at all of these social sites, and allow your visitors to share your site while they are on your site.
Patrick Golden is a co-owner of ink2pixel, LLC, and he is also a professional designer and web marketer. For a complimentary, personalized quote for design, printing, or marketing, please visit our quote request form. You may also contact us with any questions.
Text “ink2pixel” to 99000 for a coupon to use on your next web design, print design, or marketing purchase. We also send out design, marketing, and business tips and ideas.