By Yoshitaka Shiotsu, writer and SEO consultant
How do you move your business or personal website from concept to launch? Whether you decide to learn how to build a website on your own or to hire a web developer, there are five phases your process should go through:
- Defining the purpose of your website
- Creating an outline of content and features
- Sketching a wireframe of the layout
- Working through logistics
- Building the website
It’s exciting to make a website, and it can be tempting to simply jump in. However, by taking the time to follow a more structured process, you’ll create a site that’s more effective and spend less time fixing problems later.
Have a clear purpose
Are you building a personal portfolio, selling a product or service, or attracting warm leads for your business? Understanding the purpose of your website will guide the website creation process.
Once you know the overall purpose, you can define goals that will support it. Who do you want to target, and what do you want them to do? Will your site guide visitors through a sales process, or do you want to drive them to sign up for a mailing list?
As marketing professional Brad Schorr wrote for Forbes, knowing the purpose of your site will help you make smarter decisions. “If you can’t answer that question clearly, there’s a good chance you’re squandering your best online asset.”
The tools and applications you will need to use will differ depending on the type of website you intend to create. Let your goal shape your design process and focus your development efforts.
Create an outline
Once you have a clear purpose and goal in mind, draft an outline of key content areas and features you intend to include on your website.
- Do you want a comments section, forums, or a subscription service?
- Do you need to hire writers and editors to produce content?
- Do you need graphic artists or developers to give your website a truly unique form and functionality not available in a simple template?
These are the types of questions to ask as you construct your outline; even experienced developers start new projects with this basic framework.
Sketch a wireframe
A wireframe is a blueprint for your website’s actual structure and layout; all the critical pieces without the distraction of the visual design. With your outline in hand, you can begin designing the layout on your computer or simply map it out on a blank sheet of paper.
The purpose of your site will be a key factor as your site starts to take shape; standard layouts can often work well for a particular purposes, but there are also unique ways to present your information.
The logistics of building a website
Once you have a wireframe confirmed, you’re almost ready to create your actual website — but there are still a few logistical details to sort out.
Register a domain name that best represents the theme or purpose of your website. You may decide to base your online brand on an existing presence, start from scratch or rely on search engine optimization (SEO) best practices when picking a domain name.
Then, sign up for webhosting. Your website and its database of files will need to be physically hosted on a server, or series of computers, to be available to everyone over the Internet.
Your webhosting needs will be dictated by a number of factors, including the platform you want to use for your website (i.e. WordPress), the tools and application that your site needs to support, and the amount of traffic the site will need to be able to handle.
As you or your web developer start to build a website, your purpose, outline, and wireframe should be regular reference points.
Many applications allow you to view your webpages as you build them, which helps customize designs and layouts. There are also many website templates available that can help cut the time needed to create a site. If you want a truly unique layout however, the site will probably need to be build from scratch using HTML, CSS and other web languages — depending on the site’s purpose and technical requirements.
As you add functionality and features to your website, remember the three components of web design: client-side coding, server-side coding and database technologies. These three components can affect the speed, performance and security of your website — which, in turn, can impact the usability of your site and even how it’s ranked in search engine results.
For written web content, images, and videos, consider doing a little keyword research to optimize your webpages for the search engines. Planning your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts can help you build a website that will have a better chance of ranking hire in search engines.
Web development is an ongoing process that’s never truly finished; for example, you must continue to publish content in order to keep the information current. If you have an active forum, moderators will be needed to keep the community alive.
Finally, in order to remain secure, you need to make sure your website’s database software and applications remain up-to-date with the latest software.
Follow these pointers and you’ll have a fully functioning website in no time!