Last Updated on October 31, 2017 by Micha McLain
If you happen to be a business owner, you likely already know or have heard that having an impactful website can make or break your business and this becomes more and more true every day. In this guide How to Create a Website, we’re going to show you exactly how we approach and build kick butt websites for our clients that help them build their business by increasing their online visibility!
So, what does is mean to have a great website? For me, I would define a great website as one that has at least the following qualities:
- Great Branding & Design
- Amazing Value Proposition
- Engaging CTAs (calls to action)
- Easily Sharable Content
- Easy to Navigate Site (good UI)
- Should be Technically great
If your site has these aspects, then the chance of your website being found through search and social and then capitalizing on that traffic by conversations through CTAs is far greater than the average site.
So, how exactly do you do all that? Luckily, here at MVMG, we do this every single day so we have the formula down. The rest of this article is a guide on how to create a website for business that will attract and convert visitors into leads or sales. It’s based on our own website development process that we’ve refined over years of developing great sites for our clients. We hope it serves you well!
How to Create a Website in 4 Steps
The very first part of any good plan, is discovery and goal setting. In this phase which is way before you ever buy a domain name, start designing new themes, add new features, or rewrite a single word of copy, you really should go through this phase entirely. It will help define and set up success on all of the rest of your project.
Competitor & Market Research
The absolute first thing you should do is to look at your competitors and your marketplace. Let’s ask some basic questions here like:
- How many competitors do I have?
- What are your competitor’s value propositions?
- What are their price points for products/services?
- What does their marketing look like?
Once we know this, we’re going to start having an idea of where we fit into this marketplace and how we can beat our competitors. In my opinion, the most important part of the above is the value proposition. A great value proposition can define a brand and catapult it into success while a bad one will almost immediately cause a brand to fail.
Here’s a real-world example that’s one of my favorites: Apple in 2001, the release of the iPod. This one is truly interesting to me because, at the time, the market was already flooded with MP3 players from brands like Sony, Toshiba, and much more. But, on this day Apple near instantly dominated the market with this value proposition:
“10,000 songs in your pocket”
So, while other brands were busy fighting over how many GBs they had and many other arbitrary things that consumers didn’t really care about, Apple comes out with a value proposition that immediately speaks to the need, to the emotion of and heart of the problem, traveling around and having instant access to 10,000 songs in your pocket. Between this and the following iPhone release with a similar value proposition, Apple became the most profitable company in human history.
Your Business Evaluation
The next logical step is to evaluate your website very carefully and get a full and honest picture of what it’s doing for you and not doing for you. Some example things I’d look into are:
- How much revenue is my website generating, through direct sales and/or leads
- What are my major website performance indexes (traffic, bounce, etc.)
- Identify the weakest points of your website overall
- What do you do better than your competitor and what do they do better than you?
The trick here is to be 100% honest and simply look at the facts.
Okay, so you’re now at the end of the Discovery Stage and it’s time to set goals. We need to set goals for the following:
- General Business Objectives: What are your main business objective? Grow sales, increase leads, etc. Now put numbers to them like “I want to increase sales by 15% in 6 months using the website and online marketing”. Now write this down as this is the basis of your new plan.
- Website Objectives: What will your website do to help achieve that goal? Using the above, as a starting place I might then say “I want a website that will generate me 60 qualified leads per month”.
- Marketing Objectives: While this guide is focused on how to create a website, knowing that your website is part of a marketing plan is important. So, what does the rest of the marketing goals look like? Write those down as well.
- Budget & Timeline: Now, you need to set a realistic budget and timeline. Maybe you’re doing this all yourself and your costs will only be hosting and a few third party tools or maybe you want to hire a custom web development agency like MVMG to create an awesome web theme for you. Either way, be specific and write it down.
Now, on to the next phase…
Budget for Website and Marketing
Budget is a big one. We all have one and we all want to stick with it! In order to best understand how to create website that sticks to your budget, it’s essential to know about the two most common approaches to project development:
- Waterfall Method: This is a sequential approach to development in which your progress flows in one direction – like a waterfall – through phases that include everything from conception at the beginning to the design, construction, and eventually deployment.
Agile Method: Or also known as growth website design, is when you incrementally build your website or app in a set of iterations. For example, when using this method to develop a website, one would deploy the bare minimum requirements for the site to go live and over time push out updates which add more pages and features.
This is often incorporated into an agile marketing strategy that will incorporate various forms of marketing depending on the budget itself. This can also be paired with PPC or SEO and other advertising to be able to generate immediate views as showing up in search rankings will take a bit of time.
Now that we know the difference, let’s consider the expected costs. With the waterfall approach, there will be a higher up-front cost and a smaller window of time between the client and developers to get everything written and approved. With the agile method, the cost is much more but is spread over a longer span of time – usually months. This allows for development, deployment, and testing for every new feature added to the site.
Our preference is almost always the water method for a couple reasons. First, you have a lower budget point to get your site to marketing. Second, getting to marketing sooner allows you to start gaining traffic, leads, and revenue while you continue to improve your site over time giving you even more of an edge.
Your value proposition is what differentiates your business from the crowd of others offering the same product or service. What makes your business different? You need to give people a reason to choose you over someone else. It’s time now to find your value! If you do not have one or are unsure how to do this, develop one with your marketing company. Once done, this should be incorporated throughout your website.
Developing original content is the cornerstone of building an online asset that will help develop your online visibility and get you constant returns on your investment over time. Now it takes lots of time to build a library of content, but as you continue to put out new content on a scheduled basis, the rewards are surely worthwhile. Keep in mind this does need to be done strategically – writing about just anything you want will not make the returns you want. Search engines need to know and even understand what you are writing. Targeting specific keywords is also essential for ranking in your local area.
Every project – no matter what it is – starts with some kind of sketch or pile of sticky-notes arranged in a haphazard fashion to help get your thoughts in order. For a website project, we don’t need sticky notes or sketches… just a sitemap! The sitemap shows the underlying structure and functionality of the website and shows each page and their relationship to one another.
Constructing the sitemap requires you to organize your content, keeping your link titles short and sweet, having the least amount of menu options possible, and nesting all related pages appropriately.
Wireframes are arguably one of the most important steps during the entire web development process, and funny enough, lots of web design studios and freelancers still insist on skipping this step and just straight into development. Without making this very important step, it’s guaranteed you will waste time manipulating your layout during the development process more than you could ever imagine.
- Wireframes get the point across. From a client perspective, they are able to view the basic look and architecture of what the site should look like in the end. During this stage, they are able to make suggestions which are quick and easy to implement.
- Clarification. In the world of web design, sometimes we use some pretty weird words to describe items and locations on the page. For instance, there is “jumbotron” and “hero image” which a regular Joe may not quite understand. Wireframes highlight these areas and make it clear what these terms mean. It helps during all of the development jargon that is inevitable during communication!
- A huge time saver. Hands down the most important thing to note here! Making a wireframe of your project is going to save you boatloads of time. Just think about it – the wireframe encourages clarity for the dev team, the client can make design changes early on, and everyone involved understands exactly what the project is all about.
Your domain name is an important piece of your website strategy and is often overlooked. One thing to absolutely mention here is to never use your personal name within the domain name you choose. Why, you ask? Well, let’s assume that in the future you turned your once small business into a thriving money-making machine and you decide to sell. Do you think if you sold anyone would be interested in purchasing your brand named after you? Unfortunately, extremely personalized domains are not desirable. More on the generic end is the way to go. So keep this in mind so that in the future if you decide to make some big changes, this would be easily transferable to another party.
Below are a few tips on finding the perfect domain:
- Keep it short and memorable. Have you ever seen a long and difficult to read URL on the side of a vehicle in traffic? I see that just about every day and that is the absolute worst thing you could do. Nobody can read it, and if they’re actually able to read it, they’ll quickly forget since the name was too difficult to read in the first place! Don’t be that guy. Find the shortest, most memorable, and easy to type domain that you possibly can.
- Avoid numbers and hyphens. Although they’re allowed, they shouldn’t be. Remember, speaking your domain naturally should be good enough. It’s terrible to mention a hyphen, or if you have a number and you have to say something like, “…the number 5, not f-i-v-e…”. Terrible.
Don’t be that guy, either.
- Research. It’s always a good idea to search around to see if anyone else has already claimed the domain name you really want.
Check if the name you’re trying to use has a trademark or copyright.
Choosing your perfect website platform is essential in getting everything you need out of your web project. So just to assume you do not have any experience with the most popular platforms, or CMS (content management systems), I am going to list the “Big 3” when it comes to CMS.
- Wordpress is by far the most popular CMS of all time with the largest market share. One in four websites you visit use this CMS platform. That’s 25% of the entire internet! Wordpress knocked it out of the park with its overall ease of use, how well it works for small to medium sized websites, and how well it handles e-commerce. Also, the ability to effectively build websites and hand them off to clients with minimal instruction is a huge bonus.
- Drupal is a monster when it comes to how it handles huge, complex websites (this is a good thing). Sure, there is some technical know-how necessary to get this up and running, but if your end goal is to have an enterprise level website with a strong ability to organize tons of content, this is the CMS for you.
- Joomla! sits right between Wordpress and Drupal all day long. This platform offers more of a friendly user experience than Drupal, but also requires more technical knowledge than Wordpress. Drupal was designed as a community platform and has very strong social networking features.
Make sure each page has a specific goal. The goal of every line of text is to get the person to keep the very next line… and the next line… until they reach the bottom of the page and you ask them to do one more thing,
which is to fill out the form or click the button. This type of exchange gets you that lead, that appointment, or even that sale.
Traffic does not come for free! Even if no money is spent, this will cost you in lots of time and effort to achieve those rankings in your competitive market. The higher you rank, the better. Generally, most top ranking sites receive around 70% of all total clicks.
3) Design, Development, and Launch!
Now that all of our prep-work is done, it’s time to take our wireframe design, develop the site using modern web technologies, and launch this bad boy live for the world to see! Let’s highlight the steps:
- Our final design. Remember our wireframe step? It’s time to go back to that and double check that the wireframe design is 100%.
All client feedback has been implemented and the team is satisfied with the entire mock-up version. It’s time to take this over to the dev table and keep it close by during the coding process.
- The development process. This is the really fun part! This process includes picking the perfect server environment, installing the ideal website platform, coding each and every page top-to-bottom and styling everything appropriately.
- Writing content. Once the design and layout are completely transcribed from wireframe to web, this is when we can finally insert our content! This is the most important part as this is what most of your potential clients will experience. Remember all of the prep work you have done to create awesome content? This is where it most matters, so make it good!
- Pre-launch checks. Okay, we’re reaching the end here. We have our site fully developed, we have amazing content, and we’re feeling confident. Now it’s time to check everything to make sure everyone can have the same awesome experience! Checking everything from form submissions to how responsive the site is within different browsers, to checking the site compatibility with multiple mobile devices is essential to ensure your site is awesome from every angle.
- Analytics and SEO. Now is when to integrate Google Analytics to monitor traffic. This is a powerful tool that can show you how people are interacting with your site and is extremely important when driving traffic to your site to make sales. SEO is the other – use an SEO tool to check and tweak as necessary!
- We have liftoff! Hear that sound? That’s the sound of your website rocketing onto the internet. Congratulations! You did it! The only thing left to do now is to monitor the site and gather feedback. This feedback will be useful for future iterations and even future web projects. The more data the better!
This is not if you build it they will come… you must market your site using content marketing, social, SEO, ads, offline, or combination.
As mentioned before, there are reasons to have a marketing company such as MVMG design and build your website versus doing it yourself or hiring a freelancer. The absolute point of your site is to get more clients which in turn gives you more business. If you have a website that nobody knows about, then you still have the same problem you originally started with: no new clients. There are a lot of different aspects that go into getting your online visibility up that go far beyond just the website itself. Many website design companies focus on the look of the website and do not consider optimizing the site for SEO. This can be quite detrimental to your site and potentially cost you in customers the same as the site build itself!
Again, it’s highly recommended to get a marketing company involved during this process that also specializes in web development. While in process choosing the right company for you, do your research and make sure they have experience getting websites to rank and have monitored similar campaigns so that over time, they have had the room to refine and perfect their process. Also, do not be afraid to ask for results from each company you consider! Have them show you what they were able to achieve for their past clients who were in a similar position as yourself.
Now that you have an idea of what it takes to create a high-performance business website the right way, you can tactfully find your way to the perfect marketing company to help bring your dream to fruition. There are a lot of options out there – some terrible and others fantastic – so it’s my hope that with this article, you can make an educated decision and become the next big success story!
Questions or comments? Leave a comment below or get in direct contact with us today! We’re looking forward to hearing from you!