Whether you are building your own website or hiring a designer, these 23 things are essential for starting a new website. In this article, we cover some of the basic needs as well as some advanced options that are critical to optimizing your website’s speed and content. Planning for these things will help you avoid pitfalls when you finally launch your new website.
Your domain name (or URL) is the address of your website. It is also a branding opportunity for your business. Although you may not be able to choose a domain name that perfectly matches your business name, it is best practice to get a domain that closely represents your business name or brand. If you haven’t yet come up with a name for your business, try using an available domain name as inspiration for your business name.
Make your domain name memorable, as short as possible, and avoid grouping letters together unless it makes sense (people often misspell domain names that are not easy to remember).
You can search for available domains at GoDaddy. Expect to pay anywhere from $5 – $20 per year depending on the domain name that you choose.
Your website hosting is the heart of your website. This is where all of your site files are stored and displayed to your website visitors. There are many options for website hosting. The best we’ve found is SiteGround. They offer an affordable plan along with free tools to keep your site running smoothly. When choosing a website hosting plan, cheaper is not always better. You should consider how large your site will be, and how much you plan to grow your site over the next few years.
For a decent hosting plan, expect to pay between $10 – $15 per month. Yearly discounts are also available.
3. SSL Certificate
SSL provides security for information that is passed through your website. Whether it be contact forms or an eCommerce checkout, your visitor’s information will be protected by using this certificate. Search engines display an https:// before the URL and sometimes a “lock” icon to show visitors that your site is secure
4. Target Audience
I cannot stress enough about how important defining your Target Audience is. Many new businesses overlook this critical step when starting a new website. You can go very deep into researching, but the essential things you need to understand are:
- What is the ideal person you want to sell your products /services to?
- Where are they currently getting similar products/services from?
- Demographics (Age, Gender, Location, Social Class, etc.)
With the building blocks listed above, you will be able to plan your website and marketing around the people you are trying to reach.
Neil Patel has a great article on How to Find Your Target Audience
5. Competitor research
Your competitors are as important to understand as your customers. Get to know more about your competition so you can learn how they are marketing and engaging with their customers. This will help you find effective ways to engage with your target audience.
Look at competitor websites, blogs, and social media to get valuable information for your website and marketing.
There are a lot of tools out there to help analyze your competitors, but doing a simple Google search and visiting their websites will give you plenty of information to get started.
6. Keyword Research
When developing content for your website, you’ll want to have a list of keywords that people are searching for related to your products/services. Targeting specific keywords in your page content will help your pages rank higher in Google.
At this point, you should have a general idea of some keywords you can start exploring from your Customer and Competitor Research. Using Google’s Suggest feature, you can start typing your keywords into the search box and see results start to appear. This will give you a starting idea of keywords to target for your content.
We recommend exploring your keywords further overtime to better optimize your website pages for search.
Your logo is the most important visual asset of your brand. Logos are used in various places such as on your website, social media, and marketing.
Your logo, images, typography, layout, and graphic design should paint a cohesive picture of your business. A consistent and unique look-and-feel will help people recognize and remember your business
9. Photos & Videos
Use professional-looking photos on your website to show off your products and services instead of just explaining them with text. Using video is a great way to share detailed information about your business as users tend to be more engaged with video content.
10. Website Plan
Every website needs a plan. You’ll want to have a clear understanding of how your visitors will navigate through your site and external tools. Some questions to ask yourself might include:
- What is the process for finding and signing up for services?
- How will customers locate a product they are looking for?
- How will I engage people after they make a purchase?
- What ways can people get in touch with me?
Having a solid plan for your website will speed up the design and development process by answering critical questions upfront.
Website plans normally include a list of pages and features, how they work together, and an outline of where content will be placed.
11. Content Writing
Content is the most important aspect of your website. Your website content should inform, persuade, and be written to include keywords that you are targeting. Clear, snackable content will allow your visitors to quickly find the information they are looking for. This part should be started as soon as possible (alongside your Website Plan).
For each of your pages, create an outline of the content you want to have. Once you have established a foundation, start adding detail within the outline to flesh out your full page content.
Your Customer and Competitor research will give you great examples of how to structure your content and examples of things to write about.
12. Visual Layouts
Much like a Website Plan, Visual Layouts are designs of what your website will look like when it is fully developed. A lot of time and effort goes into visual layouts to ensure your brand looks consistent across your entire site. Visual Layouts are also used to show how the size of fonts, images, and layouts will look when viewing on different devices.
13. Website Platform
There are a lot of website platforms out there. Depending on what type of site you are trying to build, your website platform should fit your goals. If you are building a simple site, you may not need an advanced platform. Alternatively, if you are looking to grow your site, you don’t want a simple DIY builder that won’t scale with you.
Here’s how we break down the platforms by need:
- Small, personal website – Squarespace (or similar DIY platform)
- Fully-featured website – WordPress
- Simple eCommerce Store – Shopify (or similar eCommerce platform)
- Fully-featured website with eCommerce Store – WordPress + WooCommerce
The Website Platform or Theme you choose will have guidelines on layout and image sizing. It is important to obtain and adhere to the specifications of the platform so that your layout and image sizes will look their best on all devices.
15. Staging Site
No matter if you are building your own site or hiring someone, you need a Staging Site. A staging site is a clone of your website where you can build and add features without disrupting the site that your visitors see. Staging sites also allow you to push changes directly to your live site without having to move things manually.
We love Siteground for this because they offer staging sites with their hosting platform so you don’t need to use an add-on.
16. Website Caching
Speed matters. Most people will abandon your website if it doesn’t load within a few seconds. A website caching service will help make your pages load faster by preloading a snapshot of your website. There are add-ons that work great for this such as WPRocket. We use Siteground because they provide website caching at the hosting level with no need for an add-on.
17. Content Delivery Network (CDN)
To help speed up your site even further, a content delivery network (CDN) will store your website on multiple servers all over the world. This will load your site even faster by putting your site closer to the people who are visiting it.
A CDN will also take the load off of your main host by serving large images and video from a dedicated host.
Cloudflare is a popular option. Guess what? Siteground seamlessly integrates with that one too!
18. Image Optimization
Large images can really slow down your site’s pages. Image optimization is critical to keeping your site loading fast! An image optimization service will compress and resize your images automatically. This will improve your site’s speed across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices.
19. Image Attributes
Adding descriptions to your images will help Google understand more about your page content. Image attributes are also used to improve accessibility by helping screen readers understand what the image is and why the image is being used alongside your content.
Don’t underestimate the power of image attributes as an accessibility and marketing tool. Google is watching.
When you do a search in Google the results that show up are the Metadata of those pages. They include the page name and description of the page content. Editing each of your page’s metadata will help you rank for specific keyphrases and help Google and searchers understand what your pages are about.
21. Content Structure
Every piece of content should be structured with the proper heading and paragraph tags. This will help Google and accessibility tools understand your page content. The structure of your content can be broken up into topics and sub-topics:
<h1>Main Page Heading</h1> (you should only have one of these) <h2>Main topics</h2> <p>Text explaining your topic</p> <h3>Sub topics</h3> (further elaborate on main topics) <p>Text explaining sub-topic<p> <h2>Second Main Topic</h2>
22. Contact Form
This is pretty straightforward. You need a way for your visitors to easily contact you. Include a contact page with a contact form as well as your email and phone number to give your visitors many options to get in touch with you.
23. Mobile Responsiveness
A study from Statista shows that over 50% of global internet traffic comes from mobile devices. Your website should adapt to Desktop, Tablet, and Mobile Devices to provide the best experience no matter where your visitors find you.
Adapting your site for mobile is a process of changing your font sizes, image sizes, and content layouts based on the screen sizes of different devices. If you are not comfortable with code, this is something that you should definitely consider hiring a developer for.
Now that you have this list, you should be better equipped to start tackling your new website project. Looking for help with your new website? Contact us for options and pricing.
We are always happy to consult on new website design – even if you are working with someone else! We want to ensure that everyone building a new website is going about it the right way.