A Checklist to Build the Perfect Website
Take a good look at your car. ‘So what?’ you’re thinking. ‘It’s just a car.’ Well, according to some estimates, the average car is made up of 30,000 parts. You don’t think about all the gears and pipes and turbo air intakes hidden within each model, because engineers have put it together so seamlessly that it just looks like one unit to you — a singular “car.” The same goes for any decent website, which is composed of hundreds of decisions stitched into one integrated layout. The better it’s been built, the simpler it looks.
Don’t be fooled though—building the perfect website requires crossing off a lengthy checklist of to-do’s. Every web design agency has their own schedule of planning and executing a site build, but here’s one we suggest you follow.
Set a Budget
How much does a website cost? How long is a piece of string? A freelance designer can make a DIY brochure site to showcase their portfolio and get everything they need out of it. Whereas a business that wants to track a donation form, build a member login portal, catalog an interactive shopping matrix — yeah, you should probably opt for the DIFM (do-it-for-me) route and benefit from a web development company’s expertise. Added functionality always costs more, so determine which site features you need and how many you’re able to pay for.
Register a Domain Name
Whether you’re going with a free Wix template or shelling out $100,000+ for a site, no one will be able to appreciate it if you don’t claim a domain name, which is basically your address on the internet and costs around $10–20. Check out Domain.com or GoDaddy to see if the domain you want is available, but don’t be surprised if it’s not. (After all, the internet is a star cluster of two billion websites — 400 million of which are active, but who’s counting?) So if the domain you want is taken, ask the web design agency you hired which name they recommend. Tempting as it is to get creative or quirky here, you’ll want your URL to be as similar as possible to the name of your business so prospective customers can find you.
Value the UX
One reason to hire a web design agency is that they’re staffed with UX (or “user experience”) designers. These talented folks are digital artists who keep the experience of their audience top of mind as they create a website design, which should incorporate a color palette and a copy .doc into modules that solve a different problem on each page. The “Donate” page drives visitors to, well, donate. The “About Us” page tells the company story. The “Become a Member” page touts the perks of membership. If all that sounds intuitive, that’s because the UX designer has made the ride feel effortless, so your visitors further your business goals with each click they make on your site.
Make Your Content King
Web copy needs to get to the point. Sure, you want your writing to lure visitors in, but don’t wax poetic. Front-load your copy with the most relevant info about your business: email, address, a few lines about what you do. Use the same tack with social posts and paid advertising — content that people like to snack on and that directs traffic back to your site. With a blog or a newsletter, consistency is key. Publish on the reg to drum up an audience. Optimize it with keywords, and then link out to related blogs and articles. All those strategies impart upon your work enough authority to make it rank higher in Google searches. (Because, really, when was the last time you clicked past the first page of a Google search?)
At long last, the site is finished. Oh, happy day. You’ve bought your domain. You’ve designed your layouts. You’re excited about revving up your content initiative. You’ve been working on this thing for months and you’re ready for it to be over. We understand — but we insist you do some last-minute QC. Proof the copy, triple-check that the links work, write metadata into the CMS, and set up 301 redirects to steer visitors familiar with your old site toward your new site.
One final thing: Plug in Google Analytics to track how many people are viewing your domain, where they’re coming from, and how long they’re staying. (These insights give you a bird’s-eye perspective of your web performance.) Take a breather. And then take the wheel: Hit launch, post about it on Facebook, and congratulate yourself on assembling a sleek and sexy site.