Things You Should Know About Your Website Before You Build
If you are reading this post, chances are you have either been looking into having a website built, or you are thinking about doing so in the near future. But before you go rushing off to find a web designer, there are a few Things You Should Know About Your Website Before You Build.
The process of having a website built is notoriously frustrating and stressful; however, a lot of the reason for this may very well be due to some simple misunderstandings and lack of knowledge on the behalf of those seeking to gain an online presence. This is not to say that you should already know these things, after all why would you? However, when seriously considering your website project, having a full understanding of the basic mechanics of a website is the best way to prevent your project from turning into a long, confusing nightmare, and will also enable you to better adjust and maintain your site, or oversee this process in the future. This is the reason for this post, to clear things up for you a bit.
Of course you don’t need to know how to design and develop a website, that is what you hire a professional designer for, but there are some Things You Should Know About Your Website Before You Build. There is a relatively small learning curve involved here, but don’t get overwhelmed, just take it one step at a time and you will be up to speed in no time!
Here we will discuss one of the first misunderstandings that people often experience when building a website; the difference between design and development, and how they work together to create a fully functional website.
What you actually see when you view a website is the design of the site. The colors, banner images, background image, text layout, fonts, navigation menu appearance, etc. determine the look and feel of the site. Web Design is also where your branding comes in to play, and calls to action are present if preferred. This is where you present your readers with the best possible representation of your company, in an organized and professional manner.
Web Development is what goes on in the background that makes a site function, like when you click on a button or an image, the elements of the site that enable it to be searched online and draw traffic, connect with social media accounts, and function as a web presence that will be beneficial rather than just beautiful.
You may not be aware of all of this when you search for something online and view a website, but for the sake of your own business website, you should know that these are the elements that brought you to the site in the first place. Without development, all you have is a pretty website that no one is likely to ever see.
(The image below is a snapshot of our old website homepage, but it will do to illustrate here; the little window offset to the right is the code that your computer “sees” and uses to display the site, showing the difference between what you see when you look at your site online, and the background work that goes in to getting your site developed.)
By now you may be thinking “But I thought that is what I hire a web professional for…” and you are correct to a certain degree, but let’s trying thinking along these lines for moment.
A Helpful Little Analogy…
Assuming that you fully understand that your website is actually a piece of online real estate, with the capability of becoming a real asset to your business and eventually possessing a cash value, we can equate your website to a brand new, brick and mortar facility.
For simplicity’s’ sake, let’s say this facility is a warehouse for a product, with a shipping department in place to ship out orders, and basic employee areas. Naturally, unless that is your profession, you will hire a contractor to construct this warehouse. The decision maker(s) in this process will need to know the equipment requirements, storage requirements, and other required aspects of the facility, and will need to know how to use this equipment as well. (If you have personnel to handle this aspect of your business, then they should be reading this too.) You don’t need to know everything about how this facility is built, your contractor will take care of that, but you will need to know what facility features your business needs.
In order to get your needs fulfilled, you will have to fully and accurately inform the contractor of your requirements, providing for instance the size of the facility, volume requirements, potential for an increase in volume in the future, equipment load requirements, employee restroom/washroom, capacity, etc.
Now imagine contacting a contractor to have this building constructed, without being able to provide this information…you see where this is going. It could take years for the contractor to get this facility up for you, and in all likelihood you won’t end up with a facility that fits your needs if they were getting this information here and there in an unorganized, poorly thought out, uninformed manner. It will also make things more confusing if there are several different people working on the project, so the fewer channels there are to go through, the better. This applies to both ends of the project.
That being said, you must also understand that the “If you build it, they will come.” theory rarely ever works in the online world, if anywhere for that matter. Successful websites take time, thought, and serious hard work to achieve. The more of this you have done when you contact a web designer/developer, the smoother, and faster your site construction is likely to be, and you will cut back on wasted time (money), confusion, and frustration.
The bottom line: Take some time to think about how you want your website or blog to look, and determine the basic functionality requirements for the site. You don’t need to have everything all decided; simply take a look at some competitors sites, take some snapshots of features you would like to include on your own site, and have a good idea of the basic ways your site needs to function.
Now that you understand some of the Things You Should Know About Your Website Before You Build, here is a list of some basic materials related to development that your website will require, and are best to have ready when you go in search of a web designer/developer.
- Keywords (Keyword Research) – You will need to do some keyword research to determine your keywords or keyword phrases; these are the terms, related to your niche or industry, that your readers will be searching for to find you. Be sure to think from the point of view of your readers when determining your keywords, you want the terms they will be looking for, not necessarily the industry terms you and your competitors use. You should have 6 main keywords or keyword phrases for your home page initially, and at least one supportive keyword or phrase for each page of your site. If you are going for a specific niche, then you may want your keywords to be more specifically targeted. You can easily research your keywords using the Google Keyword Tool.
- Content – This is the text, the written information that will be placed on your site pages to inform your readers of what your site is about, but it is also one of the key components that search engines look for when indexing your site. Though it may be difficult up front to know exactly what pages you will need content for, it is best to have at least 950 words of relevant content for your homepage, and at least 450 words of content pertaining to any subsequent pages and keywords on your website that you are aware of. Having this information ready for your designer will save you loads of time and frustration, and is generally best compiled by someone who knows your business and industry very well.
- Images – These are of course part of the design of the site, but they are also a key component in development as well, and for one reason; your images should be tagged behind the scenes in a manner that adds supportive criteria that search engines will be looking for in conjunction with your other developmental components. You may have images in your header banner and in your background, but each page of your site should have at least one image in the body of the page (i.e. the content area of the page) for search purposes as well. These images not only help search engines to index your site, they can also show up on sites such as Bing, and on Google Images, linking readers directly to your site!
- Social Media – If you already have social media accounts set up, such as a Facebook page, Linkedin, or Twitter account, you should have a list of links to these accounts to provide your web designer/developer.
Along with the design materials for your website, having these on hand will enable your website project to go much smoother, greatly reduce the amount of time (money) it will take to complete your website, and help ensure that your website will suit your needs when completed.
At the very least, having a basic understanding of the requirements of your website will help cut back on confusion and frustration during the construction process. Thus, even if you don’t have these materials ready at the onset of your website construction, you won’t be caught off guard when your designer/developer requests these materials, or requests information in order to compile them for you. You will also understand why your designer/developer needs these materials in order to construct your site.
There are of course other aspects of your website that you will need to cover during the construction, but these basic Things You Should Know About Your Website Before You Build should get you off to a good, healthy start with your development!