How to plan a brilliant small business website - even if you have no experience


Building a website can be daunting. There are so many decisions to make and so many conflicting opinions out there. The more you research the more overwhelming it can feel.


It's no wonder you're overwhelmed and confused. I was too when I first started out.


What I found lacking was someone explain things to me in layman's terms and guide me through a simple step-by-step process. It could have saved me months of time, prevented me from wasting money and stopped me from missing opportunities.


Anyway, I figured it all out and now want to share it with you to save you time and money!



1. Work out your budget


Worried about 'hidden costs' or wasting money on something that's not going to work for you? I know the feeling.


When it comes to setting up your website, you need to purchase the following items:


Domain Name

This is the most common (and convenient) way to describe a website’s address. It's usually your business name (mine is www.caitlinpieters.com). You need to purchase your domain from a Domain Registry. Popular domain registries include GoDaddy and 123 Reg. You pay them an annual fee of about £20 for hosting your domain, including domain privacy and taxes.

Site Host

A Site Host stores all of the files for your website. These files contain all the code for your site’s pages, images, forms, etc. My website is hosted on Wix. A monthly plan with Wix costs about £15 per month for freelancers and entrepreneurs. If you want to be able to accept online payments, you need the next plan up. Paying for the year upfront can save you a lot of money, and it's also worth waiting for Wix to run a 50% off special which they do quite regularly.


Web Designer

If you're looking for help building your website, a freelance web designer or someone running a small business might be your best bet. This helps to keep the costs down (web design agencies typically have high overheads which are reflected in their prices). By supporting small businesses, you're also more likely to get the website you set out to get as you build a personal relationship with the designer, and they care about your outcome (well I do, anyway!).


Remember, you usually get what you pay for. Cheap websites that you can buy on an online marketplace usually look like that: cheap. Think about the impression you want to give off of your brand, and set out finding someone who can help you achieve that. Someone with a design background, who understands your niche, runs a small business themselves, appreciates the importance of strong branding and has good marketing ideas for you that will tie in with your website strategy and business goals is ideal. You want to send out the right message that attracts your ideal client.


2. Choose Your Website Address


Now you need to buy yourself a domain name. This is basically your website address (mine is www.caitlinpieters.com).


Ideally it should match your business name, be easy to remember and straight-forward to spell. I also recommend sticking with the more obvious extensions such as .co.uk, .com or relevant to the main country you do business in.


Visit a domain name registry website such as GoDaddy or 123 Reg, and look for the 'domain name' search box. Enter your desired domain name there to check availability.


If your desired name isn't available, you'll need to find an alternative. Remember to keep it simple and clear with straight-forward spelling.



3. Select A Platform


It's not the platform that matters, but the way you use it. Is there a particular website platform that you prefer? Something you're already familiar with? I think it's really important to be able to access your own website to make tweaks and changes independently, even if the bulk of your website is designed by a professional.


If you don't have a preference, that's okay too. Your budget and the designer you decide to work with might help you determine a direction. If you're looking for guidance from me, I always recommend Wix because it's affordable, easy to use and personally I find it very easy to teach my clients how to update independently.


Here's why I love Wix:

  • No coding required

  • It's a simple drag-and-drop platform

  • The Editor is free and online so you can access it from anywhere

  • There are thousands of free graphics, photos and design elements you can use

  • There are more than 500 designer-made templates you can use that are fully customisable

  • Everything is under one roof

  • The app market is full of brilliant apps that can help make your website more professional and work for you when you're not around

The best bit is that if you're unsure, you can try Wix for free before you commit.



4. Decide If You Want To DIY Or Outsource Your Website


This is not the easiest decision to make; you need to take into consideration your skills, budget, how much time you have to dedicate to building your website and the cost of missed opportunity while you're sorting this all out.


Do-it-yourself websites


If you’re pretty tech-savvy and feel confident enough to try design your own website, this will be your cheapest option because you won’t need to pay any designer fees.


In this case, you will need to pay for your domain name (mentioned above), and the platform that you build your website on such as Wix or Squarespace.


Where you save on costs, you lose on time. You also run the risk of your website looking amateur which can do more harm than good when you're trying to new attract clients.


Done-for-you website design


Having a professionally designed website will help your brand get taken more seriously and save you time by doing all the heavy-lifting for you. And the sooner you have a website up and running the sooner you can start attracting clients and increase your income.


Working with a designer is an investment, and not everyone has the budget when they're first starting out. But if you're able to afford one, it can be a quicker path to success (provided you find the right person to work with).



5. Find the right person to help you


Its easy for web developers to bamboozle you with technical terms and use fear tactics to get you to sign up to something you don't really need or understand. And sadly I see a lot of women being ripped off or taken advantage of.


To avoid this happening to you, here are my best tips for finding the right-fit person to work with:

  • Ask your friends and peers for recommendations of web designers

  • Ask for recommendations on Facebook groups where freelancers tend to hang out (I particularly love groups such as Doing It For The Kids and Annie Rideout's group)

  • Make a short list of your favourite websites. Visit each of them and scroll to the bottom of the page. It will usually say who designed the website in the footer so you click on the link and view the designer's own website

  • Have a look through the designer's whole portfolio and visit the websites they have designed to get a proper feel for them

  • Check out any testimonials and case studies on their website

  • Book a discovery call with them to see if you're a good fit

  • Often its a case of going with your gut instinct. If you find the designer was warm, friendly and open then that's a good sign

  • Make sure you feel comfortable asking questions. You want someone who's open, honest and approachable that you can ask questions to without feeling silly

  • See whether they offer a payment plan. Sometimes you'll be able to pay off your website over a few months which is sometimes the difference between a yes and a no

  • Typically design agencies have higher rates due to their overheads. Working with a small business owner or freelancer will help you keep costs down. And its more likely you will have 1:1 support as you work directly with the business owner

  • Don't just go with the cheapest quote. Everyone and their dog is claiming to be a designer these days. If you're purely price-shopping and want to go with the cheapest option, you will soon need to pay more once you realise your website isn't converting. I see this all the time!

  • You'll be working closely with this person for a period of time, so you need to get along well with them and you want to enjoy the process


Remember this is your brand, your vision, your future. You want to enjoy the process of designing your website and bringing it all to life!



6: Define your website goal


The whole point of having a website in the first place is to grow your business. Think about what you're trying to achieve here - how are you going to grow your business?


Do you want to:

  • Establish yourself as the go-to expert in your particular niche?

  • Attract people to a physical location?

  • Sell a product or service online?

  • Get people to schedule a call with you?

  • Sell a course online?

Whatever it is, you need to pick 1 thing and turn it into a Call To Action (CTA).


Your Primary Call To Action


A Call-To-Action (CTA) is an action on your website that your site visitors can take. It's usually in the form of a button. What is the one action you want all your site visitors to take when they land on your website? This action should be the main thing that is going to help you grow your business. And it's the most important element on your website.

Here are some examples of effective CTAs:

  • Buy now

  • Book your free consultation

  • Download my e-book

  • Start a free trial

  • Make an appointment

  • Visit a local store

  • Sign up for updates

Turn this action into a button. Your button should be really clear and simple, and give a simple instruction such as BUY NOW. Try starting with a verb, and let it be something that your ideal client would say to herself in her head: GRAB MY FREE GUIDE, DOWNLOAD NOW, SHOW ME HOW etc.


Your Lead Magnet


95% of site visitors aren't ready to buy the first time they land on a website. You should be collecting their email addresses so that you can continue to build a relationship with them, and keep front of mind.


The best way to do this is to create a piece of content that is packed with value but that you give away for free in exchange for their email address.

This can take the form of a PDF, a video training or audio. When people sign up to receive this freebie, ask them whether they'd like to sign up to your newsletter. Make sure that the freebie is so full of value that your ideal client walks away thinking, "Wow, if this was free can you imagine how good it must be to work with her!?"



7: Map Out Your Website Pages


Grab a pen and paper and sketch out how many pages you want on your website. Decide on what to call them (keep it simple and obvious so site visitors know what to expect to find on each page).


This is a thinking process that helps you determine what you need from each page, and doesn't need much detail. For a simple service-based website your sitemap might look something like this:

Depending on the type of business you run, you might need different pages such as a services page or FAQs etc.



8: Plan Your Content For Each Page


Outline what you need on each page. Here's an idea of what you can include on a basic service-based website:


Homepage


Keep your homepage simple. Don't overload it with too much text. Make sure you've included:

  • Your logo

  • A headline telling people what you do and who it's for

  • A button that gets site visitors to take action (book a call, buy now etc.)

  • Social proof (testimonials, reviews, logos of businesses you've worked with)

  • Your services (keep it brief on the homepage, you can link to your services page from there)

  • Your contact info


About page


This is the second most popular page on a website - don't leave it as an after-thought. Use this opportunity to share your story and build trust. You can include:

  • Your story

  • An image of you as the name behind the brand


Services page


Outline your services and encourage site visitors to take the next step in working with you. For example, ask them to book a free discovery call with you

  • Include testimonials to support each service

  • Makes it easy for them to take the next step to work with you (e.g: add a 'book a call' button to the page)


Contact section:


Your contact info can be on its own page or in the footer so it appears on all your website pages. Either way you should have a link to this contact section in your navigation menu at the top of your website so it’s easy for people to find.


Depending on the scope of your business and how much info you have on your site, you may need a FAQ page or a Blog.



9: Copywriting & Imagery


For copywriting tips, please read my blog post titled Never Stare At A Blank Page Again. Tips include writing like you speak, reading your copy aloud to make sure it's got good flow, keeping your words clear and simple, and getting straight to the point.

Finding images is also relatively straight-forward. First choice is to have professional photos done of you & your business. Stock photos can work, but try to choose ones that don't look so staged and 'fake' because that can erode trust.


Wix has a stock library of thousands of free stock photos you can access and use if you use Wix. Otherwise take a look at websites such as Unsplash (where all photos are free to use). Alternatively you can purchase stock photos from websites like Shutterstock.



Step 10: Start Designing!

Now that you have all your content together, you're ready to start designing your website. Have you decided whether to outsource or DIY?


If not, here are some simple steps you can take that will help you test out Wix, give you a good feel for the platform and let you suss out if it's the right platform for you.

  • Sign up for your free Wix account

  • Browse through the templates and the one that you like best

  • Click on "edit site"

  • Play around with the editor and get used to all the tools. You can test out as many templates as you like

  • Remember that you can completely customise each template. I will usually start off with a template and by the time the website is published it will look nothing like the original template

There is no-time pressure to figure it all out. You only pay if and when you decide to purchase a premium plan. And you only need a premium plan when you want to connect your website to your domain name (www.yourwebsite.com).


You only pay if and when you want to connect your site to your domain name. And then you can choose a plan that fits your budget.



Sign up for my free WORKSHOP that leads you through this process by clicking here!


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