So your company needs a website, or it’s time to revise the one you have. Where do you start? Who do you talk to? What criteria do you use to evaluate if a good web design or development company is a good fit for you?
This article will seek to help answer those questions for you.
In virtually every conversation about building a website, I’m asked what is the process and what can a company expect from us as we build their website. That’s a fair question.
At first glance, all web design companies and freelancers seem alike. They listen, may make a few suggestions, and then agree that they can do what you want done. Now, it just comes down to price, right?
But the Internet continues to change and so does the expectations of our prospects and customers. Your website is your brand. It’s a very different tool than your social media and in my opinion a lot more thought ought to go into. Everything in your online universe ought to flow in and out of it.
As a way of background, we build websites for:
- Corporate companies
- Retail stores
- Service based businesses
- Manufacturing companies
Each one of these has their own unique sets of needs when it comes to a website. Yet, they all ought to have three things in common:
- A unique and clear message that talks to and with your site visitors and not about yourself
- A unique look and feel that is your company, not anyone elses
- Easy to navigate and flows well. I’m always two clicks away from where I want to be both forward and backward without hitting the browser back or forward button.
Process to Follow to Build Your Website
Many web design companies are really, really good at what they do. They have a great set of internal processes to build a website, but the process for the client is not always so cut and clear and expectations many times are not explained well.
You know what they say about when reality does not meet expectations? You get disappointment.
When that happens, things can deteriorate quickly.
Below I will detail our eleven step unique process that we use to build a website. This is the process we use with our clients to help them know and understand what is happening and what they have to do in order to help us build them a world class website.
While the process is the same for each client, the outcome for each site will be very different.
Here is a hint; what makes us very different than 99.9% of the web design companies in business today can be found in steps 1 and 2. I am first a business man who coaches other businesses so I understand a unique perspective that you go through as a company. That is a major distinguishing factor and benefit to you.
Step 1 – Defining the Purpose of Your Website
Most businesses, even some corporate companies, do not take the time to think through what the purpose of their website is.
Your website is an extension of your company. How will you use it? Is its purpose:
- Or something else?
Once you’ve defined its purpose, or combination of purposes, you can proceed to step 2.
Step 2 – Our Unique Website Coaching Program
As much as you have to think through why your business exists, what its purpose is and how will you fulfill it; your website must do the same thing.
For this to work, you have to have done at least some of the hard work in your business of defining your:
We’re not going to get into all of this, that’s a whole book. However, my point is that when you know your business, it makes knowing how to use your website so much easier.
How many websites have we gone to that leave us wondering what do they really do and how do they help me?
Our website coaching program is designed to help you learn:
- What business you’re “really” in from your customer’s point of view?
- What problems you “really” solve?
- Who you solve those problems for?
- How do you solve them?
- Where are your prospects interested in and where do they hang out?
You have to do this work, but we come alongside of you to question, probe and help you.
Let me be really clear here: this process does not just help your website. It will help your entire company and your marketing and sales across both online and offline platforms.
In this article I share how Tom, a restaurant owner, is struggling online because he didn’t ever do this for his business. I encourage you to check out this article and how I helped him change his business.
If your website is going to stand out and help you, you have to take the initiative to do this work. Just having a brochure, static website isn’t going to help you much and a blog without a purpose will not gain readers or your influence online.
Rachael Maddox and her husband Mark breed racing horses and have a unique business for their horses after racing. Here is what she had to say after going through our program:
“We have been in the horse racing industry for over 20 years and decided it was time to catch up with the times. As a result, we called Unveil for the design of our website. They were prompt in getting back to us and got started right away. At first I questioned the process, but it turned out to be very beneficial to our business and most of all, to the finished product. As a result we learned about ourselves and the industry we work in and were reminded about why we do what we do. Not only did they provide a nice product; they provided a great service with professionalism and patience. Since our site has been launched, we have received numerous contacts that have lead to additional business and business opportunities.” ~ Rachael Maddox, click here to visit their website
The first two steps are THE most critical to a successful website. The benefits are that many companies have no idea:
- What content to put on their websites
- How to create sites that are about their readers instead of themselves
- Explain how they solve their site readers problems
- Convert them into prospects as a result
When you go through this process, you will be preparing content for your website that is useful to your readers and helpful to your blog, search engines, social media, and any other marketing you may choose to do online of offline.
The coaching phase does not end until the website launches. It is an ongoing process as we work together to create the appropriate content for your website’s purpose.
Step 3 – Create a Sitemap
As we work through generating your content, we have to lay out what I call the site architecture. A sitemap is like a genealogy tree that helps us understand how pages relate to one another. Here is picture to give you an example:
Step 4 – Design and Layout of the Home Page
Now that we have a handle on the purpose of your website and an idea of the content that will go into it we can turn and focus on what your website will look like.
We will forward you a document that asks a lot of questions like:
- Please describe how the user should perceive your site. (Ex. Factual, fresh, appealing)
- Please provide between 3-5 website links and tell us what you specifically liked about each website.
- What sort of things do you NOT want on your website?
- Is there any type of color scheme you would like us to use?
- Would you like any graphics incorporated into their layout either up front or perhaps used as a background element? (i.e.: whimsical type graphics, shapes, design elements pertaining to their business, etc.)
- Overall how would they like the site to look, classy, simple, complex, fun, colorful, and clean?
- Any other details you would like us to know right now…
In this phase will also be working on the practical particulars of the layout:
- What content will go in the header with your logo (Phone number? Login box? Search box? Social media buttons, Etc)
- Where the navigation will rest
- Where content will go on the home page
- What content will go into the footer of your website (Similar to header)
Here is sample of Fox’s Pizza in Willow Street, PA… (who recently went out of business). You’ll notice compared to the website it is slightly different as we made changes and modifications:
Once we have completed a mock-up or a static image that we propose of what your website might look like; we will share it with you for revisions or approval.
Once approved we move to step 5.
Step 5 – Server Set-up
This is a relatively easy step, but a necessary one. By this time we will have already established with you where the website will be hosted. We will set-up the server and create a mysql database.
Step 6 – Install the Software on the Server
We will install the software, set-up a mysql database, and then link the software to the database.
Once we the software is on the server and we’ve confirmed that it’s linked to the database and working properly, we will break down the proposed website image and from that create your unique theme of the website on the server.
Once that is done will email you a unique link so that you can view where the shell of the website.
Step 7 – Add the Website Pages and Content
Remember in step 4 we created a sitemap. Now, will follow that sitemap and create the pages that will make up your site.
Once the pages are created we will begin adding the content we have been working through in the coaching part of our program.
Step 8 – Review the Website
This critical step is where we ask you to go thoroughly through your website to make sure that all pages are correct, all links are working, and forms are functioning according to plan.
We encourage you to solicit input from one or more trusted sources.
Will revise any content as needed.
Step 9 – Website Launch
Once approved, we will launch your website. To do so, we will need access to your domain provider. All we have to do is update what is called Nameservers so that when you type in your web address it will show your new website.
This process can fifteen minutes to a few hours under normal conditions.
Step 10 – Set-up Your email
We will need a list of email addresses and passwords from you. At that point we will go to the server Cpanel and add them.
We then will provide you with the information to update your preferred method of accessing your email addresses.
Step 11 – Training on How to Make Updates
We will spend the necessary time to update you and your staff on how to add pages, content, or revise content on your website.
In the event you prefer not do this, we do have reasonable paid subscription plans to work with you to make any additions or changes on your behalf.
Your website is now live and functioning.
As you can probably see, the real work is in steps 1 and 2. Those are the foundational steps and without them your website can reach it potential to accomplish its vision and purpose.
Building a website is hard, but if you do it right it’s extremely rewarding. You can expect the process to be anywhere from six weeks to six months or more depending on the requirements of the website and how much time you give to helping us create it with you.