Website Start Here

An awesome website doesn’t just appear. Like a nice home, store, or building, it takes planning. Thorough, inspired, and strategic planning so you end up with a web site that showcases your brand, service, or product, looks amazing, and does what you want it to do. And all day every day.

Websites today are THE storefront for business. They are read on multiple devices and relied on for getting information and engagement. If you create a lousy website, you are guaranteed lost business opportunities. Create an awesome website and you’re guaranteed more business, more contacts, more engagement, more revenue, and more happy customers.

Here’s what matters most:

1. First and foremost: Awesome site = awesome results. Lousy site = lousy results. (period).
2. Write down WHY you want a new website. Helps you stay on a strategic course.
3. You ideally want a responsive site that looks awesome on all devices.
4. Professionally designed sites create optimum results.
5. You need to create a rough site plan. A list of all the pages you want on your site, and what you want the site to do. Big site, small site?
6. Pretend a site is like a car. How much you want to spend vs. all the extras you think you want vs. need. Do you know of any “extras” you think you need? SSL, databases, contact forms, etc…
7. Know what you like. Research. Find samples. Ideally 3 site you like.
8. Who or how will the updates and edits be done in the future? By you, or hired professional?
9. Content is king! Do you have content, will you write it, or need help with that?
10. Estimate what an ideal cost might be best for the project— a ballpark idea
11. When will you expect to want to launch your site?
12. Do you have a domain name and/or hosting plan chosen or purchased?
13. Do you have a hosting plan selected or purchased?
14. To create it with an online creation tool like WordPress, or custom created website by a professional?
15. Is your brand material (logo, etc…) high quality as is, or need reworking

Here is some more detail on the above:

Create a website plan.
Step one. Write down your website plan. What are you aiming for, and more importantly, WHY are you creating a website? What’s your mission. Your goal, your reason and purpose?

Find samples of sites you like.
Search for and find websites you like most. There are a lot of examples out there so try to limit your final choices to three.

Study the competition.
What are your competitors doing? You can learn a lot about what they do, what you like and what you might not be doing, or how you want to do it differently so yours stands out.

Do it yourself (DIY), or get Help!?
Be honest in your approach. Do you know exactly what you want, or need help consulting with a professional that can help coach you getting the best site for you? In the web world, it is very, very important to get it right. It’s highly competitive and the technological rules are changing quickly so it’s important to do it right and guarantee the success of your website.

Determine type of site you want.
There are two primary types of sites:

1. Do it yourself online application web site creators (CMS) such as WordPress, WIX, and Squarespace. They allow you to create it your self online with templates. Advantage is DIY, any time on most any device and inexpensive. Problem is limiting design so you can’t create your own custom design, you need to learn and manage the site and changes yourself which require learning, skills, and time.

2. Custom website. Hiring a creative professional to design your site with top level website design software and applying modern web site rules (that change regularly) so the site works well on all browsers, as well as applying professional design principles to ensure a brand-consistent site, look amazing, and ensure a smooth, fun experience for your audience.

2A. Determine whether you want a simple, static, html site or a responsive web site. Responsive sites “respond” to the device and screen size, and use a different design and programming to create. They are typically much more advanced and expensive, but equaled in the “coolness factor.”

Estimate the approximate size of your site.
How many pages roughly? What other stuff do want on the site. Forms, animations, downloads, slide shows, portfolios, etc…

Create a rough site map.
Create a list of all the website pages you envision. Think about what links are clicked and where they go. For example: Home, About us, Services, and contact. That’s roughly a four page website.

Consider the content.
Based on your site map, start assembling text documents that contain the content or the text that you will want on each page. Will you be creating and providing that? Or need help creating the content. Or maybe you have some rough content pieces and need help editing and organizing it appropriate for web sites. Web text should be short, concise, engaging, and strategically written with a purpose in mind. Just plopping stuff on a page will look terrible no matter what design. You want a positive experience for the audience, something that really sells your brand properly, and intuitive so it leads your customer where you want them.

Consider all the extras.
Will you want to track your site with analytics, or need a data base created? Maybe you need a multi-image carousel that shows your products? An e-merchant account maybe to sell your products. Make a list of all the “extras” you think you might want.

Where a website lives
A website is a combination of an idea and imaginative concept, web page designed files (usually html, but can also include php, query, java, etc…), style sheets (CSS, etc…), and a series of linked images (jpeg, png, etc…) and related files (downloadable pdfs, etc…). All of the website files are in a folder.

That folder now needs to be copied to a public hard drive out there (the World Wide Web)— usually a data center that hosts and holds multiple hard drives (usually in the thousands. This will be called a “hosting plan.” A hard drive that “hosts” or holds your website folder (and all files).

Your “domain” is the name of your website (whatever-it-is.com, gov, net, etc…).

You need a domain name, a hosting account, and the website files. And access to getting to the files through the FTP (File Transfer Protocol) folder (fancy name for the website file). Software like Fetch, FileZilla, and many others access your files quite easily.

DIY site builders like Squarespace.com, have all that built in. They tale care of that stuff for you, but again, be careful… They now own and hold the technology to all of that. I personally recommend your own custom site, that way you truly learn, and own the entire process, design, files— all of it.

Think about the brand first.
Do you have good quality, high resolution logos and graphics for your brand? Are you happy with your logo or need help creating a new one first? The brand is absolutely vital to a successful business, especially with a website. A tight, strong, awesome looking brand should be expressed in every part of your business, product or service.

Imagine the time and cost.
What’s an ideal time frame for you to have anew site created? And what cost might you estimate in your own mind to have a professional site created. What’s it worth to you, how important is it, what caliber site do you envision. That sort of helps you determine the whole site plan, especially time and cost.

It can get a bit confusing figuring out what it might cost to create a website, but think of it like buying a car. Small, simple, economic car, or a larger, faster car with more options. The size and complexity of the site affects the timing and cost of the site. Here are some averages and scenarios that give you an estimate of cost to create a website:

Basic do it your self (DIY)  site
WIX, Squarespace, and WordPress all allow you to create a template-based site that attempt to make it easy for you to create your own website. You log in, create an account, and walk through the steps to get you a basic website. The downside? It’s theirs. All the software, files, etc… all being to them and reside on their servers. It’s totally controlled by their admin site development, and you can’t create your own custom branded website— you need to use their templates and designs.

Also, you need to take the time to learn how to use it, as well as continual upkeep of the site. And knowing how to deal with the correct types and sizes of graphics is also important. A decent option for the low, to no-cost website, but not the most effective, and I continuously find clients trying it, getting frustrated, and end up requesting either help— or an entire new custom site rebuild after an attempt at the DIY site.

Custom website
This can range anywhere from the most simple 1 or 2 page site to the most intense 100 page plus, robust, store front, database-driven site there is. It’s important to both find samples of sites you hope to create something similar to as well as guesstimate the ideal cost you hope for. Next to that will be creating first a website plan. A rough description and outline of the site you envision.

Names of navigationally linked pages, what’s on the site, etc… A “map” of sorts that helps create a blueprint for you or a potential programmer see and maintain the course and goal of your site. Basic sites can range anywhere from $1500-$5K+/-, moderate sites might run anywhere between $5K – $20K+/-, and advanced sites might be in the neighborhood of $10K $100K+/-. That’s how much range there is and is determined by the size and complexity of the site.

A basic website for example might need a new logo created, content/text created, and a feedback entry form. All adding to the cost. So the site plan, you can understand helps build a better picture of what you hope for, and where you can think about making early changes to so it affects your timing and cost before you get started.

I can help you a great deal if I have an idea of what kind of site you like, what you want on the site, and a rough idea of what you hope the site might cost. I can provide ideas to help you meet, or exceed cost goals— as well as provide information you may not have even considered that may have a tremendous impact on not only your site, but your business.

Expect a range anywhere from $1500 – $25K for a standard site. The average although really non-existent since every job is unique, tends to hover around the $8K – $12K mark. Big sites, different ball game.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any advice, ideas, or guidance. [email protected], 508.494.8182. Visit http://www.mitchellcreativegroup.com.

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