Editor’s Note: This article was originally posted in 2020 It was updated in 2021.
A modern website is important for any business. More often than not, a visit to your website will be someone’s first interaction with your business so their first impression must be a good one. And they’ll form their opinion quickly.
It only takes 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website that determines whether they like your site or not and whether they’ll stay or leave, according to a study published in Behaviour & Information Technology.
The stakes are high, and you must ensure your site:
- Looks great
- Works great
- Is a digital version of your brick & mortar
- Is a “salesperson” that works 24/7/365
- Receives periodic attention to make sure it continues to meet visitors’ needs and company goals
The days of launching a website and never touching it again are over. Doing so is just an invitation for competitors to one-up you and steal business opportunities away from you. Your site should be updated frequently to adapt to the ever-changing demands of customers and the way they shop for solutions.
Here are the Common Frustrations for Businesses Looking to Build a New Website
- They are A LOT of work for you and anyone else from your company who has a role in the project
- They almost always take longer than expected
- They frequently go over budget
We get it because we’ve heard marketing managers and business executives lament on several occasions about past experiences. Initial excitement for a new website project quickly waned because it became a much bigger undertaking than initially expected. Websites require a lot of thought, a lot of collecting of assets and a lot of content creation.
Approximately 96% of visitors that come to your website are not ready to buy (yet). – Marketo (Source)
How Can You Save Time & Money on a Website Project and Minimize the Frustrations?
You made the effort to click on this article, so you obviously are interested in saving time and money on a website project. Perhaps you have gone through the process before and experienced headaches or you’re getting ready to start the process for the first time and are looking for pointers. Either way, you’re looking for a solution.
What is that solution? You’re looking at it!
Our experts teamed up and combined their knowledge to develop a 5-Step Process that will guide you and help you:
- Ease the pain of getting a new website up and running
- Expedite the process and get it completed faster
- Eliminate the cost overages so you don’t completely blow the budget
Each step in the process includes an assignment — a document you can download for free, fill out and provide to your website designer/developer as a way to reduce the number of questions and requests they’ll have for you as the project progresses.
We’re not promising that our process will completely eliminate all of the work, tough decisions and frustration. That’s unavoidable when it comes to a complex task like creating a new website. However, by reading through each section and completing the assignments, you will have sufficiently prepared and set yourself up for a more satisfactory experience.
Still sound like more of an undertaking than you want to take on? We understand… A new website is a lot of work no matter how much we try to simplify it with our assignments. Want a quicker and easier alternative? If you’re fine with the sitemap and content on your existing content, great! You can just jump to Assignment #3, pick out your theme and have your existing website “reskinned.” Sometimes, just giving a website a new look can make a big difference.
Assignment #1: Determine the Goal & Purpose of Your Website
As mentioned in the introduction, your company’s website is much more than a digital brochure. It’s a place people go to educate or inform themselves. When they land on your website, it’s a “visit to your digital brick and mortar” or a “virtual handshake” from which guests will immediately start to form opinions about your business and whether or not they want to take you seriously as a possible solution provider for them. And because they know little to nothing about your company, your website must be designed to guide them to the information they are likely to want while simultaneously encouraging further engagement.
How do you ensure your website moves visitors toward your desired outcome? By determining your website goal.
Goal- A desired outcome. When you set a goal, you are asking “What does success look like?” or “How do we define success?”
Why is Having a Website Goal & Purpose Important?
It is important to have a defined website goal/purpose to ensure the site you are building provides value to leads and customers while also setting the stage for future sales, whether they come in the short term or the long term. Get that ROI!
How do you want your company to be perceived when people first land on your website? What do you want them to do once they get there? Think of your website like a road trip you’re planning. Your goal is the destination you want visitors to ultimately reach. The design and content of your site are like the signs that provide visitors with the information they need to get there efficiently.
When building your website, keep your goal in mind whenever there is a decision to be made.
Common Website Goals:
- Get phone calls
- Get foot traffic at your brick and mortar
- Get quote request form submissions
- Get meeting requests
- Get opt-ins to your mailing list
- Get product/service orders
- Educate users on products/services
Assignment #2: Create a Sitemap
Once you’ve determined the goal for your business’s website, the next step is to figure out how you want the site to be organized. You do this by creating a sitemap.
Sitemap- A listing of the pages that make up a website designed to help users and search engines navigate the site.
Think of a sitemap like a blueprint. It provides an overview of the structure of the site at a general level but doesn’t include specific content details like lines of copy or images.
Below is an example of a sitemap as it relates to an actual website. You can see how the sitemap on the right was implemented in the navigation of the website on the left.
Why is Having a Sitemap Important?
A sitemap is a necessary and important item in a website project. Having a sitemap allows you to:
- Determine the number of pages for your website — a key factor in web design and development costs
- Visualize the architecture of your website and organize the pages in a logical manner
Common Sitemap Elements:
- Home Page- The starting point and primary page of any website
- Product/Service Category Pages- Pages with groupings of all your related products or services that provide a high-level overview
- Product/Service Pages- Pages that provide specific details about your individual products or services
- Tip from the Experts: Consider unique pages for each product or service as opposed to a single catchall page. This provides a better user experience because it enables the user to quickly find the details and benefits of the product or service you provide that is most relevant to them. It prevents them from going through the frustrating and time-consuming process of skimming through a page with a multitude of products or services just to find the one they are looking for.
- About Us Page- A page that tells users about your company, its history and perhaps the people who work for it
- Contact Us Page- A page that lists all the ways someone can contact your business
- News/Blog Page- A page for you to share company/industry news and other relevant, helpful content, often with the additional benefit of boosting search engine optimization (SEO) efforts
- Case Studies/Testimonials Page- A page to showcase outstanding results produced by your company, as well as positive feedback you’ve received from customers
Most likely, when you start thinking about which pages you need for your business’s website, you’ll first consider the “core” pages. These are the pages that tell your business’s story and feature the products and services you sell. This is a logical approach that will ensure you establish a solid foundation for your website.
However, you’ll also want to do some critical thinking with regard to SEO and the way people navigate online.
As of August 2021, the market share of internet traffic in the United States was 49% mobile, 48% desktop & 3% tablet. – Statcounter (Source)
As of August 2021, Google drove 91% of monthly mobile search traffic. – NetMarketShare (Source)
88% of consumers who search for a type of business on a mobile device call or go to that business within 24 hours. – Think with Google (Source)
What do these statistics mean? That the more pages your website has that are relevant to what your audience searches online, the more likely your business is to show up in their search results.
Specificity is key. If your website contains pages with content that matches EXACTLY what they searched for on Google (or another search engine), you have a good chance of appearing high in the search engine result pages (SERPs). Think granularly about the kinds of search queries your audience would use, and make sure your site contains pages that account for them.
It’s a wise investment to expand your website to include additional pages that satisfy the needs of buyers and purchase influencers researching online. Just make sure you do thorough keyword research to ensure you don’t waste money creating pages people won’t look for. Make every page count!
How to Create a Sitemap
Sitemaps can be created in a variety of ways — some very basic and others more complex. The simplest way is to sketch one using a pen and paper. If you want a basic digital version, you can make it with Word (see “Assignment #2” below).
An example of a basic 3-tiered sitemap organized hierarchically is below.
- Tier 1- The homepage is always the highest tier in the sitemap hierarchy because it’s the website’s starting point and primary page
- Tier 2- In this example, the second tier of the hierarchy is made up of top navigation options. This is the menu from which a user chooses as they begin their journey through your site
- Tier 3- In this example, the third tier of the hierarchy is made up of subpages. These are specific product or service pages that fall under the categories from the second tier
Assignment #3: Determine Your Website’s “Look”
After you’ve established a goal and created a sitemap comes the exciting and fun task of determining the look of your company website. This is when you can really start to visualize the site taking shape. While this is probably the most anticipated task of a website project, it’s crucial to continue to think strategically and not get off track. An effective website is one that blends form and function (art and science).
A website’s “look” is largely achieved through a combination of:
- Website theme
- “Hero” imagery (photo or video)
- “Hero” statement
Theme- A pre-designed collection of webpages that can be customized with company-specific text, images, videos and other content to create a website.
There are many benefits to using a website theme:
- A multitude of options from which to choose, so you’re bound to find something that will meet your needs
- Pages are pre-designed to display properly across all devices and browsers
- Built-in functionality like SEO features and user-friendly editing capabilities that you’ll utilize after your project is complete
- AND BEST OF ALL… It helps your website get completed more quickly and affordably because you’re not starting from scratch
You may be concerned that building your site using a theme will mean it’s not original or will end up looking like another company’s… don’t be! Themes are highly customizable, enabling you to brand the website to be uniquely yours. You can use your brand colors and fonts, import images and graphics that are unique to your business, change the display order of sections of content, add pages or subtract pages.
Building a website from a theme is like buying a new home from a builder. You start by selecting from a variety of models and then customize the elements (siding, shingles, lighting, fixtures, flooring, paint, appliances, etc.) to give it the “look” you desire. In both cases, everyone has the same options to start, but the result will be different for everyone depending on their preferences.
Hero imagery- A photo or video, typically located at the top of the homepage, that is the most impactful visual on your entire website.
Hero statement- A brief but impactful statement, typically located near or within the hero imagery, that tells the audience something about your company immediately.
The hero image is usually the first thing visitors notice on a website. Remember the stat in the intro about how visitors almost instantly start forming opinions about your company based on what they see? Well, that’s why the hero photo or video is so important. It needs to make a powerful first impression and a memorable impact.
Couple an attention-grabbing hero image with a strong hero statement strategically located near it, and you’ll start telling your company’s story while requiring little work from the user. The hero image will grab their eyeballs, and they’re likely to then move on to the hero statement where they’ll learn important information about who your company is and how it can help them.
Why is Your Website’s “Look” Important?
Your website’s look is important because:
- It is a direct reflection of your brand. Make sure your brand comes through on your website
- A good look is memorable, makes your story easy to understand and helps your company stand out
- Tip from the Experts: Look at your competitors’ websites because you can bet they’ll be looking at yours. Your site should look better, provide a better first impression and be more informative.
For more proof of just how important a website’s look is, check out these statistics:
First impressions are 94% design-related. – Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Source)
75% of consumers admit to making judgments on a company’s credibility based on the company’s website design. – Stanford Web Credibility Research (Source)
88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. – Gomez (Source)
How to determine the “look” of your website.
1. Pick a theme. Select from one of our 100+ professional themes here.
2. Select a hero image. Start by researching the websites of competitors and other similar businesses in different areas for inspiration. Make a shortlist of “first impression-worthy” image ideas that tell your story and make an impact. Hero images are typically achieved in one of these ways:
• Custom photography- Consult with a professional photographer/videographer or utilize a quality camera and take professional photos/videos
• Stock photography/video- Refer to sites like Getty Images for royalty-free images/videos and locate a professional stock visual to use
Tip from the Experts: Be sure to choose the right picture format and orientation to satisfy the requirements for a mobile-friendly site.
3. Create a hero statement. Think about the first words you want a website visitor to read when they get to your site. What should they know? What impact should it make? What makes you different? What should they do next? These are the types of questions to consider.
Assignment #4: Create Your Website Content
Finalizing the goal, sitemap and theme for your company’s website is the foundational work. Once that is complete, it’s time for you to dive in and add substance by creating website content.
Website content is broken down into two categories:
- Copy- The words that tell your story
- Imagery- The pictures that relate to your copy
This is the phase of your website project where you need to ensure you’re providing value to users in a way that’s unique to your company so that they’ll do business with you instead of a competitor.
Why is Content Important?
Your website’s content is important because it:
- Keeps users engaged
- Tells users who your business is and why it’s great
- Instructs users about what they should or need to do
- Plays a role in getting the site ranked by search engines
Because of the volume of work required during the content creation phase and its enormous importance, this is an area that ALWAYS slows down website projects. Business owners, marketing managers and whoever else is involved with creating content take a lot of time to develop it and fine-tune it until everyone on the team is satisfied.
It’s understandable. Thinking through what to say, how to say it and ultimately getting it submitted to your web developer will take time. It can get overwhelming at times, and that’s why you’re here seeking advice. Well, here you go…
How to Create Content
You may be staring at the blank (or mostly blank) canvas that is your new website in development and thinking, “Where do I begin?” Here are a few tips to help you get your content started:
- Break content up into pages and set goal dates for completion
- Refer to your sitemap and brainstorm ideas of content topics that make sense on each page
- Think about what your audience needs to know when they visit each page
- Consider functionality items that will help tell your story and provide a positive user experience:
- Photo gallery- A collection of photos
- Video gallery- A collection of videos
- Multi-language- Functionality that translates the content on the website into a language selected by the user
- Click-to-call from mobile device- Functionality that turns phone numbers viewed on a mobile device into clickable links that enable users to call you with a tap of a finger
- Click-to-email- Functionality that turns email addresses into hyperlinks that, when clicked or tapped, open email messages addressed to the selected email address
- Forms- An interactive item into which the user enters and submits information in order to trigger an event such as a quote request or PDF download
- Social icons- Icons that link to your social media pages like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.
- Keep yourself accountable by setting a due date for each page and stick to it
- Breaking up the content into pages also makes the task less daunting!
- Outline content
- Before you start writing, outline each section on every page
- List the main points you want to communicate for each paragraph or section.
- Insert calls to action (CTAs) that help you accomplish your goal
- Call to action- An instruction that evokes an immediate response. On a website, a call to action is likely to encourage a click or call in order to receive additional information.
- Common CTAs:
- Call now!
- Visit us today at (company address)!
- Get a free quote!
- Schedule a meeting with one of our experts!
- Subscribe to our monthly newsletter!
- Order now!
- Download to learn more!
- Include messaging with these CTAs on the page(s) that make the most logical sense based on the makeup of your website and the way users will explore it
When creating content for your website project, it’s essential to keep your audience in mind. Your content needs to provide value by answering visitors’ questions and offering them practical solutions to their problems… and doing so in a way that is simple and convenient for them.
Here are some tips for refining your website content:
- Keep it short
- People read 25% slower on the web than printed material, so web content should be 50% shorter than it would be in print
- Offer your readers “snackable” content… bite-sized portions of information they can digest quickly and easily
- Use short sentences and stick to one idea per paragraph
- Organize by importance
- Readers on the web are usually in a hurry and don’t have the patience for obscure and complex text
- To combat reader fatigue, make it easy for them to gather relevant information by putting the most important information at the top of the page
- Be sincere and credible
- Credibility is a major factor in retaining reader interest
- Use objective language and avoid sales and marketing jargon or exaggerated claims
- Buyers can easily sniff out a sales pitch, so your content should present your company as an empathetic solutions provider, not a pushy used car salesman
The images on your website are just as important as the text. That’s because they add visual appeal, break up blocks of copy to allow the reader to rest their eyes and, in some cases, make information easier to understand.
Large, high-quality and relevant images draw more attention. – Jakob Nielsen eyetracking studies (Source)
Here are some tips for choosing the right images for your website:
- Choose images that fit the frame in the design
- Horizontal frame = Choose a horizontal image
- Vertical frame = Choose a vertical image
- Square or irregular frame = Be aware that the sides of the image will be cropped out
- Crop your images to fit the exact frame dimensions
- To find the dimensions, right-click on the image in the test link, select “Copy image,” then paste the image in a new file in Photoshop. The file will automatically open in the dimensions of your copied image
- Use unique images when possible
- Most people can spot the difference between a generic stock photo and a unique original photo
- It’s often worth the time and expense to have a professional photographer spend time at your organization to help you build a portfolio of quality photos
- If you choose to use stock photos, choose quality
- If you don’t have the time or resources to build a portfolio of original images, there are several sources for stock photos — Getty Images, for example
- Many web developers will provide you with free stock images for partnering with them for the website project. This is what we do at Adventure Marketing Solutions for our clients who utilize our web design/development services
- Avoid using low-quality images (pixelated, blurry, cluttered, etc.)
- Keep file size in mind
- High-resolution images are always best
- High-quality images come from a camera with a larger sensor that grabs more detail
- Even if it’s necessary to shrink the file size for the website, starting with a high-quality image will ensure the final image on the site remains clear
Need Content Creation Support?
If you and your colleagues are feeling overwhelmed by the thought of creating all of the necessary content or aren’t confident in your abilities to craft engaging content that will convert site visitors, you have options. You can outsource some or all of your copywriting/editing, photography, video creation and graphic design needs to:
- Your web development partner
- A full-service marketing agency
- Local professionals you know and trust
To save as much time and money as possible on outsourced content, document your vision and the key points in as great of detail as you can. The more direction and insight you can provide upfront, the less back-and-forth it will take to get the content finalized. Most outsourced content options will charge you by the hour, so promote efficiency however you are able.
It’s also important to be aware that most web developers won’t start working on a website until they’ve received all content. If they do allow you to provide content piecemeal after work has started, they will most likely charge you extra since it’s more work for them to accept content in sections and reacclimate themselves with your project after each submission. This piece-by-piece approach will also lengthen the timeline for the project.
Assignment #5: Gather Your Credentials
Once you’ve reached this point of the website project, you can start to breathe a sigh of relief. Most of the heavy lifting is done, and you’re about ready to turn everything over to your web developer for them to get to work. There’s just one more thing for you to do… Gather up your account credentials and provide them to your developer.
Credentials- The usernames and passwords for the various accounts associated with your website.
Website credentials include but are not limited to:
- Current website hosting account– The account for your current website host, which stores the information for your site. Examples include GoDaddy, Wix and Weebly
- Website cPanel account– The account that allows you to manage your current website. Examples include GoDaddy Hosting, HostGator and SiteGround
- Google Analytics account– The account that tracks and reports your website traffic
- Google Tag Manager account– The tag management system (TMS) that allows you to update measurement codes and related code fragments (tags)
- Google My Business account– The account on which you manage your online presence on Google, including Search, Maps and Posts
- Facebook Business Manager account– The account on which you manage your Facebook marketing and advertising campaigns
- LinkedIn Campaign Manager account– The account on which you manage your LinkedIn marketing and advertising campaigns
You may or may not have all of these accounts set up. Not all of them are essential for a website to be online, although they all have marketing value as you will learn in the next section.
Why is It Important to Provide Your Account Credentials?
It is important to have your account credentials readily available because your web developer will need them to complete the setup for your new website. Your current hosting account and cPanel credentials are essential.
While it’s not technically essential to have all of your Google and social media accounts set up and your credentials shared with your developer, it’s highly recommended. Having them set up and optimized will allow you to use digital marketing tactics to drive traffic to your new website once it’s live and review reporting analytics in real-time. Even if you don’t plan on doing any digital marketing right away, it will save you time and money in the long run to get everything established and ready now.
Want some examples of how you can benefit from setting up all of your accounts and doing some digital marketing? Check out these articles:
- How to Create the PERFECT Digital Sales Funnel (And What to Avoid)
- How to ID Your Best Marketing Tactics (And Your Worst)
- If You Aren’t Taking Advantage of This Free Google My Business Feature, You Should Be!
- The Simple Tool You Probably Aren’t Using That Will Increase Sales Leads
- 7 Reasons to Start Using Facebook Ads Today
If you’re nervous about sharing your credentials with your developer, don’t be. Once their work is complete and the website is live, you can change your logins to keep your accounts under lock and key. If you need them to go back in and do anything in the future, you can change your account logins each time.
Or, depending on the account, you may be able to provide them with limited access that will enable them to log in using their own credentials and do what they need to do while keeping the account under your control. To get an idea of how that can be accomplished, read our article How to Give Your Marketing Agency Access to Your Google Analytics Account.
Is Your Website Project Ready for Takeoff?
You clicked on this article because you were interested in learning about ways you could save time and money on your next website project. You were introduced to our 5-Step Process and provided with assignments to help you accomplish your goal:
- Determine the Goal & Purpose of Your Website
- Create a Sitemap
- Determine Your Website’s “Look”
- Create Your Website Content
- Gather Your Credentials
Did you complete your homework? If so, your website project is ready for takeoff and you’ll be able to focus on your other work-related tasks while your developer does the heavy lifting. The hard part is over for you.
How do we know? Because we encourage clients who utilize our web design and development services to follow the process. The common response from them is that their project did get completed efficiently and without busting the budget.
It’s not even essential for you to work with us for this exercise to pay dividends. It’s designed in a way to provide positive results regardless of who the web developer is. The main thing is that you are prepared and have all the essential materials ready to hand over. It’s not a matter of if they’ll be needed but when.
Have additional questions about website design and development or want to learn even more? Call us at 815.431.1000 or submit this form to contact us. You can also visit the Web Design & Development section of our blog.