You know you need a website, but how do you plan your first website?
As with any project, success is dependent on a good plan. A website plan doesn’t need to be overwhelming or even too comprehensive but most of the work creating a website is done in the planning phase.
Like building a house, if you start erecting frames without deciding on how many bedrooms you want or if you want one or two stories, you may end up tearing down the frame and starting again if it isn’t suiting your needs.
Figuring out how to plan your first website helps to organise all those thoughts and decisions in one place, a wesbite plan, ready to be built into a beautiful and practical website.
The website planning phase is brainstorming and generating ideas.
The plan exists to answer two questions:
1. What do you want your website to do?
2. What do you want your website to look like?
This process is all about creativity and practicality. Your website needs to look good and really showcase your energy but it also needs to have a purpose, a goal and be organised to achieve that goal.
By taking the time to brainstorm and plan will save you editing and rework time in the long run, narrow down your style and get you very focussed on creating the website that you want.
Remember one of the benefits of being able to create your own website is you can change it whenever you want.
The plan is designed to get you looking at other sites, colours and styles to narrow down what you want for yours.
It is better to get these ideas on paper now, before we start playing with WordPress. Have a read and pencil in your thoughts. I say pencil so you can rub out any changes of mind and continue.
How to plan your first website - a Checklist
What you want your website to do for you? Why do you want a website? Some goals could include:
- Showcasing your portfolio
- Online resume
- Promote your local business
- Selling things online
- Advertise your classes
Different website goals will lead to different ways your site is organised. If the main goal of your website is to advertise your yoga classes, then the website should be structured around your class timetable, with links to book online and clear ways to purchase passes.
An E-Commerce store is set up to sell products. The website is organised like a store to sell products.
What is the purpose of your site?
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon famously said, your brand is what other people say about you when you aren’t in the room.
A brand is the energy and personality of your business. Your website needs is an extension of this personality. A quick way to get started with your branding is to list three words about the style and feel you want your website to give, some examples may be, colourful, vibrant, minimal, edgy or busy.
Keep these three words in mind as you make any decisions about your website and any other digital platforms. This will keep your website branding consistent and professional.
Each website page consists of three sections. A header, body and footer.
Both the header and footer appear on every page. The body is the main content that changes from page to page.
The Header is placed at the top of every page. It includes your company logo and a menu. The navigation menu is a list of the pages in your website, such as the home, about and contact page, for example. It can also include links to social media.
A footer is placed at the bottom of each page. It could include pages that aren’t as important such as website terms and conditions, shipping information and social media links.
The body is what is changed on each new website page that it is created.
Start looking at the header, footer and body of each website you visit and see what you like and don’t like. Make a basic sketch of how you want the header and footer to look like.
A key step in getting your creative planning underway is to get inspiration from other websites.
Head to Pinterest, take notice when browsing other websites and start collecting screenshots of websites you like.
Take a look at the header and footer. How is the website organised? What colours and fonts appeal to you? What aspects annoy or confuse you?
Here are a few different websites to inspect and list the aspects you like or don’t like.
Design covers many aspects, with the key components, colour, font and images.
Back in the “Energy” step, you chose three words to define the personality of your websites. Now is the time to choose fonts, colours and images to match this personality.
As a minimum, choose a set of five colours.
- Black (text)
- White (background)
- Dark / Bright colour (headings)
- Light colour (a lighter version of above for buttons, subheadings)
- Ascent colour (stand out or “pop” colour used every now & then for bullet points and buttons)
There are numerous choices for fonts, usually, we use one to two for headings and one for text. A plain easy to use font for text and something decorative but readable for headings.
Google fonts have a list of many different types of fonts available for your website.
Headshots, product pictures and background pictures, are just three types of pictures you could choose to put on your site.
There are a number of websites such as pikiwizard, pexels.com and unsplash.com and where you can use professionally taken photos for free, you can also take photos yourself or hire a photographer to take custom photos for you.
Once again, the images you choose should fit in with the branding and energy of your website.
Your website needs to perform certain tasks for you.
What you want the website to do for you? Have a think about the following questions to get you started:
- Do you offer classes or events? You may need a booking system or be able to sell tickets
- Do you sell anything? You may need a store
- Do you offer coaching? You may need a calendar for clients to pick a time
- Are you a photographer or an artist? You may want to link to your Instagram feed so clients
List every task you want to perform on your website.
Now make a list of every page you need to carry out those tasks.
You can then start to write the text you want on each page. Include headings and any images you want on each page.
How much do you want to spend
- Domain name & hosting
- Software, think page builders, event management, email programs.
All of this can be done for free, however, I recommend as a minimum 3 things
- Domain name
A domain name is your URL (the bit after www) mine is plinkit.com.au. It cost around $20AUD per year. If you don’t want to pay for domain and hosting, you can create a site on WordPress using their website as your domain. So in my case, my URL would become www.plinkit.wordpress.com which doesn’t look like a professional serious organisation. If your website is anything more than an absolute hobby, I suggest investing in a domain name and hosting. See my recommendations for website hosting here.
WordPress is a software program. When you create website pages, this is a file, just like if you created a Microsoft Excel worksheet or any other file you save. When you save a file it is saved on a computer with a hosting company. Hosting companies have hundreds of powerful computers called servers that store all your websites files. They keep them safe from hacking and make sure that the computers are powerful to handle the visitors to your site.
Hosting prices vary considerably. The more you spend, the more features and options you will get. It can cost anywhere from $80 per year to $420 for all the bells and whistles. Read further information on choosing a domain name and hosting.
- Elementor page builder “pro” version.
This is additional free WordPress software which makes the design side of each of your pages much easier. A free version is available with many fantastic features and the pro version is $50 USD per year.
- Photography & Graphic design
You can DIY your own graphics, images and logo using free programs like Canva. If you have the budget you may wish to hire a photographer or graphic designer to create the basics for you.
Now it’s your turn, grab yourself a blank notebook, I like to use artist blank drawing notebooks with totally blank pages. Start collecting and list all types of information that might be useful in planning your website. Collect colours, print pictures, patterns, fonts and other websites.
Remember, one of the benefits of creating your own website is your ability to change or even totally overhaul anything you do.
Good luck, and feel free to comment or drop me a line and let me know what inspires you?