If you’re struggling with building your website right now you might be thinking “This is a nightmare! I’m so stressed out, there’s no amount of yogic breathing that’s helping me here!”.
And I get it, because before I built my first website, I was stressed out by it, too! I was intimidated by things like hosting and basically had no idea what I was doing.
But then I did it, and it actually wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, and when I finally launched it, I was so proud!
That was back in 2013 and it was a yoga retreat directory, where you could search for yoga retreats all over the world. It’s not live anymore, but it was such a fun project.
The thing is, I never would have hired someone back then to build this website for me, I didn’t have the money for that. If I wouldn’t have figured out how to do it myself, I honestly don’t know if I would have my business today. It really started everything.
Mostly, it helped me build my confidence! That I could do this.
And I want that for you too!
As you begin to design a new website, there are a few important things to know before building your site that can really improve both the site’s quality and how efficiently you can create it. (In other words, these things can save you a lot of time!)
Here are 5 questions that you need to answer before you start building your website:
#1 What’s the purpose of your website?
Why do you need a website?
What actionable objectives are you hoping to achieve with it?
If you just want people to be able to find you online, but you don’t plan on being very active and blog or sell things online, it’s a very different requirement than if you want to sell retreats, you have a podcast and you plan to sell online courses.
You can just have a website with some contact information and what you do, or you could have a bigger online presence.
There’s no correct answer—in fact, these questions could be answered in a wide variety of ways.
But it’s important to know your answer and have clarity on the goal of your website.
Here are some possible goals:
- Promote your brand or business and grow your client base
- Sell products
- Sell services
- Grow your email list
Take a moment and think about your goals, and write down 1 to 3 goals, what you want your website to do for you and your business.
#2 What platform do you want to use?
Just a few years ago, this wouldn’t even have been a question, because the only option was to get someone to program your website in HTML. It was all very techy and impossible for most people to design their own website. I know that I would have been lost and unable to do it.
Today things are different, and you have lots of options to get a website up, without knowing anything about coding or HTML, yay!
The most popular option is WordPress, it’s what I use. Actually, if you want numbers, unbelievable 35% of the internet is powered by WordPress, according to a survey published by Netcraft.
WordPress started as a CMS, short for content management system, for bloggers. It allowed people to set up a blog without knowing how to program a website and it has grown into a full-blown page builder that is used by famous brands like BBC America or MTV News.
WordPress is free, but you need to get your own hosting and pay for your domain. You do this by signing up with a hosting company, like Bluehost or Siteground.
After you paid for your hosting, you normally can set up WordPress with one click right from your hosting dashboard, and then you can start building your website.
Okay, now it gets a little bit confusing, this is wordpress.org. The free version, where you need your own hosting package.
There is also wordpress.com. This is a company, that uses the WordPress CMS, but packages it together with hosting. So, they make it a bit easier if you’re scared about the hosting and stuff, but it’s also more expensive if you want to have the same options.
I don’t recommend using WordPress.com, when I talk about WordPress, I mean the self-hosted version, which is what you get on wordpress.org.
If you don’t want to handle hosting and you want things really simple, another great option that I recommend is Squarespace.
Here you sign up with a company, Squarespace, and you pay a monthly fee. They handle registering your domain and hosting and they offer you templates that you can choose from, that define the layout of your website.
This is easier, but you also have a lot less flexibility, and you pay a little bit more. But if you like their designs, their templates all look very slick and polished, and you want to keep things simple, it’s a great option.
Another option is Wix, also very popular and similar to Squarespace.
Choosing your website platform is an important decision because it’s not easy to change that. When you move for example from Wix to WordPress, you probably have to rebuild mostly everything from scratch.
Which isn’t an issue if it’s only a handful of pages, so in that case go with whatever is easiest for you right now.
But if you already know that in the future you want to have a shop, an event calendar, landing pages, sales pages and all that, you should choose a platform that can do all that easily and I would choose WordPress.
This is what I would do, this doesn’t mean that it’s the best solution for everybody.
If you want to go with WordPress, it’s what I teach in my course Blissful Websites.
#3 What will be your website address?
Your website address is how people will find you on the Internet. It’s your domain name, for example mine is susannerieker.com.
.com is the top-level domain, which is normally connected to your country, like .co.uk for the UK or .de for Germany.
.com is used by businesses in the US but also by international businesses like mine.
Generally speaking, most people pick a domain that matches their business name and want a top-level domain that’s most familiar to most people, like .com or .de if your business is German.
But what do you do when your business name is already associated with another domain?
Thankfully there are a ton of new and innovative domain suffixes that you can use, for example .co, .me or .yoga. Or even local places, like if you’re a local business in London you could get a .london domain.
Getting a .com domain is more common and easier to remember for people, but it can be difficult if you have a more common name, so it might be worth exploring alternative domain names for your website.
If you’re not sure yet what your name should be, I recommend using your name for your business, if it’s just you. If you have a yoga studio and you represent more people, you need a brand name, but if it’s you, you are the brand and using your name works best. Listen to my podcast episode “How to Name Your Business” if you want to learn more about this.
When you know what your website address should be, you can check if it is available, for example on namecheck.com.
This site will also check available social media handles which is great, because whenever possible you want to use the same name everywhere.
#4 What should your brand look like online?
When you hire a designer you can work on this with her or him, but it’s a good idea if you already have an idea what you like so you can brief them, and I guess you do – I mean, come on, we all know what we like and what we don’t like?
The process of designing your site will be much simpler and more efficient if you already know what you want:
What’s your color palette? What fonts do you like?
What feeling do you want your website visitors to experience when they come to your website?
Should they feel calm and relaxed? In that case you could choose some muted, soft colors.
Or should they feel energized, and excited? Then you could choose some bright, strong colors.
I always start a new website project with research. And my favorite tool to start is Pinterest!
You can search for example for brand color board or website design and you’ll get tons of great examples.
Create a secret board that only you can see, or share it with your designer, and start pinning.
#5 What images are you going to use?
Images have such a huge impact! They really can make your brand, and it will make a big difference if you have high quality, professional looking photos on your website instead of some random snapshots or, maybe even worse, just stock photography.
I know this is a real challenge, especially if you’re just starting out!
But if you want your website to help you sell your services, you need to set it up in a way that it will build a connection with your potential customers. They need to feel that they know you, like you and trust you before they buy from you.
And that’s where great photos, and also videos, come in.
If you can’t afford a photographer yet, maybe you have a friend whose hobby is photography and that you can ask. Or you even play with a tripod and the timer on your phone to take some selfies.
The point is, you need pictures for your website, and you want to have them before you start.