You’ve set up your business, your business plan is sorted, maybe you’ve even made your first sale!
Now it’s time to get thinking about your marketing…
A quick search has you looking at Wix, Weebly or SquareSpace and a few hours later you’re staring at a half baked template of your home page. Somehow the hero image is turned upside down and you’ve used 11 colours. Honestly, we’ve all been there.
Unravelling The Mystery Of Web Design
Websites aren’t a mystery, in fact – you have everything that you need to build one right at your fingertips. With the help of Google it’s possible to create a website that really shows off your business, your products or your services.
So, why doesn’t everyone just use one of the popular DIY website builders, have a website running and bringing them conversions in weeks?
In this post, we want to walk you through some of the things that you need to know before you jump into building your own website using something like Wix or SquareSpace.
10 Things That You Must Know Before Using a Website Builder
This is probably one of the biggest bugbears for web designers looking at websites designed using a website builder. When a website is created by an agency they will usually take the time to flow out some detailed “designs” before you even see a demo or image of your home page. These are called wireframes and sitemaps, any designers worth their salt will create these to introduce positive user flows across your website.
Think about any time you walk into a shop, there is always a layout to the building that is easily followable to anyone entering. Store designers walk through the shop and place certain products in certain places to catch your eye or draw you in. How many times have you gone into a shop for a loaf of bread and been drawn into the seasonal aisle (it’s happened to me too many times to count, damn those creme eggs…).
Most people creating a website on something like Wix or SquareSpace won’t consider this as an issue. There are lots of best practices on each of the pages that users will be expecting to see, if you don’t plot these out beforehand it can get forgotten and lead to someone who might have bought a product from you, going off to your competitor.
Colours, Logos and Font Choices
Your logo should be informing the design decisions that you are making on your website. If done well you should have a style book that gives examples of how your logo might look on different backgrounds and in different shades if need be. If you don’t have one and you’ve already jumped into your website design then you’re probably a little ahead of yourself. Designing your logo gives you the opportunity to think about who your business is to other people. Once you’ve done this work it’s much easier to work on your website design.
You’ll probably be aware of how engrained certain colours are in your mind – I’m going to leave you with three companies below and without looking, I want you to identify the main colours that the brand uses;
Cadbury, McDonald’s and Sainsbury’s.
Now, if you think about seeing those exact colours in other places, think of websites, marketing materials or perhaps even clothing, do you immediately connect them to the brand? For me, this is strongest with McDonald’s, the blend of any bright red and yellow always throws McDonald’s straight to the front and centre of my mind. You might have this with other brands and that goes to show the power that branding and colours can really have together.
When building your own website, you want to be sure of your colours (as well as fonts and styling) and they should make sense to your target audience. You shouldn’t just pick colours because you like them, you should be thinking about what that colour brings to mind for the majority of people that you’d be working with. Does it make them feel welcome, calm and at ease? Does it get them hyped up and excited? Does it give a sense of luxury or elegance?
You’re in a similar situation with your font choices, you want to pick a couple of fonts that not only work well together but give the right impression for visitors to your website. Some of the things that you need to consider with fonts include;
- Is it legible on all the backgrounds of my websites and/or marketing materials?
- Do the fonts I’ve chosen draw attention to the correct places on the website?
- Have I chosen any fonts that people like or dislike? (we are looking at you comic sans)
- Do the fonts we’ve chosen look good on the website alongside our logo and images?
Colours, Logos and Fonts can often make or break a website and strangely there is a science to it, this post about colour theory by Velir on Medium demonstrates this a little more in detail for you if you’re interested.
When a website is created, it is hosted somewhere on a server. Essentially, there is a spot in a box somewhere in the world that all the data for your website is stored. Whenever someone visits your website, they ring up the server by putting in your web address or clicking the link on Google and then the server (the box) sends all the data for the page to the person that has requested it. It does this in milliseconds so you don’t notice, it’s just VERY speedy postage.
The website builders host their websites on their own servers, the cost of hosting these servers is cheaper than you might find elsewhere which is fabulous for the wallet but it can have unintended consequences for your website visibility. It’s cheaper because the servers are hosted in a shared capacity, this means that your website is bundled with a bunch of others but you’d never know which website’s those may be. Now, this is where the problem can arise.
Part of Google’s ranking process takes into account where your website is hosted and how it’s connected to other websites. Google has a particularly harsh code of ethics (which you’ll learn about if you attempt to create Google Ads) so if they pick up that your website is hosted on the same server as another website that they deem inappropriate, this could cause your place in the Google rankings to suffer. To get eyes on your website, you ideally want to be on the front page of Google, due to huge amounts of competition this is already quite a feat but you could be making it even more difficult by having your website on shared hosting where you can’t control the reputations of the other websites.
As a side note – we have our own hosting and you’ll only share with clients that we thoroughly vet so it’s unlikely that you’d ever come across any issues that way. The other thing about Avidmode Hosting is that it’s controlled and maintained by Daniel who is able to catch any issues very quickly and he is quite easy to reach if needed!
A Little Background on SEO
In the last section, we mentioned Google and the impact that hosting might have on your search engine rankings. You’ll also need to think about SEO in other ways. Over the years that the website builders have been around, they’ve gotten much better at giving you access to the tools that you need for optimising your website for the search engines.
Here are some of the impactful issues that you need to consider when DIY’ing your website;
- Have I gone through and added in all the right keywords and data for each of the pages on my website.
- Does my website have enough content for Google’s spiders to parse and understand exactly what it is I do as a business?
- Do the templates that I’ve decided on make use of the H1 – H3 headers and if so is it using them in the correct way?
- Have I added title tags and meta descriptions to my website?
- Have all the images been uploaded to the website with the correct file titles?
SEO covers all the parts of your website including the code, you need to know what you’re looking for in order to make the necessary changes for your website to be in the best possible spot. Of course, you can have a digital agency look over your website and do an audit for you but they will most likely end up suggesting design changes alongside SEO changes which could end up being costly.
Learn more about getting the SEO on your website right here.
As you can probably tell from this blog post, there are many moving parts of a website that you need to think about before jumping into your design, but there are also things that you’ll need to update as you go.
Overall, it takes a while to create your website as well as updating it and maintaining it. This is especially important to consider when we discuss doing those things for your business that give you the best return on investment. If you’ve not got a background in design or websites, would it be worth your while to focus your time on other important projects in your business rather than learning about websites and using your time there?
As always, we suggest that you ask yourself, “what’s urgent, what can wait, and what can I delegate?”
Troubleshooting is another issue that you might have problems with using the website builders. When you’ve got a problem with your website, where do you go to fix it?
In this case, that customer support person is you, for the most part. If you are having issues with the templates, with content, with anything that you can see on the pages of your website you’ll have to do some Google delving to figure out where the issue is and what you can do to solve it. There are plenty of people that do this kind of support work on the day to day (my husband included) but is this something that you’ve filtered into your schedule?
The other point that we should mention, that is tangentially related is that you might eventually want to update your website with new features, or even move your website from the builder over to another platform. For many of these DIY builders, you simply can’t – once you’ve built the website, it’s stuck where you created it. This means if you ever make the decision to move away from these builders you’d have to get someone to rebuild your website entirely.
One of the things that’s amazing about the builders are the templates that you can access, these have usually been built with a business in mind and overall they are pretty swanky looking. Whilst you scroll through the options, you should be thinking about the goal of your website, how many pages you will need (Home page, About Page, Services Pages, Blog and Contact are the go-to ones) and how much content have you got to fill out each page?
The templates are wonderful and eye-catching but bear in mind, you will need to adapt them for your business to make sure they are actually fit for purpose. For example, what works for a Californian Health Guru may not work for a Corporate Nutrition Advisor based in the UK, although you might be in the same sector your target market will differ quite a bit.
Here are some things to think about;
- Do the templates give you enough room to answer the main questions that your audience will be asking?
- Does the template work with your branding, colours etc?
- Once you’ve picked one that you like the look of, how much work will you need to do to adapt it?
- How much content do you envision on the website, will it fit nicely into the template?
Yet another thing that you’ll need to consider is, how well will the template or the website that you’ve built on the platform look on mobile?
At Avidmode, we live in a world where we’re on our desktop computers all the time, but a huge majority of people searching the web are actually using their mobile devices. Recent statistical data suggests that 90% of the global internet population are now using mobile devices. So this means that you need to consider how well the website comes across on mobile. The platform builders do give you the option to preview the templates in a mobile format which should go some way in informing your choice.
You’ll want to make sure that the mobile version of your website is fast, try not to use huge images or videos that constantly play in the background. A person visiting your website needs to be able to navigate to their answers immediately, they’ll go back to the Google listing if they notice that your website is taking longer than they deem usual (this is usually a few seconds).
For more on the mobile-first mindset, see this blog post.
This along with your target audience is among the things that you want to consider before building the website. Answer the following questions for yourself:
- A person is searching for my business on the internet, what are the questions they want to be answered? Answer this question with specific search terms that they might put into Google or questions that your clients/customers have asked you over and over.
- What do I want my website to do, do I want it to give me more leads, do I want to make sales through the website, do I want to have a place to speak on the issues that are important to me?
Ideally, you’ll want to boil the answer to these questions down into a few short answers. These will then inform the purpose of your website and you can focus on making sure that these aspects are represented on the site. Remember, keep any calls to action on your website focused on your target market and the answers they want.
The final point that we really want to discuss in this post is your website content. We’ve mentioned this throughout the rest of the blog post but it’s extremely important to get right. The best way to start with this is knowing who your audience is and what the purpose of your website is. Sadly, there isn’t a one size fits all answer to how much content you’ll need but keep in mind that you want to give your customers and clients all the information they need to pick you from the competition. The more you can offer them in terms of trust signals and information, the better you’ll fare. So, how does this fit in with the website builders?
The platforms we’ve been discussing are obviously DIY based and this also includes your content so you’ll have to decide what it is you want to say and where you want this placed.
To Build Your Own Website Or Not?
To close our thoughts out on this. Yes, building your own website is entirely doable. When working with clients we’d only suggest using Squarespace rather than the other options so if you’re in the mood to do something creative for your business, go with them.
This post isn’t intended to be negative toward the idea of building your own website, the goal is to make sure that you know what you need to be thinking about when you build your own (and as you can tell, there is quite a lot). The most important thing for you to remember is that your website will change over time, the same way that your business will – so maintaining/updating your website after it’s built should be in your agenda if you are planning to build it yourself.
What To Do If Building Your Own Website Sounds Like Too Much
If this post has left you a little overwhelmed, why don’t you try out Avidmode?
Building websites and showing off your business is what we love to do.
Sometimes taking on everything means you can’t put all of your focus into those parts of your business that really matter, so why not let us take some of that off your hands.
We work with you to make sure all the aspects of your products and services are shown off and give you the knowledge and confidence to update and maintain your website in a self-sufficient manner when you need to.
We also offer blogging and social media training that will help take even more off your plate. If any of these things sound like something you want, get in touch with Kittie or Gem for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org – We look forward to speaking with you!