The most powerful weapon in the entrepreneurial arsenal is, without a doubt, their website.
I’ve seen so many amazing businesses seriously struggling to meet their incredibly potential, simply for lack of a decent website. Here’s the dilemma that pretty much all business owners face:
How do you create a good website for your business without either a lot of money to pay for one, or a background in web development and design?
The answer is surprisingly simple, albeit a daunting prospect to many: build your own.
I can understand why so many people shy away from DIY web development. If you’ve never built a website before the very thought is intimidating. Even if you’re undaunted by the prospect, learning so many new skills is extremely time-consuming.
But you don’t need to spend a fortune on a professional, or waste endless hours and frustration trying to to build your own site.
Web development can be done relatively quickly and easily if you know which tools to use, and exactly what to spend your time and energy on.
So, if you’re in need of a website and don’t know where to start, this is my guide to building your own in nine simple steps. Download my free DIY Website Development Workbook, and let’s get cracking…
Step 1: Make A Clear Plan
Before you do anything, you need to get your proverbial ducks in a row and plan. Make sure you have a clear idea of the following:
- Your timeframe – how long are you going to spend building your site? When does it need to be live? (If you don’t specify this at the start, it can eat up a lot more time than needed, and drag on unnecessarily.)
- Your budget – how much do you have to invest in your new website? (If the answer is nothing but time, don’t worry – you can get a long way with determination and a little patience!)
- Allocation of tasks – are you doing everything yourself, or will you have help? For example, are you going to outsource your copy, or hire a photographer for a brand shoot? Do you need to source anything, like stock photography or graphics?
It’s easy to skip this step and think you can wing it, but believe me, spending a little time deciding all this now will make everything go a lot more smoothly!
Step 2: Integrating Your Brand Into Your Website
Visual branding is key to creating an online marketing strategy that is immediately recognisable as a coherent entity.
Wherever people find you online, you should be instantly recognisable from one place to the next. That means your website, emails, adverts, and all your social media marketing need to look totally consistent.
If you haven’t done so already, nailing down your visual brand is the first thing you need to do before you even THINK about building your website.
If you don’t, one of three things will happen:
- You will have to waste a massive amount of time redoing visual aspects of your website, and might even need to change the theme completely to bring your site in line with your brand.
- You will need to change all your other branding so it matches your website.
- Or you will have a disconnect between your website and the rest of your online presence, which will severely hinder your ability to convert.
Now it could be your brand is in need of a refresh, and you don’t mind changing everything else so it’s consistent to your new website. But even if that’s the case, you need to know what you want your website to look like before you start building it.
Here are a few things you need to know before you go any further:
- The name of your business, and the handle you will use for it online. (Note: These aren’t always the same thing! They usually are, but you may have an official business name and use your personal name as your domain name and social media handles, or vice versa. You might have a catchphrase, or signature product or service that you use instead of your brand name. Or you may simply be unable to get your business name as a domain and/or social handles.)
- Your brand fonts.
- Your brand colours.
- Whether or not you will have a logo.
- What kind of photography you will use (i.e. will you have a branded photo shoot done featuring yourself and/or your team? Will you use stock photography? If so what kind of images will you use?).
- What kind of additional images you will use (i.e. infographics, illustrations, etc.)
- The overall impression you want to create at a glance (i.e. professional, corporate, funny, etc.)
For a more detailed breakdown of exactly how to create perfect visual branding, check out my post 5 Ways To Ensure You Have A Consistent Online Brand, and download the free workbook.
Step 3: Map Our Your Site
It’s easy to get carried away and just start building before you know exactly what you’re trying to create. Just like figuring out your branding before you start, you need to decide on the layout of your website, the kind of content you want to include, and the features you need it to have.
Having a layout for your website clearly mapped out is vital to preventing yourself from wandering off on tangents, spending lots of time creating unnecessary pages, or wasting untold hours creating a site that is far more complicated than it needs to be.
You likely have a lot of information that needs organising and incorporating into your site, including details of your core offerings, information about yourself and your team, content, and a good chunk of your sales funnel.
That can get overwhelming and overly complicated extremely easily, but there’s a super-simple way to process, organise, and visualise your whole website, in the form of a sitemap.
A sitemap is a really effective planning tool, and it doesn’t require fancy software to make. You can do it with a simple spreadsheet, or even on a piece of paper. It will clarify and centralise your plan for the literal layout of your site, including what pages you need, and the most logical way of arranging them.
A huge part of web development is crafting your user experience.
Navigating your site should be as simple, easy and obvious as possible.
Visualising how people will find your main pages and offers will really help you nail this. When you’re putting your sitemap together, be sure to include all core functionality ‘must-haves’, as well as any additional features that ‘would be nice’.
It’s also a good idea to include any aspects of web design you don’t like.
Don’t over-complicate this. Think of it as a flowchart that lists all the content you need to create for your website.
The other great benefit of creating a sitemap is that you have a complete list of all the content that needs. This is really useful when you come to write your copy.
Step 4: Outline Your Pages
Now you know exactly what pages you need, outline them. Writing web copy is a very broad topic, but there are a few must-haves that every page needs to include:
A Powerful Tagline
On your homepage it’s usually the tagline for your whole brand. On other pages you want to come up with a tagline that perfect encapsulates what the offer on the page can do for your ideal client. Try to work it in at the top of the page so it’s prominent and quickly seen.
Lead Your Visitors
Include little hits throughout your copy that leads your visitors further down the page, ensuring they get all the information and reach the point at which they take action. The easiest way to do this is with open loops.
These are copywriting tricks that force people to read on in order to finish something they’ve already read…
…ellipses are the easiest example of this. The human brain naturally hates unfinished things. The use of a ‘…’ rather than a full stop clearly indicates you haven’t got to the end of the point yet!
Call To Action
Once you get your readers to the point of the page, you need to call them to take the action you desire. This might be booking a call, making a purchase, or going to a more detailed page with further information. Whatever it is, you need to be very clear, and ACTIVE in the language you use to tell them. For example, use, ‘Buy Now!’ and ‘Book A Call’ or ‘Let’s Talk’.
Whatever your page includes, keep it as succinct as possible. Web copy is different to other forms of content – a long-form blog post is much more powerful than a short one, the opposite is true of your web copy!
Include all the information needed to educate your ideal clients on the value of your product/service and convince them to buy, but do it in the briefest manner possible!
Step 5: Use WordPress
There’s often a lot of debate as to which platform you should use when building your own website. Normally I’d lay out the pros and cons of each, but in this case I don’t believe there is any contest:
There are a myriad of reasons I feel WordPress is the best platform to use to create a website, but here are the big ones:
- It’s completely free – you will need to buy a domain name and host it, but the use of WordPress itself has no associated costs. (Domain and hosting normally <$200/year)
- Most web hosts have a one-click WordPress install feature so that you can get started quickly without any tech knowledge.
- There are a huge number of available theme designs for WordPress, many of which are free, responsive, and compatible with eCommerce so that you get your website up, running and looking like a pro site in no time.
- There is an unparalleled choice of plugins available for WordPress, and I’ve yet to find a system or service I wanted to use in my own business, or any of my clients’, which didn’t come with WordPress integration in one form or another.
- It’s an easy interface to learn!
There are two ways you can use WordPress, one is to setup a free account on WordPress.com, the other is to buy your own domain name with independent hosting.
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to do the latter.
The first option may be totally free, but domain names and hosting are inexpensive and you can’t put a value on the credibility you gain by having one.
It’s not even a question anymore – people assume that a genuine business will have its own domain name. If you setup a site hosted on wordpress, your domain name will be www.YourBrandName.wordpress.com, rather than simply www.YourBrandName.com.
One gives the impression you’re a credible business. The other gives the impression you’re running a hobby blog, and shouldn’t be taken seriously as a business.
For a more detailed breakdown of website hosting and your domain name, check out my Beginners’ Guide To Web Development Basics. You will find this useful as a general reference as we go through these steps!
Step 6: Pick A Practical & Responsive Theme Design
Once you have your domain setup and WordPress installed, the next step is to choose a theme design.
There are a HUGE range of themes to choose from on WordPress – it’s one of the reasons it’s such a good platform. When you’re selecting your theme, there are three really important things to bear in mind, and ensure your new theme has:
- A completely responsive layout, so that it works perfectly on all devices (mobile phones, tablets, laptops, desktops etc.)
- Is easily customisable, so you can incorporate your own branding and flair.
- The site demo functions well, and looks as close to what you want as possible to avoid having to fiddle with it. Your main priority in terms of layout is that the meu is in the place you want it, and behaves in a way you like on both desktop and mobile. Menu changes usually require code knowledge, so if you don’t like the menu, it’s not a good theme for you!
With such a huge number of themes to choose from it can be really tough to know where to start. You can search through different themes on your WordPress dashboard by going to Appearance > Themes > Add New:
You will be shown a screen containing all the themes uploaded to your website. Search for new themes using the search bar on the right of the page, then navigate to feature filter to narrow down your results:
Simply select any of the features you would like your theme to have, and click ‘Apply Filters’, you will be shown only those that meet your criteria.
The other optin where themes are concerned is the one I recommend.
Seek out a paid WordPress theme, which will come with premium built-in plugins, page builders, ready-to-go sliders, out-of-the-box theme demo installation, and support (usually six months or so).
You can get great paid themes for under $100 and they are well worth the money!
The easiest way to find a great paid theme is to hop on Google and search for your industry, coupled with ‘wordpress theme’ and the current year.
For example: ‘creative wordpress theme 2018’, or ‘health wordpress theme 2018’, and ‘coach wordpress theme 2018’.
Have a look through the options, explore the demos, choose the one you want and buy. Most have links to buy through ThemeForest – I recommend doing this.
Step 7: Pick Powerful Plugins
One of the huge advantages of WordPress is the ability to create amazing functionality by installing the specific plugins you need to do the specific tasks you require. For a detailed rundown check out my post on some of the most powerful plugins I recommend, but there are some basics to bear in mind.
Plugins mean themes can come with the bare essentials, so that you include exactly what you need, and nothing else.
This keeps everything sleek, simple, and as swiftly loading as possible.
Most themes come with a list of must-have plugins to help you figure out what to add. There are, however, a couple of very powerful plugins that you will almost certainly need:
If you plan on selling anything directly through your website, an eCommerce plugin is essential. WooCommerce is a great choice. It’s free, very simply to setup and use, is compatible with pretty much any theme that has eCommerce capabilities, and can be customised quite extensively.
With WooCommerce you can set up a shop, and as many products with as many options as you need. It’s compatible it’s PayPal, which enables you to set up subscription payments, meaning you can sell ongoing services through the site as well as one-off purchase, provided you’re smart about how you set them up.
You will want to link your website to your social media platforms as much as possible. Adding a simple widget to your sidebar, header or footer is a great way to do this. You can connect to your favourite social platforms and display your profile on your website, giving people a clear incentive to follow you.
Instagram and Pinterest are particularly good for this, as they are very visual. You can embed pins and boards into your site using the Pinterest Widgets, and there are loads of great plugins that will integrate your most recent Instagram posts into certain sections of your website.
This is a great plugin to remind you about certain crucial elements of SEO. But, a word of warning, do not mistake Yoast for a complete SEO solution for your website. Getting a green light doesn’t mean you have perfect SEO.
You’re going to update your website regularly, so it’s a good idea to have some revision control from WP Optimize, which ensure you’re not storing eleventy billion versions of your website – one from every update you make!
A Security Plugin
This is another must-have, as security is really important for both you and your visitors. I recommend Google Analytics Dashboard for WP as well as Yoast.
Contact Form 7
This is a super simple contact form plugin that’s used by a lot of themes. Alternatively, there are plenty of other free form builders you can get your hands on in the WordPress Plugin Library.
Step 8: Build Your Website
This is the part that terrifies people, BUT, if you’ve planned everything well and followed the previous steps, this part should actually be relatively easy.
The specific method you use will vary slightly depending on the theme you choose, so I can’t give you step-by-step instructions for this part. However, as long as you’ve selected a theme with great customisation and decent support you shouldn’t have any trouble at all.
Most themes have basic tutorial videos to walk you through initial setup. And if there is anything they don’t cover, jump on YouTube and type in ‘How to…’ followed by whatever you’re trying to do, and ‘on [insert theme] for WordPress’.
The online world is FULL of people creating excellent content that will get you through pretty much anything when you have a nice simple setup like the one we’ve been designing.
In the event you run into something you can’t do, don’t panic! Remember, you can always outsource the odd task that totally stumps you. It’s well worth it to avoid the stress and frustration, and make sure everything works properly!
That being said, with enough patience there is nothing in a wordpress theme or plugin that can’t be learned – that’s the beauty of the platform!
Step 9: Test Your Website (DON’T Miss This Step!)
The last step is to test your new website, and it is super important, do not miss this step out! It’s a good idea to run through every page and function you’ve set up – like email options, contact forms, making purchases etc.-but it’s also really helpful to have a few friends test it for you too.
You know your site well by now. And you may well suffer from developer blindness – the inability to see something that’s really obviously missing or not working right, because you’re too close to the project.
If you can, find someone who is very close to your ideal client, if not one of your genuine ideal clients, as this will give you the best idea of what user experience will genuinely be like.
Don’t overthink it! Another great trait of WordPress is the ability to add to it as you go.
Get a basic site up, running and working perfectly. Make sure it includes all the vital functions you identified in your sitemap.
Don’t forget to download your copy of my Build A Website Workbook, which will walk you through creating your sitemap, identifying your theme and plugins, and more.