It doesn’t matter how you got to this point, all that matters now is that yes, you know you need a website. But where to start? How’s an institution to survive in a world that demands everyone have a fancy digital face?
You’ve got three options:
A. Do Nothing
Fail to plan = plan to fail.
Do not pass go, do not collect $200. The digital economy is here, and if you’re not part of it you will miss out.
This isn’t really an option if you want to actually accomplish your goals on the internet. Even the most robust social media personality needs a brand-appropriate space outside the walled gardens of Facebook and Instagram.
Until domain brokers turn to altruism and website code starts falling from the sky in neatly packaged-and-ready-to-upload .ZIP form… as a general rule we will not recommended this.
Nothing in life is free, got it. So what’s a brand to do?
B. Hire A Professional
When you want a polished website for a high-visibility brand with big goals, you want to work with Elisabeth.co.
We are experienced in creating websites that help our clients do business. establishing or reinventing brands for the digital era, training so your team isn’t always dependent on high priced consultants, and strategic planning to make every digital project more powerful.
Ready to take the next step?
But if your savings account isn’t ready for the big guns, you’ve got one other option…
A professional website is not the right solution for everyone. Sometimes in the discovery phase of a new project, we encounter a business owner with a little technical savvy who wants a new website.
We always ask them first if they would rather Do It Yourself with a little outside help, or hire a professional from the start. If you have a specific vision, or enjoy learning about technology, DIY is a good route to explore.
Of course, as with amateur plumbing or electrical work, sometimes you might just end up in an unholy mess. If that happens, maybe a pro isn’t a bad idea.
But if after reading these warnings you still think you’ve got the chops and you’re ready to do a little (digital) heavy lifting, use this guide to launch your website in a jiffy.
Let’s do this!
Step 1: Register your domain
This is your street address for the internet – and as with real estate IRL, where your site is located can either help or hurt your project.
Spend some time brainstorming and checking what social media URLs are available before you buy.
The best name will be short, memorable, and available on all the major social media services.
Step 2: Pick your hosting
This is the foundation for the website on your internet address. Picking the right host will equip you with right tools for your project. Be smart and get some seriously professional nerds on your side, like hacker man here.
Since we’re going with WordPress, we strongly a host that will pull out all the stops to support you, 24/7/365. That host is WP Engine. Not only are they local (a huge help in the increasingly outsourced world of tech, since you can always understand what WP Engine’s customer support agents are saying when you call in), their platform is made specifically for WordPress.
Better yet, they’re offering a free month of premium or Enterprise hosting for new customers. We speak from experience as WP Engine customers ourselves: They are The Best WordPress host out there, and if you’re thinking the time is right to stake your claim online, this is a deal you should not pass up.
Step 3: Install your theme
This is the style of decor for your website, and the broad-strokes layout of your content. Be sure to pick a visual style that represents the mood of your project.
Some themes come with widget areas and special features, so read the documentation to learn how to set up your framework correctly.
Step 4: Add pages
These are the containers for your content.
Think of each page as an important section on your site. Do you want to introduce yourself, show off your products, publish a blog and allow customers to contact you?
Then set up pages for About, Shop, Blog, and Contact.
Step 5: Set Up your Navigation
This is important – it’s all well and good to create fancy containers and an encyclopedia of content, but none of that matters if your audience can’t find or navigate to it!
Create a new menu with your most important pages at the top level.
Step 6: Add copy and graphics to the pages
At last, you are to the point of creating your website where you actually add the information you want to publish to the pages created earlier.
Unless your site focuses on research or longform content, we’re not looking for a dissertation here – remember, brevity is the soul of wit.
Step 7: Install specialty plug-ins
If you need your website to do something it doesn’t do out of the box, you’ll need to install and configure specialty plugins. The sky’s the limit here, but be sure to make regular backups whenever you make a major change to the site software.
Sometimes plugins will create conflicts and crash the whole WordPress installation (meaning your entire domain)… if you can’t restore from a recent backup, you’ll have to call in a pro or start from scratch.
Step 8: Configure your settings
Name your site. Give it a tagline that tells your user what to expect. Allow search engines to index your site. Click through each section in Settings. Read your theme and plugin documentation to make sure you’ve made all the necessary choices.
Step 9: Test everything
DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. If there’s any advice I have to stress to a beginner, it’s that testing is worth your time.
Navigate through every page, click on every link, search for broken content or things that don’t work. Better yet, ask a friend to do the same thing – and try things out BEFORE you launch instead of waiting for after!
By testing thoroughly in advance, you will save yourself an avalanche of customer complaints… or, worse yet, users that give up before you make the sale/tell your story.
Here are a few specific tests I like to run pre-launch to make sure everything is ship-shape:
Step 10: Set up your search listing
Step 11: Launch
THAT’S IT. You’re done. You survived. Now you can tell everyone – share the news (and the link) on social media, and start your marketing campaigns.
Congratulations. Now go have a taco, you earned it!