One of the wonderful things about websites is that they’re not set in stone—they can change and evolve as your business grows or changes direction too.
But as you begin to design a new website, there are a few important things to do before building your site that can really improve both the site’s quality and how efficiently you can create it. (In other words, doing these things first can save you a lot of time!)
Here are five things we recommend all business owners (or freelancers, bloggers, entrepreneurs, etc.) do before starting to build your website:
Know your purpose
Why do you need a website? What actionable objectives are you hoping to achieve with it?
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(s) of your particular website.
Here are some possible goals, of which your site may have several:
Promote your brand
Grow your email list
Grow your client base
Connect with partners
Choose your platform & template
While it’s possible to transfer your site and domain to another platform, it can be quite time-consuming to do so. It’s best to do your research and start your site on the platform you envision staying with for the foreseeable future.
If you’re interested, here’s why we think Squarespace is the best website platform for most small businesses, bloggers, freelancers & entrepreneurs (and why we design with it exclusively ourselves).
Another key task before starting to design your website is to research your template/theme options and choose the one that best supports your needs. Though Squarespace makes it possible (and relatively easy) to switch between templates after you’ve started to design, there are some elements that can get lost in translation when switching, so starting with a template you’re confident in is helpful.
Things to look for:
Navigation layout options (for example, do you want a button in your navigation bar?)
Page layout (do you want banner images? a sidebar? index pages?)
Site styling options (what you’re able to customize easily within the template)
Ensure mobile responsive design
One of the most important elements in web design currently is mobile responsive design—as more and more users access your website on mobile devices, you want to ensure their user experience is just as pleasant as it is for those accessing your site on desktop.
One of the reasons we recommend Squarespace as a web-hosting platform is that all of their templates are set up with mobile responsive design, and their editing interface allows you to see/test how your design will appear on mobile.
(It’s still important to research your different template options, as described above, because different templates display differently on mobile).
Check your name
Before you commit to your website/business name, you’ll want to check that it’s available across several key places:
Domain: Is the domain name available? Are there other active websites with a similar domain that might be confusing?
Legal entities: If you plan on incorporating your business as an LLC (either now or somewhere down the road), you’ll want to be sure your business name is not already taken (and that it’s not too close to an existing name in your state). The process for checking incorporated business names varies by state.
Social names: You’ll also want to check that any social platforms you plan to use have a handle available for you—ideally, the name of your website or blog, but it could be anything else that makes reasonable sense.
Do your branding homework
Your site needs a brand! The process of designing your site will be much simpler and more efficient if you start with clear brand guidelines: What’s your color palette? Font scheme? Image aesthetic?
While it’s helpful to actually create a brand style guide for your business, it’s also understandable that if you’re just starting out, your brand style may still be evolving and not entirely clarified yet.
To streamline the design of your website, here are some basic branding questions that are helpful to answer:
What are my core fonts? (The happy number is usually two—one serif, one sans serif.)
What are my core colors? How will these be used throughout my site (links, buttons, etc.)?
What are the main feelings people should experience when visiting my site? How can I use color, font, imagery and layout to enhance this message?
What type of imagery will I be using to convey my message?
Ready to get started?
After doing the pre-website preparation mentioned above, here are a few helpful next steps:
And, get the checklist we use to launch new Squarespace websites:
We’ll also send occasional emails with helpful tips on web design, blogging & entrepreneurship.(Woohoo!)