Ok – so now you’ve got your business set up, and you’re ready to let the world know about it. You know you need a website, but, really, what does a good website look like? And panic sets in . . . a website – OMG! What should it include? How many pages? What’s a plugin? And content . . . what am I supposed to write on all those pages?
Whether you DIY or hire someone to help you, if you’re a Startup, you really just need a basic site to begin. You do need content, of course, but let’s just step back a minute and think.
Your website is the front door to your online business. If you’re walking down Main Street passing many brick and mortar stores, what makes you stop and take notice of one place more than another? What makes you walk on by? After you’re inside, what makes you stay and poke around? Or immediately turn and walk out?
Obviously, first impressions are essential. With a physical store, you can generally take a minute or so to decide whether you’ll go in – you look in the window, study the décor, take note of the colors and style. Once inside, maybe you’ll take a few more minutes to figure out what they’re offering and whether to stay. With your website, you only have seconds! There’s so much information floating around in the Internet sky, and attention spans are SHORT! Your visitors’ time is limited, and they’re not going to waste that time after the first glance if you’re not offering something they want in an attractive package in an easy-to-read format.
Writing your content is sometimes a HUGE stumbling block – sometimes a road block! You write and rewrite a hundred times, and it still doesn’t send the message you want. It’s especially difficult to get the original content just right for your first version. (Yes, you will change and update it many more times after your site is published!)
When you have writer’s block, and you want to pull out your hair, sometimes it helps to start backward and think about these things first:
Think about the overall “feel” you want to portray. This is part of your brand. Who’s your target audience? How will you market those services? How will you reach your ideal client?
What are some questions your customer may have? Don’t wait for them to ask – put it right out there for them.
How will you communicate with this new (potential) customer? What’s their preference? Email? Social Media? Blog posts? You’ll need to stay engaged with them, so they remember you and want to come back. Give them a reason to return.
What do you want them to do when they reach your site? Should they click a link to sign up for a free offer? Do you want them to read a great article you wrote? Guide them!
For the majority of Startups, here’s a checklist to help you tie it together – the layout, the content, the navigation. It’s all you’ll need to get online and tell the world who you are and what you do.
(1) Your website must be professional and attractive with information that immediately tells your visitor who you are and what your business is all about. This is generally your Home page.
You’ll probably need at least four more pages:
Services/Product: This is a description of what you’re offering.
About: Tell them who you are, what you do, why you do it, and how you can help them.
Contact: How can they get in touch with you or ask questions?
Blog: These are articles you’ve written about your business, your industry, how you act and interact with clients and customers, helpful tips, etc. This page can also include articles written by guests, infographics, links to outside publications – snippets of information that will interest your ideal client.
(2) You’ll need some buttons to click for simple navigation. These Call-to-Action buttons allow easy access to additional information. You need to make it EFFORTLESS for your readers: your CTA must lead them by the hand. And, once you figure out who’s visiting your site, you’ll know what they should do once they get there.
(3) Your website must look great on any device, so it needs to be “responsive.” This means that it will be just as attractive and readable on a cell phone or tablet as it is on your laptop.
(4) There are different opinions about using sidebars on your site. If you chose to use one, its purpose is to provide additional navigation for your readers. It lists your most recent blog posts with a link directly to those posts, and it should automatically update as you add your posts.
That’s the general layout of a basic site. Once it’s built, you should plan on some periodic maintenance:
Keep your site updated and backed up. My favorite backup tool is ManageWP https://managewp.com/. With this tool, you can manage multiple sites and/or multiple updates, plugins and themes.
Make periodic checks for broken links. I like Broken Link Checker http://brokenlinkcheck.com/ for this task.
If you’re using WordPress, be sure you have the latest version and keep it updated.
The same is true for your theme and any plugins you’ve installed. (Before you update, though, be certain to back up your entire site. What a shame it would be to lose all your hard work!)
There are a handful of plugins you’ll need to let your site function at its best. Click to see my favorites for getting started.
Start out with a basic site. You don’t need all the bells and whistles right now, and adding a lot of extras is an additional expense that may make your site look too cluttered. It’s just something more to overwhelm you.
When you’re planning your site and its content, keep your ideal client in the front of your mind. Don’t try to please everyone.
Design your layout so it’s clear to your readers exactly what they’re supposed to do and where they’re expected to go. Make the navigation easy and logical.
Clear, short messages are best. Be direct and concise. Don’t make your visitors guess. Don’t make them think.
Focus on the benefits of purchasing your product or service and make it easy for your visitors to do that.
Engage with your readers. Give them encouragement and a reason to return to make a purchase!
We’re happy to answer questions and guide you down this Startup path (without all the geek-speak). Let us know how we can help in the comments below.