Getting ready for a new website: what to do in advance
Whether you’re hiring someone to design your new website or you’re going to do it yourself, you need to get organised before the work on the new site starts. This post sets out the things that I’d suggest you have ready or think about before the start date - it will make life much easier when the website is being put together and should also speed up the process.
1. Get your head around it
By this I mean be prepared to put some time and work into your new site. You need to be able to set aside some time to give attention to the other steps below - even if you have a web designer to work on the actual site they will only do so much because the big decisions are yours to make for your own website and business.
2. Your website name and domain
If you already have a website and are giving it a refresh, this probably won’t apply. But if your website is brand new, you need to make sure you have decided on a name for the business and website. This will lead on to you choosing and buying a domain name. I usually recommend Go Daddy for domain names because the interface is easy to use, especially if you need to make any advanced changes to your domain later on. It also connects up very easily with Squarespace (and other platforms no doubt).
If you’re wondering whether to have a .co.uk or .com domain, part of the decision depends on where your target audience is based. If your clients and customers are generally in the UK, then I would say a .co.uk domain is best, making it obvious that you are also a UK based business. You can buy .com as well - to protect your business name by holding both domains but also in case you expand globally later on!
Whether it is a brand new website or you are giving your business an up to date look, you need to think about your branding. Your logo and brand colours will be central to the website and it can’t be finished off without it. If you are going to pay a designer to design your branding, make sure you factor in how long that work will take and how booked up they are.
4. Overall look and feel
This is connected to branding but it’s very important to be clear in your mind about the overall look and feel you’d like for your website. I suggest to my clients that they set up a Pinterest board to share with me so that I can get a good idea of what they like and the look they are wanting to achieve. If you haven’t thought about this yet, it’s a definite step to take some time over.
5. Website images
If you already have a library of beautiful images ready to go, then you can skip over most of this section! But if not, you need to think about your images - will they be taken by you? Will you organise a photoshoot with a photographer? Or are you planning to buy stock images or find free ones? Again, make sure that you allow plenty of time for this stage, especially if you’d like to get a photographer to take your images.
Once you have your images, you need to think about how you’d like to use them on your website and on which pages. With Squarespace, for example, you can use images in a variety of ways including full width banners, galleries, carousels and grids.
6. Website copy
This is the part which many people find most difficult because it’s a question of sitting down and committing to coming up with the text for your website. And so many people get worried when they have to write about themselves and their businesses. My advice is simply to go for it - just get typing (or writing on paper if you prefer) and get a first draft down. When you read back through it, it won’t be as bad as you’re imagining! You’ll be pleasantly surprised in fact I expect. And write as you talk - don’t adopt an unnecessarily formal tone, for example, if that’s not you or isn’t appropriate for your website.
If you’re designing your own website, I would advise that you don’t type your text direct into Squarespace or whichever platform you’re using. Partly because if it crashes, it’ll be gone but also because it is much easier to type into Apple Pages or equivalent, and then copy and paste the text into your website when it’s ready. You don’t need to do any formatting when typing out the text - you’ll do that in Squarespace by applying the text styles that you set up.
7. Payment gateways
If you are going to be selling products on your website (with customers checking out on your site) then it is a good idea to set up accounts with the payment providers in advance. There can sometimes be a few hoops to jump through when setting up these accounts so it can take a couple of days to get your account live. Paypal is an obvious choice and I also use Stripe for credit card payments including Apple Pay (with Squarespace these are the only two options available). You can set up a business account on Paypal here and Stripe here. Be aware of the percentage fees taken by each of them - there is not much between Paypal and Stripe (I think Paypal take slightly more in fees) and also how long it takes for the money to reach your account. With Paypal it is there in your Paypal account instantly whereas with Stripe it takes a few days to be transferred to your bank account.
8. Launch date
For many people there isn’t a firm date by which their website must be launched. But if you do have a deadline in mind, either an absolute one or ‘in an ideal world the site will be launched by X’, make sure you think about whether all of the steps above, and then the actual design and build of the website, are achievable in that timeframe. And do communicate that date to your web designer if you have one! There is no point in putting unnecessary pressure on yourself if you are setting unrealistic deadlines, particularly if you’re relying on other people’s input, such as a brand designer, as part of the process.
To finish with the most obvious point of this post, the key thing is to get prepared! Don’t let the start date for the work on your website arrive without giving some thought to these points or you’ll be chasing your tail!