So you decided to take the step of creating a new website for your business – replacing an existing one, or coming up with something entirely new. You decide on WordPress after seeing it used on a number of friend’s websites or you may have even used it before at a previous position. So how do you get started?
First off, this isn’t a trick – even though Sharp Guys’ is an Indianapolis web design company, we honestly want to give you some good advice on making a great looking website. Helping you make your new WordPress website look fantastic helps anyone that uses WordPress for web design by showing off its potential. Secondly, we are not selling or pushing any of the products or services we mention here – we simply use them and like them.
Skip the Mockups – Unless You Are Using a Napkin
In the old days ~ 5 years ago, you may have started a new website project by creating mockups for each individual page that go into detail about each and every function. Don’t waste your time. That’s something that is entirely unnecessary to do with a WordPress website because if you pick the right theme for the foundation of your new website, you can easily make design changes at a later time based on feedback from key leadership.
For example, let’s say that you decide initially that you would like a website that utilizes three columns in one row on the homepage that displays your services. In the old days you would have to recode those columns entirely (in HTML) for both a mobile version of the website and a desktop version if you decided later on to change your mind and simply have one row that goes all the way across the screen. Using WordPress, you can simply make that modification in a number of steps that generally take less than a minute. That is, if you are using a nice solid foundation for your WordPress website.
The Foundation (Picking a Good WordPress Theme)
First off, don’t bother starting with a free theme – they are mostly worthless; often unsupported and always made with an effort by the developer to try to get you to buy their ‘premium’ version of the same theme. Premium themes carry a small upfront cost (~$50) but typically have no ongoing charge. This allows for you to have an enormous amount of development already done in advance which has basically been crowdsourced by the tens of thousands of other people who have previously purchased the theme.
On Custom Theme Design (Sidebar)
We are adamantly opposed to small businesses buying an entirely custom designed theme unless they are a company with an incredible niche need when it comes to web design. There’s a number of reasons for this but the number one reason is the same reason you wouldn’t want to buy a custom CRM and would prefer to go with something like Salesforce. Custom websites are typically very expensive and lock you in forever with the developer who created the custom theme. Few web design companies want to deal with an entirely custom coded website once launched that wasn’t properly coded in the first place. WordPress makes 15+ updates per year to their system and can occasionally cause themes to break – there is nothing worse than purchasing a custom theme and having it broken by a new version of WordPress. If that happens, you’ll be waiting around for your custom theme developer (if they are still in business) to create a fix and it will likely come with a pretty decent price tage. That is why utilizing a popular premium theme that is well supported is so crucial – if something breaks due to a WordPress update, a popular premium theme creator has an incentive to fix it for their hundreds of thousands of clients.
A Good Premium Theme
Avada is likely the most well-known premium theme available in the WordPress market for a reason. We use it for many of the websites that we do for our clients. And while many prospective clients initially worry that something that we create for them will not unique enough or be specific to their brand, based on some of the different looking work we have done, this is not the case.
In fact, Avada offers a tremendous number of options when it comes to layout, look and functionality. However, those options come with a cost – a tremendous learning curve when starting a website completely from scratch. There are simply so many options, it is incredibly difficult to learn where to start. That is why it is incredibly valuable that Avada offers some jumping off points in the form of site demos. With a click of a button you can get a layout for a law firm or a fashion boutique or an eCommerce store. They are always adding more and one of the top values here is that these demos allow for you to get a feel for exactly how your site will look with new content.
Don’t Use Garbage Hosting
Let’s be honest, Avada is is bit bloated. It has a million options and if you are running it on a crappy hosting solution, it will feel like it is stuck in molasses. You need to have a good server and good hosting for Avada to truly be a powerful and good theme for your company. That means that using bottom barrel hosting that is $5 per month is not going to cut it. You may have to use premium hosting which may cost a bit more ($15-$30/month). We like it for a number of other reasons as well because what premium hosting offers is daily backups, ongoing support (which may even include 24/7 support depending on the hosting package you select), and it also allows for more security than you may receive on common hosts like GoDaddy, Hostgator, Bluehost, Network Solutions, or a similar company. We recommend either going with Flywheel or WP Engine. Flywheel will even migrate your new website for free. They only work with WordPress websites and we have found their support to be awesome – even after hours. One caveat, handle email addresses so you will have to have them hosted with someone else – we recommend Microsoft Live or Google Apps.
In House Hosting (Don’t Do It!!!)
Why are you trying to run a hosting company when you sell flowers? Yes, I know you have a ‘free’ server just going to waste and which could be used for your website’s hosting needs. Don’t be ridiculous. No matter how good your IT guy is, he is not as good as a premium host’s IT guy/gal at providing a great server for a WordPress website. That’s because the good premium hosts ONLY work with WordPress websites. They know how to optimize WordPress websites for speed, diminish database slowdowns, improve security, and remove plugins that will cause issues. Plus, they cost a whole lot less than the hourly rate you pay your internal/external IT guy to fix problems if your website goes down in the middle of the night. JUST DON’T DO IT!
Dummy Data for the Win
Now that you have a strong foundation for your website including a robust theme and great hosting; it really comes down to making sure that you use a starting off point in the form of a demo data. If you don’t have any content (and even if your team has people on it that will create content), you are going to find that your website project will come to a standstill while you are waiting. That is why dummy data is so incredibly important because it allows for you to get a good feel for what the website will look like when you actually do have your content created. Not only will dummy data include text but also images which will help you figure out you’re your own imagery will fit in (along with the sizes you need for those images).
Time to Make Some Cuts
Now that you have an idea of how it will look, remember that you have the flexibility of making changes based on the feedback of the key team members on your team. However, before you go to your team with the demo website on your test server, it is time to really bear down and realize that you probably don’t need all of the flare that’s part of some of these demo imports. There’s going to be functionality and aesthetics that are just simply unnecessary for your own company in most cases. Maybe the demo you imported has a really fancy video background slider. I can’t think of hardly any company that this would be appropriate for that we work with in the B2B community. So make cuts and make them deep – don’t start with demo data that shows something really cool to your team only to later tell them there was no purpose behind it and you won’t be using it. Your new website should be celebrated throughout your company; not regretted for what it doesn’t include.
Start by paring down which specific slider you would like to use (or decide to use no slider at all since 99%+ of them are never actually clicked on).
Oh No! You Forgot Why You Were Creating This Website in the First Place – $
You should have went into this initial project knowing exactly what business goal you wanted to reach by creating a new website. Oops, we should have mentioned that earlier – better late than never! Having a specific goal in mind when going into any kind of website project will allow for you to hold everything around that goal. When it comes to a website typically there are three main goals depending on the type of business you have.
- You would like to get direct revenue from your website in the form of some kind of e-commerce component.
- You would like to get revenue from your website in the form of lead generation that turns into revenue.
- You would like to drive traffic to your website in order to generate revenue from ad impressions
At some companies you’ll find these goals overlap but it’s important to realize that depending on which of the goals you have for your businesses’ website, you should utilize different features and functionality. For example, maybe you are a company that is trying to actively get people to your website so you can explain your service. Most likely the goal of your website then is to generate leads. That means you’ll need to have contact forms within the website in a number of different places making it very easy for people to get in touch with you via the web. You also want to make sure that your give people the opportunity to easily call you – having a linkable number at the very top of your website is a good way to do this. Finally, remember that your business on the web is open 24 hours a day. When people land on your website, you want to make sure that you give them absolutely every opportunity to engage with your company in some fashion. Provide a newsletter signup, case studies to download, webinar to sign up for, a survey form to fill out, a live chat box, etc. Remember that 74% of B2B purchases say that half (or more) of their buying process is already done before they reach out to you. That means you need to make sure that your website provides enough information so your prospect will be ready to contact you – if you don’t provide this information, your competitor will.
So now that you have taken all of these things into account, you are finally at the design stage where you want to make changes to the website so that it is branded and flows together. So who on your team has the expertise to make sure that everything flows nicely and comes together using your own content and using your own imagery? Hopefully that’s you because you read a lot of information here and if you’re able to pull all of that together and come up with a website that looks outstanding, that’s great. But remember that there is something much more important than making a pretty website – making a website that helps your business grow its revenue by meeting your website project goal.
Other Stuff We Didn’t Write About Here – And Why
- Website integration with SalesForce, MailChimp, QuickBooks, Authorize.net, etc. So many to list – too many to discuss!
- Which plugins to use – too many to list and depends heavily on your needs. Be careful to pick the right ones (make sure they are updated frequently or you put your website at risk of security breaches).
- Which functionality will be difficult to implement – there is a bunch of types of functionality which will be difficult to implement. Only experience will help here.
- How to optimize your WordPress website for search engine optimization (SEO) – there are a million good guides on doing this. Here is one.
- How to integrate Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools with your finished website and why it is so important when creating a revenue generating website. We already wrote about this a few times.
- Reasons not to use WordPress – There are good reasons not to use WordPress. However, they don’t apply to most businesses (needing multiple languages of your website content is the most common reason not to).
- How to migrate your new website and all of the best practices you should use to make sure you don’t have a SEO meltdown. There are a variety of steps that should be taken and this deserves its own content piece.
- How to code in CSS (which you will almost definitely need to do for a new website) – We aren’t good coding instructors.
- Various other things – Various reasons.
If you are curious about any of these topics and need advice, reach out to us. We can point you in the right direction, even if that direction is a free resource. We also design websites and do ongoing data analysis to make sure you are maximizing the revenue you get from your website. Please let us know if we can help.