Here it is folks – the truth.
Building a website from scratch, even with great tools, is hard work.
But taking a little bit of time to understand what you are up against can go along way towards gettin r dun, faster.
I’d love to help you with that journey – since I feel like there were a lot of sites that helped me with mine and payback is fair turnaround.
The following are a few key steps that helped me see that “bigger picture” when I was getting started.
Step 1:Recognize the importance of the User Experience (UX) and Design a Flow Strategy
Good User Experience is critical to your website and business’s success. Some will argue that it is everything. Good UX doesn’t need to be flashy, or even visually beautiful. But one thing it should be, is easy to consume. It should make life simpler for the user, and not harder.
“UI is the saddle, the stirrups, & the reins. UX is the feeling you get being able to ride the horse.”— Dain Miller, Web Developer
No one wants to struggle with cognitive overload when trying to navigate through a website. It shouldn’t take a lesson on how to use the site to know where to go to find what you want.
If you study the masters of design such as Apple or Tesla, you will recognize that things should function effortlessly and intuitively. Great design, makes you feel good. It may seem obvious but it can never be reinforced too much – you want people to feel good, not bad.
Your site should be fun to visit, and never be a burden to understand, otherwise people will leave.
Most of us are not drawing a mental map of how we go from page to page or return to certain places. In fact, the better a website’s design, the less you would pay attention to any of that – it just works and feels seamless.
But for all that you don’t notice, someone (or a whole team) took a LOT of time making those connections easy for you and you should do the same for your users as well, to ensure a good experience.
Map your site pages out.
Some sites these days are creating a one-page website with the User Experience in mind because it is easier to navigate on just one page. If your site isn’t using a one-page format, get a piece of paper and map out each page type and how it will connect to the main page(s). How do users go back and forth? How will you prevent users from getting stuck at a dead-end page (look up breadcrumbs if you are unfamiliar with the term).
Make sure that the entire journey makes sense, and that any given page is only a few clicks away from returning to a main area. If someone landed on a page they don’t know how to get out of chances are they will just close the window.
Step 2: Start at the End
Visualize what your end should look like and sketch it out as much as you can with placeholders (you don’t have to be a fantastic artist for this). While you will probably run into technical limitations here and there which may prevent your site from having all the items you want to include, you will have a great foundation to begin with. Think of this step as blueprints for your house, you would want those before they started to build, right?
An important technical component in planning for how you want your site to look is to understand the layout types as this will be impacted by the theme you choose if you are building your site on WordPress. I learned this the hard way after installing a theme and building some elements on my site and realized the theme was only a 1 column layout, so I couldn’t have a left or right sidebar which was a requirement for what I wanted to do. There are plenty of articles about layouts which I would suggest you read as a starting point, like this one here.
Start exploring websites you like and examine how these were designed. You can find which WordPress theme a site uses by using this checker. To achieve any goal, it’s really important to first identify what that goal looks like. If your end stage changes along the way into something better, great! Be flexible with yourself!
Step 3: Pick Your Tools
You might have a finite amount of time to work with and a limited budget to work with. You also need to consider resources and what impact any specific tool (like a WordPress plugin) will do to the speed of your site and admin dashboard. This means you have to choose your website building tools very carefully and be selective.
I made the mistake when I set up my first website of installing all the “recommended” plugins from a YouTube video, and all of a sudden my site and WordPress dashboard slowed to a crawl. Also, it takes time to learn each new tool, so if you really don’t need it, you wasted precious time configuring and learning it, as well as server resources.
The internet provides ENDLESS resources to use when building a website and whittling it down to which ones are actually useful and worthwhile to invest time and potentially money on is not easy. Luckily, there are tons of great blogs and sites dedicated to helping you figure out exactly which things you should use and for what.
As a matter of fact, we are one of those too. Check out our page on Everything Your Website Needs to Work to see how it all comes together and get our recommendations on tools.
The tricky part is, it’s all subjective. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for all, so you will have to feel your way through some of that and determine the right tools for you.
Be aware that some sites are only recommending items because they are getting paid to do so, so do your research on your own as well. Check reviews and trust scores to make sure you’re not being sold something based on commission alone.
Don’t try to boil the ocean and download/learn everything right off the bat.
I suggest making a list of tools you may want to explore or install or test out – some will be free, some paid.
Then, as you are building your site and run into the need for certain things, go back to your list and see if you had something that will meet the bill for that need. At that point determine if you want to or need to pay for it or learn it, depending on what IT is.
I have a huge list of things I want to come back to, but haven’t had the time to yet. I continually add to and remove things from my list either because I am now using them or have found something better.
Make a tool timeline/budget to see what items you need now and which ones you can wait on, how much they will cost (one-time fee or recurring?) and put a date or milestone around when you think you may need it.
Step 4: Lists Baby – Get Organized
Make lists, people! Make lists of what you need to do now, what you don’t need to do right away, and set long and short-term goals.
I know that it works, but I’m not perfect either. This is one area I have to constantly remind and force myself to get better at. Since there are a million steps in setting up a website and you don’t know all of them until you are finished, it is hard to have the foresight to know what you still need to do at the start.
Here again, I recommend watching and reading tutorials and based on what other people who have done it say write things down. Every time I hear a term I don’t know I write it down and will study it later down the road.
There is something about the way our brain processes things that are written down that just works better than us trying to remember it. A whole book was written and dedicated to pretty much this point alone, but if you write things down, you no longer worry about them because you know it’s accounted for in your task list.
There is so much that needs to happen with a website that if you aren’t keeping a checklist with important milestones you will certainly regret it when you have forgotten to complete a critical piece.
Step 5: Learn, learn, learn – watch YouTube.com and read online tutorials
I remember a time when trying to find places where you could learn things online was tricky. That’s certainly not the case anymore. You could spend months watching tutorials and still only scrape the surface of what is possible. Learn HOW to learn as in, find great articles and resources that you best connect with and don’t waste your time with things that aren’t useful.
Be careful of signing up or paying for something you can learn for free, there are a lot of people targeting those new to website building and you will be bombarded with the “get rich quick” scammers.
That being said, there is something to be said for quality information and it’s definitely worth the money if you’re gaining knowledge that can’t be found elsewhere.
What I do know is the get rich quick is often a misnomer – anyone can get rich, but I guarantee it will take many, many, hours, weeks, months, and maybe years of very hard work to get there. My advice if you are new to the website or affiliate world is start with free tutorials and go from there.
Step 6: Decide what you can do yourself and which services will be worth paying for
Time is our most precious commodity. While I believe anyone is capable of doing anything, if it will save you a lot of time consider paying for things that you won’t be able to or don’t want to do yourself.
Upwork and Fiverr are two places where you can contract out anything related to building, optimizing, or maintaining a website. They have freelancers who can write articles, do your graphic designing, optimize your site for speed and SEO, or build your entire website if you wish. They also contract administrative work, so you can have your own virtual secretary maintain your email/support, etc.
If you have a full-time job and can’t keep up with some of these smaller but more tedious tasks this is a great option to look into.
Step 7: Set milestones
Be realistic with some goals and set these for yourself (i.e., learn how to create a button by next week), and also for your website (i.e., get 20 page views a day within 2 months).
Treat this like a business and force yourself to reach targets. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to think of this as a hobby. It could very well turn into a full-time gig if you commit to this as you would a 9-5 job.
If you really want to build a website there is no better time than now to start. Dive in and don’t wait for the perfect scenario before you stretch your website building muscles. Like anything else, it is a climb and it starts with the first step – so get organized, decide what you want to do and DO IT!
Remember, there is a whole community out there to help you when you get stuck, and you will, but just keep going. We know you can do it and we are rooting for you!
For more information including recommendations, visit our Website Building page.