At one point or another, I think just about every small business owner who’s found themselves a bit strapped for resources has asked themselves: “can I build my own business website? Even just something basic to prove that my business exists?”
I’ll freely admit that I’m biased when I tell you that, well, I don’t exactly recommend it. Web design is my literal job, after all. And yet, I also understand that it may feel like your only option–especially when your business is young and you’re not raking in piles of cash yet.
So, I won’t tell you No, but I will say that there are important things to keep in mind if you attempt it, and they may not be what you expect.
Get organized before you build.
Nearly 20 years of designing websites has taught me that trying to create a website without knowing what kind of content you’re working with is very difficult. You need to know what content will be on your website before you can even think about the design.
When you build your own website, you know going in that it’s a design task, but it’s also an exercise in organizing! You need to choose what to say to get (and keep) your audience’s attention, and where to say it.
The thing is, you can’t organize something if there’s nothing there to organize! Moreover, you don’t want your website to be disorganized, either.
Taking the time to map out what content needs to be on your website will save you a lot of time, and it’ll keep all of the important details on your website from looking clunky or feeling like an afterthought.
Know what you want to say.
I know what you’re thinking: writing website content takes SO MUCH time. This is time that, as a small business owner, you rarely have.
Before you talk yourself out of it, though, take it from me: good content is too important to gloss over or skip out on, if you want your website to be useful!
Getting a clear idea of what your website needs to say is a great starting point to getting organized. If you’re not sure where to begin, think about your differentiators–you know, those unique-to-you aspects that marketers love to point out.
You want to be sure the messaging on your website clearly communicates what you love to do, and who you love to do it for, while letting your authentic voice shine through. Content that’s clear, concise, and authentic will make sure that folks get what they want from your website, and that they actually take the next step towards working with you.
Know what images fit your business.
Words are important when it comes to planning your website, but when you’re trying to communicate a lot with a limited number of words, the right image can convey things that might not fit into your copy.
That’s also not to mention the fact that web design is more dependent on images than ever. Current web design trends show websites full of high-quality photos or bold, modern, and fun graphics and illustrations. So, if you do build your own business website, take the time to gather images that really speak to what you do.
Before you plop a stock photo into your new website, remember: images are another opportunity to stand out and differentiate yourself! Choose unique images, or even do a quick photoshoot, if you have the resources.
Know what your customers need to accomplish.
Speaking of taking the next step, what does your audience need to do to get started with you? “Send me a message” may seem like the simplest answer, but it’s often not very satisfying for you, or for your potential client. They’re left hanging out in limbo waiting for your answer, and you’re left with another email to reply to–and said email may not even be a request to work with you.
On a basic level, your current and potential customers need to determine if you’re able to help them with their problem. And, once they’ve done that, they’ll want a concrete next step.
So, think about this: is there a way for you to make that Get Started step feel more satisfying? Consider adding a few pre-screening questions to your inquiry form, or allowing potential clients to book a short consultation.
And, most importantly, make sure they know how to GET THERE. Your inquiry page isn’t going to be useful if no one can find it! Some folks will need a virtual signpost to get where they need to go, so put it out there clearly and visibly. And don’t be afraid to put more than one signpost up along the way.
It’s no small feat to build your own business website, but taking the time to plan and create strong web content will make it more effective, even if it isn’t pixel-perfect.
If you need some extra support to make it happen, try our self-paced program that guides you through planning your website journey and creating your content.