[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css_animation=”fadeIn”]Congratulations on getting started on your new website! This article covers the basic points of how to be best prepared for creating your site.  It also includes some great information for you to consider for after your site is built.  Have fun!

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DESIGN

WebPrep-Design

Here are some basic ideas around design to keep in mind…

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]Less Is More…

When it comes to a web site, which is both a way to share your passion and a way to expand your business, clarity becomes very important.  The easier you make it for visitors to your site to get around and find what they need, the more likely they are to keep reading and surfing, listening to your songs, downloading your ebooks, and signing up for your Platinum Package. From a design perspective, the simpler the design, then often, the clearer the message and the overall aesthetic effect.  90% of the time, in my experience, a design looks better once you’ve taken something away. All of this said, there’s another very important “rule”…

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It’s All About The Details

Yes, Less Is More, but that shouldn’t stop your attention to detail.  In fact, the simpler and cleaner the overall design, the more important those little details become.  They add depth to what might otherwise seem flat and boring.  They’re the cayenne, the garlic, the salt and pepper.  When applied with a deft hand, you can cook up a pretty scrumptious website.

 

So, what other ingredients go into a great site?

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Images:  Beauty and Meaning

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]Great images make great websites I always say. Not only can they add depth, color, and interest to your site, but they can be excellent at communicating a message.  In a dream situation, you’d have a collection of beautiful photos taken by a professional, but there are a bunch of great stock photo websites out there as well. Here are a few….[dt_gap height=”20″ /]

shutterstock.com
dreamstime.com

veer.com
istockphoto.com     (pricier, but they have some amazing images)[dt_gap height=”20″ /]

Many of these sites allow you the ability to create lightboxes, so be sure to create yourself an account and create a lightbox for your project, and start bookmarking images that you like.  Then you can share your lightbox with your web designer.  They should be able to tell you what size image you will need, but in case you are a do-it-yourself-er…

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Hi-res, baby

WebPrep-HiRes

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]Most of the time you will want to have hi-resolution images to work with, especially if you plan to use an image in a logo. These will cost a bit more, but it’s worth it to make sure your pictures are crisp and clean.  “Vector” files are the highest quality with the ability to expand to any size.  The most ideal resolution is 300dpi (dots or pixels per inch).  If you are only planning to use an image on your web page, however, the most ideal size is typically the size just under the 300dpi size.  Web images are always 72dpi, but you should make sure to get them at the size (width and height) you are going to need them.  For example, the width of your average laptop screen is anywhere from 1000 to 1500 pixels, therefore if you want your image to fill your screen, it should probably be at least 1500 pixels wide.

Sometimes you might want to choose your images based upon a certain message you are trying to communicate, but at the least, you should always like how they feel. A great guide in making design decisions is that you quite simply love what you are seeing. The images should grab you, but without being too heavy handed.  Remember:  Less is More (but it’s about the details!). Another great site for gathering your ideas and images is Pinterest, a kind of pin-up board on the web. Check it out.  Creating and sharing a personal board of images that speak to you is a great way to communicate what you like to your web designer. Of course, there’s always Google images, but take into account that you might be stealing someone’s copyrighted image (or at the least be using an image someone doesn’t want you to use). It can still be great for finding images that represent a style you might be going for, even if you don’t plan to actually use them (you can add images you find on the web onto your Pinterest board for example). If you do plan to use something you’ve found on the web, besides being aware of the law and being respectful, make sure, again, that you are getting the highest resolution photos you can.

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COLOR

WebPrep-color

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]Color creates a feeling, and the use of a good color palette goes a long way towards making your site “feel good”. Pay attention to the colors you see on websites you visit, and take note of any trends in your particular market. For example, corporate colors are often either clean white or some kind of blue or gray, while artistic sites might be quite colorful indeed.  Color is actually one of the main reasons why good images make great websites. There happen to be some great sites out there for finding or creating your own color palettes.[dt_gap height=”20″ /]

Kuler
Colrd
ColorHunter

And, again, Pinterest is also a great place to gather color inspirations.[dt_gap height=”20″ /]

INSPIRATION

WebPrep-inspiration

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]It’s good to know what party you are going to so you know how to dress. Are you looking for fun or classy? Conservative or modern? Take a look at other sites in your field first of all, then look at whatever other sites there are out there. Pay attention to how sites are laid out in addition to the colors, imagery, font choices, and other bells and whistles. To zero in on “your” design, it’s great to know what you like AND what you don’t like. A great way to see what’s out there in your field is to simply start Googling for keywords that people might use to search for what you offer. The first 10 results you get are your competitors, and you can learn a lot about your field by taking a look at their websites. Still need a little more inspiration? After you’ve taken a look at the competition, simply try Googling “cool websites” and browse through what you find. Believe me, you will see a lot of very cool websites. Here are a few great collections I came across…[dt_gap height=”20″ /]

Design Awards Gallery
40 Cool Website Designs

45 Beautiful WordPress Designs

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FONTS

WebPrep-Fonts

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]Web fonts have come a long way. Not long ago, there were only a handful of fonts that could be considered “web safe” (which was kind of a nightmare for designers). Google Fonts pretty much changed all of that. Now you can choose just about any kind of font for any part of your website and can count on the fact that most people will indeed be seeing that font. In addition to the many great fonts available on Google, there are some excellent free font sites out there where you might be able to find something more unusual. Dafont.com is one of my favorites.  Their fonts aren’t actually “web safe”, but they can still be used in logos and images.  Between Google and Dafont, I’ve always found what I need. You can go to either site to test how their fonts might look with custom text that you can enter.  Yet another option for fonts, though a paid service, is MyFonts.com, which offers use of up to 22,000 fonts for $10 a month.[dt_gap height=”20″ /]

Google Fonts
Dafont.com
MyFonts.com

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]It’s a good idea to spend a little time taking a look at different fonts for your site and more specifically your logo (if you don’t already have a logo). A good font can greatly aid the overall feel and professionalism of your site and brand.  By finding fonts (and images) you like in advance, you can save time and cost by presenting your designer with elements they can use rather than having them go hunting on their own.

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CONTENT

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]Your site might look great, but does it have substance?  As the saying goes, “Content is King”, because in the end, that’s why people have come to your site.  They are there to hear what you’re offering, so it’s your job to make sure that not only can they can find it easily, but that they will be enticed enough to work with you or purchase your product.  Here’s what you will need…

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]Sitemap:  Time To Get Organized

WebPrep-sitemap [dt_gap height=”20″ /]A sitemap is the basic “table of contents” for your site.  It shows the main pages of your site, and subpages as well if you plan to have them.  These are basically the links that you see at the top of a website – the navigation – the menu.  I’ve sometimes heard them called “Tabs”.  It’s essentially an outline for the presentation that is your website. Anyway, in getting started on your content, this is the first thing you have to figure out.  Your typical top navigation/sitemap might go something like…

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About        Services        Events        Store        Blog        Contact    

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and perhaps you’ll have some subpages under About, like “Our Company     Our Founder    Our Team”

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]Copy

Now that you know the pages you want to have on your site, it’s time to write the text that’s going to be on those pages.  I won’t kid you, this is probably one of the most challenging things about building a website, because it takes time and consideration. Good copy gets to the point.  Again, Less Is More can serve as a good rule of thumb.  And, again, It’s All About The Details comes into play as well.  If I didn’t throw a spicy meatball into this text somewhere you probably wouldn’t have read this far.

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]More Images

Again, great images make great websites.  Peppering your content with quality images adds flavor and continuity.

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]Testimonials

Word of Mouth advertising is still one of the number one ways to market yourself, so you should be collecting good testimonials and press whenever you can.  It’s possible to put these quotes into revolving slideshows on your site somewhere, to list them all on a long page, to scatter them individually throughout the site, or all of the above.

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]Freebies

You can’t get something for nothing.  It’s a good idea to think of what you can give away to entice visitors to your site to sign your mailing list, so that you can continue to market to them and eventually turn them into customers.  Whether it’s a free e-book, song download, meditation mp3, or info article, definitely start thinking about how you can offer value that will attract leads.

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]Products

One of the best things about the web is that it enables you to sell products 24/7, even while you sleep.  To truly take the most advantage of what a website can do for you, it’s worth considering whether or not there are products you could sell that would increase the value of what you and your site offer.  Perhaps you could sell other people’s books.  Maybe you could create your own new products.  The point is, this is a chance for you to create passive income by expanding how you share your gifts with the world.  Not every website should necessarily sell products, but it’s definitely not a bad thing to think about.

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MARKETING

To get the most out of your website and bring the most business in through the door, you must have some kind of marketing strategy.  This could be as simple as the occasional post to your Facebook page or as aggressive as a full fledged ad campaign.  Marketing isn’t really rocket science; it’s about consistency.  Quite simply, the more you put yourself out there, the more people are going to know about you, and the more possible future business you will generate.  With the internet, this has become incredibly easy for anyone who knows the basics of getting around on the web and how to utilize some of the following tools.

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]Know Your Market

Firstly, you want to have some kind of idea of what the competition looks like.  This is valuable from both a design and functionality viewpoint, but it is also very valuable from a marketing standpoint.  Who is coming out on top in your Google hunt for keywords in your industry?  It may be that the top returns are actually websites that aren’t very attractive but that obviously have some kind of marketing strategy that’s working for them.  Your ideal:  a site that looks great, feels great, and PERFORMS.  One of the main things that businesses are focused on to get these kinds of results is…

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is an entire art of it’s own, and there’s multiple levels you can take it to that can either cost nothing or thousands of dollars a month.  At the least, there are certain basics you should address in the building of your site to best prepare your site for going live on the web.  I will be releasing a more detailed article about SEO in the near future, but for now, since it is a pretty broad topic, here are some resources to learn all you’ll need to know…[dt_gap height=”20″ /]

A Great Quick Breakdown On SEO on Wikipedia
The Free Beginner’s Guide to SEO
SEO 101

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]Mailing Lists

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]This is practically Rule #1 in building a marketing campaign.  By gathering leads, you are compiling a list of people who want (or who will someday want or know someone who wants) what you have to offer.  To get people to join your list though, you are going to have to do something a little beyond just asking them for their email.  You have to offer them something truly enticing in return.  This refers back to the Freebies section above.  Offer people something for free as incentive to get them to sign onto your mailing list. Also, choose a mailing list service to manage your mailing lists.  It is possible to find services that are free for your first 500 or sometimes more leads, then prices usually range from $10-$30 per month for 1000-3000 subscribers, depending on the service you choose.  My favorite is MailChimp.  I’ve found it to be the most intuitive, the right price, you can create multiple lists, import and export subscribers, and choose from a library of email templates or customize your own.  Other popular services are…

Constant Contact – their system, in my opinion, from the perspective of building the site, is less than ideal in how easily customizable it is, and it’s a little more expensive than MailChimp, but it does seem to have a decent email template system and list management.

Aweber – well touted by more corporate and techy users, Aweber isn’t as popular but seems to offer good quality and management at a competitive price.

The mailing list service market is actually constantly changing, and new mailing list services are being born all the time that offer all you need for a better price, so feel free to shop around and let me know if you find something worth mentioning here.

Once you have a mailing list, you have to start using it.  One of the first things you can do is a monthly newsletter in which you can update your past and possible future customers about your business and also take the opportunity to entice them in with some kind of free offering.  Your list can also be used to send out messages on an as-needed basis, for a workshop or class that’s coming up, for example.  If you are a regular blogger, updating your subscribers whenever you have a new post will maintain a steady relationship with them and will increase your chances of turning leads into sales.

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]Social Media

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]In addition to having a continuing email campaign (because email ain’t going anywhere), you should absolutely be tapping in to what social media can do to spread word of your business.  Especially Facebook (for now – because Facebook might just go the way of MySpace someday).  The more you are getting your stuff out there, the more business you are going to get.  This is another area I’ll be writing a future article on, but here are some great resources for learning how to leverage social media to better bring your offerings to the world.[dt_gap height=”20″ /]

The Social Media Marketing Blog
30 Tips for Using Social Media in Your Business

Facebook For Business

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