Small Business Website Planning Guide

Every business needs a website. But building a website can be intimidating.

This guide will give you the roadmap to a successful new site to grow your business.

Websites are essential for any business these days. It’s how people find you online, it’s how an increasing number of people shop and it’s a central place . Simply put, aside from a brick-and-mortar store, a website is the most important piece for any business, including yours.

But if you’ve never done it before or if you’re not technology savvy, it can be a pretty intimidating process. How do you pick a developer that’s not going to abandon you? How do you know if that design is going to work for you? Heck, how do you even know if you need a new website? (Hint: the answer is down below)

This page and guide will layout every step of the process. It will walk you through how a website is built so that you know what you’re getting yourself into. Whether you work with me, another developer or do it yourself, the goal is to give you confidence to build a website that’s going to help your business.

Why You Might Need a Website

So, first things first. We need to figure out if you actually need a new website. In some cases, you probably don’t need a new site. And if you do, thinking through why you actually need one will help you focus in on the purpose and what you need in this new website.

Just starting out

You’ve just started your small business. You may have a physical store or you may not. But either way, you need to get your name and information out onto the internet and a Facebook page just isn’t going to cut it. While you don’t need to go for the fanciest website on the web just yet, it really is important to get a simple website up so people can find you.

Outdated website

You’ve had your business for a while, and you’ve had a website that’s helped you along the way. But now it looks outdated. What was cool when you built it now looks silly compared to today’s modern standards. So much so that it’s driving prospective clients away. You’re going to need a new website to help keep those prospective clients turning into paying customers.

Not Getting the Job Done

Or maybe you have a website built to today’s standards, but it’s just not working. For whatever reason, people aren’t coming to it or they are but they aren’t converting into paying customers. This can be extremely frustrating. But sitting down with a different developer might bring a new set of eyes to the problem and hopefully a solution that brings in more business.

The Road Map to a New Website

Planning and building a new website can seem like a monumental task, especially if this your first time being serious about it. Sometimes the amount of things you need to do can give you a paralyzing fear. So to help alleviate some of the fear, confusion and worry, here’s the basic roadmap to show you the steps to a successful website build. Whether you build your website with me or another developer, this guide will help you through the process of bringing your new website to life.

Planning

Planning

Before you even find a developer or agency to work with, you need to have a plan in place. As the adage attributed to Ben Franklin goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” To that end, you need to ask yourself or your business partners questions about your small business. And you need to answer them honestly. The guide you can download at the bottom gives you specific questions to ask, but they generally follow the line of figuring out where the business is, where you want it to be in the future and figuring out how a website can get you to that place. Once you have that plan in place, the rest of the process becomes much smoother.

Finding a Developer

Finding a Developer

Finding the right developer is the trickiest part of the whole process. Finding the right developer can make life so much easier for you. But find the wrong developer and you’re out a chunk of change, possibly a broken website and a whole lot of frustration. Leaving aside the fact that I’m also a developer, you really need to do a lot of research into prospective developers. See if you can find other people who have worked with them, look at what they have in their portfolio and, if they have a blog, see what kind of expertise they might have. And be sure to ask them questions about their experiences, what they do and if they’ve handled a situation like yours before. Doing your due diligence here will save you a lot of headaches down the road.

Discovery

Discovery

The exact discovery process varies between different agencies and developers, but the basics are fairly universal. This is the point when the developer is trying to figure out what your need is, what you want and how to boil that down into a website. A good developer or agency will ask basically the same questions you asked during the planning stage. This is where having a plan already in place is a big help. That plan will greatly help the developer know exactly what you want and make it much easier to come up with a site that’s going to accomplish your goals.

Design

Design

The design time is the first part of the process that you’ll be hands off for most of the time. At this point, the developer will take what he or she learned in the discovery process and either design it him/herself or pass it off to a designer they’ve worked with to create a web design that solves your problem. At this point, it pays to patient. Designs don’t happen in an instant. And all include time for some back and forth with the developer and designer. The majority of designs aren’t perfect on the first pass. There will be iterations on the design and plenty of time for you to make edits and get it to the way you want it.

Development

Development

Here comes the fun part of the process: building the site and seeing the dream and idea come to life on the screen. Like the design phase, the development phase is a relatively hands off part for you. The developer, if they are good, will develop the website locally on their computer then push it to a staging site of some sort where you’ll be able to look at it. If the developer is a good one, they’ll check in with you often to let you know where they are in the process and let you add critiques and changes to your liking. This part will also take a good bit of time, especially if it’s a complicated, custom website. So again, patience will be key here.

Content

Content

Once you’ve planned out the site and found the right developer, the thing most likely to derail your new website is content. Where is the content coming from? When do you need to get the content to the developer or designer? These are all things that need to be answered relatively early in the process. Designers need at least some content in order to correctly design the pages. And developers definitely need content to make sure they’re building website correctly. So coming together and reaching a decision for everyone makes life so much easier for everyone. How you answer each of those questions about content is up to y’all to decide, but the important part is that y’all agree and those deadlines are met.

Review and Launch

Review and Launch

Once the website has been designed and developed and the content added, it’s time for a final review and then launch. This is your opportunity to look at the site as it will be presented on the internet and make changes so that it looks the way you want it. Make sure all the information is correct. Make sure it looks good on desktop, tablet and mobile devices. And make sure it presents your business in the best possible way. While you can obviously make changes, it’s so much easier to catch them now. And that first impression is everything. Then when you’re ready, have your developer take the site live. And then sit back and enjoy your new site. You’ve earned it!

Support

Support

So now the website is launched. Everyone is happy and relieved. Now what? Well, websites aren’t really static items that you can set and forget. At least the good ones aren’t. Instead, they’re living things. They have components that need to be updated and new content to keep the SEO happy. So the job isn’t quite done when the site is finished and launched. You need to have a plan in place to figure out who’s updating components to the site, who has the hosting and domain information, who’s writing new content to keep things fresh and other items that will keep the site running and fulfilling your goals. Again, you’re going to need to plan for this.

Get More Informed

Still feeling a little overwhelmed by everything to do with a new website? No worries. That’s just natural when you’re about to start a big undertaking. Take some time to read a couple of these blog posts to get more informed about the task of building a new website for your small business and to put your mind at ease.

Man working on a laptop on a wooden desk with a tablet and desktop computer

Determining if your small business need a new website

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Planning for your new small business website

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More questions to ask before build a new website for your small business

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Types of websites and what website works for you

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What to look for in a developer for your small business website

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What to be ready for in the discovery phase

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Where to find a developer for your website

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Download the Planning Guide Today!

Are you ready to take that next step and start to plan your new website for your small business? If so, great! Fill out the form below to receive a free Small Business Website Planning Guide. Whether you select me as your developer or someone else, this guide will help light the path you’ll want to go down so that your new website is successful. So what do you say? Go on and take that next step.