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Outdated website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 But now it looks outdated.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.

Planning for your new small business website

So you’re a small business owner and you need a new site. Maybe you’re just starting out and need something online so people can find you. Or maybe you’ve already got a basic site, business is going good and now you need your site to help you get to the next level.

Creating a new website is a massive task, and it’s very easy to be overwhelmed by it all. But the first, and most helpful, thing you can do is to plan.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

Benjamin Franklin

The first step in planning for a new website for your small business is to ask questions. You need to find out where you are, what your goals are, how a new site can help you and even why do you want a new site.

There are a ton of potential questions you can ask about your business in this stage. So for the sake of time, here are three of the best questions you should be asking of yourself and your business before you begin down the road of a new website.

Figure out where you are

Before you take any major step in your business, you first need to figure out where you stand. Are you just starting out? Have you been around a while and want to expand? Are you an established name in the community or do you need to build that presence?

The answers to these questions are going to guide you in respect to what you should do with a new website. If you’re just starting out, you’re probably going to want to just get a basic website out with the basic info so people can find you. Likewise, if you’ve been around for a while and want to build a presence, maybe you’re going to want to have a bigger website, possibly with a blog to show off your expertise or even an e-commerce section (more on this later).

So before you do anything with a new site, sit down, either by yourself or with your business partners, and find out where your business currently is. Ask yourself pointed and searching questions. And be honest about where the business is. What you find out in this process will set you up for an easier website build process and a more successful website.

Tell the Story of Your Small Business With a Website

Every small business has a story. And every small business needs a website to help tell it. A website allows people to find you online, serves as a home base for any marketing effort and can help you tell the story of your business. So if you’re ready to give your business its first website or are ready to take your site to the next level, let’s get started on making that happen.

Let’s Get Started on Telling Your Story With a Website

Determine what you want to do in the next 2-4 years

Creating a new website for you business isn’t like purchasing a pair of shoes or debating getting that new shirt. Instead, it’s more like purchasing a new car. If you’re going to get an actual return on the investment, you’re going to need to be able to use it for at least two years.

Now, you can add pieces and take parts away from the site, similar to what you might do with the car, but the overall feel and makeup to the site is going to be the same. Otherwise, if you need a drastic change so soon after the first site is built, you’ve wasted money.

So, in order to make sure the site is able to last long enough so you can get a good return on your investment, you need to look at the future. Where do you see your business in two to four years? Will you grow into starting e-commerce in addition your physical store? Will you become an expert in the field and want to show it off in a blog?

You need to think about the future so that your site can serve you in the present and future. You don’t necessarily need all of the components showing, like a blog or an e-commerce store, when the site is first completed, but you do need to make sure there is a plan to add it to the site without needing a completely new one if that’s the direction your heading. The more you plan now for the future, the better off you’ll be when the future becomes the present.

To e-commerce or not to e-commerce

When it comes to small businesses, no matter how big or how small, this is the biggest question. Should you offer an online store for people to buy from as well or just stick to the brick-and-mortar store that you currently have.

On the one hand, you can reach a much wider audience by having an online store. You’re not confined to just the community you’re located it. Instead, people from your region, state, country or even the entire world can purchase your products.

And much more purchasing is being conducted online today too. According to Trellis at the start of 2018, 51 percent of Americans with internet access prefer to shop online and 80 percent of Americans have made an online purchase in the last 30 days. It’s definitely hard to not consider that side of the business.

But at the same time, building an e-commerce store for your business is time consuming. It takes time to properly build, calculate all of the sales taxes, work out a process for shipping, maintaining inventory and making sure the site doesn’t crash when you have a rush of people trying to buy.

And that can take you away from your actual small business and possibly away from the thing you love. I can’t tell you what the right answer for you is on this. You just need to sit down and really figure out what’s right for you.

In conclusion…

Of course, there are many, many more questions you should be asking yourself before you start on a new website for your small business. And perhaps I’ll touch on a few more in the near future as well.

But I hope this list gets you thinking and into that mindset. A new, proper website for your business is not some secondary thought. You need to think it through and do some planning on your own before you even begin to look for a developer.

The more you ask, the more you search and the more you find in this planning stage, the better and smoother the new website process will be.

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.

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

So you’ve decided that your small business needs a new website and you’re ready to take on this challenge. Now you need to find a developer to help create it.

Finding the right developer is the trickiest part of the process. Find the right one and things will run incredibly smooth. But find the wrong one and you’re probably in for a world of headaches and frustration.

Picking the right developer comes down to looking for the right things and asking the right questions. The better and more detailed your search criteria, the better you can narrow down the field to pick the developer that’s going to get the job done right.

So, here are somethings you should look for when trying to find the right developer for the job.

What is the developer’s portfolio like?

So obviously the first thing you do when you’re looking at a developer is to find their portfolio. If you can’t find one, then that’s a pretty big red flag for you right off the bat.

Even if the person hasn’t worked with a client before, they should at least show off sample projects that they’ve done. For example, before I really got working at Faith Growth, my web development portfolio consisted of WordPress plugins and themes I created for the respective directories. That at least showed I had competence in development and could complete a job.

Then when you find the portfolio, look over the websites they’ve done. If there’s a link to them, go to them and play around on the site. Are the websites functional? Do they do what you expect them to?

If the developer mentions that they’ve designed it, how does the design look? Does it feel like a modern website? Could you envision your website looking like this?

If you like what the developer’s portfolio has to offer, maybe it’s time to take a deeper look at if they’re the right one for you.

Tell the Story of Your Small Business With a Website

Every small business has a story. And every small business needs a website to help tell it. A website allows people to find you online, serves as a home base for any marketing effort and can help you tell the story of your business. So if you’re ready to give your business its first website or are ready to take your site to the next level, let’s get started on making that happen.

Let’s Get Started on Telling Your Story With a Website

Does the developer have experience working with someone similar to you?

If you like what you see from the developer’s portfolio, it’s time to dig in deeper to their experience. Now you’re looking to see if they have experience working with a client that’s similar to what you do.

You need to look again through the portfolio and see what clients they’ve been working with in the past. See what those clients do and compare it with what you do. You don’t really need to see if they’ve worked a person or business that does exactly what you do, but it helps to see if they’ve done something similar.

For example, if you’re a simple small business, have they worked with small businesses before? If you run an e-commerce store, have they worked with other e-commerce businesses? That familiarity might be a huge benefit in the long run.

Also, if they don’t have that experience with a person or business that’s similar to you, it’s not necessarily a deal breaker. It might be handy if you’re looking to break a tie, so to speak. But I wouldn’t completely rule someone out if they were missing that piece of the puzzle.

How do y’all get along?

Finally, if you really think this developer is the right one, it’s time to figure out if y’all are a good fit for each other. This part requires talking to them one-on-one and discussing what y’all do and seeing if this is something y’all want to work on together.

A lot of developers will have a consultation meeting as part of their process when bringing in new clients. I know I offer a free one-hour consultation for people looking for a new website for their small business. This call is an opportunity for me to ask questions about what you do, for you to learn about what I do and to see if we’re a fit for each other.

Essentially, it’s a two-way interview. You’re interviewing the developer to see if they’re someone you want to hire. And they’re interviewing you to see if you’re a client they want to bring onboard.

Then, once you feel comfortable with the developer, it’s time to hire them and start the process of designing and developing that new website.

Of course, you might want to have more steps to this process and more questions to ask potential developers. But hopefully this makes the process much easier and puts your mind at ease about it. 

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.

What to be ready for in the discovery phase

So if you’re in the market for a new website and have selected a developer to work with, the next phase in the process is the discovery phase.

From your point of view, this is probably the most important part of the process. Here, you’re telling the developer what you want and how you want this website to help your business. Get it right and you’ll be good to go. Get it wrong and it can take a while to get back on the right path.

It can be a bit of an anxious time. It’s going to involve a lot of meetings to make sure everyone’s on the same page. So to help put your mind at ease, here’s what you can be ready for with the discovery phase.

What is discovery in the website process?

So before we get too far along, let’s define what “discovery” actually is in the website building process. To put it simply, discovery is when the developer is learning about you, your business, your goals and what you want in the new website. Essentially, the developer is trying to learn everything they can about you so they can build a website that works for you.

Now, some developers might use a different word for this phase. It all kind of varies between developers. But just know that this is really the definition this beginning phase of the whole process.

As to when does the discovery process take place, that also varies between developers. I know for me, the discovery process technically begins during the free consultation and runs until the design stage begins. During that entire time, I’m learning about your business and what you’re trying to learn. Again, the specifics will likely change from developer to developer.

Tell the Story of Your Small Business With a Website

Every small business has a story. And every small business needs a website to help tell it. A website allows people to find you online, serves as a home base for any marketing effort and can help you tell the story of your business. So if you’re ready to give your business its first website or are ready to take your site to the next level, let’s get started on making that happen.

Let’s Get Started on Telling Your Story With a Website

Know what you want

So this is where planning ahead is really going to make this process much easier. This process is all about finding out what you really want for this website. So knowing that, or at least have a good idea of what you want, streamlines this process.

What do you need to know? Well, you need to know where your business currently is. You need to know what your goals are for the business in the near and far future. And you probably need to figure out where a new website fits in to how you get from A to B.

Now, even if you come completely prepared during the discovery process, the developer might bring up something you might not have thought of. That’s okay. In fact, that’s great. Sometimes when we’re so close to something, it’s hard to see everything. If that happens, you’ve probably found the right developer for you.

But the biggest thing is to come prepared to every meeting in the discovery process.

Be open minded about the solution

Finally, it’s important that you remain open minded through out this entire process. If you’ve done your homework and come prepared, you probably already have a solution in mind that you want. That’s great. But be prepared to change.

Sometimes the developer and designer will come up with something you didn’t think about before. Or maybe they’ll tell you something’s just not possible (this happens more than you think). Your solution is going to change. And that’s perfectly fine.

You just have to be open and accepting that things are going to change. This doesn’t mean go along with everything single change, but instead consider and think about the suggestions. And figure out if they would improve the website and help you reach your goal. If they do, go with it. If not, don’t.

So, if you’re starting the process of creating a new website and are worried about the first part of the process, I hope this puts your mind at easy. Just come prepared whenever you talk to the developer and be open about what you want.

You’ll find that it will make the process easier and the end result more successful.

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.

What to look for in a design for a new website

So you’ve just received the new design for your website. You talked with the developer, went through the discovery process, came up with a plan and now the website has a design.

How do you make sure it’s the right look? How do you know that it’s going to help your business bring in more clients and customers?

Well, a website design can be a complicated thing. It’s not just one thing that needs to be right in order for it to work. It’s a set of factors. And the biggest problem is that it, like the rest of the website, needs to last for the foreseeable future.

So no matter if you’re using a prebuilt theme or completely custom website, here are the top items you should be looking at when you receive the design for your website.

How does the content fit into the design?

The first thing you should check the design for is how the content fits into it. The most important part of any website isn’t how it looks, but what it has on it. You can have the most beautiful looking website on the web, but if the content isn’t what it should be, or is hard to read on said design, it won’t matter.

So you definitely want to see how the content fits on the page. Is all of the text readable? If there’s text over images, is there some sort of way to make sure that text is always readable? Or do will you have to do something with the images?

On the subject of images, if there are large images, do you have the ability to take and upload large images? Are the images in clear areas and do they add to the website and not take away.

All of these elements of the content are extremely important. And they should be your top priority when checking a design for your website.

Tell the Story of Your Small Business With a Website

Every small business has a story. And every small business needs a website to help tell it. A website allows people to find you online, serves as a home base for any marketing effort and can help you tell the story of your business. So if you’re ready to give your business its first website or are ready to take your site to the next level, let’s get started on making that happen.

Let’s Get Started on Telling Your Story With a Website

Is the design functional?

Next on the priority list is to make sure the design is actually functional. Again, the design can look absolutely amazing, but if I can’t get from one page to the next quickly and seamlessly, it’s a piece of junk.

The biggest thing here is to look at the menu and make sure it’s visible and easy to use. Would you, as a user, be able to navigate that menu if you had no prior knowledge to the website? Is it intuitive? Or does it look frustrating?

Also, are other links highlighted in a way that invites someone to click? Is the direction of each page in one direction and easy followable for a user? And are form elements easy to understand and fill out?

These elements have to be satisfied for your website to work. So make sure they are correct before you give the okay for development.

Does the design look current day?

Finally, we can get to the actual look of the design. Now that we’ve checked the content and the functionality, our focus turns to how the website actually looks on the screen.

Now how elegant the design should look depends on how much you paid, so we’ll think in more overall terms here. Does it look clean and up-to-date? Is it welcoming for potential clients or customers? Does it look like what you paid for?

Also, is your logo somewhere on each page? Do the colors used match the branding for your business? Do the fonts used match your branding? On this one, note that the fonts likely won’t match your branding based on readability on a screen, but are they similar?

Basically, at this stage, is the design what you want your website to look like for the foreseeable future? If it is, then let’s get moving on to the development stage. If not, it’s back to the proverbial drawing board.

So I hope these items help you figure out if the design you’ve received from the designer for your website. This is an important decision, and like any important decision, you need carefully consider all of the aspects of it.

So sit down with the design, review it for these items and make the best decision you can.

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.

Self-developing a website vs. hiring a developer

To hire a web developer or create it yourself. That is the question a lot of people have when it comes to building a new website.

One the one hand, web developers (mostly) know what they are doing and can create a high quality website. But on the other hand, doing it yourself looks so enticing with all the tools advertised. Plus it keeps the total cost down (or so it seems).

So which one is the right answer? Well. the answer is kind of complicated. There’s no one real right answer. Only what works for your business and your situation.

So let’s look at hiring a developer for your website versus doing it yourself.

What do you know/don’t know?

So the first thing you need to figure out what you do and don’t know about web development. Don’t think that’s important before you dive headfirst into creating your own website? Well, if you had absolutely no idea how to cook a turkey, nobody’s putting you in charge of that job for Thanksgiving.

Likewise, if you have no idea where to start with web development, web design and technology in general, then it’s really a good idea to bring in someone who know’s what they are doing. It’s going to make life so much easier for you.

Now, if you are familiar with technology and working on a computer and you know some design basics, then maybe it’s worth taking a look at. There are still other factors that we’ll talk about below, but if you feel comfortable with design, Wix, Squarespace and WordPress can help you overcome the other challenges to just get a website out there.

What are you trying to do with this website?

The next factor is what are you trying to do with this website? Is this just a starter website to get your name out there for search engines to index and people to find? Or are you trying to add in functionality, like a blog or an e-commerce section.

If it’s the former, then self-development isn’t a bad option for this scenario. It’s really hard to mess up a simple one or two page website if you have even just a little bit of a design background. Heck, even if you don’t, you should be fine here.

But if you’re trying to add in that extra functionality, then it becomes more of a challenge and bringing in someone seems like a better idea. When you add to the project, the more things that can go wrong grow exponentially. Especially if you’re wanting to sell products online.

I find that the safest route here is to find someone who specializes in what you’re wanting to do and bring them in to build the website. That way you’re not stressed about possibly messing something up and the site gets done quicker.

Tell the Story of Your Small Business With a Website

Every small business has a story. And every small business needs a website to help tell it. A website allows people to find you online, serves as a home base for any marketing effort and can help you tell the story of your business. So if you’re ready to give your business its first website or are ready to take your site to the next level, let’s get started on making that happen.

Let’s Get Started on Telling Your Story With a Website

What can you commit to a website?

Next, you need to figure out how much you are able to commit to a new website. Websites, again, are an investment, and can be a pretty expensive one at that. So it’s worth figuring out how much you can afford for a new site.

If you have an extremely shoestring budget (and we’re talking around $100 or less), then yeah, you probably want to do create the website yourself. You’re not really going to be able to afford a quality developer at that price, and it’s better for you to just do it yourself.

But if your budget is bigger than that and you’re really wanting to have a quality website, then it’s worth it to hire on a developer to build it. When you can commit more to a website, you’re going to be able to find and hire quality developers who are going to get the job done right. And that’s worth every penny that you spend.

Would the website be built more efficiently by a developer?

Finally, you need to figure out if the website will be build more efficiently by you or a developer. Websites are time consuming projects. They take a really long time to build, especially if you want more functionality and it to be done well.

You could still create the website yourself, but you need to think about that time aspect. Any time you spend working on the website is time you’re not working for your business, greeting people, filling orders, talking to prospective customers, etc. It’s harder to see the monetary cost in that, but it’s still a cost like hiring a developer.

But if you hire a developer, then the website gets built in the background. They spend their time creating it while you can spend your time doing the things you do best, running and growing your business.

If you’re just creating that small one or two page website on a shoestring budget, then building it yourself actually shouldn’t take too long. But if it’s any bigger than that, it’s worth bringing in someone to help you with it so you can manage your time much better.

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Now, it comes down to the decision. I can’t make the decision to develop the website yourself or bring someone in for you. You have to make that decision. You need to sit down and go through these items to see what works for you.

There aren’t any inherent wrong decisions you can make. Only decisions that work or don’t work for your situation. So make the decision that works for you.

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.

The dilemma of content for a new website

What do you call a awesomely designed website with no content. Anything but a website.

The fact of the matter is that the most important part of any website is the content. But the thing most likely to derail a website project this side of money is no content.

A web designer might be able to create a nice-looking design and a developer create that site with dummy content, but it definitely cannot launch without any content about your business.

So here’s how to make sure you don’t get caught in the content dilemma.

Don’t forget about the content

When you’re planning and laying out a new website, it is very easy to overlook all of the content that’s going to be needed for it. After all, you’re probably thinking about that cool design or fancy animation (spoiler alert: you don’t really need fancy animations on your site).

But that is really all secondary to the content. In fact, I’ll argue that the content comes first. You need to think about the text on your website at all times. This is what your potential customers or clients are going to be looking for. Yes, it helps if it’s presented in a nice manner, but the substance of your text has to be there.

I’d argue that this needs to be a central part of your planning stage. You should be thinking and planning through the text before you even contact a developer. You probably don’t need the exact content while you’re still planning, but you need to be thinking about it.

Let’s Tell Your Story

Every person and business has a story. Why did you start the business? How have you helped customers succeed? What have you done in the community? You have a lot of options for how to tell the stories of your business from copywriting to other text stories to photos and videos. Let’s find the best way to create content for your website to tell your business’ story.

Let’s Create Content for Your Business

Discuss it during discovery

Once you’ve found a developer and are in that discovery stage, make sure you bring it up. Actually, if your developer brings it up before you do, you’ve found a good one.

You need to discuss this with your developer before any actual work starts on the website. It’s a massive plus for a designer to be able to design with the exact content that you’ll have on your site. And developers really like to develop the site with the correct text.

This way, the content stays on the top of everyone’s mind during the project. Everyone knows what it is and how it fits with the website. After all, it is the most important part of the website.

Make sure everyone knows where the content is coming from and is on time

And finally, before you leave the discovery and planning stages, make sure you and the developer know and agree to where the content is coming from and when it should be in the hands of the developer. This is going to save you from so many problems down the road.

Most developers don’t really care where it’s coming from — whether it’s something you wrote or if you bring in a copywriter for it. I know for me, as someone who is also a writer, I offer copywriting services, though that obviously adds to the price of the project.

But where the content is coming from is not quite as important as everyone knowing where it’s coming from and that it will be delivered by an agreed-upon date. There is nothing more frustrating as a developer than having to sit on a project and wait until it’s delivered. But planning that out and getting it in on time makes everything run so smooth.

So when you’re planning out your website, make sure you don’t forget about the content. It’s just as important, if not more important, to the website as the design.

And if you don’t think about it before the designing stage begins, it’s going to be a massive pain later on.

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!

What to check for when looking over the website

Alright, so your site is almost ready to go. You love the design, it’s been developed and the content is in.

Everything’s set to go, right?

Well, not quite. Before the website goes live and you make that final payment to the developer, you need to go over the site one last time to make sure everything is correct and how you want it to be.

But what should you be looking for? So glad you asked. Here are my biggest items that you should look for before the site goes live.

Is everything readable?

I feel like this should be obvious, but you first need to make sure visitors can, you know, read the content on your website.

Check to make sure the text is readable and isn’t going outside of the bound. Text and it’s background . Also check to see if you can navigate to pages that a user might need to get to.

I’d also recommend making sure that the web accessible, or is usable by those with disabilities. Chances are your small business isn’t required , like say a state school, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 20 percent of American have a disability, and they still want to access website, albeit in different ways. Ignoring them is a pretty significant business risk. Your site ought to be usable by all.

Also on this point, make sure all of the information is correct. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, make sure the address and times are right. Check to see if your phone and email is correct. And also make sure that there’s no dummy text left over on the site.

It’s the simple things that tend to get overlooked before the site goes live.

Tell the Story of Your Small Business With a Website

Every small business has a story. And every small business needs a website to help tell it. A website allows people to find you online, serves as a home base for any marketing effort and can help you tell the story of your business. So if you’re ready to give your business its first website or are ready to take your site to the next level, let’s get started on making that happen.

Let’s Get Started on Telling Your Story With a Website

Are the colors correct?

Next, check to see that all of the colors on the website are correct. Again, it’s something small, but it is pretty important.

Color is essential to your branding as a small business. It helps people quickly identify your business. So why wouldn’t your website have the same colors as the rest of your business.

So go through the website and make sure that all of the colors are correct. I know that stuff like this should be worked out in the design stage, but flukey things can happen. Checking one last time won’t take too long and will keep your website on-brand.

How does it look on mobile?

Finally, you need to check the mobile version of your site. According to Statista, roughly 49.7 percent of webpage visits were via a mobile phone. So to ignore how your website looks on a phone is to ignore a potentially large user base at your own peril.

Of course, if you’ve selected a reputable developer, they should have made sure the website is responsive. But sometimes things get missed. And an iPhone might render something completely different from an Android phone. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen.

So take out your phone and look through the website and make sure everything is visible and working on it as well.

So before you allow the site to go live and make the final payment, run through these items. Make sure the website is to your liking. Go over it with a fine eye. If something doesn’t look quite right to you, ask about it and see if the developer can fix it.

Everything will be much better if you do.

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.

What happens after the website goes live?

So you’ve launched your new website for your small business. Now what do you do?

Well, I hope you have a post-launch plan in place for the new site. You see, websites aren’t just static things (unless you have a completely static site). Instead, they are living things that need to be tended to. You’ll have things that need to be updated, things will break and you’ll want to change things.

So here’s what you need to think about for after the site is launched before it goes live.

Who’s running the updates?

Unless you have a completely static website, which is a rarity these days, you’re going to need to run updates to your website constantly. With WordPress, it feels as though there are daily updates for plugins, themes and WordPress core itself. And I know the same can be said for any other content management system out there.

So, the question is who will be running the updates? Will it be yourself or someone inside the business? Will it be the developer? Or will it be someone else?

There are no real wrong answers here. The only wrong answer you can make is to say no one. You have to run updates. Staying up to date keeps your website secure, since a lot of updates have security fixes, and makes sure you have the latest features for whatever you have on your site.

So make sure you have that figured out.

What happens when something goes wrong?

Also, things are bound to go wrong at some point. An update will mess something up on the site. Someone will accidentally make a wrong move and mess up the website. And there’s always the threat of your site being hacked.

So what will happen when things go south on the site? Again, this is where you need to have a plan in place.

You need to figure out who’s going to go in and fix everything. Just like you have a disaster/evacuation plan at your physical business, have a disaster plan in place for when something goes wrong with the website. Again, the exact answer you come up with doesn’t matter; it’s whatever will work for you. But you need to have an answer no matter what.

Let’s Keep Your Story Online

Creating a new website can be a challenge. But keep it up and running efficiently can be a challenge. You have to make sure things are updated and running smoothly because if your site is down, no one can find or read your story. But I can help make sure that’s never a problem for your business.

Let’s Come Up With A Plan to Maintain Your Site

Making small changes to the website

Finally, you’re probably going to want to make smaller changes to the site after it’s been launched. You might not think that now, but trust me it’s going to happen. I’ve done it already for a number of clients.

And that’s perfectly fine. I’m okay with making small tweaks. Heck, I do it to my own website as well. But like everything else, you need to figure out how this is going to work out beforehand. Will you stay in contact with the developer and ask them to make changes if need be? Or will someone on your staff learn some CSS and PHP to make those changes?

Once again, there isn’t really a wrong answer as any option will serve you pretty well. Just know that you need to have an answer for it.

Sorting this out before the website goes live

So, how do avoid all of these thing becoming major issues after your website is launched? The answer is to think this through and plan before the site sees the live internet.

When you’re talking to the developer, talk about the post-launch stuff. See if they offer a support plan. Or if they don’t, go over how things will be handed off and see if they have anyone they recommend to help in that phase. Or just talk about the code with the website if you’re going to take care of things yourself.

Then based off of that information, make a plan for your website after it’s launched. Write it down and make sure everyone knows what the plan is. That way it’s one less bit of stress when things get tight before launch.

I know I offer support website maintenance support that takes care of each of these items plus web hosting. If you want, you can learn more about it on the web maintenance page.

But do make sure you have a plan for after your website is launched. It will make life so much easier down the road for you and your business.

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

People working on a wood table with laptop, tablet devices and a desktop computer

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

iMac showing the homepage for StudioPress

The value of using a pre-built theme for your website

A person sketching on a notebook and looking at a tablet device

Types of websites and what website works for you

man typing on a laptop to blog

How to blog correctly for your small business

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.