The reason why so many DIY bloggers take months to get their website live, is that they haven't sat down and planned out what they're going to create. Without a roadmap for creating your site, you'll most likely fall into one of the following categories:
A. You'll wittle away countless hours staring at a blank screen, and end up crying to yourself wondering where your day has gone and why nothing is going right! (Sound familiar?) …
B. You'll look at thousands of other websites in your industry, getting distracted by what everyone else is doing, and getting caught in the trap of thinking you need to incorporate EVERYTHING on your site.
The fact of the matter is this: the more you put off creating your website, the more potential dream clients you lose. So if (even after all that) you want to build and design your site yourself, here's our signature process to take any website from blank canvas to magnificent masterpiece!!
And although we personally LOVE Squarespace websites for our own and our clients’ websites, the steps outlined below can be followed no matter what platform you choose.
1. Plan out your content
When it comes to successfully building a website, it's easy to jump straight into wanting to plaster pretty pictures all over it. But before you rush off to emerge yourself in finding the perfect stock photos, you'll need to take a moment to breathe.
Just like when building a new house, you wouldn't first start with painting the walls (because you don't ACTUALLY have any yet!), building your website is no different. Even if you're the one that's going to be building your site, you need a clearly outlined project plan. This doesn't have to be anything over the top, but you'll need to work out things like how many pages you are after, what functionality you need, what your brand style guide is, the kind of imagery you might be looking at including and of course, the template or layout you wish to build your site on.
2. Gather your content
Once you've put together your sitemap, the framework of your new online home, it's time to get writing!!!
Now if this isn't your first website, and you're just looking for a fresh new look, this might be a bit simpler for you. That being said, a website refresh is a great time to really go through your content and make sure it aligns with your current brand vision.
If this is your first site, you've probably got a little more work to do. Hopefully you've already mapped out some ideas of what pages you'll need; things like an about page, your services and some blog posts to capture the attention of your first few readers!
If writing doesn't feel like your forte, perhaps consider hiring a copywriter, especially for the all-important About page.
Having your content ready to go, in a word doc or on your Evernote account will help you stay focused and organised when it comes to putting everything together.
3. Build your pages/navigation
Here's where your site starts to come to life, with the help of your main navigation pages. Most of the time, these will be pages such as 'Home', 'About', 'Contact', 'Blog', 'Shop' and, of course, your 'Services' page (because we need people to know how to work with you!)
Start by setting up your navigation pages, as this will be the key to getting you to launch a little quicker. You can always come back and add extra pages, or sub-pages off these main navigation items at a later stage. We want to focus on the necessities that will get you up and running.
4. Setup your styles (colours & fonts)
Now comes the lick of paint! Again, just like you would head to the hardware store, or work with an interior designer to select the right combination of colours for your house, your new online home needs to be just as thought through.
It's important to ensure that your fonts and colours are not only cohesive throughout your site, but they tie in naturally with your brand. For this reason, whether you've gone through a formal branding process or not, you should carefully map out your fonts and colours using a brand style guide.
Squarespace provides multiple options of headers and fonts, which once you customise them will be utilised throughout your site wherever that particular style is designated. Of course, if you want to get a little more creative, and add some emphatic flair, you'll need to play around with Squarespace's Custom CSS features.
5. Design your home page
The homepage, is the all-important welcome mat of your website. Even though some of your website traffic mightn't come through your front-door, chances are at some stage they will see it. Therefore, we want to make this page as inviting as possible.
There are two trends that we suggest you try and avoid, when designing your website's homepage.
a. creating a homepage that is too mysterious, and doesn't show your website visitor what it's like on the inside
b. bombarding your website visitor with so much information, pop-ups and sign ups that they're not quite sure what you want them to do!
There's one simple principle every new homepage we create is governed by:
Give your website visitor a taste-test of what you have to offer, then let them choose the meal they'd like to experience.
If you're not sure where to start, ask yourself this question:
"What do I want my new website visitor to know about me and DO when they first experience my website?"
The answer will help guide you as to what information to put first on your homepage, and then keep asking yourself this until you are happy with the amount of content on your homepage.
6. Add your social icons
This might seem a little premature, because by now you're probably busting to get some content into those pages of yours. But often this step gets left out of many websites. We like to put it a little closer to the top of the list, so it never gets neglected.
You can add your social icons to the bottom of your Squarespace site, in the footer area of each page, or some Squarespace templates have built in
7. Upload your Pages Content
Here's the part where all the hard work of yours (or your copywriters!) pays off! Now it might seem easy to just upload your content straight from your word document into your website, but make sure you're customising pieces of text and setting their heading styles if need be. We'll discuss some ways you can further customise your content down the track - for now we are just focusing on getting it all in there!
8. Add blog posts and/or products
Once you've got the main content in your site, it's time to add some content that will catch the eye of your audience and keep them scrolling through your site for longer.
Whether you're creating a blog post or product descriptions, keep your dream client in mind at all times. Ask yourself what they would be looking for if they were coming to your site, and make sure your blog post content caters to their needs.
If you've already got a library of blogs posts and/or product descriptions, use this as an opportunity to update their titles for SEO purposes and add some Pinterest friendly imagery so that you're maximising your traffic exposure!
Review your categories and tags, to make sure that you are maintaining relevance to the key topics you discuss and utilising the same terminology for each blog post.
9. Custom Styling and Images
Now that you've built and decorated your site, it's time to bring in the furnishings! This is where you can add custom elements to your theme to bring your pages to life.
Head back through your main pages (and blog posts too!) and consider each of the following:
a. Scan-ability: As a general rule, your website visitors will likely scan through the page, and if meaningful information stands out to them, will go back and read the page/article.
b. Photos and graphics: Yep, a picture really can be worth a thousand words. If possible, back up the main points of your content visually, which not only gives visual cues to what the content is about, it will also help it be more memorable to your audience.
c. Emphasis: Spend some time working through your text, drawing out elements to emphasise. You can emphasise text by simply bolding, italicising or underlining. To get even more creative (and attract further attention) try playing with the font size, colour, style and alignment. If it's extremely important, you may wish to even place a horizontal line above and below it.
10. Add contact forms, newsletter sign ups and extra features
We spoke about asking yourself what you want your new website visitor to know and do once they've landed on your site earlier, but once you've let them get to know you a little better (and fall in love with everything you do!) it's time to take the relationship to the next level.
Make it as easy as possible for your website visitor to get in touch if they know that you're the one to help them out! You can do this by adding a specific navigation item that directs them to a contact form, having an 'email me' button in your footer or sharing how to get in touch on your about page.
However, perhaps your website visitor isn't quite ready to commit to working 1:1 with you just yet, but would like to get to know you a little better. Ensure that you have a sign-up form on each of your main pages, and regular opt-in opportunities throughout your blog posts, so that you can continue nurturing that relationship.
Whilst this guide focuses on building your site with Squarespace, it works much the same for any website. Having a clearly mapped out plan of action from the beginning will allow you to stay on track and keep from having an entire day where you seemingly only stare at a blank screen! Too many websites sit for months (sometimes years) before launching out into the world. However, if you follow these simple steps you'll have a website up and running in no time, and can always come back and tweak things (or renovate your site) at any stage. Because not having a website is losing you opportunities to work with your dreamiest clients ever!