The truth about web design that most web developers don’t want you to know

The plain truth: Building a website is actually not that hard to do, even if you don’t know how to code.

That’s why we’ve put together this 11 step guide to building your own website like the pros do. I’ll run though the main aspects of how to setup your new website so you’ll be online and growing your audience in no time –  and I’ll detail all the main website builders according to what your needs and budget are.

So, perhaps you’re running a small business and just starting out, or maybe you’re a professional blogger, and need a new website that looks great and doesn’t break the bank. You’ve got quotes in from a few web designers and some are cheap, some a really expensive, but most are hundreds if not even thousands more than you can afford or are able to put into your business.

Well the thing is many web designers won’t tell you is that building a great looking simple website these days is not rocket science.  It is safe to say that web design has undergone a revolution since the invention of Wix and Squarespace. And while many web designers cringe at the very mention of these apps the truth is for many people they fit the bill. Infact, as a web designer myself, I recommend these two options to people who are on a very limited budget and need to get up and running quickly, which is why I made this guide!

But hang on, why would you recommend using Wix or Squarespace when you design websites? Well for me it is the clients that I have helped get onto the web using Wix and Squarespace that come back to me later for a website when their business has grown or they need more functionality. Simple as that.

OK, lets cover a few simple concepts before we begin:

What is a domain?

This is effectively the name of your website ie. www.yourwebsite.com

What is hosting?

This is where your website is stored on the internet. Your website is just essentially just a program that is stored on a computer remotely.

What is a website builder?

It is essentially a web service that enables you to build your own website online at a very reasonable price.


1 – Domain Name

So, where do you start? Well the first thing you should always own is your name which is why I recommend purchasing your domain name separately through Google Domains – for a couple of reasons:

  1. Google domain names resolve DNS faster – that means a faster website.
  2. If you are planning on using Gsuite for your email (which you should) it will be all integrated nicely.
  3. Free whois privacy protection (which Godaddy charges for) – which means no spammy emails in your inbox selling you Viagra.
  4. If you purchase your domain name through your hosting provider, if ever move away from your host you wont have to wait to transfer the domain over.

Tips: Don’t make your domain name too long, don’t use hypens, give it a name that is easy to say, and cover other domain extensions. For instance purchase www.yourwebsite.com and www.yourwebsite.com.au (if you’e in Australia for instance) so some punk doesn’t buy the other domain and ruin your business.

For more domain name pro tips, check out this guide from Fits Small Business.


2 – Email

Setup your email. Yes keep your email separate from hosting and your website builder.

For this I recommend Google’s Gsuite, for a number of reasons:

  1. Gsuite integrates with hundreds of apps – that’s a BIG Deal. It means if you want to later link to CRM’s and a myriad of other services, it’s super easy.
  2. Spam filtering is awesome.
  3. It’s fast.
  4. Good support linked to your domain provider. If you’re with Google domains, then linking up to Gsuite is a piece of cake!

3 – Website Builder

There are few players in the website builder space. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages. We’ve rounded up the four best choices for each need from a range of services currently on the market. Like most things there is not a one size fits all, rather, what’s best for your needs.

  1. Choose Wix if:

You want a quick and easy solution particularly if you’re a small business and need a bit of room for customization. There’s a large range of templates to choose from and there are a range apps you can plugin. The only downside is that websites aren’t renown for being fast.

  1. Choose Squarespace if:

You need a stylish website design that can be customized and you’re not afraid to dive in a tweak things a little or need a wider range of design options. Less templates to choose from, but they look great. Only a limited number of pluggable additional modules available.

  1. Choose Shopify if:

You need a full ecommerce solution with POS and inventory management and an easy to use website builder. With all the focus on E-commerce is great, we just wish there was more scope for other functionality included on the platform.

  1. Choose Weebly if:

You are a bit of a technophobe and want something super easy to use and don’t need to customize things, just plug and play. Simple. It’s also great if you plan doing a bit of marketing using the platform. It also loads fast which is great. Only downside is there not so much room for customization.


4 – Images

Prepare your images!

This is perhaps the number one thing that differentiates professionally built websites from the DIY’ers. We recommend Adobe Photoshop ( 12 USD / month) to edit your images and while there is a bit of learning curve, it pays dividends later with more professional looking images that are sized correctly.

The main issue we see however is the use of low resolution images. They simply look nasty. Make sure you follow the guidelines for each website builder to upload the correct images size. We’d recommend a minimum of 3000x3000px as most of the builders resize them to smaller resolutions anyway. Here’s a great little tutorial on how to resize your images for the web using Photoshop.

If you don’t have large images for your website, don’t be tempted to leave them out or use low resolution ones. Use stock photos (sparingly) when needed. Sites like Big Stock Photo and Shutterstock have loads of images you can use for a fee. Alternatively, if you’re on a tight budget, try Pexels.

And don’t forget you’ll need graphics and a logo – that’s where Canva comes in. Design your logo and graphics just like the pros. And one of our favourite services: Freepik which great for finding vector graphics for your website. Its worth it’s weight in gold.

Finally, title your images – yes every one! And make sure the name of the image matches what’s in it – it’s great for SEO.


5 – Website Copy

Prepare your copy!

This is crucial if you want to have a great website. Nothing says DIY website more than bad webpage copy that reads like a boring “about us” page detailing Sharon from marketing’s passion for horses.

To produce great webpage copy you not only need to write copy that engages your users and drives them through your site, but you need to use ensure that you use keywords related to your product or service that Google will identify. This is called Keyword research and here’s a great article to get you started and this article by Ahrefs will help you use them in your content.

Of course the best way to find keywords is by using Google keyword planner or KWfinder, which are both great tools to help you identify keyword opportunities. Once you have identified your keywords you need to use them throughout your copy, naturally!

Our final tip is to check out Copyblogger and Wordstream for details how to produce copy that persuades. If you can nail down some good copy, you’ll be a long way towards a professional website.


6 – Search Appearance

They are what show up in google when you search for your website. You know the snippets in the search results.

You need to write your titles and metas – yep for each page.

And nothing says DIY more than bad Titles and Metas. While Google does autogenerate them, if you leave them for Google to autogenerate, you may end up with text that is cut halfway through a sentence and randomly chosen text that doesn’t match the main message of your page.

Each website builder has it’s own way of entering them, so be sure you follow the guidelines. But for help on what to write check out this article from marketing guru Neil Patel.


7 – Backlinks

Start building backlinks to your new website so you can climb the ranks in Google search results! This is the secret sauce of Google. You need to build a solid profile of backlinks from reputable websites, ideally from your niche. And the bigger the better. Each website has what’s called a “domain authority”. It’s what google uses determines the value of the links. Basically the higher the domain authority, the more the link is worth. That means a link from the Guardian.com to your website might be worth 1000 links similar to Jimspanners.com. But I wouldn’t advise reaching out the Guardian for a link to your website. Chances of them linking to you (unless you were newsworthy) is about a probable as KFC serving chicken chow mein for breakfast.

So you need links, but how do you get them? Well there are a range of techniques which could fill up an entire post, so here’s the awesome definitive guide to get you started.


8 – Social Media

Get active on social media and promote your business! It will be great for your SEO and it will help you build your audience. Here’s a great guide from Quicksprout to show you the ropes.

It’s helpful to be active on a couple of social channels, but try to focus on one as your primary channel. Usually there is one that most of your audience is using already, so make that’s the one your most active on also. Just don’t be a salesman or push your brand as you’ll instantly loose people’s trust. Be a useful member of the community you’re trying to engage first and then the questions (and leads will come flowing later). Remember, you’re there to help your potential customers solve their problems and build trust, not push sales.


9 – Google Analytics

You should enable Google Analytics for your website builder platform. All the major Website platforms will have an option for this. Just follow the instructions.

Getting familiar with Google Analytics is important as you need to measure how people are interacting with your site. It will help you make informed decisions about what is working on your site and what is not (without guessing) by monitoring pages.

I’ve included the definitive guide to Google Analytics so you can swot up and get the most out of the platform. It could save you from making costly mistakes and can help inform your marketing ideas. Data is king!


10 – Start a blog

Create a blog like this one.

Yes, it sounds cliched, but it’s great for SEO as people will link to your content, and you’ll build trust, and brand recognition with your customers. That’s vital. Check out Hubspot’s article which covers everything you need to know about blogging for your business.

And for a detailed breakdown of what to cover in small business blog post, check out my other article on how to write a blog post for small business to get other ideas.


11 – Review

Keep improving. This is another key point that many DIY’ers miss. You need to continually improve your website and review it to see where you could improve. Not doing this could actually cost you money, because if you just set and forget your website, a year or two down the track, you’ll be paying a developer to breath new life into it. Check out a great free tool we use: Woorank which helps identify areas you could improve your website.

But if your website is in need of some attention, we do have support and maintenance plans available to help you get website back on track. It’s never too late!

Don’t forget about your website like a baby in the corner. It needs to be fed and nourished. Remember, The more you put into it, the more it will give back in the form of leads and sales!


In Closing

So as you can see there are a lot of moving parts to a successful website, much more than most of us imagine. And it doesn’t stop there, we haven’t even touched on things like technical SEO, user experience, email marketing, Google my business, or Pay Per click advertising including Google Ads and Facebook. There is just too much to cover in one blog post. But now you have a great starting point for your site.

That said, if you want to get more in depth with SEO, check out my other post on how to boost your SEO without a developer to cover most of the bases the developers do without the cost. It’s easy. Seriously!

What is worth mentioning is that we believe PPC is best left to the professionals. Honestly, we’ve heard too many stories of people spending a lot of money with little or no return because they didn’t apply the right strategies. But if you do fancy having crack at Google Ads or Facebook Advertising, be careful how much you spend – and stick to a budget!

Our final recommendation is to have patience and be committed. Many of the websites you know and use everyday have been around for years. It just simply takes time to establish a presence on the web so don’t get all beat up if you’re not on page one of Google a week after launch and there aren’t thousands of visitors using your website instantly (you’d be surprised how many people think that as soon as they launch, the masses will arrive).

Remember: Every website started with one visitor.

Of course if you would like help implementing any part of what we’ve mentioned, or if you have any questions, or simply want to say hi, please reach out to us at stephen@switchedonwebdesign.com, we’d be more than happy to offer our advice because we love helping small businesses grow!

Good luck!

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How to increase leads on your website

We see a lot of websites that could be performing better, and you'd be surprised the simple things any website owner can do to improve the number of leads they get each day. We get it. Most people are too focussed on their business and don't have time to spend focussing on their website, but it it is crucial to business success. You need to make sure your site is working for you. Download our free guide now to discover 5 easy ways your site can generate more leads.

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