Welcome to The Digital Brew, a podcast about making your business more awesome online.
Your hosts are Angela (a copywriter) and Stew (a web designer). Pour yourself a cuppa and let’s get started with today’s episode…
In this episode, we talk about designing your website.
This should be useful for you if you’re planning to design your website for the first time, or planning to redesign and upgrade your existing website.
Whether you plan to DIY, outsource parts, hire a designer, or you’re not sure, this will hopefully help you figure out what you need to do next.
First thing’s first: refer to brand guidelines before you start anything – check out episode 5 where we walk through our own brand guidelines document. This will cover things like:
- Objectives – What do you plan to achieve with your business and website?
- Audience – Who are you trying to appeal to and what problems do you want to solve?
For example, a Chiropractor would be appealing to a broad range of people: families, people with labour intensive careers, retired people. They’d need information about opening times, pricing, and the type of chiropractic work they do. Customer success stories, videos on their processes, and things like that would all be helpful.
- Identity (brand archetype) – What type of brand are you? Look at similar business brand archetypes. You can get a feel of how similar brands share their personality through their website, logo, colour choices, typography, imagery, and copy.
- Look – Colours, typography, textures, photos, and logo.
Okay, so let’s talk about options and pathways for creating and updating your logo and website, plus different software options you can use.
So when it comes to your logo, you can DIY, do low-cost outsourcing, or hire a graphic/logo designer.
Pros of the DIY approach are that it’s cheap and can be fast if you know what you want. The cons are that what you want may not be correct (as in – if you’re not a professional designer, you likely won’t have an eye for what will get you results), poor quality, you may not have the right software, and you may set the wrong brand feel and tone from the beginning. Of course, there are online tools that can help generate simple text or icon based logos – and it might be okay for you if you’re just in startup phase. But it won’t be particularly unique or tailored. Sometimes this is all you need to get your feet off the ground so if your budget is $0, go for it! And upgrade when it makes sense for your budget and brand.
You can outsource your logo design for a fairly low price via platforms like Fiverr, 99designs, and Upwork. Pricing can fluctuate – so can quality – but sometimes you can walk away with a good product for a reasonable price. In fact, we’ve used this approach with our previous marketing brand and we got a pretty decent result for a good price.
Finally, you can hire a professional graphic designer or specialist logo designer (either a freelancer or agency). The obvious con is price – from start to finish, you could be looking at hundreds or thousands of dollars for a logo. But if you have a well thought-out brief, a good logo designer will create the best quality result – with all the right formats, vectors, and all that jazz. And you’ll hopefully have a brand asset that’ll carry you through for many years to come.
Okay, so logos are sorted… what about your website? What’s the best way to make that happen?
Once again, you’re looking at around 3 options at different price points. There’s DIY web design, freelance web designers, and web design agencies.
If you’re starting out with a tiny budget and just need something online, DIY web design can be a great option. The main thing to note is that you will need at least a bit of tech know-how and a willingness to learn. If you’ve got a natural eye for design, that’s great, too.
If you have more budget to work with, a freelancer might be a really good option. They can get to know your brand really well. Since they’re a one-person shop with low overheads, they’re normally more affordable. Depending on their processes, more input may be required from you (although a lot less than DIYing). You may need to source multiple freelancers from different industries to pull everything together (web design, graphic design, copywriter, developer), making you the project manager. It could take up more time than you first expected!
The other main option is an agency. You can get web design services from marketing agencies or agencies that just do websites. The thing with agencies is they’re typically more expensive. They’ve got a lot more overheads – usually an office, multiple salaries, project managers – the whole lot. Of course, that does mean you can potentially have your whole team under one roof for your design – your copywriter, strategist, web designer, developer, and whatever other marketing expertise you need. Many agencies (although certainly not all!) have efficient processes in place because they do the same sort of work over and over again. As a result, you should expect a quality end-product. At the end of the day, agencies can be a great option if you have a very healthy budget, a lot at stake, and don’t want to invest a heap of your own time into the process.
There is one other option which sorta falls between agency and freelancer. You can sometimes find small creative teams who build websites. They’re sort of like a boutique agency where talented folks (who may also freelance on the side) package up their services and self-manage the process. That way, you get the benefits of agency and freelance, but a better process and often a lower cost. That’s where we see ourselves at The Digital Brew.
So, let’s touch on platform a little, because choosing a platform is a big part of designing your website – especially if you plan to DIY or manage some of the updates yourself in future.
First up, you’ve got the DIY website builders – Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly. These are fine if you’re doing it yourself (or you want to work with a freelancer or VA to build your website for you), but they can be limited on features (SEO, design, ecommerce, etc.) which may limit the future growth of your website.
WordPress is the most popular answer for small-medium business (also a lot of larger ones!). But it does come with a learning curve if you plan to design it yourself or make updates yourself. There are other downsides. You need to consider hosting, security, maintenance, support, and get your hands dirty (or pay someone to keep your site maintained regularly for you). The good thing about WordPress, though, is the possibilities are massive. Because it’s open-source, you can manipulate WordPress however you want. You own everything – you’re not relying on a SaaS company to stay viable. And of course, you don’t have to be a coder to manage and maintain the site – you just need to know your way around the backend and you’ll be able to make your own content updates.
Despite all those good things, WordPress may not always be the answer. If you need something simple, fast, and cheap, a solution like Squarespace could be just what you need.
Hoookay. So let’s get into the nitty gritty here and talk about the web design process based on WordPress, since that’s how we work. We’ll look at it from the DIY perspective so you know all the things you’d be up for if you were to do it yourself. But also cover off on the freelancer/agency angle so you know what to expect if you engage someone to do it for you.
First thing’s first. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to purchase a domain. Make sure it has DNS management, free (or cheap) WhoisID protection, and check their renewal pricing (don’t get tricked by el cheapo first year pricing).
Then you need to decide on hosting. Generally, avoid shared hosting. Look at managed WordPress hosts like Kinsta or WP Engine, or a managed cloud solution like Cloudways.
Next it’s time to install WordPress – either locally or on a staging server.
Then set up your SSL certificate so it’s all sorted from the get-go.
Make sure you configure WordPress properly. Set up the website title, subtitle, https, comments settings, permalinks (post name), media uploads folders, reading settings (discoverable). Remove default plugins and remove all themes except the latest.
Then install your theme. GeneratePress and Astra are good options if you’re unsure about where to start.
Then install your plugins. Example plugins include:
- Page builder
- Contact form
- Safe SVG
- Duplicate Post
- Really Simple SSL
- Coming soon page
- Backup plugin (to run regular external backups)
Then set up your brand styles in your customiser or page builder (typography, colours, spacing, layouts).
Build out the header and footer, then the archive pages and single post pages. Then build out the pages. By build out, we mean designing and adding the content.
Integrate external services like email marketing and CRMs.
Set up redirects if you’re doing a redesign and any of the url structures have changed or you’re removing any of the old pages.
Implement SEO, including titles, meta descriptions, keywords, favicon, and image alt tags.
And then you’re basically done and it’s time to launch. Before launching, we go through a detailed pre-launch checklist to make sure that everything is ready to go. Launching is a matter of updating the DNS or migrating from local, if needed.
As soon as the website is live, we start going through our post-launch checklist.
- Test SSL – Check for unsecured content, make sure redirects are working correctly, and make sure SSL redirects are set up correctly
- Analytics – Ensure Google analytics and Google search console are properly integrated
- Speedtest – Test speeds and optimise if needed
And of course, it’s worth mentioning that a website designer’s work is never done. And that goes for you, if you plan to maintain your website yourself. You’ll need to regularly…
- Update software and themes
- Run regular backups
- Run security scans
- Check for and fix bugs
- Look for and fix broken links
- Make content updates as needed
So, what’s the difference when you hire a web designer?
The biggest difference is that most of the nitty gritty (aka all those details we just went through) will be hidden from you.
They’ll likely request that you fill out 1 or 2 briefing surveys or do a consultation over the phone where they ask you a lot of questions about your business and website. You’ll also need to send them your brand guidelines and any assets (logo and images). If your web design doesn’t come with done-for-you content writing, you’ll also need to send through the content.
Your web designer will very likely send you a mockup or wireframe to give you an idea of layout and functionality. This may be the home page or multiple pages, depending on the design complexity.
Once the wireframe is approved, they may send a high fidelity mockup or a functional page to confirm that the design and function matches what you want.
Note: if you decide you want extra features outside of the initial scope, they may be willing to include them for an initial fee. Or it may have to wait until after launch, depending on the amount of work involved, timing, dependencies, and other factors.
And of course, they should keep you updated on the progress and design of the remaining pages and website functionality, asking for feedback where needed.
When your website is complete your designer will deliver a first draft for feedback and revisions. They’ll make the changes, go through any additional feedback, fix any bugs, and then it’s launch time! After launch, they’ll provide a handover document so you have all the information and access you need to use your website (and maintain it if you’re doing that yourself). Speaking of maintenance, most website designers offer an ongoing maintenance (and possibly hosting) service to help keep your site in tip-top shape.
And that’s it! Now you know how this whole web design thing happens behind the scenes, whether you do it yourself, hire someone to do it for you, or a bit oif both.
Which means it’s time to wrap things up!
Just to recap, make sure you get the brand guidelines template – make sure you have this before starting any design tasks. While you’re at it, spend some time researching other brands of the same archetype.
Consider DIY, freelancer, or agency – what best fits your needs and budget? And website builder vs WordPress or something else? Think about what platform makes sense for you right now and over the next few years, especially if you plan to do any updates yourself.
If you’re DIY’ing, prepare to do lots of Googling and be willing to learn. And if you’re using a freelancer or agency, spend some time considering your brand and filling out a good brief so you can get the best possible result.
And that’s it!
We’ll catch you in the next episode, which is all about admin, accounting, and legal stuff for new businesses. (Are you excited or are you excited?)
Thanks for tuning in to The Digital Brew with Ange and Stew. Make sure you head over to thedigitalbrew.com for more episodes, detailed show notes, resources, and our newsletter. And if you feel like this episode has helped make your business more awesome, pop us a review. We’ll catch you next time!