You could be an established business, or fresh to the market. For whatever reason, you’ve found yourself coveting a new website. We believe in sharing the love and sharing knowledge. Here are five tips we have learnt on our travels for delving into the wonderful world of website development.

#1. Keep It Simple. Make A Plan.

We all get excited at the prospect of a new project. You may have been envying a competitor’s homepage. Or were inspired to level up your site, thanks to a Wix or Squarespace ad that popped up on Facebook. While a new website may be the answer to all your problems, it can also create unnecessary headaches. If you unknowingly wander down the ‘tinkering’ path of web development, you are likely going to face one of three outcomes.
    1. Your website will take twice the time to build.
    2. You will find out the platform you started with may not be the right fit for your needs.
    3. This grand project will get a little overwhelming and quickly fall into the’ too hard basket’.
Don’t feel bad about it. We have been there! Thankfully, by taking time to figure out the fundamentals of your project, you will have a clearer idea of what you need. Your fancy new website will then start to fall into place seamlessly.
Brainstorm of The Commute's Sitemap
Doodle a Sitemap.
Here’s the fun part. Pull out a notebook, whiteboard or your iPad and get drawing! What do you want your site to resemble? Big pictures and videos? Or simple text, a map and contact form? What pages are nice to have and what pages are absolute essentials? While the urge is always to set up a new website with lots of bells and whistles. A level of realism is detrimental if you want something that will last.

Here are some base pages to help with brainstorming your layout…

    • Homepage
    • Contact Us
    • About Us
    • Menu or Pricelist
    • Store
    • News/Blog
    • Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy (Don’t forget these if you are handling customer data!)
Write out your copy before building.
While this may sound tedious, the wording (or copy) you choose is arguably the most crucial piece of your entire site. If you have ever used a search engine, like Google, you will know that when you search for a website, the most relevant items are always at the top. At the same time, the not so related articles are left hidden in later pages. Search engines pull this off by crawling every website on the internet looking for keywords (among other elements) to ‘index’ your site. If a site is well written, relevant and follows best practices, you are more likely to be sitting in that number one spot when a customer comes Googling. This will increase organic search results and reduce your need to spend money on advertising (ca-ching!). This practise is known as SEO (or search engine optimisation.)
 
Do you really need that blog?
Will you have time to keep the new blog up to date? Is that podcast or YouTube channel you want to start a little too ambitious at the moment? If you are like many small business owners and short on time. Avoid stretching yourself too thin. Keep these ideas in your back pocket for future updates. This will give you time to resource and plan. There is no shame in knowing what your current constraints are. If you focus on getting the basics right first, you’ll thank yourself in the long run!
 
Who will be accessing your site?
Are your customers more likely to find you on the run, or at a desk? While it pays to make sure your website is responsive and mobile-friendly (as this is how the majority of people browse now). It’s also helpful to know who your customers are and how they use your website. Free tools like Google Analytics provide this invaluable information. Helping you anticipate their needs and make the site as easy to use as possible.

#2. Find A Backend That Works For You

Once you have a plan in place, the next step is to find a system that will run your website. There are literally hundreds of out-of-the-box options available for small businesses to help get your website off the ground. Best of all, you don’t need to pay a developer tens of thousands of dollars to create something bespoke and static. These systems are often known as a CMS (or content management system.)
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to this step. There are free options, paid options and subscription model services. If you want to get your hands dirty, you can save some money. But if coding isn’t your strong suit, all you need is a credit card and a dream to get online. If you don’t have experience in this area, it pays to talk to someone who knows the options in the market. They can then identify what you require and give some honest recommendations.
 
Here are a few systems currently available to get you started
Free and Paid Subscriptions (with hosting included)
Open Source and Free (BYO domain and hosting)

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