Is there a foolproof way to get a website built?

There’s a lot of confusion about the process of building a website and where developers, designers, copywriters and other professionals fit in.

We asked Graphic Designer and Front End Developer Richard Slade to answer questions about the best way to get a great website built.

Richard has over 20 years experience in the design industry working in the public, private and charity sectors with some of the top names in design. He produces highly creative work for brands and organisations across the UK and his work covers a wide range of disciplines, including web, print and corporate identity. His portfolio can be viewed at sladedesign.co.uk

This is a transcript of a Q&A in the Drive the Network Facebook Group 

Does everybody need a website?

Anne Archer Why would I want a website? It would seem that people can find me ok via linkedin.

Richard Slade My view is you need to pick the right platform that works for you. If that is the noticeboard outside the local shopping centre, an established and well-used system like Linkedin, Facebook, Shopify, or Esty then go with that. They all have their pros and cons.

If you’re selling a product and Easy are taking too much of a cut of your profits for no benefit, or if you needed a bespoke shop to fit your needs, your own website would give you more options.

Ann Hawkins I’d add that a big factor for most people is that having your own website means you own all your content. When you post on LinkedIn or any other platform they change their terms /layout /processes and privacy with no reference to you. You could lose all your articles, posts, pictures and connections. If you own your website with a blog and a mailing list, its your property.

Should new businesses start with a simple site?

Helen Lindop I have some experience of people new-ish to business who want to leap in with a website that is more complex than I think they realise. E.g. someone who has a main offering but also wants to make an online course and they want a booking service and payment options… and so on. I know it depends on the individual, but do you recommend starting with a small, simple website then add features as they grow? Or does that risk expensive re-designs later on?

Richard Slade I would always recommend, you can’t go wrong with using a CMS or Content Management System, as this can adapt and grow as the business grows with no cost implications for migrating sites, or changing platforms if the existing one doesn’t have all features.

Recommended Content Management Systems

A Content Management System is software that helps users create, manage, and modify content on their own website without the need for specialised technical knowledge.

Helen Lindop What sort of CMS would you recommend?

Richard Slade The most widely used are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

Wikipedia cite WordPress as being used by more than 60 million websites including 33% of the top 10 million global websites.

Its also an open source platform, which means that millions of people worldwide maintain it but no-one owns it so this makes it very easy to find people who do even the most complex sites and you’re not going to get stuck if your developer disappears or if they use bespoke code that means you have to pay for every change.

This is a chart of the most popular Content Management Systems

Wix, SquareSpace, WordPress.com (not WordPress.org which is different) all fall within the online builder category. This means that all the content (images and text) is stored on the providers platform. If they decide to change their platform, as in free to chargeable, or go into liquidation or get bought out, your site would be affected.

The manual, software and CMS categories ensure you retain ownership and copyright forever.

Own your Domain Name

Having your own domain name, website and email addresses will give you and your business a more professional look. You should always own these yourself, irrespective of who builds and hosts your website. Owning your domain name also helps to protect copyrights and trademarks, increase brand awareness, and search engine positioning.

Domain names can be purchased as part of a package with Wix, SquareSpace, WordPress.com etc or independently.

Domain names can be purchased at any time. Even if all you have is an idea you can secure the domain name and let it sit dormant for years.

What’s the process?

Ann Hawkins If someone decides to have a site built, what comes first? Designer / developer / copywriter? Who manages the whole thing?

Richard Slade With new builds, for me, the process starts much further up. Knowing what the site is for, what the owner expects it to do, and what results they want.  Then comes a discussion about what you want people to do when they land on your site. This will help to inform the choice of platform and design concept.  The process comes first then the layout. If there is any complex interactivity like shops, event listings, forums etc. its important to know where they fit into how the site will be used.

Once all that is determined I’d do a simple wire frame – this is a very simple drawing of  what goes where in a very basic layout and shows text blocks, images, buttons etc.

This is a simple example of a wireframe.

My advice is to find a designer based on their previous work and whether the sites they showcase are kept up-to-date. All the sites I list as my work, I check in with regularly as they directly reflect my reputation. Plus I’m a little OCD about stuff which helps too.

Before work starts on building the site, its a good idea to have all the copy and images ready so that everything can be planned out to a realistic timetable.

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This is huge topic and there are many more aspects to discuss. If you have any questions you can get in touch with Richard at www.sladedesign.co.uk or on Twitter @SladeDesign

If you’d like to see the impact different fonts make to the way a website looks check out Richard’s project in  which he features a different typeface every Monday on Twitter. Read about the project here: https://sladedesign.co.uk/typeyear/