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Don’t Build Your Site Backwards! Start With Content.

Saturday, October 15, 2011
Back To BasicsWeb Design

Most small business owners design and build their websites like this:

First, hire a designer and start with a great-looking logo. Then, design a homepage that has all the stuff they want in it. Next, start building the website. Finally, write all the content.

This is the exact opposite of what you should do if you want to build your site as cheaply and efficiently as possible.

Instead, to save money and move quickly, here are the proper steps to follow to build your website:

1. Outline all the pages you want in your website and write as much content as possible (preferably, all of it).

2. Create a sitemap and architecture (I’ve attached a simple web architecture done in PowerPoint that you might find useful, but you can simply sketch it out on paper, use Word or whatever you’re comfortable with).

3. Hire a web designer and developer to design the logo and homepage simultaneously – show logo designs within homepage designs so you are sure the logo will work in context.

4. Finalize content while the site is being built.

Essentially, I am suggesting you do the most difficult task first: write content.

I’ll explain why later, but let’s back up and talk about what is involved in building your website.

Your small business website consists of three basic elements: content, design and technology.

The content is the words, images and videos contained in the website – you create this yourself or hire writers, photographers (or purchase images) and videographers.

The design is how your website looks and how the content is arranged within the pages – this is typically done by a professional web designer.

The technology is the actual pages that show content on the Web and get found by people through search engines, and it runs the various bits of functionality and features contained within the site – this is typically handled by a professional web designer or developer.

The goal, ultimately, is for your small business website to present your company in a compelling way. To build a compelling website, you need a solid site architecture, which is determined by the content. Then you need a great design, which is determined by your industry, brand, architecture and content. Finally, you need handy technology which will be used to manage the content within the design and architecture. It starts and ends with content.

Now, I’ll give you three reasons why you should write your website’s content before you do anything else: money, money and money.

Reason 1: Money & Efficiency

Let’s start with a question. Can you know how many pages your site will contain if you haven’t written the content?

No, you can’t. You may have an outline and think you know how many pages your website will contain, but until you put finger to keyboard, you only have an estimate. Once you start putting the words and pictures together, the number of pages will change. And since many inexpensive web designers charge by the page, the page count could affect your budget.

And, hey –want to drive your web designer crazy and spend more money at the same time? It’s easy! Just say this: “Oops. I just found out we need another page in the top navigation bar.”

Time comes to a standstill, and your designer’s blood pressure rises along with your bill.

Reason 2: Money & Design

Homepage designs are probably the most expensive element of the design process. You save money and time when you know exactly what content and images go onto your homepage. Remember, every edit or tweak could cost money and waste time.

Reason3: Money & Time

Small business websites are almost always delayed because the content is not finished. People never believe me when I say this, but it’s true. Whether it’s a team member bio that needs editing or a product description that needs updating, content is usually the problem.

The truth is that most people don’t like writing and will put it off as long as possible. But dive in and bang it out – you’ll be glad you did.

With best wishes, Eric Weidner