You know you need a website, but where do you start? Take the time to plan and do it right the first time, following the five basic steps below to get your project started.

1. The domain is king

Reserve your domain right away. If your ideal domain is available right now, that doesn’t mean it will still be an option a month from now. See more about choosing domain names.

2. Identify your audience and your goals
A website should be designed primarily based on who you need to talk to and what your desired outcome will be. Start all your planning from this starting point. For example, a site designed for software engineers will have a completely different look and tone than a site designed for CEOs or kindergarten teachers. Likewise, a site designed to increase sales of tulip bulbs will be very different from a site designed to increase membership in a local children’s choir.

3. Maintenance and measurements
Take a moment to think about how you will maintain your site. Knowing your maintenance plans will help determine what type of site you should have: native HTML vs. WordPress, for example. Also decide what information you will need about who visits your site and what they do. Need to track what documents are downloaded? How many people are interested in a particular topic? Knowing this will help determine how to structure your site so the correct information can be gathered.

4. Know what you want to say
One you have determined your audience and goals, then it’s time to pin down what you want to say. Take an hour to write an outline of what needs to be said, then this can be used to formulate the structure of your new website and to write the copy.

5. Hire professionals
Unless you are an experienced writer specializing in web copy, take your outline from step #4 and give this to a copy writer. Even if you plan to write your own copy, it’s a good idea to get an outside perspective from a hired editor or reviewer. And while you’re out hiring professionals, also hire a professional to develop your website. Meet to discuss your findings from steps 1-4 above and work together to decide on the type of site you’d like to have developed. No budget to hire a web developer? Check out WordPress or Weebly–but expect to sink some time into it!

The moral of the story

Knowing that you need a website is just the beginning. It doesn’t have to be an overwhelming project to put a site in place. If in doubt, get a simple site up now and flesh it out later. Still overwhelmed? Hire a project manager!

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