Get Your Website or Blog Off to a Good Start

If you’re thinking about starting a new blog or website, or are considering a new look for a current site, there are some things that you can do to help your project along.

Whether you’re hiring a web designer to help you out, working on your site yourself, or getting a friend to help you, check out the following:

Know what your menu or site map will look like.

New Blogs or websites. Create a list of the pages you want to have on the web site and what will be highlighted on those pages.  If you’re hiring someone to help with the site or blog, the number of pages may effect the price, so thinking this through will save you time and money. If you’re putting your site or blog together yourself, having this well thought out will be a definite time-saver.

In the case of blogs only, think through the categories for your posts. This will help keep your blog’s topics and subtopics organized.

Existing blogs or websites.  With an existing site redesign, take a look at the current sitemap to see what’s been working well for you. Use your website stats or analytics (which you really should have) and take a look at where your visitors go. If you have pages that aren’t getting much traffic or the content is outdated, you may want to revise or even drop them. Again, for blogs, take a look at the categories you use and evaluate them according to visits, usage or practicality.

Get your images together.

New and Existing Blogs or Websites. Have graphics and photos ready. This includes your logo, photos of your business location, photos of products or services, photos of your kids, photos of whatever. Logos, photos and any other graphics will shape the look of the site or blog so these need to be gathered at the beginning of your project.

Work on your content.

New Blogs or websites. My daughter and I started a couple of blogs at the same time and once we had our designs down, we talked and wrote (and then talked and wrote some more) brainstorming ideas, potential topics and future posts.

We both wanted to start our blogs with some content already on the site when it went live, so we brainstormed topics and wrote articles for our different blogs.

For websites, you can start working on content even before the site is up. Working with the sitemap you created, draft content for the pages so that when the design part is done, the content can fill the site right away. More often than not when I’m working on websites, I’m waiting for content which unfortunately delays the project’s completion.

Existing blogs or websites. Some of the folks I’ve worked with have asked me to just pull the information from their existing web site.  Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.  This is because web sites undergoing a new or revamped look probably have outdated content.  More often than not, taking content from an existing web site can lead to additional costs or lost time because of multiple revisions to make the “old” content fit the newer site.

Custom programming should be detailed in writing.

New and Existing Blogs or Websites. If you’re thinking about having some forms, custom functionality or scripting, you should have the programming detailed out. I mean REALLY detailed. What works for me is to detail programming work in a document. You don’t need to be a programmer to do this. I’m not a programmer and I write specifications for programming all of the time.

The details should reflect your expectations for the programming and how those expectations will be met by the programmers.This is especially important if you have to hire out for the programming. But taking the time to ensure the programming work is detailed out will save you time and money…it really will.

For example…Let’s say you need to have someone help you with custom programming a form.

  • Just outline all of the information you want to capture,
  • List all of the fields (Name, Address, Email, etc.),
  • Specify if any of the fields needed, drop-down lists or if you want users to be able to select multiple items in a drop-down list,
  • Indicate if any of the fields need to calculate data,
  • Detail how you want the form information delivered (such as email), and anything else you can think of.

The more information, the better. Even if you have a friend who’s programming this for free, they’ll really appreciate the details up front because it will mean less revisions which will make them happy.

One final note…

If you’re hiring a designer, or have a friend who’s helping you out, be sure to review draft designs and the website or blog whenever you can before it goes live.

When I’m working on a site, I provide a link to what I’m working on so the person I’m working with on the site can see the progress and can provide input before the site goes live. Believe it or not, even when I’ve done this, there have been times when the other person didn’t review the site until after it was live and then had a bunch of changes. This resulted in the target launch date being missed. 🙁

If you’re planning for an awesome launch date, it’s best to have everything reviewed before the go-live date so that the website’s launch goes off as smoothly as possible.

Hope this helps and as always, leave your comments. Thanks!