Whilst having a website is really important, I’ve heard too many horror stories of people taking three, four or even six months to get it ready and live. It’s one of those small business tasks that are so easy to procrastinate on.
Maybe that’s you? Or maybe you’re just daunted by the cost of getting someone else to do it?
Website designers definitely have their place, and if you’ve the money to spend on one, that would be my best recommendation for getting your website live. But, if budgets are tight, how can you get something that’s more than good enough together in as short a space of time as possible?
Follow my Website in a Weekend guide!
I’ve built and written content for more than a dozen small business websites in the past six years and helped various clients build theirs too. From each and every one, I’ve learnt what’s vital, what’s not, and how to do it as fast as possible.
So, are you ready to build a great-looking and well-written website?
This morning you’re going to grab a notepad and pen and stay away from your computer. All you need to do this morning is take the time to answer the following questions:
ACTION: Write down all the things you need your website to do for you and put them in priority order.
Now you know what it needs to do for you, what are the features you'll need to achieve that? Does it need to have a gallery function, or an enquiry form or a booking system?
ACTION: Map out the features your website needs to have.
Other than the homepage, what different pages are required? Less is more here. Try and keep it to the minimum amount of pages as possible. Remember we’re building your website as quickly as possible this weekend and you can always add more later.
ACTION: For each page you need, bullet point the top 3-5 key points you need to include.
ACTION: Get all your images together in a folder on your desktop ready to use.
There are so many options out there for building a website from Wordpress to Wix. But, for speed and ease, and a system that I believe anyone can use, I am a huge advocate for Squarespace. Unless you’ve skills in another platform, it’s the option I recommend.
It’s not free, but it’s much cheaper than paying someone else to do your website.
Time to take a break for an hour. Have some lunch, get away from your desk and get some fresh air if you can.
This afternoon you’re going to set up an account with Squarespace and get the bare bones and structure of your website in place. By the end of the day, you will be ready to start tomorrow adding your content. These are the steps you need to follow:
You can start with a 14-day free trial when setting up with Squarespace. By the end of the weekend, I’d recommend upgrading so you can set up your domain (either buy one and link it, or claim a free one when you upgrade)
Squarespace has 67 different templates for you to choose from. Take some time browsing them all and choosing the one that feels like the best fit for your brand and for the purpose of your website. You can preview them and see what they look like in action, so take your time with this step.
Head to the settings on the left-hand menu and make sure the key elements are filled in and correct:
Don’t worry about the rest, for now, you can come back to those later.
Click to edit your site title and tagline. This will allow you to add a name for your site that’s visible on the homepage and, depending on your template, at the top of every page. It will also show up in Google, so make it your business name or how you want people to find you. You can add a logo here instead or along with your site title… so upload it if you have one:
Go back to the main menu and click on ‘pages’.
1) You might have DEMO pages already set up in this area. If so, click on the cog symbol next to each and delete them.
2) Next under ‘Main Navigation’ click the plus sign to add each of the pages you mapped out this morning. You’ll see lots of options. Start with a basic page to begin with and familiarise yourself with the setup process. Then, you can add a products page if you’re adding a shop, or a blog page if you intend to blog.
3) Give each of your pages a title when prompted.
4) You’ll be encouraged to start adding content to your pages as you set them up. Resist the urge to dive in just yet and get your basic structure set up first. Instead of editing, click save and finish adding your other pages.
5) Put your pages in order by dragging and dropping them into the order you want in the left-hand menu.
6) Finally, hover over one of your pages in the left-hand menu and click on the cog symbol to open the settings for that page. This is where you can add a page description, SEO details, and what gets shown on social media when someone shares your page. You can also select one of your pages to be your homepage.
Do this step for all your pages. Once you’re done it’s time to clock off. You’ve done a lot today and you’ll need to be fresh and ready for the next phase of building your website tomorrow.
Good content should be persuasive and compelling, engaging the visitor and helping to funnel them towards the action you’d like them to take. Good design elevates good content and reinforces this process.
This morning is about writing all the content for each planned page of your website. Refer back to the bullet points you jotted down yesterday morning and get typing.
The best tip I can give you to write the very best website copy is to think about who is going to be reading it. What is it they want to know? What are their barriers to buying from you or hiring you? It’s your time to turn on the powers of persuasion and make the best case to use your business, from their point of view.
ACTION: Start writing as if you’re talking directly to one perfect customer. This will make your writing feel like its speaking directly to them (and will have broad appeal, I promise).
For each bullet point you wrote yesterday, you want to flesh them out and fill in the details. Start with the easy ones first, to get you in the rhythm. Then, go back to the more tricky ones. Try and do this as quickly as possible – it won’t help to pour over it for hours on end. Remember, good is good enough right now and you can come back and tweak in the future once your website is finished.
No matter how good you are at spelling, punctuation and grammar, ask someone you trust to read through and edit your writing. I’ve been writing for years and I always make mistakes and overlook things. Also, try Grammarly – a free plug-in you can install to your browser which will highlight errors.
ACTION: There’s nothing worse than a prospective customer emailing you to tell you that you’ve spelt something incorrectly on your website, so save face and get someone to check it!
This afternoon you’re going to start adding the visual elements of your website and getting the look and feel of each page just right. This will bring everything you’ve worked on together and allow you to drop in the text you wrote for each page this morning.
I personally think starting with your homepage is the most sensible. Select it from the pages menu and hover over it until you see the edit option.
If you have pre-filled content for your template, hover over each element to edit the text, imagery and settings.
Anywhere you hover on your page and see the teardrop bar, you can add your own page element:
As you can see there’s a huge amount of features you can add. Whilst I can’t explain them all, Squarespace have fantastic guides and videos you can follow.
Go through each page and add your elements, drop in the copy you wrote this morning, and upload your photos and visuals to each page.
The last step to getting your website live is upgrading your Squarespace account and linking or setting up your domain name (your website URL).
1) Upgrade your account by selecting which plan is best for you. Commerce plans are best if you have a shop on your site. Otherwise, choose from Personal or Business (the differences are listed below each plan). Note, if you want a free domain, you’ll need to pay annually. Pay monthly, and you’ll have to purchase it separately.
2) Once you’ve upgraded, head to the main menu again for your website and find the settings area and select ‘Domains’. Click 'Get A Domain' and search for the one you want. Squarespace will show you all of the ones available. Remember to choose one that is easy to type into Google, and that is closely aligned to your name or your business name.
If you already have a domain name you own, choose ‘Use a Domain I Own’ and find out how to transfer it to your new website here. Once you’ve completed this step, your website will be ready to go live!
Go to your website settings, and site visibility and change it from private to public to launch your website. Once you’ve done this, type in your domain and see it in all its glory. Huzzah!
I have tried to give you every essential detail to go from zero to website in just one weekend. Of course, your skillset will determine how quickly you complete each stage, and if you do need to consider things for longer, it’s your prerogative to do so.
Another reason I love Squarespace is they have a guide for EVERYTHING. From image step by steps to videos, make the most of their bank of resources – add it to your bookmarks now.
Jen Smith is our resident email blogger. For more advice on how to promote your business on a budget, check out our 43 low-cost marketing ideas.
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