Where to Start when Building your Dream Website

by Lara Maville
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The thought of starting a new website can be overwhelming, especially for those who are not familiar with the language or processes involved. Here's how to start that website you've been dreaming about (it's a lot like planning to build a new home).

Whether you're building a home or a website, there are some things you need to take care of in the planning stage before you actually start breaking ground. Here are some things you can do yourself before building your website:

Decide on an Address
The domain name is your website address, also known as the URL (an acronym for Uniform Resource Locator). The first thing you should do is register at least one domain name as soon as you can. It’s imperative that people can easily find you, your products or your services, so it’s important to put some thought into your URLs. I recommend purchasing a couple (they're cheap!) because search engines will find your website more efficiently if potential search terms are part of your domain name. For example, if you google “upper valley web design” my website will come up because I own the domain “uppervalleywebdesign.com”. I also own laramavilledesign.com and mavilledesign.com. For other tips, check out this article on How to Choose a Domain Name

Purchase a Property
Next, much like a home needs a piece of land, your website needs a hosting account where the website files will be stored. Most hosting companies, such as Godaddy or HostGator, offer a basic hosting plan (sometimes called “economy”) that is sufficient for small business websites. Larger sites and some e-commerce sites will need a higher tier plan.

Some hosting extras you will definitely want that might not be included in the plan are a site backup function, a firewall or security to protect your files, and an SSL certificate. Google snubs its nose to sites that are not SSL encrypted by labeling them "Not Secure." Make sure the hosting company you are using offers all of these features.

Plan the Architecture and Structure
Now it’s time to start thinking about what the website is going to look and feel like, and what structures and functionality will be needed. Some things to think about when considering the overall content and structure are:

• What is the primary function of your website? 

• Who is your target audience? 

• Are you providing information, promoting a service or posting to a blog? (Hint: adding a blog is a great way to generate site traffic!)

• What are your aesthetic goals? Will your site be minimalist? Bold? Artistic? Will photography play a role?

There are many options to consider. Start by visiting some websites. Check out what the competition has for a site. Try to get an idea of what you like and don't like when it comes to content, structure and design. Create a rough outline of the page structure to help you visualize how the content might flow on your website. Maybe even sketch out a couple of main pages with blocks (otherwise known as a “wireframe”) to show where text, images, sidebars, headers and footers will go. 

Break Ground
Once you have decided on the details you are ready to start building. Your options now are to create a DIY site or to contact a web developer to help you take your website to the next level. If you approach building your website with a little time, thought and planning, you will be well on your way to owning that dream website you’ve always wanted.