Launching a website is a huge task, so it’s understandable if you’re not sure where to get started. This 10-point checklist covers all the basic tasks you need to accomplish before launching a website.
1. Define your purpose and goals
Before you can start a website, you need to answer two key questions: What is the purpose of this website? What goals do you want to accomplish with this website? The answers to these questions will inform the decisions you will make about how to create and structure your website and its content.
2. Research the basics
Congratulations on already starting this step. Just by reading this article, you’re doing research. But you’ll need to do a lot more. If you’re new to this website business, you are going to have to digest a lot of information. What is a domain? What’s a premium domain? What is a host? What is a content management system? And how do you decide among all the options available for each of those things?
I’ll cover the answers to some of these questions in the rest of this article, but you will need to do your own research to fill in the blanks.
3. Choose a quality domain name
Your domain name is the website name that appears in the URL bar: www.buydomains.com, for example. You’ll need to choose a domain name that is easy for people to remember and won’t get you confused with a competitor, or an industry you don’t want to be associated with. You may want to keep search engine optimization in mind and choose a domain name with a keyword that will be important to you. Here are some more useful tips for choosing a domain name.
4. Decide what pages and features you need
To make these decisions, you will need to have already answered the questions in number 1. If the purpose of your website is to sell products, for example, you will need pages that organize your products by category, and you will need a checkout page. If the purpose of your website is to blog about a particular subject, you will need pages that organize your blog posts so they are easy for readers to navigate.
You might decide you are going to sell products, but you also want to have a blog to bring more traffic to your website. This is a marketing technique we can discuss later, when we get to promotion.
5. Choose a hosting company
A hosting company is a company that sells you a domain and stores your website on a server. GoDaddy might be the most well-known hosting company, but there are plenty of options of better quality. iPage, BlueHost, eHost, and HostGator all have great reviews on this host review website.
6. Decide whether to use a website builder
A website builder gives you step-by-step instructions on how to actually create your website—the pages, features, and content—and does all the coding for you. Most hosting companies also offer website builders, so you can purchase both in the same place.
Whether you use a website builder depends on how much freedom you want to have when creating your website. Website builders give you a lot of options for how you want your website to look, but you are ultimately constrained to those options. Creating the website yourself will require more work and technical skills, but you can make it look exactly how you want it to, with no compromises.
7. Choose an easy-to-use content management system
A content management system, or CMS, is what you will use to create and add new content to your website. The best-known CMS is WordPress, because it is simple and easy to learn if you have no experience.
8. Establish a division of labor
Who is going to be in charge of adding content to the website and doing website maintenance? If you’re using a website builder, your hosting company will handle technical maintenance and performance optimization. If you’re not using a website builder, you need to decide whether you are capable of doing maintenance yourself, or if you are going to hire someone to do it for you.
You will also need to decide whether you need to hire writers, photographers, or graphic designers to create content for the website, and how specialized you want each position to be.
9. Plan and create content
Launching a website before you have any content to put on it is rather silly. Before you launch, you will need to plan out and create drafts of at least a few pages of content, so you have something for people to look at when they start visiting. Your content creation strategy will, again, depend on the purpose of your website and your goals. Check out this massive list of blog ideas for inspiration.
10. Promote your website
Without good marketing, your website won’t get any visitors. So plan out a marketing strategy before you launch. Set up social media accounts, if you haven’t already. Reach out to bloggers and industry experts and ask them to promote you. Consider purchasing advertisements.
Here’s where you should also decide whether you want your website to include a blog as a marketing tool. Blog articles are great for sharing on social media, and can encourage people to visit other pages on your website, where they might make purchases.
This is, by no means, a complete guide to everything required for a successful website launch, but it does give you a jumping off point. Continue to do your research, and you should be on your way to success.