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I do these 5 things when building a new website

Things you can do to get your website started that aren't technical

5 things to get you started...

Yesterday I spoke with a lovely lady as part research, part help with picking software. One thing that came up for both of us was “I know this stuff, but I need someone to tell me what I’m doing is right”. I thought, this is SO true. Half of the things I need to do, I know I can do but I sit here wondering “that can’t be right”.

So I thought I’d write the 5 things you can absolutely do to get your website up and running without over thinking it, over designing it or worrying you’re doing it wrong.

1. Write something

Walk into any digital design studio in the world and there will be a constant debate that’s like the horse / cart scenario. What comes first, design or content? It’s not always so simple and every agency or team has its own different approach to this.

The thing is, while you’re thinking about what to do first, you’re probably overthinking it, which leads to stress, which leads to fear paralysis. This then stops you and you can run for the hills.

So. My tip is, sit down and write something. It doesn’t have to be your finished draft, but starting with something will help.

Here’s my little secret, I’ve re-written my WTF section at least half a dozen times, and I’ll change it at least half a dozen more. Your website is not a book, you can change it as and when you want, in fact, you should.

Four things you can start writing now:

  • Why are you doing this?
  • Who are you?
  • What’s your passion?
  • Blog posts

The blog posts thing is always a bit contentious. There’s a misconception that writing a blog post is something that requires a great deal of thought. Think of it this way, can you write an email to a best friend about something you’re really passionate about? That’s all a blog post is, a letter to a friend.

Something I learned a long time ago when writing for the web, keep it simple, imagine you’re explaining your thing to someone who doesn’t know the topic, and keep the paragraphs short.

2. Make a list

This is something that I’ll be covering in more detail in the Pick the Right Software Toolkit, but the short answer here is make a list of all the things you want to do with your website.

Let me give you an example, imagine you’re going to host a dinner party. You might consult your cook books, browse Pinterest and plan table settings. Then you’d check all the things you’ve already got, then go to the supermarket and buy ingredients. Once you’ve got everything you’d set about preparing it.

The same is exactly true when it comes to building your website. A list will help you to work out what you’ve got, what you don’t, and what you need to get. Whether that’s skills, software or things to build it with. You really wouldn’t roast a chicken on a plastic plate (well, you could, but it wouldn’t be pretty).

So, sit down and make a list that covers the following:

  • What do you have – photos, words, products, skills, software, etc
  • What don’t you have – photos, words, products, skills, software, etc
  • What do you need – for each item you need, write “I need to learn how to” or “I need to buy” or “I need to write”.

The last part is what we call “use cases”. This will help you to frame your thought process, and help you to motivate yourself to get stuff done.

3. Start before you’re ready

I’m borrowing this from Marie Forelo, she nails it with this line though. If you start when you’ve got everything ready to go, you’ll still be here in 6 months time. So you’re going to start before you’re ready, and you’re going to build an MVT.

Background, an MVP is a Minimum Viable Product. It’s a term coined by Eric Ries, the author of the Lean Startup. It’s where you build something that has only the minimum things you need to start with. In this case he talks about creating a product. In design speak, product can mean many things but it can be confusing to those of you who aren’t familiar.

I’m calling it a “Minimum Viable Thing” or MVT. So whatever your thing is you want to create, start thinking about it in what’s the minimum do you need to do to get it stood up?

The way an MVT should work is, spend the least amount of time, effort or money on it to get it up and running. You build it, then you test it and you learn from it.

This on its own, is why I hate the term “validate your idea”. Validation assumes that your idea as it is, is perfect and everyone will want it. That’s rarely the case. If you create an MVT for everything you do, you test it, you learn from it, you tweak it and you test it again.

You do this, and you aren’t failing, you’re constantly learning and constantly evolving.

4. KISS, (Keep it simple, stupid)

For a long time I’ve had this pinned to my monitor. I always forget, and need to remind myself.

It’s brilliant advice though. How can you keep it simple when you’re starting out? You don’t need a website that’s 20 pages long, with a ton of detail, amazing photos and fully working to launch with. In fact, don’t do it.

Here’s what I would recommend. At the most, you want three pages, plus a blog (if you have the capacity to add content to it).

The three pages? Here you go:

  • Homepage
  • About you – who are you, what’s you’re background and why are you doing this – answer those three things minimum.
  • Contact – contact form only. Unless you have an office or a shop, don’t put your address, email address or phone number on there.

The reason why I say don’t put contact info on there unless you own or rent a space for your business is for two reasons.

The first, privacy, you don’t want to be spammed or harassed by anyone, and it does happen.

The second, structured data (i.e. having your contact requests in a spreadsheet), will make your life 10,000 times easier and your data can be managed safely & legally.

5. Notes, bookmarks, folders

When you see something that captures your imagination save it. Whether it’s a little note about something someone said that you could write a blog post about, or a photo of something you think you could put on your website. You’ll be amazed where your ideas will come from. Most of all this helps when you’re writing content, even those of you who love writing.

Grabbing ideas as and when you see them will save your bacon when you feel pushed to write a piece of content for your blog. You’ll have that back pocket list of ideas. This post came from the conversation I had yesterday with someone. Yet all Sunday I felt pressurised to write a blog post and couldn’t think of anything that inspired me.

Want to learn more?

These were the basics of 5 things that you can do, but there’s a lot more to cover.  Which is where the Web Essentials Toolkit comes in.  This is going to be all the things you didn’t know you needed to know.  You know, the known unknowns. 

This toolkit is the first mini-bundle I’ll be launching as part of the Female Founder Toolkit. This bundle is at a low cost price for those of you with limited budget but need some essential help to get your business up and running.

Combining Get the Right Software and DNS & Web Hosting Basics along with a load of other amazing toolkits this will help get you going in the right direction, fast.

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