The website creation process takes time, energy, and money – the holy trinity of a project done well. It has its challenges, its ups and downs, its wins and losses, and finally, you have a visual existence of a brand ready to enter the online market and start its battle for a market share. It might seem like a daunting task or a nightmare for an inexperienced person, but for the expert, the process is more than stimulating – it is the bare foundation of their job description.
So, how do you build a website from scratch? Let’s go over this and all other questions to ask when building a website, regardless of whether you are a beginner web developer looking for website creation clues or a business owner interested in hiring a web developer who knows their way around building a website.
How to start building a website?
The most important step in the website creation process is the first step: research. This step should be done by all included in the process – the developer, the designer, the copywriter, and the business owner as well. Here is what research entails for each of these people.
The Business Owner’s Research
The business owner must know what they want from a website before hiring a web developer. I am not talking about details and all kinds of tech knowledge; instead, I refer to the general idea that the business owner should have when expressing their website wishes and desires. To do so, the business owner must decide on the voice of the website, the message it will send, and how it will present the brand. Also, they must be aware of how the competitors do this online and whose strategy works the best. Finally, and most importantly, the business owner must know who their target client is and how they can solve their clients’ problems with their product/service.
If we are to summarize the business owner’s research, here is the list with the main points:
- The goal/objectives of the wanted website
- The target client and market
- The voice and style of the wanted website
- The top few online competitors and their visual presence online
The web developer’s research
The web developer should perform their own market research to understand the target market. Also, they need to see from their perspective what keeps their client’s target audience sleepless at night and figure out which are the problems the website can solve. Besides, the web developer should be aware of how tech-knowledgeable their client is and how they can get all the info they need to start planning the website creation process.
Let’s summarize the research into the following questions that a web developer should ask their client before starting to build the website:
- What does your company do?
- Who is your target audience?
- What is the purpose of the wanted website (website goals/objectives)?
- Do you want a new website from scratch or just to revamp the old one?
- Can you send me examples of other websites you like yours to be similar to?
- Who are your top online competitors?
- Do you have a plan for the site structure?
- Do you have a ready-to-use design and brand recognition material like logo, colour schemes, etc.?
- Do you have a domain and hosting?
- When do you want the website live?
Getting the answers to all of these questions should give a clear start to any developer in the beginning phase – planning the website creation process. From here, the steps for the website creation process are all dependent on each other.
The Web Designer’s Research
If the business owner has already got the design, the web designer won’t be included in this process. However, the business owner often wants a new design and a new website altogether, so an expert web designer must get involved. Their job is to create a design that will be the perfect visualization of the brand’s message. To achieve this, the web designer must research the following:
- Get a description of the client’s business
- Understand the market, the target audience and the competition of the client
- List all the design requirements and specifics the client wants
- Set deadlines
- Set a design budget
- Set legal and technical requirements
If the website is being built from scratch along with the design, the copywriter needs to work alongside the web designer, so they are always on the same page when it comes to the structure of the pages and the content needs. If the design is already finished, the copywriter can use the template to determine how they will organize the content. However, they also need to do research, especially on the voice, style, and the message the client wants to convey with the website. Here are the main questions that a copywriter should ask the client before writing the copy:
- Who are you targeting with your brand?
- What will be the goal of the website content? Generating leads? Product/service promotion?
- What is your Unique Selling Proposition?
- What impression do you want to leave: professional, corporate and authoritative or approachable, irreverent and conversational?
- Do you have a copy concept?
- What’s your deadline?
Once everyone has done their research, phase one is completed and paving the way for phase two: planning.
In the planning phase, there are many brainstorming sessions, discussions within the team, meetings with the client and figuring out the next steps in the website building process. The web developer and the team should focus on the client’s desired goals and work out a way to best achieve them. In this phase, deadlines are set, and project frameworks are figured out. Here is everything that should be defined in this phase, and it involves both the web developer and the copywriter:
- Identify required technical functionality
- Define technical scope
- Make a plan of technical scope in detail
- Assemble and categorize the content types
- Define the content hierarchy and flow
- Create page structure outlines for the main pages
- Plan and execute the sitemap and architecture
The web designer executes this phase. If the web design is built from scratch as well, the designer needs to plan the wireframes, which includes establishing a visual hierarchy and placement of content, laying out the pages using a responsive grid, producing a static or live wireframe and testing everything they have come up with.
Then, the designing process happens. It includes reviewing the brand standards provided by the client, identifying colours and fonts, designing the pages, creating the visual elements like buttons, call to action, etc., making final design files and visual assets.
Now comes the dynamic part of the process. In this phase, the web developer actually builds the website based on the graphic elements that the web designer has previously created. Here is the actual website creation process step by step:
- First, setting up the CMS.
Let me just quickly recommend WordPress as one of the best out there. WordPress Sites are straightforward to manage; even people with basic tech-skills can successfully learn to manage the site, which is excellent for business owners that lack such IT skills. Also, choosing the hosting for a WordPress site can be pretty straightforward, as there is a lot of information and tips about choosing the best hosting for WordPress sites.
- Second, building a theme and page templates, which involves a lot of coding.
- Third, installing and configuring the needed plugins.
In this part, it is crucial for web developers and SEO experts to work together. Hence, they manage to build a fast-performing and functional website ready to fight the competitors and go for high rankings on search engine results pages after launching.
- Fourth, programming any custom functionality.
- Fifth, customizing the back-end.
Then, what happens is working on the migration of content, including text, visuals & attachments, creating interlinking and proofreading the entire content on the site.
5. Testing & Launching
The testing phase is where everything comes together. All work done on the website so far is tested to see whether it functions properly. Here is how it goes:
- Testing the performance on different devices and platforms
- Tracking and correcting bugs
- Conducting user testing
- Optimizing and adjusting as per user’s feedback
- Assigning user roles and training the client to use the CMS
If everything works properly, it is time to upload the site to the chosen server. And, then, the site goes live.
Of course, the site must be regularly maintained, and its performance tracked. If there should any problems arise, the web developer must detect them and fix them.
How Long Does It Take to Build a Website?
This is one of the questions whose answer is IT DEPENDS. And, no, it is not a diplomatic answer. It depends on how big the project is, how many people are involved in the web creation process, and the pre-set deadlines.
On the other hand, I can write down a rough estimate on the time frame for each of the phases for a WordPress website of about 15 pages:
- Research and Planning: 1-3 weeks
- Designing: 6-8 weeks
- Development: 8-12 weeks
- Testing and Launching: ~2 weeks
- Maintenance: ongoing
If the website should be eCommerce, it will take longer.
Regardless of whether you want to build an eCommerce site, an informational space for your brand, or want to promote your products or services, the process takes time and understanding. The wisest idea is to put the trust into the developer’s hands and receive regular feedback on the advancements. Pushing for a faster turnaround will only increase the chances of mishaps and problems, especially if the deadlines are strictly set at the beginning.
What are the stages of building a website?
Research, Planning, Design, Development, Testing and Launching, Maintenance
What are the stages of web design?
Discovery, Wireframes, Prototyping, Finished Designs, Hands off with all the assets