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Beginners Guide to Web Design


So you need a website but you don’t know where to start?

Well, you’ve come to the right place!

We’ve created an easy to understand guide on what to look out for, how to budget, and what to expect. No BS. 

1 | Purpose

First, let’s talk about your needs for the website:

What is the purpose of your website?

Graphic and web designers don’t just design things to look pretty, we design to solve problems and figure out how to make things better with our designs….while making sure they look pretty [wink wink].

You may just need a simple website to showcase your freelance writing services, your photography packages, or your wedding stationery portfolio, etc.

Step one is to figure out the goals of the website…is it to get people to learn about your services or products? Is it to recruit new talent?

Once you have that down, figure out what features you might want it to have that will help you meet your goals.

That leads us to…FEATURES!

2 | Features

Not all features are created equal, and if you need something very specific, that might need to involve a developer. Your web designer will be able to tell you if there are workarounds, but a lot of this depends on what platform you are on. If you want maximum customizability for your website, we recommend building on a platform such as WordPress, as there are many free plugins available to help you accomplish almost anything you need, and if it’s complicated, recruit someone who can help you create workarounds. 

If you are selling a course, maybe a sales landing page to convince people to buy the course and a page to collect people’s payment information is all you need.

If you are selling multiple products, and are running an online store of sorts, you might want to consider a specialized e-commerce website.

If you are creating a portfolio website to showcase your work for art grants or school applications, etc, you might want to go with Squarespace as their templates are already set up for you.

Perhaps you want to build a website that allows people to book nights at your newly started Bed and Breakfast, you’ll need pages that describe the property as well as a booking calendar in your website.

Again, try to think about the goals of the website and figure out what you need it to do.  

3 | Brand Messaging and Design 

Whatever your website ends up being, it IS your business, so it should be amazing.

In any case, websites are your visual storefronts for your business or product.

They should first and foremost speak to your target audience, that’s called brand messaging, and the visual components like logos, brand colors, and brand font add to that feeling.

This is where your brand identity becomes important. To have a truly efficient design process, we recommend having a branding style board or a style tile done, which will help you begin to visualize how each of these design elements might look as a website.

4 | Content

Once you have decided on what your goals are, what features you’d like to have in your website; you want to think about what contents are actually going to go on each page of the website.

It is highly uncommon for web designers to also be the copy writer for your website.

When you find someone to write for your website, you want that person to be able to write in your brand voice. That’s so important, always remember that one.

A pretty website without great on-brand content will cost you.

Other than the wording, you need Graphic Elements to add to your website to make it fit the brand, so think about images and buttons, etc. some brand and web designers can help you with that depending on their services and packages.

So let’s say you want to start a restaurant and you’ll need a website that tells your potential customers your menu options, pricing, special deals, address, and how to get there, you’ll need to provide all of these relevant information to your designs when they go to build the site.

5 | Hosting and Domain Name 

Your domain is your address, so you want to make sure it’s easy to spell and easy to remember.

Depending on what website platform you are on, you might or might not need to get hosting.

Platforms like WordPress are going to require that you have hosting. We currently use SiteGround for its great customer service and ease of use. I don’t know how many times I’ve called them to fix a host migration issue, and they’ve always been really patient.

If you choose to go with a platform like Squarespace, you will only need to buy a domain as Squarespace is mostly an easy to use one stop solution. In this case, we recommend buying the available domain from google domains.

6 | Platform

We won’t suggest any specific platforms in this section as it feels like it should be a separate blog post, or even a resource guide. But here are some things to think about when choosing a platform to build your website on…

What is your comfort level with learning how to design a website?
If you are really comfortable with figuring out a new platform, you have a lot of options. In terms of ease of learning, Squarespace is fairly easy, and you can play, but it feels very limited in terms of customization. 

Do you have the mental bandwidth to learn how to maintain the website?
Squarespace has a shorter learning curve, but edits/changes done in Squarespace are permanent.

How many plug-ins or features do you need the website to have?
If you need an accommodation booking system on your website or a listing type website, something powerful like WordPress might be your best bet. I also really enjoy building membership websites on WordPress. 🙂

How important is customer service to you?
Something like Squarespace has a really good customer service team that you can connect with, if you have any questions. 

7 | Budget 

When you budget for your web design project, you want to think about some of these things:

Web design fees: Will you be DIY-ing your website? Or will you be hiring someone to do custom website design? If you chose the DIY route, you might find some templates to help speed up the design process, but great templates also cost a premium.

Hosting fees varies based on the company that you go with but best to budget that into your website investment.

Domain names are billed yearly, the more unique the name, ie some names with special endings instead of .com, will cost you a wee bit more money. 

Special fees include licenses that allow you to use special plug-ins or integrations. 

Whew! There you have it, a list of some basic things to think about when starting to plan for your website.

Let us know down in the comments if you like seeing this kind of content and if you have anything else to add to the list. We know that this post doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, but hope that this will serve as a good starting point for our fellow creatives and clients!