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RibbonFish recently went live with a new website, and we thought it might be helpful to let you know some of the basic steps you’d need to do the same. If you’re thinking about building or re-designing a website for your business, read on.

 1 – What do you need? The first step is to establish exactly what you want from your website. Is it primarily for referral, to provide basic contact information and an outline of your business? Or it its purpose to full engage the user in a social and interactive experience? Establishing this will help you create a project plan, including targets to hit within your focus field. A solid plan educates decisions about style, performance, and highlights potential limitations. Basically, set out what you want to achieve, and then start working out the aspects of a website that will help you get there.

2 – Secure a domain. There are lots of domain-for-sale sites across the web. My personal favourite is 1-2-3 Reg. Here, you can search the keywords you want in your URL and see their availability. You can then purchase and secure them directly from the site. Make sure the domain you choose is memorable and relevant. Try to avoid hyphens, it’ll make it a tad harder for people to find your site. Domains are usually fairly cheap, and it might be worth buying more than one so you can get a few pointing towards your website.

3 – Get web hosting. You may now have a top notch domain name and plan for your website, but how do people access it? Web hosting is a way of making all your ideas and designs accessible to the entire planet; but the expression “you get what you pay for” is relevant here. There are many different types of hosting available – the most common being “shared” hosting. This means that a hosting company will put your website, and thousands of others onto the same server. The effect of this can be compared to a home internet connection with a houseful of download-frenzied fiends. Speed is an essential part of whether or not someone will visit your website regularly. If you’re going to be displaying quite simple HTML content then shared hosting may meet your requirements.  If you are going to be streaming videos, using flash and have a lot of interactive features then we would suggest doing what we do ourselves – have a private server.

Although they may be slightly more expensive, there’ are a lot of positive reasons to invest, such as extended control over the hosting environment, and the option to host multiple websites.  With a private server it means all of the hosting power of the machine is going into delivering your website only.

4 – Content Management System (CMS). Next, you need to establish which CMS is the best option for your website. There are lots out there; WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and many more. We initially began by experimenting with Orchard – a .Net based CMS. However, we found the support community and development portfolios to be lacking, so decided to use WordPress. There are a number of important points to consider when choosing a CMS; a good quality admin panel, flexibility, compatibility, and support community. It’s worth doing your research to make sure that you’re using one that suits what you’ll be doing in the future, too.

 5 – Buy a template. There are so many templates out there that provide superb building blocks to creating a great website. Of course, you can start coding and build a site from scratch, but it’s definitely worth considering investing in a template that will make your job quicker and easier. Theme Forest has got thousands of themes to choose from, but you must make sure that the theme you buy is compatible with the CMS you have chosen.

6 – Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Incorporate best SEO practice from the very beginning of your site development. For WordPress, there are some simple and free plugins (we use SEO Ultimate) that set out fields to enter meta descriptions, meta  & title tags, open graphs and more. Building your website with SEO at the forefront can ensure you kick on quickly up the search rankings from go-live date. Make sure you have a Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools account set up so you can manage your sites search-ability and performance.

7 – Develop & customise your website. It doesn’t look too professional to have a standard template with no customisation. Some basic coding knowledge helps here. We utilised our expertise in CSS and HTML to alter certain aspects of our website theme to suit RibbonFish specifically. You can learn these skills, but it might be better to invest in somebody who knows what they’re doing. If there’s not much to change, it won’t be incredibly expensive – but the results will be much better, and you’ll have your completed site much quicker.

We hope that this has given you a basic idea of the steps you need to take to design and build a website, but if you need to know anything more, please get in touch!

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