Creating your first website is one of the most daunting tasks for new business owners, and I was no exception. I had it on my to-do list for months before I even started to work on it. Once I decided to leave my “day job” and take Design by Laney full time, I knew that the website was the first big task to conquer, so I finally got to work! No matter how annoying and difficult the website process can be, the only part I regret is not starting it sooner - so if you’re hesitating for any reason whatsoever, let me be the one to tell you to stop hesitating, and just do it!
There are a few ways you can handle the task of creating your first business website:
Do everything yourself
Purchase a fully custom website design
Split the difference with a little bit of guidance on a DIY-friendly platform
I went with the third option, and asked the amazing web designer, Carey Cade, for some guidance. The main reason for this was that I knew there would be a LOT of updates at the beginning, and didn’t want to have to keep pestering a custom designer. I also wanted a basic understanding of how things worked, because I think that’s important at the beginning of your business. And of course, I didn’t have the funds to invest in a fully customized site at that point.
Carey and I talked a lot about the overall purpose of the site, which is a great place to start, and then mapped out the main site navigation and pages to start with.
Pro Tip for First Time Website Designers :
Literally draw out what you want your home page and subsidiary pages to look like. Literally, with a pen and paper. Drawing it out helps you visualize all the elements together and plan how they’ll interact with each other.
When I originally drew out my site, I wanted a specific look that was simple, and image-heavy to show off my work (that was also an SEO nightmare I learned, but that’s a story for another post). We started with Wordpress, because it has the most customization potential. Over 28% of the websites on the internet were built with Wordpress, making it the most popular website building platform.
I have no hard feelings toward Wordpress, and will likely switch to them eventually, but my tech savvy was not really having it at the beginning. I bought a theme, installed it, and then basically couldn’t make anything do what I needed to master Wordpress, so Carey and I re-evaluated since I still didn’t really want to go the fully-custom route. She suggested Squarespace as a perfect in-between option with customizable templates, but not too much tech skill required.
When I first started exploring Squarespace, it was like a breath of fresh air from Wordpress. I could basically create anything I wanted, and I immediately found a template that looked just like my ideal website drawing. You can change your template at any point within the design process, and see what your site will look like with a new template (I needed to do this once I realized SEO values text over images). Plus, you can pretty much customize the templates as much as you want, if there are a few things you’d like to tweak about them.
I’ll be the first to admit that Squarespace doesn’t have everything. There are some customization limitations, but that’s where Carey was able to help me out with a few coding issues that I couldn’t swing. When I first started on Squarespace, I didn’t have a shop at all, and didn’t even really plan to have one. If your business focuses primarily on the shop feature of your website, then I’d recommend Shopify for its eCommerce features. I actually recently considered switching to Shopify and put a lot of research into it. Ultimately, I was able to do everything I wanted to do with Squarespace, and due to better features for my other pages, I decided to stick with Squarespace in the end.
I also used Wix on some side project websites that I was a part of designing - once several years ago, and once again this year. The interface is definitely more user-friendly, more of a drag-and-drop kind of experience, so if you’re a 100% newbie, then Wix could be a good place to start. Squarespace templates are a little more aesthetically pleasing in my opinion, which I’d recommend for visual artists.
Overall, I’ve been super happy with hosting my website on Squarespace (nope, this is not an ad or anything, it’s just the truth). I absolutely needed a little help getting started, and recommend investing in some assistance if you’re like me and don’t have any sort of web development or coding background. There are similar platforms (Weebly and Wix are popular), and here’s a brief comparison on them all if you’d like to check that out!
Stay tuned for our YouTube video coming up soon where we tell you the 8 things you need to build your first website - I promise, it’s wayyy easier than you think to get this up and running!