Your website is the online face of your company. It lends authority and trustworthiness to your brand and helps guide prospective customers to action. Which is why having a website that represents your message clearly is so critical. But websites creation—copywriting, design, and development—takes time, talent and resources. You need to know how to build a website from scratch so that it looks good but is also delivered in a realistic time frame. It is possible – here’s how:
1) Clarify Your Message
We’ve explained why a clarified message aids in the B2B sales process before. But, if you have been putting that off, a website project is a perfect time to undertake that exercise. Clarifying your message means distilling who your customer is, what problem they’re trying to overcome, and how you can guide them to success, all into just one sentence. When you know exactly how to talk about your brand, you have the foundation you need to create all other assets.
2) Create Design Concepts
Deciding on a design is a large task. From colours to photography to icons, there is a lot to be decided on and no real right or wrong answers. To make this part of the project easier, start with a mood board of websites in your industry. Take note of colours, typefaces (fonts)*, images, and themes that are effective, and those that aren’t. Gather your favourite ideas (and examples of things you really dislike) and create a unique design for yourself. This mood board should just be a few examples of these different design elements to guide the actual design later. You don’t need to create an actual page quite yet. Here are some tips of what decisions you should make at this stage:
Finalize your brand colours. This usually consists of two complementary colours and an accent colour that you use for highlighted text, buttons and other actionable items.
Pick an imagery style and stick to it. Consistency is very important to design. Each block should look like it belongs on the page, and page should look like it belongs to the website. Whether you decide on sepia-filtered stock photos, illustrations, icons, or something else, make sure you pick a convention and stick with it.
Find a good font pairing. this is important for user experience.
3) Write the Copy
You’ll do yourself a lot of favours when writing a webpage copy if you create the wireframe first. The wireframe is a rough outline of where the blocks of copy will go, and approximately how long the text will be. You can create this wireframe in a Word document, in specialised programs like Draftium, or by drawing it on paper.
What’s most important is that a designer will be able to look at it and organize the text within their design. Don’t nitpick over every word—aim for 85% perfect wording. Copy has two functions: it relays information to your potential customer and it is also part of the design. Once copy and design are joined, you might see that you need less copy in your second section, for example. Or more copy in your Lead Magnet section. (Unfortunately, it’s more common that you need to cut copy than add more.)
Whichever the case may be, edits are always going to be necessary. On one hand, it would be great to have 100% perfected copy finalized before your website goes to design. But both the copy and the design will be going through rounds of edits, so it’s a more effective use of time to work on them simultaneously.
In other words, create this copy by focusing on hierarchy of information, length of text, broad tone, and with SEO keywords considered.
4) Layout Your Design
If you’ve already done Step 2, this part of your website design will be a breeze. Take your brand colours, font, and imagery, and start applying them to the webpage. Don’t overthink it—remember, your website is driving the user to an objective, so don’t make it a long and arduous journey.
Remember key UX design concepts such as placing high importance items in the top left and working downward and to the right through the page. Ensure buttons that call users to action stand out. And:
- Be mindful of accessible design—there are various free websites available that check whether your website design is easily readable by people with low-sight.
- Define your font styles, headers and paragraph sizing. Material.io has great resources for web font sizing.
- Ensure your website’s colour, buttons, fonts and images are all consistent.
- Standardize elements like consistent menu vs submenu, same contact form for everywhere, same buttons design, etc.
5) Develop Your Website
Most people decide to develop a website from scratch because they want complete freedom. But that complete freedom can also be a bit daunting. Thankfully, ‘building from scratch’ doesn’t need to mean re-inventing the wheel.
By using a lightweight and SEO friendly WordPress theme along with the Elementor page builder, you can build a fast and scalable website. What’s more, it can be easily edited by non-coders. At Paper Sword, we use Elementor because we always want to build so that clients can easily add or change the content and images. There are other similar options, such as Webflow or Squarespace, so take your time exploring your options, and be sure to think about how your choice will support future growth.
6) Final Polish
When your team hears that you’re creating a new website, they usually have a lot of opinions they want to share. Who you involve in the process and when is a tough management choice, which you need to make knowing that too many cooks can spoil the soup.
This is not to say you should make a new website a surprise—see our article on internal marketing for more on that. But you should try to keep the process focused. Only bring team members into the project if they are creating part of it, or if they have critical knowledge they need to share with your copywriter, designer or developer.
That is, until the final polishing phase. This is the point when you want to open up the process to a few more people (not everyone quite yet). You, like everyone who has ever made, well, anything, have probably made a few mistakes on your website. Inconsistent title capitalization, missing periods, icons that don’t match their bullet point…the list goes on. And the more that your website team has been focused on their project, the less likely they are to catch these mistakes. Pick a few people to go through the website with a fine-toothed comb checking for typos, awkward sentences, missing images, etc.
This is also a good time to finish off the tasks that don’t always make it neatly from one handoff to another. Things like writing the Meta Title & Descriptions for each page and checking SEO scores. Or doing thorough accessibility checks. It’s easy to forget that not everyone uses a website in the same way, so this is a particularly important step. Many people use screen-reading apps, for example, so you need to ensure all images have alt-text. You should ensure your videos have closed captioning, and that users can zoom in without loss of functionality. As mentioned above, there are plenty of websites that will check these for you!
Learning how to build a website from scratch is far from impossible. But as the adage goes, projects can be done quickly, cheaply or well—and you only get to pick two. Because most businesses don’t have infinite time, resources, or expertise in-house, it’s easy to see why many choose to get outside help.
Whether you need the expertise of a branding expert, copywriter, graphic designer or developer—or all four—the Paper Sword team is happy to lend a hand.
Not sure what your website needs yet? Get a free website evaluation today.
*Typeface and fonts get used interchangeably but they’re subtly different in a way that drive graphic designers mad. Basically, a typeface is a set of letters designed to match, like Helvetica. Once you start making changes like size, bold, italicised, etc, you’re changing the font. Helvetica Light and Helvetica Bold are the same typeface, but different fonts.