Are you ready to start your first professional website (or seriously level up your existing one), but feeling overwhelmed? Maybe you’re lost in technical jargon and conflicting tutorials? Does it feel like you’re spending every free minute trying to get your website up and running? I get it. In fact, I’ve been there. You aren’t alone. Many people dive headfirst into launching a website, only to realize later that it’s more complicated than they thought. I personally figured it all out on my own through trial and error (aka the hard way!), which was a frustrating waste of time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, this post is for you.
Before we start, if you’ve already hit your website design wall and are ready to hire help… I quickly create beautiful, powerful websites that help small businesses monetize, grow, and make a difference. I’m there to hold your hand during the entire process and launching a website typically take just 1-2 weeks from start to finish because of my signature brand discovery process. If you need help launching your website, I’m here.
Three Focus Areas When Launching A Website
Whether you’re hiring me to help or going the DIY route, here’s my expert advice on the three main areas of focus that are crucial for launching a website. Whether you’re a new tutor trying to introduce your services to parents or you’re an established teacherpreneur who wants a wider reach for your products, these components are equally important to consider.
To create a website that stands out and achieves your goals, you need to consider:
Here are the most common mistakes I see people making when launching a website and how to avoid them yourself!
Mistake #1: Not Defining Your Site Goals
When it comes to establishing yourself in your industry, you need a website. The world is increasingly digital (and heavily mobile!). Many consumers “Google” a business before making a purchase. So yes, you NEED a website.
But setting out on a website-building journey without clearly defining your website goals is like going on a road trip without a map. You’ll likely end up taking the wrong turns or, worse, getting lost completely.
Before launching a website, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your website’s purpose and what you want to achieve with it. Are you looking to:
- Promote your tutoring services?
- Sell educational activity materials?
- Share your tips as a consultant or course creator?
You need to take the time to do a little background research into your target audience (and competitors!) in order to set objectives and goals for your new website. Once you’re super clear on your website’s must-have list and goals, you’re ready to dive in.
A well-designed website structure can provide visitors with an excellent user experience. Think of designing the structure as creating an outline for your website. Each element must fit together seamlessly to make it easy for users to find the information they need.
To achieve this, you need to consider the overall layout and navigation of your website:
- What are the must-have pages for your site?
- How will your links be organized in the navigation menu?
- What opt-ins will you offer?
- if you add a blog (and you really should!), what categories will it have?
There isn’t a “one size fits all” approach, but most sites will need (at a minimum!) Home, About, Blog, and Contact pages. Then you can grow your site over time to include shops, a free resource library, sales pages, custom category pages, etc.
With careful planning, you can ensure that your website is easy to navigate and has clear information that helps you convert visitors into clients or customers.
Mistake #2: Skipping The Content Map
A content map is a critical part of launching a website. I won’t even begin building a website until it’s complete! Content mapping is the process of planning out each page of your site in detail, including decisions like:
- Which sections go on each page?
- What do parents need to see first “above the fold”?
- Which resources will receive homepage space? Will the be “evergreen” or updates seasonally?
- This post all about homepage sections can help.
- What are the specific call to actions and lead magnets on each page?
- Which photos will be used on each page?
Many beginners think that skipping content mapping is a quick way to get their website up and running and that they can “just” add or modify pages as they go – however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. It actually costs you more time, leads to more revisions, and often results in important content being left out.
Think of it this way: when you write a lesson plan, do you start by picking a random topic and jumping right in? Probably not. You likely start with the standards you need to meet, your curriculum scope/sequence, and sprinkle in data/information you have about your students’ needs before you ever begin drafting your lesson. The same principles apply to website design.
Content mapping is the foundation of your website’s structure and organization, and without it, your site can quickly become a disorganized mess.
Skipping content mapping can lead to a confusing navigation system, which will leave your visitors feeling lost and frustrated. And you know what frustrated visitors do? They bounce! That’s right, high bounce rates can result in lower search engine rankings and less engagement with your audience.
Tip: Search engines like Google prefer websites that are easy to crawl and understand, so optimizing your structure with SEO in mind can help boost your rankings. If you don’t know where or how to start, read all about SEO here!
Content mapping can seem complicated at first, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are helpful steps to creating a content map.
Have a Clear Vision
The first step to mapping out your content is to have a clear vision of what you want your website to achieve. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is the main purpose of your site?
- Who is your target audience, and what are their needs and desires?
- What do you want your visitors to do when they land on your pages?
Create Pages and Content
The second step of content mapping is about making your website informational and easy to use for your audience. In addition to your outlining your “core” Home, About, and Contact pages, you should also spend time thinking about your blog/post structure.
You should narrow down topics (categories) and break them into sub-categories as needed. For example, you might have the main category “Reading” with subcategories for individual reading skills, book recommendations, etc. This makes it easier for teachers to find exactly what they need on your site.
You also need to map the internal links throughout your website, which helps users easily find related content on other pages or blog posts. When they find one piece of helpful information on your website, you want them to naturally follow links to explore further.
This is also the time when you should gather text, photos, links, and opt-ins for each page.
Develop a Content Strategy
A well-crafted content strategy can help you create, publish, and manage your website’s content effectively in the long term.
This involves planning an editorial calendar to schedule your content, crafting your brand’s voice and style, and brainstorming how to promote your content to a larger audience. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with this step, content pillars can help.
With a well-thought-out content strategy, you can improve your website’s user experience, iIncrease engagement, and achieve your business goals.
Mistake #3: Disregarding Aesthetics
Imagine walking into a store that is disorganized and messy. You wouldn’t want to stay long, would you? The same applies to websites. If your site looks outdated or cluttered, visitors are more likely to leave without exploring at all. A professional easy-to-navigate website has lower bounce rates, which means people stay and explore.
In the online space, you have only a few seconds to capture attention and keep visitors engaged. This is why the aesthetics of your website, particularly above the fold (the part of the page that is visible without scrolling), are critical. It’s the first thing visitors will see, and it can make or break their decision to explore your site further.
But aesthetics aren’t just about making things look pretty… they’re also about creating an environment that encourages engagement and trust. When visitors land on your website, you want them to feel welcomed and comfortable. You also want them to be able to find what they’re looking for easily and quickly.
That’s why it’s important to consider things like spacing, color palettes, fonts, and images when designing your website. Each of these elements can evoke different emotions and feelings in visitors.
Whitespace is the empty space between design elements and it’s an essential tool for creating a clean and organized website. It can:
- Enhance readability
- Highlight critical content
- Create a sense of balance
However, finding the right balance can be tricky. You don’t want to use too much whitespace and risk making your website feel empty or incomplete. At the same time, overcrowding with too many design elements can leave visitors feeling overwhelmed.
The key is to use whitespace strategically, guiding visitors’ attention to essential content and creating a visual hierarchy that makes it easy to navigate your site. When adding design elements, make sure they’re necessary and enhance the overall user experience (rather than cluttering the page). I always tell my clients– don’t just add something to fill space. Everything on your page should serve a purpose and provide value.
When designing a website, always keep in mind that aesthetics are subjective… what you may find visually appealing may not be the same for your audience.
Conducting user research and usability testing can provide valuable insights into what your target audience finds visually appealing. This can be as simple as observing real users as they interact with your website. By doing so, you can identify areas of confusion, frustration, and improvement, allowing you to make data-driven decisions about your website’s design and functionality.
As an example, I love this Pin that illustrates how text is often read.
You can also take other best practices into considering. For example, the top right corner is a great space for a CTA button!
Correct Practice: Use a Responsive Design
Your website’s design should be responsive, which means it can adapt to different screen sizes. A mobile-friendly website makes it easy for users to view and navigate – no matter what device they’re using.
User experience should be consistent across all devices, with content easily navigable and legible regardless of the display size. It’s important because if your website appears distorted or doesn’t function correctly on a smaller device (like a phone or an iPad) people might leave without reading your content.
Your navigation menu is one of the most important pieces of your website. The top level links here signal importance to search engines, as well as your users. Your menu should be intuitive and straightforward so users can quickly find what they’re looking for on your site.
Keep your titles short and sweet. Use drop-downs to avoid overcrowding. Include a search bar as another effective way to make your website easy to navigate, especially for users who are looking for something specific.
Mistake #4: Not Focusing on Performance
There are several indicators that alert you if your website needs improvement. These are a few:
- Slow loading times
- Page errors
- Security warnings
- High bounce rate
Why is this important? Poor performance can lead to a negative user experience, causing visitors to leave your site and never return.
In addition to losing visitors, a poorly performing website can also harm your search engine rankings. Google prioritizes sites that are fast, secure, and user-friendly. And guess what? Google penalizes sites that are not.
It’s easy to get caught up in the aesthetic details of launching a new website, but don’t lose sight of the technical aspects too. You need to launch a website that performs optimally from the start.
Ensuring that your website is secure should be a top priority. Implementing security measures such as SSL certificates and firewalls can help protect your website from hacking attempts and data breaches.
Not only does this protect your visitors’ sensitive information, but it also helps build trust and credibility with potential customers.
Most website owners want to rank on the first page of Google. Optimizing your site for SEO can help your website rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Again, keep in mind that technical SEO is equally important for website performance. Optimizing page loading speed, ensuring all links are working properly, and making sure all content is indexed and crawlable by search engine bots are all vital elements of technical SEO. This post has more informational about technical SEO.
Ensuring your website is mobile-friendly and using structured data markup can help search engines understand the content on your website and improve your ranking on Google.
Link building is all about building connections and relationships. It’s important to get other websites to link to your website, which can give your website more credibility and visibility.
To do this, you need to create content that people want to link to, whether it’s a blog post, infographic, or video. You also need to actively seek out opportunities for backlinks by partnering with other websites or collaborating on projects.
Mistake #5: Missing Out on Lead Generation Opportunities
Lead generation opportunities cannot be missed. We touched on opt-ins in the content mapping step above, but lead generations are important enough to earn their own section. You need to strategically map out your calls to action (CTAs) and ensure they’re present on all key pages (sometimes more than once!).
To get users to sign up or subscribe, a website should offer clear and compelling incentives. You can provide exclusive access to activity samples, coupon codes, free trials, or first access.
It’s important to communicate these incentives clearly and prominently throughout the website. Including a call to action (CTA) on every page can help encourage users to take action and sign up or subscribe. Placing sign-up forms or subscription boxes in a prominent locations (think homepage, footer, and sidebar) can also increase conversions.
Ultimately, getting users to sign up or subscribe is crucial because it can help build a loyal customer base and drive business growth.
Need Help Launching a Website?– Let’s Collaborate!
Launching a website requires careful planning and hard work. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I have the experience and knowledge to bring your unique vision to life. You can do it yourself the hard way (like I did many years ago!), but you don’t have to. I’m here to help.
When we collaborate, I help you avoid common mistakes and develop a strong foundation instead. I also provide valuable information and a step-by-step guide on content mapping, aesthetics, and optimizing website performance. With an email marketing plan, I can help you create clear and compelling incentives that encourage visitors to subscribe.