Updated: Apr 29
As someone who has created and tested a few different website builds for herself, and several to the praise of local and international clients alike, I know how exciting it can be to finally get started on building the website of your dreams! The thing is, in all the excitement, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the seemingly huge to-do list associated with starting your own website.
I’ve always felt that too many enthusiastic entrepreneurs never make it to the launch stage of their websites, realizing half-way through that they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.
And given the theme choices, layout choices, widgets, menus, blog posts, and designs you’ll be responsible for once you start your ‘online’ web creation journey, my advice is to start with the so-called ‘offline’ tasks associated with website creation first.
That way, once you finally click in to start your new site, you’ll already have everything you need to quickly and efficiently launch; sometimes, that same day.
DISCLAIMER: This is not an article on how to design a website step-by-step (here’s a good one, though). This is an article to show you what type of content capital you’ll need before you start site-building (regardless of whether you’re embarking on your website journey alone, or if you’re about to hire someone to build a simple website for you).
So, what do I mean by ‘offline tasks’?
Offline webpage-building is anything to do with collecting the copy, content, and images you’ll need to create the beautiful webpages you want, before you ever login to your new (or existing) web account.
Basically, you’re amalgamating the content capital you’ll pair with each page in an organized, coherent manner, while also improving your chances of reflecting your brand’s image every step of the way.
This type of step-by-step resource gathering process will also help you keep your copy and branding consistent between pages, a problematic accomplishment for many entrepreneurs out there today.
Website Beginner Basics: 2 Steps to “Offline” Webpage Creation
To make the whole process of building out the layout of your future website easier, I’ve broken down the main facets of what you’ll need to do beforehand into two tiers (or steps):
Step One: Page Choice
To start, like any good economist or cultivator, it’s best to start small, and then grow from there. Perfect the basics first, which means choosing page-types that will best represent your website’s intent.
That’s why I suggest you choose anywhere from three to five main page types to start, and then build those out to perfection ‘offline’ through content organization.
If you’re going with three pages, for instance, I would suggest a Home page, an About page, and a third, variable option for the final page. For five page types, I might suggest the Home and About pages again, a Content or Blog page, as well as two other variable pages depending on your industry or personal web requirements.
So, what pages should you choose?
Here are just some examples of what those other three page options could include, aside from the main landing page and about page:
Featured Publication Page
Sales/ Product Page
Publications List Page
Request a Quote
Call to Action
History of Us
PageVideo/ Presentations Page
Featured Publication Page
Featured Article Page
Price List Page
Menu/ Services Listing Page
Blog/ Content Stream PageOther Information Pages
Again, this list is just a sampling. There are many more page options out there that might pertain to your industry, which better suit your website’s intent. That’s why I also suggest googling local businesses in your niche to see what types of pages and layouts they’ve chosen. Then, adapt your own page type choices from there.
You’ll also notice that many of the pages above can find homes within each other, so keep that in mind when selecting or narrowing down your final choices. You want to be super economical with your menu options.
For instance, your About page might have your contact page information right there on it. Perhaps your Home page is a landing page which features your latest product, publication, or gallery of work. Or maybe your contact page nests a drop-down menu where you’ll later include pricing information.
Just remember, while the goal here is to leave room to scale, and to add more pages later on down the line, don’t get too far ahead of yourself at this stage. Stick to the three to five page type choices, and let the future come once this initial part is complete.
Step Two: Gather 5 Pieces of Content Capital Per Page
Once you’ve chosen your three to five pages, then it’s time to move to Step 2: collecting the content capital for each webpage. What I like to do is open a new folder for each page I’ve chosen to build, saving it to my desktop or Google Drive.
Then, I’ll go through the list of ‘content needs’ below to ensure each webpage folder includes the following, in whatever organization style I see fit. To make it easy, start with your homepage or landing page, perfect it, and then move on. I think you’ll find the process gets simpler and more familiar as you go.
5 Things You Need to Create an Amazing Webpage
...A Catchy or Short Title
You didn’t think you had to call your landing page ‘home’, did you? No way! You can definitely get creative here and develop title headings that suit your brand, industry, and voice.
This will not only help you keep on-topic as you build out page content and copy (including subtitles or subheadings), but will also help you organize your menus and tabs later down the line.
For instance, on my gallery website, I called my homepage “Collections”, since that page features my latest nine-set collected photography work. Simple, professional, easy to understand and navigate. At the same time, my business website gets straight to the point, with the homepage titled simply, 'Manifest Content Solutions'.
The same will go for the page options you’ve chosen: maybe your “about” page is called “All About Us”, or maybe you want a sales or shop page called “Treat Yourself”; whatever the case, I really encourage you to have fun with this part—but don’t get stuck here either. Titles are malleable. You can always change and adapt as you go.
Header or Featured Photo
The truth is, your visual content is going to go a long way in terms of the success of your website. Humans are very visual creatures, and are likely to glaze over word blocks in favour of cool and interesting (and unique!) images. That means choosing at least one image that represents what the page you’re working on is all about, and saving it to the appropriate folder.
My first suggestion here is to create your own visual content if you can, or hire someone to do so. From what I’ve read, unique visual content invariably outperforms replicable content found from other sources.
Still, if you don’t have that kind of graphics access, then there are SO many websites where you can find some great, accessible images. Just remember, it’s important to credit photographers and creators if you can, and to find visual work that is copyrighted for commercial or public use.
This is in fact one of the reasons why I love using Unsplash to source banner and featured photographs when I don’t have the right ones on hand; Unsplashalways gives you the chance to credit the photographer or creator, and all images are uploaded with the express permission of that photographer as well.
Industry Tip: For faster page load times later, consider compressing your visual content using sites like compressjpeg.com before saving it to the appropriate folder.
Written Content Copy (incl. Call to Action)
Static content copy is not the copy you intend to use for your blog post articles later. This content is instead the static wording found at the top, side, or bottom of your chosen webpage.
Keep in mind, the layout you choose once you finally get to the ‘online stage’ will have several stations where you can input text. That’s why to start, I always set the goal of 250 words of copy for each webpage, even if I don’t end up using all of it. By further breaking that 250 words down into 50-word segments, I find it also saves time when I start to copy and paste that content into my WordPresslayouts later.
Just remember, whatever your style or aim, you should try to include at least one call-to-action on each page, which is just some form of invitation to buy, reach out, follow, or subscribe.
Now, this whole copywriting step can be a bit tricky for those who aren’t casual wordsmiths (or who aren’t looking to outsource), but I suggest just opening up a blank document, meditating on what you want to say on this page (remember, focus on the now!), and then write snippets of text that you can edit later, or even the next day.
Again, don’t get too caught up in perfection here. You are going to go in and edit these words so many times it will make you crazy over the life of your website. But for now, it’s good to have a solid base that you can work with, that captures the intent of the page you’ve chosen.
Additional On-page Graphics
You already have a featured image, but oftentimes a single page (as I mentioned above) will have several “stations” where you can input both copy and an associated image. You may not need to add more images depending on your vision or intention for design or layout—some people like a single photo, with a single call to action and that’s it—but if you do want to add a few more images to your page’s content capital, return to the featured image-sourcing guidelines above.
Accessibility Tip: Posted graphics often give you the option to include ‘alternate text’. This text is not just great if someone’s connection is slow and a page doesn’t load, but will also be translated into audio form for seeing-impaired audiences.
Link List for Associated Articles, Sales Pages, Social Media Sites, or other Webpages
One of the most time-consuming parts of creating a website is going back and forth to your social pages or existing sales platforms and linking them back whenever you decide to create a new page. Instead, I usually create a note beneath my copy for each page that includes all the links I intend to include there. Obviously, some links will not be available at this stage, since they will be links to other pages of your website, but try to collect as many as you can.
Some of you may have already added important links as hyperlinks to your copy. Great! Just make sure to add the original link to your list, since I don’t know how many times I’ve accidentally deleted a hyperlink while editing.
Website Building: Get Set to Launch
Once you’ve nailed down those basics, it’s time to log onto your web-building platform of choice, name your website, and choose a theme that suits your business!
You can pay for themes or choose a free one, and even purchase your domain name. I’ve honestly been using WordPress since 2013, but have since moved over to Wix as I believe the usability is improved for the average lay-user. And don't worry if you publish your site and end up hating it, or receiving negative feedback from your customers - that's one of the only ways your business can grow.
That’s why we did this whole exercise in the first place; so you can have improved flexibility as you focus on the actual layout and design of your website, instead of getting side-tracked with the content needs and requirements that go with each page.
Note: As you’re going through and building your website, remember that if you add any copy, buttons, graphics, etc., that you should save that immediately to a saved folder. This will be especially helpful if you intend to hand off your website for someone else to manage in the future; you’ll have a fully-updated and accessible portal of content capital!
As I mentioned in the beginning though, you may have brought everything together with the intention to hire someone to build out your initial website, and that’s great!
At this point, all you have to do is organize all of your ‘offline assets’ neatly and pass them off to a talented web creator—which will save the both of you a ton of time and money.
I for one always enjoy when clients have all their assets at the ready, and a clear idea of the scope of their project, so if you’ve gotten to this stage and aren’t sure where to go from here, don’t hesitate to reach out! We at Manifest Content Solutions are always happy to help.
Otherwise, I wish you best in your creative webpage building, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with!
Need help with your website?
Talk to our experts at Manifest Content Solutions, trusted content management extraordinaires!