When DIY website builders start to build their site, there are two major approaches: a) Those who plan, b) Those who do not plan. There is of course many scenarios between these two extremes.
We are going to cover 8 major things to do before doing any building in order of importance:
Purpose of the Website
Are you going to sell online, catalogue your products, advise on your services, technical or academic site. The purpose of the site will greatly influence your design and approach. This is normally a simple & obvious step.
Keywords & Key Phrases
Some would think this should be considered at a later stage, but we believe SEO (Search Engine Optimization) needs to be seen from the very inception of a website. If you have your keywords and phrases jotted down in front of you, allowing the site to take shape around these it will greatly assist in SEO and reduce wasting time later in redoing and refocus on SEO.
This is a more important step than is usually given credit for. First prize is to include your primary keyword into your domain or even better your main keyword should be your domain. For example a hosting company to have the domains hosting.co.za, this is not likely so the next best is eg: something like idshosting.co.za. Should your company be ABC Traders, most will go for abctraders.co.za its the obvious choice. the problem here is there is no keywords attached to the URL so the keywords, phrases on the site will have to be that much better to indicate the sites theme to search engines.
Where your market is situated and who your audience is are two very important considerations. This will determine where you host and how you structure your site and how to market your site.
Knowing who your competition is and what they are doing right will help you not to make similar mistakes as they have done in getting where they are. If there is a lot of competition and or very established you will know what you are up against. Knowing how competitive your market is should change your website & marketing strategy immensely.
Where to host should be a simple decision, host where your market is. If your market is global, then you might need a few websites, initially however host where your largest traffic is anticipated. Depending on your websites function you might need a Windows or Linux OS. Should this not be a consideration or have no knowledge of these we recommend going Linux. Since we do hosting as well as webdesign, we will recommend our services. Considerations for a good hosting company: server speed, good support, simple control panel, available stats, useful features, auto script loaders, DNS & MX access.
Type of Website
There are many ways to build a website, and these should be researched. Using a DIY website builder cannot do everything and should be used for entry level sites only. Spend time learning WordPress of similar CMS website will reap much more long to medium term benefits. In most cases a content Managed Website like WordPress with a good SEO plugin would suffice. For an e-commerce site there are a number of considerations and would not recommend setting up such a site if without previous experience. SEO site software recommended is Magento and Open Cart.
At this point you should be just about ready to start building. You should already have a good idea of your branding, if its a new business determine your branding before building. Make sure you use colours that don't clash, use this site to get a good colour balance
One could write a book on each of these topics, our summary is to get your thinking focused on the site to build and do research on areas where more info is required.