In the branding process, your website falls under the touchpoints category because it's just one of many ways that your clients and customers will interact with your brand. However, because websites are so important to running a successful online business, I decided to dedicate a post just to website design instead of condensing it in with the previous post.
Because so many people are now finding businesses online, it's very important that you have a website that is both functional and branded well. It's no longer enough to have a website that works okay and get the information across - people want to get to know your brand and business through your website before they ever reach out to you.
When setting up a website, there are a few important terms that you need to know. Whether you're designing your website yourself or hiring a designer, this things will need to be set up before you can launch a website.
Domain: Having a domain for your website is like having an address for a house. You can have an address without an actual building, because your address tells people where to find you. It's the website address people will type in when visiting your online home. You can buy a domain from many different places (I use BlueHost) and once you own a domain, that address belongs to you as long as you keep renewing it.
When buying a domain, you won't be able to use one that someone else already owns (even if they aren't using it). This is becoming a more and more common problem as people are now buying domains in hopes of selling them later. If this happens to you, you have a few options.
- Buy the domain from the owner. This can come at a higher cost than the next options, but if you're really set on something, you can find the owner of the domain and reach out to see if they would be willing to sell it to you.
- Find an alternative. Try coming up with a variation on your business name and check to see if those domains are open. For example, if harvest.com was taken, you could try harvestrestaurant.com or harvestmarket.com.
- Try a different extension. This is the option that most people are turning to and it's become pretty normal. If the .com version of the domain you want is taken, check into other extensions like .co or .net. There are always new extentions being added, which is why sites like beingboss.club are able to find a unique adress that also builds upon their brand.
If your domain is your address, your hosting is the actual piece of land on which you will build your house. Your website host provides you with a server that stores and runs all of your website files. Without hosting, you can have a beautiful website, but no one will be able to see it because there is no where to put it online.
Just like domains, there are a lot of different hosting option.
- Host your own website. For most small businesses this isn't practical, but it is an option. You can actually set up a server to host all of your own website files.
- Buy hosting with your domain. Many domain providers (BlueHost included) also provide hosting. This may add an additional cost to your bill, but it does keep everything in one place.
- Hosting website. Squarespace provides this type of solution, as does Wix and other website builders. You can actually host your website through the same platform that allows you to build your website.
Your website files make up the house of your website - it's the part that people will see when they visit you online. You can either have a website coded specifically for you or use a website builder with template (like WordPress and Squarespace) to make the process easier. Once your files are created, they sit with your website host so that people who type in your domain can see all your hard work.
Once you have a basics in place, you now need to design your website. You can either do this yourself or hire a designer to help you. The most important part of any website design is that it is easy to use for your visitors, but it also needs to look professional and should match your brand.
Whenever I'm designing a website, I always ask my clients what pages they need (home page, about page, services, portfolio) and the main purpose of each. Knowing the purpose of each page helps me to design a website that functions to help bring in business. For example, my home page is designed to show people the main things of interest on my website - my design services and my blog. If I had links to every page page, it would be confusing and people wouldn't know where to go first, but because I give them two main options up front, I can control the way people travel through my website.
Once I know the purpose of each page, I focus on branding the entire website before designing the individual pages. On Squarespace, this means updating all of the Style settings to match the brand identity. From there, I add and design each page to meet the purpose it needs to serve. Once the pages are all in place, I'll go in and make any custom design changes and updates.
For some other tips and tutorials on website design through Squarespace, check out these posts:
- How to Customize Squarespace to Fit Your Brand
- Take Advantage of Your Footer
- Creating a Cover Page in Squarespace
- Create a Gallery in Squarespace
- Ways to Use the Squarespace Summary Block
Along with The Branding Process outline, I'm going to give you a look into how I use this process to design a brand step-by-step from initial consult to launch. Because I don't want to share any of my client's amazing brands before they are complete, I'm going to be walking you through the design of a business I created: Harvest, an eatery and market.
For the Harvest website design, I used the Pacific Squarespace template. I kept the design very simple and only included pages that were absolutely necessary for the restaurant. Each page is designed to demonstrate one area of the business's offerings - menu, classes, and history. I used teh brand colors and some stock photography to give the website the colorful, warm feeling that the Harvest brand is aiming for.
Lemon and the Sea is a brand and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creative women who have a heart to serve others grow their businesses so they can focus on what's most important - family. I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a business that genuinely represents who they are.