Getting a website done from scratch

July 27, 2021

Whether you are a start-up looking for a quick product website/MVP or a business looking to sell products online - you need a website. Having founded, scaled and sold a digital agency in the past, I have worked on hundreds of websites. I keep getting this question often (see screenshot below) and I will try to answer it through this blog post.

how to make a website from scratch

This is my process for a simple/pamphlet website when going online ASAP is the #1 priority. For complex digital products however, there will be user research and customer discovery involved. For this post, I am assuming the target audience, domain name and hosting have been figured out.

The four steps involved in the process are as follows:

  1. Identify a reference website

2. Finalize the website content

3. Get website designed

4. Hire a developer

We'll now look at each point in detail:

1. Identify a reference website:

When time is running out, the last thing you want to do is to start from a blank page or an empty art-board for that matter. A reference website not only helps save time but it also aligns the team-members. Most people only look at their competitors when searching for a reference website, I suggest you start from there and go beyond.

The reference website doesn't necessarily need to be from your industry. A small corporate law firm looking to position itself as a premium law firm, can seek inspiration from premium boutique hotel websites for example.

What does one need to look for in a reference website?

  1. Look and feel of the website - Though this can be changed later, it helps if you find a reference website with similar look and feel. You can even have two reference websites a) One for the look and feel b) And the other for layout/features. Fonts, colors and the brand tone make up the look and feel of the website.
  2. Content Blocks/Sections- This is the primary reason we look at our competitor's websites. Their website will have the features/content blocks we need as well - the industry standards basically. Taking the same example of the law firm, there should be 'service areas' listed on the website.
  3. Features - What features should your website have that'll be useful to your audience/users? Do you need an appointment booking integration or a simple contact form will do? Reference websites often help us discover helpful features for our website.

Please do not, however, get stuck in the inspiration pursuit. Time yourself, spend no more than a day to figure out a reference website. A website/digital product is never finished, it is a continuous process and the idea behind this exercise is to reach the V1 as fast as possible.

2. Finalize the website content:

Content is an important part of your website design and from my experience this is where most people get stuck. Even if you decide to hire a copywriter you'll need to brief and manage them. Over the years, I have tried different frameworks and checklists for getting the website content done.

'Marketing Made Simple' by Donald Miller has an amazing framework for website content development. In case you haven't read it, I highly recommend this book for getting your product marketing sorted. If you are in a rush, here is the link to the framework.

There are several other frameworks out there, but the one by Donald Miller is the most effective and easy to follow in my opinion.

3. Getting your website designed:

Once you have the reference website and content ready for your new website, you are 80% done. From here on you will be supervising/managing a web-designer and a developer. 

What is the difference between a web-designer and a web-developer? 

I have come across this question often and seen these two words being used interchangeably. For a small marketing website the difference between the two doesn’t matter, but these are two very different skill-sets. 

A web-designer or website designer will design your website using design tools like PhotoShop, Sketch, Figma, etc. The aesthetics and user experience of your website will be handled by the web-designer. 

A web-developer or website developer will code your website as per the designs created by the website designer. The website developer it the one who will deliver you a live website. 

A website designer and website developer can be one person too, especially for the kind of websites we are talking about in this post. 

After hiring a web-designer, you need to hand over your references and content. Content includes text, logo, images and videos for your website. The web-designer will deliver the design files in jpeg, png or PDF format, which you need to handover to the developer (if they are not the same person). 

4. Hire a Developer: 

For this blog post, we’ll assume that your web-designer and web-developer are different individuals. You can hire a website developer from websites like UpWork or TopTal. As soon as you have identified the web-developer for your website, you need to provide him with the designs from the designer. 

In case you want your website on SquareSpace, Wix, WebFlow, WordPress or any similar website builder, make sure to hire a developer with relevant experience. 

Before taking the website live, I suggest you test it on different viewports (phone, tablet and desktop) and popular browsers (Chrome and Safari).

There is definitely no one way to get a website created from scratch but the above process has worked well for me over the years. I hope it’ll work for you as well, all the best. 

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