Building Your First Website? Just Get It Published

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Productivity

When building your first website, It is very easy to fall into this trap of my site has to be perfect before anyone sees it. This is something that we all fall for, no matter our skill level. People spend a ton of time and money building a website, and take months (sometimes years!) before they finally launch their website. They will continually iterate, and improve it without ever showing it to the world. This robs us from cashing in on the time and money we have spent on our site so-far.

Taking Notes From Writing

In writing, we are taught to focus on getting the first draft on-paper. No matter how bad it looks, just get it out. Once it’s out, focus on improving it with ever-increasing amounts of finesse. It’s considered a bad practice to edit while you’re simultaneously writing, because it prevents you from getting into a good state of mind where you can write effectively, and ultimately slows down your progress.

In Stephen King’s Book On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen says

Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it.

Stephen King – On Writing, a Memoir of the Craft

This wisdom can be applied to building a website, too. Focus on getting your website out, as right as you can, and focus on making changes after it’s already out.

Build, and then Iterate

Instead of taking this publish once attitude toward your website, focus on a publish frequently approach. This iterative approach allows you to get the benefits of your website being live as soon as possible.

Plus, an iterative approach allows you to break down your website build into smaller, more manage-able chunks. This is especially important if you’re building your site for a side hustle, and don’t have a lot of time or money to throw at your website.

This is the fundamental purpose of our essential support plan. It provides an ideal toolkit to give our customers a way to quickly build and iterate on their website quickly and easily.

Unless you’re trying to win some-sort of awwward for a crazy esoteric website design, your website is not art. It’s a tool. There’s an important distinction in this thinking. Fundamentally, the purpose of your website is to convert people into customers, not amaze people when they visit. Your website cannot convert people into customers until you launch it. I believe that a basic site is better than no site at all.

Find a Host That Makes Iteration Simple

When building your website, sometimes you will want to make a big change, but when making this big change, your site will temporarily look messed up. This problem prevents many people from attempting these big changes on their website, because they don’t want to risk someone seeing their site in bad shape.

To get around this, professionals use something called a staging site. A staging site is an exact copy of your website, located at another url. This duplicate is usually password-protected, so nobody but you can see it. This site works exactly like your live site, and can be modified in the same manner. Professionals often build on the staging site, where they can make big changes without impacting the live site. Once their changes are done, they overwrite the live site with the staging site.

If you choose to work with a managed hosting platform like Flywheel, this entire process can usually be automated with the click of a button. In other words, you can make your changes on your staging site, and when you’re ready for your changes to be reflected on your live site, you log into your dashboard and click “publish staging to live site”. Conversely, you can also “reset” your staging environment to look like your live site, should you find that your changes didn’t work out like you had hoped.

Use a Site Builder

One of the fastest ways to get results out of your site is to build your site using a page builder, such as Elementor. Site builders allow you to put your entire website together without writing any code. Not only does this allow you to get a site built quickly, but it also allows you to iterate on your site more-easily.

A common concern with using site builders is that your website will look just like everyone else’s website, and to some extent this is true. But don’t worry about that too much, at least not right now. As you continue to iterate on your pages, and continue to make improvements, the site will feel more and more like your own.

After Launch, Improve One Page at a Time

When all your pages are built, your site probably won’t be what you want it to be, and that’s okay. Since your site would be launched, you now have more time to go back and improve each page.

This is the part of the process where you will spend a lot of time on each page, one at a time, to figure out exactly what that page should ideally have. At this point, you’ll do some research on each page, learn what works on pages like this, and tweak your existing design until you don’t know how to improve it anymore.

This is also a great time to hire a copywriter to help flesh out the pages already published on your site. You have already done a lot of the groundwork in creating your page, and you should have a decent idea about your brand, and your website goals by at this point. These items empower a copywriter to polish the copy on your pages to a shine.

Know When You’re Ready For a New Feature

It’s so tempting to add every feature our ideal website would have before launch, however this is a trap that will prevent you from ever getting your website up and running. E-Commerce solutions, blogs, affiliate programs, all of these things are powerful tools that your website can use to help your business grow, however each one takes a lot of time to set up.

It’s a lot easier to focus on getting the basics of your content published first, and then after that work to add these extra features to your site.

When I first launched DesignFrame’s website, I wanted to use all of the tools that I provide my customers every day, and I wanted to use them right now.

Image of Veruca from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory shouting "Don't care how, I want it now!"
Actual photo of me when I started discussions about publishing DesignFrame’s website

However, I knew that I had to start humble. Each of these initiatives would take a lot of time to set up, and none of them would work well if tried to do them all at once.

Instead, I built a very basic site with a contact form. Later, I found the resources needed to hire a professional copywriter to look at my brand, and help me re-write the content on my site. We worked together to recreate many of the pages on the site. From there, I moved on to setting up ways to purchase products on my site, and set up the initial initiatives for DesignFrame’s affiliate program. Then I started working on the blog.

All of these things happened over the course of several months, one at a time. I made a point to spend a significant amount of time working to set them up, and make sure they’re running smoothly before moving on to the next item. If I waited to publish my site until after all of these things were set up, I probably would have never actually published my site.

Conclusion

Your business is an ever-changing thing, and your website should reflect this. If you’re just getting started, focus on keeping your site simple. Get the simplest version of your site published, and then focus on what steps you want to take to improve it after launch. Treat each of these improvements as separate projects, and handle them one at a time.

Be sure to use a toolkit that empowers you to make iterative changes to your site, such as our Essential maintenance package. Things like staging sites, and site editors make it a lot easier to make sweeping changes with confidence.

A portrait of this article's author.

About Alex Standiford

Alex Standiford is the founder of DesignFrame Solutions. Alex has been tinkering with computers and technology his entire life, and started his career as a freelance WordPress developer in 2015. When Alex is not writing code, he can usually be found outdoors, playing disc golf, hiking, or tinkering with a campfire. He's a bit of a foodie, and is often found cooking over the fire with one of his many cast iron skillets.

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