There was a time, not too long ago, when establishing an online presence for a business was all the rage. Today, it is more of a cliché for businesses; even individuals and standalone ideas need an online presence to take root. Still, creating a professional-looking, fast, functional, and engaging website is no easy task. It is not too difficult for anyone to set up a site using readily-available automated installers. The challenge is to make it credible and reliable to impress and retain visitors.Regardless of the idea, business, or entity you wish to create a website for, with ease. Here are ten essential steps to follow to build a professional and secure website.
Step 1: Define Your Website Goals
Websites come in all forms and designs. Even before you get started on building, you need to list down the goals of the site in order to build the right web presence. Whether you need to create a portfolio for your projects, a landing page for your business, or an online business, understanding the primary objectives is critical to identifying the nature of the website to build.The most popular types are static pages, blogs, photo galleries, eCommerce sites or online stores, and social media sites. The nature of the website's information will determine the type of website you will build. It is also noteworthy to point out that the elements and assets the website can have will be largely determined by the purpose of the site.As a rule of thumb, start by drafting an idea map on paper. List the objectives of the site and describe the site in your own words as you would like a visitor to see it. From this original idea, you can expand on the objectives to identify the pages, elements, and sections the site can have.
Step 2: Find a Capable Website Host
A quick Google search would reveal to you the massive number of website hosting options in the market today. It is the key to the features, performance, and security of your site. Therefore, you must take the time to analyze available options and make the right pick.The level of security it offers varies. For instance, many hosts offer tiered hosting packages with security and accessibility features that vary with the package selected. Some even offer free hosting packages with the minimum security features they do not need to pay for.Scrutinize the security features of your chosen packages to ensure that they include, at the very least, network monitoring, DDOS protection, malware removal, and a web application firewall (WAF).The most critical security features are malware scanners, denial of service protection, and web application firewall because they prevent intentional attempts to breach your website.These security features also play a role in ensuring a continuous uptime of your website. You would not want to turn away potential customers or visitors when it fails to load due to malware and other attacks.
Step 3: Choose the Right Domain Name
The most exciting step in setting up your website is choosing a domain name. A domain name is the permanent address of your website on the web. Selecting a name does not need to be overly complicated - especially if you have already outlined the site's objectives.The name you choose needs to be memorable and descriptive enough for the website. Typically, the domain name includes the name of the website followed by an extension, e.g., co or .com. When you buy a domain name, be sure to have a secure socket layer (SSL) subscription to protect the site and its content.Most website hosts partner with domain registrars to offer packaged domain names and hosting deals. It is wise to buy the name after finding the right host. Note that domain names are renewed annually, but you can prepay for up to ten years to ensure that you do not lose it should you fail to renew in time.
Step 4: Find the Right Content Management System
At its most basic, a website is essentially a collection of content, including text and multimedia, stored by a web host in an always-online server somewhere. This content is put together in a form that the browser can display by a content management system (CMS). Therefore, the CMS is an invaluable tool that manages the current and future content of the website.Today's CMS does a lot more than manage and present the website content, though. Most come with many protection features to secure the site, manage the code that keeps the site together, and streamline performance.A robust CMS is a necessity for today's websites. The best CMS software on the market is constantly updated to combat new threats, manage new code, and cater to advancements in browsers.You have probably heard of CMS platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, Weebly, and Wix. Most of these CMS platforms are built to cater to most user needs, including different types of websites. However, if you prefer to build a custom website that meets specific needs not catered to by popular CMS, you can skip this step and hire the pros to design and develop a custom website.
Step 5: Create the Content for Your Website
In the online world, content is king. Visitors come to your site to access the published content. Search engine crawlers will also index the content to make the site findable when users search sections of the content on search engines. Therefore, take the time to create a blueprint of your website's architecture and research widely to create winning content that your target audience would want to see.A professional website can have multiple content pages, including an inviting landing page or homepage, a gallery to display images or products, an About Us page, and a page where visitors can contact you.Optionally, you can include:
- A blog to publish long-form content and informative articles.
- An FAQ page to save your visitors the frustration of finding answers to common questions.
- A site map.
Step 6: Set Up Website Access Levels
Have you visited a website and noticed a login section where registered members can access content or site features not available to other visitors?With your website, you can have different access levels for personnel to contribute to the page content, access mails, or make changes to it. For instance, you can have administrators, authors, reviewers, and customers access different features of the site.Setting up distinct access tiers is key to supervising user behavior on the site and protecting it from hackers and other threats. Besides, restricting access permissions to various sections and features of the site will go a long way to minimize errors and website crashes.It is not so difficult to separate the features available to employees, administrators, and other special access groups with tiers of security privileges. Still, it will help secure the site and ensure its uninterrupted online presence.
Step 7: Connect All the Necessary Tools
A modern website relies on multiple tools, including add-ons and plugins that make it work. These third-party codes are responsible for enhancing the experience of your visitors and making browsers function in a certain way. Most websites need a handful of add-ons and plugs, typically built for the CMS platform they use.Plugins and add-ons, like the site itself, need constant maintenance and updates. Depending on the functionalities you need, you may have to connect each of the plugins and add-ons during the initial stages of setting up the website.It is recommended that you add plugins and add-ons one at a time rather than many at once. This approach makes it easier to troubleshoot non-performing and problematic plugins and add-ons and find bugs in the code.
Step 8: Set Up Automatic Backups
It takes time, effort, and skill to develop a website. Once it is running, it takes little effort to update and optimize its performance. However, like everything else, servers on which the code is stored can fail, and it is not unusual for websites to be completely wiped out of existence due to errors and intentional attacks.To be safe, you must set up automated backup solutions to keep a copy of your website's code in a different location online. In the event of data loss or attacks, you would not need to start building the site from scratch again.The best website backup systems must automatically and periodically back up the site and core materials. It must also have simplified ways to restore backups when the website crashes, or data is lost.
Step 9: Track Your Website's Statistics
Start checking and keeping track of your site's performance from early on. Most CMS platforms offer robust webmaster tools to view the site's performance anywhere and at any time. For instance, Google Search Console and Google Analytics are the most popular tools to assess the performance of your website since launch.Having a good idea of your site's performance is key to identifying performance bottlenecks and guiding future decisions of the website. You can analyze which pages perform best, which need more attention, and which ones you can do away with.Performance tracking also helps you identify broken links in the content, slow-loading pages, problematic plugins and add-ons, and other problems that impact the visitor experience.
Step 10: Test, Test, Test!
Contrary to what most beginners believe, website development is an ongoing and not a once-off process. Even after publishing your site, you will still need to keep building and optimizing it to improve its performance. Systematic website testing is an essential step in maintaining the site and optimizing its performance.There are many ways you will keep testing your website. For instance, you must test it with different browsers on different operating systems to ensure compatibility. In addition, you will have to load each page on devices of different sizes to ensure they render responsively without glitches.Continuous testing is a sure way to catch bugs, identify glitches, personalize error messages, and ensure the performance and security of your site.
Your website is the online representation of your idea, business, or skills. It takes time and effort to plan and build a secure website that serves anyone who visits it regardless of location or device. Whether you have only inspiration or have a full list of how you wish to build your site, you cannot go wrong consulting the experts. Drop us a line today to have an expert answer any questions you may have about building your professional and secure website.