What you need to supply for your website
Generally speaking the requirements for content are the same for all sites – it's just the level of detail that differs. Whatever size website you want, you need to sit down and write the text. If you've already read about getting started on the website then you'll know how your website is to be structured and what content you need to produce.
But before we get started on content, let's get a few other things straightened out.
Do you have a domain name already?
If you don't already have a domain name, then go find one now! It's easy. Use a registrar service like GoDaddy.com or DirectNIC.com, create an account, and then choose your domain name. Domains typically cost $10-$15 per year; any more and you need to find a different domain registrar! Your preferred domain may not be available, so you'll need to give it some thought. Here's some more information on choosing a domain name.
If you prefer, we can register the domain for you. But you're better off buying it yourself and keeping it in your name and in your control. If the worst should happen and your webmaster is flattened by a bus or wins the lottery and disappears into the sunset, your website may be in danger of going down... but having control of your domain name is the most important thing in such a situation. Websites can be copied and rebuilt very quickly by new webmasters, but if you can't use the same web address because your old webmaster is no longer contactable, then all that traffic you've built over the years will go to waste and you'll have to start over.
So we recommend that you buy your own domain and just tell us what it is. If you already have a domain that you want to use, then you're good to go. All that's required is to change the nameservers so they point to where the website is going to be hosted. But don't worry about that for now – that's a simple step for when the website is being built.
Do you have a company logo?
Often a company logo will decide the look and feel of the website. If your logo is red and yellow, then it might seem odd to have a blue and orange theme on the website; it would clash horribly! So the very first step in design work is for you to supply your logo, preferably as a large, electronic, printable image – but failing that even a business card might do.
Tell us what you want to see, and what you DON'T want to see
We always ask a client if he has any preferences for design. Sometimes the client will say he has no idea what he wants. That's fine, but then we ask if there's anything he DOESN'T want, as this is often an entirely different matter. There's no point in being given free reign to work on a design unless it really IS free reign.
One good way to give us an idea of what you do and don't like is to provide a few web addresses. But don't just supply the addresses – tell us exactly what you like or dislike about these sites. For example, the menu bar is nice in this site, horrible in that one, and so on. Any tips like this are helpful to us.
All right. Now onto the content...
Write your text, and don't hold back!
Bullet-pointed lists are fine in small doses, but concentrate more on conversational, chatty text (whether formal or informal) that explains in some detail what you do. Don't restrict yourself to a couple of short paragraphs – try to bang out whole pages of text. If you have trouble with wording, don't worry – just pretend you're chatting to a client about what you do and jot it all down. We're quite happy to edit and optimize whatever you write, but it's easier for us to cut it down than to pad it out.
Go through your page structure one by one and produce all the content you can, in any electronic form such as Word, Notepad, written directly into an email... Any format is fine as long as it can be copy-pasted. If you want to supply sketches or formatted Word documents for visual aids, that's fine too.
Your wording doesn't have to be perfect at this stage. When the content starts appearing on your new website during the building process, you might have second thoughts about something you've written, or inspiration might strike and prompt you to add more. This is all perfectly normal and no problem at all. And there are usually lots of final tweaks and adjustments to make before the site is completed.
Include keywords and key phrases
Make sure you include keywords and key phrases. Alternate your phrasing in an attempt to cover various possibilities. For instance, I might write about web design and website designers, not to mention website hosting and web hosting plans, because including subtle alternatives like this will cover some of the common search phrases that include a mixture of "web" and "website."
It's worth noting here that if you're planning to get listed in the top ten for single keywords or common two-word phrases, then you'd be wise to think again. For instance, search Google for "website design" and you'll get 321,000,000 results. The truth is, competing with that many results is virtually pointless, and as a user you would probably refine your search anyway because you would most likely have no interest in working with a designer on the other side of the world, or even more than an hour's drive away! As a user you would add your home town to the search, so something like "chickamauga website design." Now we get 147,000 results – still an incredible number but far more manageable.
Incidentally, if you search Google.com for "chickamauga website design" you'll note that White Oak Design is listed on the first page. The reason for this is because we spent some time adding the name of our home town to our website, specifically to target potential customers in the local area. So, to target your own local customers, you should definitely remember to include your town or city in your text!
Supply any photos and images you want on the website
This is pretty easy. Just email us, or send on a CD, all the images you'd like to see on the website and we'll edit/resize them to suit. In your text, you could make small notes like "picture of electrical cables goes here" so that we know roughly what you have in mind.
Ready to go!
That's it. Once you've supplied text, pictures, your logo, and whatever is needed for the domain name, you can sit back and wait while we work on the website. You'll see it live online as soon as a first draft is ready, and then it's a case of working together to get it looking exactly as you want.
Even in these working stages the website is physically live and online; but at this point it won't be receiving any visitors unless someone knows the exact web address. If you happen to have a long-established web address and are creating a new site, and would prefer to keep the new site "hidden" until it's ready, that's easy to arrange.
Now you just need to boost your search engine listings.