In the world of online business, everything … and I mean everything … revolves around your website.
That’s where one of my favorite maxims comes from:'The only website that works is one that's published.' – Pamela WilsonClick To Tweet
Your ideas, your website outline, your page copy, the platform and theme you plan to use … these are all important.
But until your website is published and findable on the internet, it might as well be invisible.
How to become the proud owner of a Minimum Viable Website in less than a week
New websites are less overwhelming to tackle if you approach them in phases.
Step away from the scary cliff where you’re looking at the whole, huge website project, and just focus on the ten feet of the path that lies right under your feet.
What we’ll talk about here is Phase 1: the bare minimum pages you need to have in place to launch a new website to the world.
The only goal is to get these few pages in place and make the website live!
I’m going to show you how to do just that in less than a week.
After all, why wait? Websites are endlessly editable, so don’t sweat it — get something published this week. You can tweak it later!
Make a mindset shift — from “it must be perfect before I make it live“ to “it must be live and then I’ll make it perfect.“ That will help you build your Minimum Viable Website and publish it with confidence.
No one’s watching
Making a website live can feel nerve wracking. I know — I’ve felt those nerves myself, and have virtually held the hands of many a coaching client as they were about to hit publish for the first time.
But keep in mind …
There’s a very good chance that in the earliest days of your site going live, no one is actually paying attention.
That’s because, in the beginning, the search engines haven’t found you.
And although not showing up in search may feel frustrating, I’m going to ask you to try to see the upside of this situation.
In the beginning, when you’re first putting your site together, you can fly under the radar for a few months.
And that is a beautiful thing, my friend.
In the early days, you’ll make embarrassing mistakes (we all do). Take advantage of this time when no one is watching to learn the basics of managing your new site. And publish with confidence because …
… no one is watching!
What this article doesn’t include (and why)
This article isn’t about the tech side of building a website. I’m not going to talk about what platform to use, which theme to choose, or what email provider to sign up with.
(My preferred tools are here if you’re curious.)
In this article, we’re covering the hard part of creating your website content — how to get those first pages written, built, and published!
You may wonder:
- What pages does my Minimum Viable Website need?
- What should those pages contain?
- How many pages should I have ready before I make my site live?
All this (and a little more) are below. I hope you find it helpful!
The essential pages for your Minimum Viable Website
The basic pages you need to prepare before you hit publish happen to be “evergreen.” That means you’ll create them once and won’t need to change them much over time.
Here’s what to focus on creating this week:
- Your Home page
- Your About page
- Your Contact page
I know what you’re thinking! “What about a blog?” “What about a shop, store, or services page?”
Those pages are important and can be the next thing you tackle once you’ve made your site live.
Here’s the thing:
Publishing those three essential pages is going to feel daunting enough.
I recommend you focus on getting those pages in place first, and then work on adding content and commerce sections to your site later.
Let’s look at each of these essential pages individually:
How to create your Home Page
Your Home page is the front door to your online business.
And that door should communicate — in a split second — what visitors need to know about the business inside.
Your Home page has an important job to do. Because it’s the “welcoming committee” for your site visitors, it should answer their most basic (and unspoken) questions:
- Where am I?
- Is this website worth my time?
- Can I trust this business?
Answer the essentials …
How to answer the “Where am I?” question: People arrive on your site after having typed a site address into a browser. Give them immediate confirmation that they’ve arrived at the right place by placing your website or business name high on the page, either on the top left or middle.
How to answer the “Is this website worth my time?” question: Follow your website name with a website tagline, which often looks like a large headline at the top of the home page. This headline should immediately convey what you offer, who you help, and what you do.
A short, effective formula goes like this (fill in the blanks between the brackets):
[Business name or you] + help(s) [your ideal customer] do/achieve/become [result]
Here’s how my home page tagline as an example. I swapped the word “help” for “teach,” because that’s the primary way I help people.
How to answer the “Can I trust this business?” question: The rest of the page should reinforce why they should stick around and lend you their attention.
Add authority-building text that shows them what you do — and what others think about how you do it.
Use this list as a guide for what to include in the trust-building copy on your home page and don’t worry if you don’t have some of these items! You can add them as you get them:
- A quick summary of how you help (150 to 300 words)
- Testimonials from past and current clients
- Awards you’ve won or certifications you hold
- Media or websites that have quoted you or mentioned your business
- Results your clients have achieve: quote data to prove your offers really work
Plan to revisit this section of your home page and add to it as you acquire new testimonials and authoritative proof.
How to create your About page
Don’t gloss over this page! About pages are some of the most-visited pages on a site — people are innately curious about the people behind a business.
They’re looking for an overview of who you are, what you offer, and who you help.
Make sure that your About page contains these key elements (and in this order):
Who you serve. Start with a compelling headline and let them know they’re in the right place. Describe the ideal customer you like to serve, and do it in a way that they’ll recognize themselves when they read the copy.
Who you are. After you’ve talked about them, then you can say who you are or talk more about your business. This is where you can add a short sentence or two about awards your business has won, recognition you’ve received, licenses or certifications you hold, etc.
What you offer. Add brief descriptions (with links) to the solutions you offer, whether they’re products or services. This is also a perfect place to add testimonials from satisfied customers.
How to create your Contact page
When your site visitors are ready to take the next step, they’ll want to know how to get in touch with you.
Warning: don’t post your email address on your Contact page.
Because there are sketchy companies out there who troll web pages and scoop up email addresses. They sell those addresses to companies who will flood your inbox with spam.
To protect your email address, use a contact form that will send responses to your inbox. It’s an extra step, but it will protect your email address from spam email you don’t want.
Follow this simple schedule to publish your Minimum Viable Website in a week
I’m a big believer in giving yourself time away from creative work so you can revisit it at least a couple of times and make revisions before you publish.
Unless you’re working with a professional editor (a luxury I don’t have, and I bet you don’t either), the editing task falls to you.
That means you’ll need to put these pages together in a way that you can see them with “fresh eyes” a couple of times before you make them live. This will help any errors, omissions, or mistakes stand out.
Bonus: if you can find a friend, family member, or colleague with eagle eyes to help you take a final look at things, enlist their help as an “editing buddy” starting on Thursday.
This schedule is designed to be easy to follow — no late-night marathon editing sessions required. Remember, we’re keeping this simple and building a foundation you can add to later.
- Add your site name and tagline to your website.
- For help with creating your website tagline, see the section above for a formula.
- Write the first draft of your “authoritative” copy: what you do, who you help, how you help them, in less than 300 words.
- Put together authoritative proof in the form of testimonials, names of sites where you’ve appeared, awards and certifications you hold.
- Write the first draft of your About page using the tips in the section above.
- Revisit your Home page copy and make the first pass at editing it.
- Begin adding the Home page copy and images to your site builder on whatever platform you’ll use.
- Revisit your About page copy and make the first pass at editing it.
- Research and find a contact form you can use to protect your email address (see above). Write the first draft of your Contact page copy.
- Quietly publish your Home page and send the link to your editing buddy.
- Begin adding the About page copy and images to your site builder on whatever platform you’ll use.
- Add the Contact form and copy, publish the page, and test that it works as expected.
- Quietly publish your About page and send the link to your editing buddy.
- Make any suggested Home and About page edits.
Congratulations, new site owner!
If you work through this schedule day by day, you’ll have a Minimum Viable Website created and published within one 5-day work week.
Now, start sharing your site with friends, family, and colleagues.
Expect to make edits and tweaks in the coming days, weeks, and months. That’s a big part of the fun of owning a website — it’s a never-ending adventure. 🙂
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