What to do & when to do it: A step-by-step guide to building your Squarespace site
So you want to build a website for your business but you're not really sure you know ... where to even start! Slight dilemma...
Well today is your lucky day gal, because I've launched well over 40 sites now, and in that time I've compiled a step-by-step list of what should happen when in order to launch with minimal headache.
Now, I'll admit, this isn't a super quick process and there's a lot of steps involved.
I suggest either bookmarking this post as you def won't be able to get through all of these steps in a day, orrrr I also made you a free downloadable PDF checklist which you can keep handy on your desktop and refer back to as you go.
Alrighty, now you have your checklist, let's get you started off on the right foot, shall we?!
Here's what to do and when to do it when it comes to building and launching your Squarespace site!
Initial site build preparation
Yes, yes, I get it, you want to hop on the templates page and get movin', buttt I do encourage you to hold those horses and start at the beginning. It really will save you so much time in the long run.
Step 1. Define your ideal visitor
Why you ask? Because a vague idea of who you're trying to serve is going to leave you confused and frustrated when trying to make all the 29,354 decision that there are to make when deciding on layout, content and design.
There really is no other option when building a business or a website than to get clear on exactly the person you want this thing to reach!
Step 2. Pick 1-2 site goals
A site without goals is going to be confusing, cluttered and unclear. A site that's developed with 1-2 very specific goals in mind is going to kill it in clarity and conversions. And that's what we really want for your new online home!
Step 3. Pick the SEO terms you'd like to rank for
While you're building your site, you'll be incorporating these terms into the content and settings of the site, so it's best to know what keywords you want to be found by right from the very get-go.
Step 4. Buy domain on Squarespace or begin domain transfer
Of course, it'd be a bit of a disappointment to finally think up the perfect site domain, only to search and realize it's gone. Ugh, the worst!
Let's avoid that mini heart break by locking down your domain name ASAP. You can either head to Squarespace.com to buy one or buy one through another domain name provider.
If you buy a domain through another provider, depending on the provider sometimes it can take a few days or weeks to move over to your new site. So, start the transfer now, so when you finally complete the site design, you're not holding up your launch date because you're waiting twiddling your thumbs while your domain moves itself over and connects to your new Squarespace site.
Step 5. (Optional) Set up a coming soon page
If you're connecting your domain from another provider, you don't have a lot of say when the thing actually connects. The internet Gods make that decision, and we're all just waiting at their mercy.
To avoid the world seeing your hot mess of a website construction zone, create a coming soon page and set it as the home page.
Design & Content preparation
Yep, more prep. 😂 Don't hate me!
Step 6. Create a Pinterest inspiration board
It's all well and good to write your ICA, but trying to create a visual masterpiece from a written Ideal Client brief can sometimes be tough. Turn your ICA brief into a visual thing by making a Pinterest inspiration board out of it. You want your board to be your ICA's dreamland. Happy pinning!
(Now don't go letting yourself get distracted on all the recipes and holiday DIY decor! I see you! Back to work friend, you have website work to do!)
Step 7. Write out a sitemap
What pages will you have? How will they all connect together? Creating a sitemap defines this, so you know what to make and how to connect it all once you go to build.
Step 8. Decide on navigation and footer links
What should go in your navigation and what are you going to place links to from the footer or content of our pages? Define your most important pages and decide on their placement accordingly.
Step 9. Buy, find or shoot photos
The #1 thing that will make or break your site design? Photos.
Blurry or just straight up bad photos will kill even the most beautiful site designs. So it's worth putting in the effort to get the photo thing right. Buy some, find some on a stock photography website or go shoot some yourself or with a photog. Your website will thank you.
Step 10. Write site content and copy, incorporating your SEO terms
You'll need some text to go on that snazzy new website of yours. There is no right or wrong way to do this, but I personally like writing before designing. Especially if I'm working with clients, it's necessary to have the copy done before the site design starts.
I can already hear you, 'finally!' you say! Yes, now is the fun part where you get to take all your prep work, content and inspiration and mash it up into the perfect website.
Step 11. Build homepage
I personally always like to start with the home page. You get to set the tone for the site, play with lots of design styles, and bring parts of the design into the other pages on your site once it's been created on the home page.
Step 12. Design footer & navigation
No site design it complete without a navigation and footer. So be sure to build these out and style them up too. They appear on every page of your site, so make 'em fab!
Now before you actually go to launch the thing, after building it's important to tweak the thing to perfection and ensure all your settings are correct. Here's what to do:
Step 13. Check site on mobile, and tweak where necessary
You'll always build your site from a desktop or laptop (doing so from a phone would be the ultimate practice in patience, even for the best of us). So, we tend to be super familiar with how our site looks on desktop, butttt we can't forget that a good amount of our traffic will likely come from mobile, so it's important to make sure that our desktop-designed-first look translates well into mobile.
You may need to tweak some placement of blocks and alignment of things to make the site play well on a phone or tablet. Nows the time to complete that!
Step 14. Link up 3rd party integrations
Email list. Appointment scheduler. Donation buttons. All those good things.
Step 15. Check links and other site functionality works
I personally always link up all my buttons after I actually build out the full site, because sometimes I'll add buttons the page I'm linking to isn't created yet. For that reason, I just leave all links to the end.
Also, be sure to test any other site functionality to make sure everything is working. Book an appointment with yourself, buy something from your shop and opt-in to your email list. You should be the first to do all of these things before any other visitors.
Step 16. Check SEO
Be sure you have all your settings correct for SEO best practices and get Google to crawl your site. Tweak where necessary.
Step 17. Turn on HTTPS
Https makes your site all secure. Google likes secure, and in case you've been under a rock lately, Google (and Beyonce, obv) runs the world. So get on Googles good side by turning on your HTTPS.
Not sure if Beyonce cares about secure websites ... I'll have to get in touch to ask. I'll keep ya posted on that one.
Step 18. Add a Google description
So when your site does show up in the search results (yay!) people can get a few more details as to what your site is about and encourage them to click through!
Step 19. Turn on AMP
Accelerated Mobile Pages is a setting that that strips out all the fancy jazz from a page when loading on mobile so the thing loads faster. Again, Google likes fast, therefore likes AMP, so it's a good idea to turn this setting on.
Step 20. Take blog post dates out of URL slugs
This is a super old school URL practice that's not a thing anymore. I'm not sure why Squarespace hasn't changed the default setting to dateless URLs, but they haven't yet, so be sure to change this setting yourself.
Step 21. Add a favicon
We want your site to be recognized as yours, and for every bit of it to add to recognition of your brand, not Squarespaces. So be sure to upload a favicon, which will then override the default Squarespace cube favicon.
Step 22. Turn on your Pin-It button
Because in case you missed it, Pinterest can be an unreal traffic driver! Make it easy for your followers to do the sharing for you by enabling the pin-it button, a polite little reminder to share the love with a pin!
Step 23. Add a social sharing logo
That's the photo that appears in a preview of your site when you share a link on a social platform. If you don't change the social sharing logo, it'll end up being your site logo, which doesn't look as good as a great photo that demonstrates what you do.
Step 24. Disable Squarespace badge
Some templates have a little 'build with Squarespace' badge on the site. Again, we want this site to be about you and your business, not Squarespace. So be sure to take a moment turn that setting off.
Step 25. Buy a Squarepace plan
You're almost thereeeee! In order to make your website live to the world, you'll first need to purchase a Squarespace plan.
If you choose to pay annually, you can use the code 'PAIGE10' for 10% off your first year. Then go take the couple dollars you saved and spend it on a bottle of bubbly to celebrate your hard work!
Step 26. Link domain and launch site
If you haven't already linked your domain, now is the time to do so. After that you my friend will have a fabulous, live website! Wahoooo!
There you have it, those are the steps between you and website completion!