Preparing for your new website

Creating your first website, or even redesigning an existing website can be a daunting experience. With so much to think about, owners often find it hard to know where to start.

This guide aims to walk you through the steps to go from a blank canvas to a finished document  It sets out everything you will need to start creating your website with confidence.

Whether you choose to partner with Chalet Engine, hire a web developer, or build your own website, this guide will take you step-by-step through the process.  It will also help you prepare starting work on your new website.

If at any point during this guide, you come across a question that you’re not sure about or just get bogged down in one section, you can reach out to us through our contact page and we will be happy to help in any way we can.

What we will cover

Creating the design is the easy part in a web design project. The hard part is creating the content to plug into the design. Yet it is the content that is most important and what speaks to the visitor. This is why we always start by identifying the types of guest that we would like to target, then produce the right content that our potential guests can relate to. Finally we wrap this inside a design that fits both the audience and the content.

I’ve broken this process of research, information gathering and creation down into eight steps.  Some might take a few minutes to complete, others will take a little time. At the beginning and end of this guide, you will find a form where you can download the worksheet and checklist that will help you work through this guide and keep track of your progress.

 

Here are the sections that we will cover:-

  1. Discovery
  2. Your domain name
  3. Login details
  4. Marketing
  5. Branding & Styling
  6. Social Media
  7. Content & Images
  8. Your Booking Process (coming soon...)
  9. Blog Post Content & Images

By the time we have worked through these sections and completed the content in your worksheet,  you will be ready to take the next step and launch your new website.

1. Discovery

The first thing we want to do is get to know ourselves, our business and our strengths. We also want to identify our ideal guests and see how we can best serve them while also differentiating ourselves from the competition.

If you are already a Chalet Engine client, we may have discussed this on our kick-off call, but it is really worth spending some more time here as everything we do in the follow-up sections is built upon what you discover about yourself and your potential guests. Here are some high-level questions to get you started.

Can you list your personal and business strengths. Also note where these might be advantageous when compared to the competition. What can you do or offer that your competition can’t (or won’t!).

Who is your ideal client? What type of people would you like to attract with your website? For example, are you best suited to young couples, groups, families with small children etc.? Weekend breaks, those that are looking for skiing combined with other activities etc.? The more specific you are, the easier it will be to target your content and design and marketing for that audience.

What are your top 1-3 priorities for your website? Usually, attracting bookings will be No.1 but you may have other priorities such as promoting a complimentary service or product.

What do you want your website visitors to feel when they visit your website? For example, perhaps you would like your visitors first impression to be that this is a young and fun place to stay with a party atmosphere or alternatively it could be high-end, luxurious offering a more exclusive holiday?  Think about your ideal clients and what would appeal to them.

If you have an existing website, can you list 3 things that you like and 3 things that you wish you could change?

2. Your Domain Name

Choosing the right domain name is extremely important for so many reasons. There are many articles online to help guide you in the right direction and I strongly recommend that you watch Rand Fishkins short video here

When I’m looking for that perfect domain name, I like to start by listing all of my ideas, words and phrases, then try putting them together to create something that works. Thesaurus.com is useful for trying to find alternative words. Once you have a list of potential domain name ideas head over to hover.com to see what is available.

Domain Cloud

3. Login Details

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If you already have your domain and other services set up, it will be useful to pull all of your various login details together in one place. Some key information of relevance might include:-

 

  • Logins for Domain registrars and DNS management
  • The login address, username and password for your existing website
  • If you have login details for cPanel, FTP or phpMyAdmin
  • Login details for email management
  • Login details for email marketing and list management websites (for example Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Aweber etc.)
  • Logins for listing websites, Tripadvisor etc.
  • Logins for Google search Console and Google Analytics

4. Marketing

Wait a minute, doesn’t marketing come after the website is launched? Well, mostly I would agree that the bulk of your marketing plan will spring into action after launch, but when it comes to creating a website, we like to begin with the end in mind.

Many websites are launched with the notion of ‘Build it and they will come’. Sadly, this doesn’t work on the web. You can have the best business and website in the world, but if you don't have a plan for how you are going to market it, you will struggle to drive visitors to your website and make bookings.

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hubandspoke

At Chalet Engine, we follow the idea of a hub and spoke model. At the centre is the your website (the hub). Surrounding it are all of the channels that promote your business, but their primary purpose is always to bring those visitors back to your website. These channels can include things like social media, listing websites, SEO, advertising, email marketing etc.

Why place your website at the centre? The reason we do this is because this is the one asset that you own and control. Channels such as social media networks and listing sites rise and fall in popularity over time. Many of the original social networks have even disappeared. Remember Myspace, Friendster or Bebo?

Building a business that focuses around a Facebook page, or an AirBnB or Homeaway listing is like building a house on someone else's land. They own your listing and your content. They can and will change the rules over time. Some of the biggest names have already introduced new fees, actively removed references to personal websites and discourage use of brand names to make it difficult for owners to attract bookings outside of their platform.

Having your own slice of the internet means that you can build on your asset’s credibility and authority in your resort. At the same time, directing visitors back to your website with a balanced portfolio of channels that perform. If a channel disappears or begins to fade in popularity, all is not lost. Because you didn't ’bet the farm’ on that channel’s success, you can re-focus your efforts on alternative channels and take advantage of new opportunities as they arise.

For the launch of your new website, have a plan, or at least some ideas for which channels you will use to promote your business at launch, as this will inform some of the choices you make while building your website.

Marketing Inspiration & Ideas

To give you some ideas, here are a few popular marketing channels you might like to consider.

DIRECT & OFFLINE

For example, your email signature should include a link and reference to your website and any offers that you might have. Other offline opportunities include work bulletin boards, friends and family.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube etc.

GUEST BLOGGING

This is producing content for another website where there is a common interest in exchange for a link back to your own website.

PROPERTY MANAGERS

If you employ a local property management company, some also provide an area on their website to promote local properties.

PARTNERSHIPS

Partnerships with in-resort businesses that compliment your accommodation. For example, local ski hire shops, bars, restaurants tourism activities  and other businesses may be happy to promote your property in exchange for a reciprocal recommendation of their services to your guests.

ORGANIC SEARCH

This is the process of optimising content for visitors searches. We will work with you to optimise your content to help your website rank with the major search engines.

GOOGLE MY BUSINESS

This is a free service by Google that helps you have your property appear on Google’s maps. By registering, Google post out a postcard to your address with a verification code. Once confirmed, your property can appear on Google maps and searches.

CONTENT MARKETING

This covers a variety of methods of creating content, which can be written, video or audio. Creating valuable content increases awareness and will help your website rank better on the search engines

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Become socially active. Most ski resorts have online communities. Joining these communities and taking part in the conversation can be a good way to make friends, partnerships and reach influencers in the area.

LISTING WEBSITES (SKI FOCUSSED)

These are the resort specific accommodation listing websites. There are also some ski specific websites that you can list your property on such as Ski Lettings, Chalets Direct, Independent Mountain etc.

LISTING WEBSITES (GENERAL)

These are the larger listing websites such as Homeaway, AirBnB and Holiday Lettings.

ADVERTISING

Adwords and Facebook. Both platforms provide the ability to create paid advertisements on their websites.  Advertisements can also be placed on 3rd party complimentary sites. Some local businesses may offer advertising or sponsorship of their website.

EMAIL MARKETING

This can include newsletter offers, events, last minute deals. Chalet Engine websites can integrate with all of the popular Email marketing platforms such as Mailchimp, constant Contact, Aweber etc.

If you have an existing website and already employ a variety of marketing tactics such as those listed above, let us know what marketing you are already engaged in and where relevant, record details so that we can ensure consistency between the old and new website. For example, you may have a form that adds visitors email addresses to a mailing list or perhaps an affiliate agreement with a local business for affiliate sales. This information will need to be factored into the design and content of your new website.

5. Branding & Styling

Branding and styling preferences refer to how your business presents itself to the world through it’s design, personality and voice. Your branding and style should be consistent across all of your online and offline media. Some of the information that you will need to have available or give consideration to include

Your logo

If you have a logo, a high quality version should be provided. Ideally the original file if created in something like Photoshop, or a version saved as a png file with a transparent background. The higher the resolution of the image, the better as it can always be scaled down. Scaling a small logo up, usually results in a loss in quality. If you don’t have access to your logo, we may be able to download it from your existing website or other online media such as a Facebook or Twitter page. If you don’t yet have a logo, we will create a simple text logo for you in-keeping with the theme and design of your new website.

Colours

Many businesses have predefined brand colours that need to be reflected in the website to match those used in other online media and printed material. If possible, colours should be provided as RGB or hex code. A Hex code looks something like this (#ffffff). If you don’t know these colour codes, a link to an online webpage containing these colours, a photograph or logo can often provide this information.

Brand-colours

"It does what it says on the tin!"

"Snap! Crackle! Pop!"

Tagline

If you have a catchy tagline that you use often, let us know so that we can incorporate it into the design.

Quotes & Keywords

Similarly, if there are any quotes or particular phrases that you would like to be used on the website, include these in the worksheet.

6. Social Media

Many chalet businesses make great use of social media to promote their businesses and keep in touch with previous and potential new guests. Our websites can integrate with social media in a variety of ways, so let us know which social media accounts you use in your business and provide links where possible. Examples of popular networks include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube etc.

Some of these networks provide built-in tools to help you embed their content within your website. If you would like us to do this, include login details for those services.

7. Content & Images

Ok, now we're going to start digging into the creation of your website, design the structure and begin putting together the main pages. Following us through these steps should make the work less daunting as you piece together everything that you need.

Website Structure (Creating a Site Map)

 

During the early stages of designing a house, you need to make decisions on the number and types of rooms needed. After, you plan where the rooms will go and how they are inter-connected.

In much the same way, before we dive into the content, we need to decide what pages we need, where they will go and how they will connect to each other.

Your site map is the first visualisation of the content that will be included on your website. Start thinking about the types of information that you want to include in terms of pages that might be required. Keep your business goals in mind, but put your guests goals and experiences first. After all, what is best for your visitors is also best for your business.

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When mapping out your website, don't worry about having separate pages for everything. For example, if you wanted to include details on summer activities, rather than having individual pages for cycling, rafting, hiking etc. You could group these together under a single page for ‘Summer activities’. These could later be split out into separate sections as you expand your content.

That said, if you specialise in a particular activity or have a lot of content on cycling for example,  you might want to push this out to its own dedicated page with subheadings and images.

Once you have identified all of the pages, we will work with you to design an efficient menu structure, but it will help to imagine these as the main pages appearing in your navigation menu on the website.

Ideally you will have 3 - 7 top-level menu items. If there are more key pages that need to be accessible directly from the main menu, then you will need to consider how you might build a hierarchical menu structure with top level and sub-level menu items. Avoid going deeper than one level as this becomes difficult to navigate, particularly on mobile devices.

To give you a head start, here are some of the pages that you will want to consider:

 

  • Home page
  • property page(s)
  • An about page
  • A contact page
  • A booking page
  • A resort/area page
  • and perhaps a blog

Writing content for the web

 

Ok, now let’s talk about creating content for the individual pages. Writing for the web is different to how you might write a book, newspaper article or magazine. This is mostly due to how people consume content differently on the web.

When we sit down to read a book, we usually set time aside to focus and read word for word. On a website, we could be reading on a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile. We also consume content on the web everywhere, be that at work, while minding children at home or even killing some time waiting in a queue.

This has transformed us into a nation of ‘skimmers’. We skim content, looking for what might be relevant to us before we commit to reading. So how do we write for those that like to snack on content?

Firstly, consider the ‘inverse pyramid’. This is a trick used by journalists to keep our interest. That is, don't save the best to last. Mention the most important and interesting information up front. Then proceed to break it down and explain in detail. This will keep your reader engaged and draw them deeper into your content.
Keep sentences short and easily readable. No prizes for big or clever words here!

Keep paragraphs short with only a few sentences per paragraph
Break your page down into sections with subheadings.  This helps our readers skim and find the content most relevant to them
Inject some of your personality and don’t be afraid to get a little creative. Writing in your own voice creates a more personal connection with your visitor. After all, holidays are supposed to be fun, so leave the corporate speak in the office.

Let’s start with the most important page of all. Your home page.

The Home Page

Much in the same way as you created structure and hierarchy across your website with the various pages, you now need to apply the same thinking to your home page. We call this ‘user flow’ and this is the theoretical way in which we want the user to interact with a page.

Your home page is most likely going to be the first page that your visitor sees and as such it has 3 key responsibilities that should allow the user to interact and flow through the content. When thinking about the following these 3 sections, keep in mind your ideal guest and how the content, images and language might appeal to them, answering their questions and provide a natural flow through to other parts of the site. On your homepage the flow follows three main steps.

  • (1) Grab your visitor’s attention and stop them from clicking the ‘Back’ button or closing the browser tab. We often use a large image to do this, but we can also use video or animation.

  • (2) Next, we want to create that initial interest quickly with a short sentence or two that communicates what you offer and convince them to take a closer look.

  • (3) Now that we have our visitor's attention, we want to guide them in the right direction and provide more content to satisfy their questions and concerns.

So let’s break these 3 sections down a little more...

 

The Opening Image

To help us create that opening ‘Wow’ factor to grab the visitor’s attention, what we need are at least 5 of your largest and best quality images. This can be a mix of interior and exterior shots of your property and the surrounding area.

To help us understand what these images are, they should be renamed so that their filename accurately explains what they show. For each image, also include a short caption. For example (“After a long day on the slopes, what better than a long soak in the outdoor hot tub” or “Take in the spectacular view from the master bedroom”).

 

The Introduction

This is usually a short paragraph or two that lets the visitor know who you are, what you offer, what makes you different and why they should book with you rather than the competition. It’s a lot to try and fit into a couple of sentences, but once you’ve stopped your visitor in their tracks with your opening image, now you have only a few seconds to keep their attention and make them want to find out more.

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features

Features / key selling points / Extra services

What we need now is a list of what you offer your visitors. As well as the standard information about your property, this should include those things that differentiate you from the competition, such as your personal knowledge of the area, distance to the nearest ski lift, ensuite rooms with toiletries provided by Jo Malone, child minding facilities, chalet boot fitting, personal chauffeur etc.

This is always a tough exercise as what differentiates us isn’t always obvious. The easiest way to discover this is by trawling through testimonials and reviews or just ask past guests why they booked with you.

For each item that you can think of, try to create a one or two word heading, followed by a short sentence to explain what it is that you offer. We can then include this information on the homepage and if appropriate, link to another page with more information.

Testimonials / Guest Reviews

Guest reviews are extremely powerful and we like to use them throughout our client websites as well as on the homepage. They provide reassurance and the social proof that booking with you is safe and a guarantee of an enjoyable holiday.

For each testimonial, where possible, you should provide their Name, Location, quote and if possible an image if they are happy to do so.

 

reviews2

So far we have covered some of the 'must have' details to include on your homepage. Often, we will also pull images and sections of content from other pages of the website onto the homepage to provide more information about the property(s) and/or services that you provide.