What makes a good website? If you’ve searched or shopped online, you can probably spot a good site. You find it easy to move around and find things. It looks professional and well thought-out. And it works just as well on your phone as your laptop.

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to start designing a website for your organisation. We’ll explore the different ways to set up your site, with plenty of design tips and useful information to get you started.


  • Compare the different options and pick the right one for you
  • Know how to design your website based on your audience’s needs
  • Identify the legal requirements around web design

Read time:

14 mins

Users spend almost

7 hours a day

online on their devices

Datareportal Opens in a new tab

More than

1 in 3

UK adults shop online at least once a week

Mintel Opens in aa new tab


1 in 5

charity donations are from a website/online

GOV.UK Opens in a new tab

Chapter 1

Website options

Read time:

2 mins

Before you start

Before we look at what website design involves, here’s a question for you. Who will design your website? Maybe you like the idea of building it yourself. Or perhaps you’d like to hire someone to do it for you. There are a few factors to think about, so let’s explore these now.


What's important to you? Select the options to find out more

Once you’ve decided

You may now have a clearer idea of who will design your site. No matter which option you pick, there are three steps to get your website up and running:

Step 1

Decide which people, tools and names to use.

Step 2

Design the look and feel of your site.

Step 3

Build, test and review until you’re happy to launch.

We’ll talk you through each stage, over the next few chapters.

Chapter 2

Tools, names and experts

Read time:

6 mins

Take time to decide

Finding the right agency to work with, or the best tools to help you self-build, takes time. Don’t worry about this – being happy with your choices now can save you time and money later on. Having to change designer or platform half-way through the design process might mean having to start all over again. We’ve put together some tips on what to think about, when you’re making these decisions.


Software to create and manage your website

If you’re going to self-build, you’ll be looking at tools to help you do this. Is someone else designing your site? It’s still a good idea to think about how you might make simple changes once it’s live. Let’s look at some of these tools now.


Content Management Systems

A Content Management System, or CMS, helps you create, manage and change your website’s content. You’ll need this if you’re creating your own site. Some web builder tools have built-in CMS platforms. These include step-by-step guides to help you update your site.

Having a CMS isn’t just for self-builders, though. With it, you’ll be able to manage and update your site, too. You might want to add new promotions, change your photos or remove outdated details. You can do this, even if someone else has built your site for you. You just need to know how to use the CMS.


With a CMS, you can:

  • Add pages
  • Change text and images
  • Add keywords/phrases to all sections
  • Embed videos and other media
  • Add documents
  • Change navigation


When you’re looking at this software, you may see other features or benefits. Look at these based on your own organisation’s needs – both now and in the future.


Look for:

  • Ease of use – Look for a CMS where any changes are as simple as filling in a form
  • Security and access control – How easy is it to control who can create or change content on your site?
  • Templates – These make it easy to copy content quickly. They help to give the site a consistent look and feel
  • Support – No matter how user-friendly your CMS is, you may need help. Compare service levels and response rates
  • Mobile-friendliness – You want your site to look as good on a mobile device as on a laptop
  • User interaction – Looking for customer feedback or to build a forum for your supporters? Check for this feature
  • Analytics – These help you track, measure and learn what’s working on your site


Plugins for added features

These are optional ‘extras’ that work behind the scenes of your website. They give you more features, reach or flexibility.

Some, like Hummingbird, help your users reach content more quickly. All-in-one tools such as Jetpack include visitor stats, video hosting and links with social sites. There are also plugins like Yoast to boost your site’s online visibility. Others, such as UpdraftPlus, help you back up your content.

You can pick one or more of these, depending on what is going to be useful to you.


Find the right web developer

Want someone to build your site for you? There are many web design agencies and freelancers. To pick the right one for you, be clear on what you want. You’ll be working closely with them, so take time to explore your options.


Points to think about:

  • How’s their customer service? – Read online reviews and speak to others who’ve hired them
  • What’s their portfolio like? – Look at other websites they’ve set up. Do they all look the same or do they each uniquely reflect the site’s use and content?
  • Do they understand search engine optimisation? – This is key to people finding your site, so it’s important that they do
  • More than just appealing visuals – You’ll be paying for a site that works well and looks good, so check they can do both
  • What’s in their Service Level Agreement? – Check this includes support and security updates, so you can get help when you need it
  • Compare costs – Look at what the design price includes. Are there extra costs after the site is live?
  • Agree that you own the domain, website and CMS at the end of the project – So you’ll have full access to all elements
  • Can people use their sites? – They should check the site on all browsers, devices and platforms for viewing and download speed
  • Do they provide training on managing the site?
  • Can they explain web development without jargon? – They should be able to talk in terms you can understand
  • Will they set up the site so you can see how visitors use the different pages?


Decide your website name

Whoever designs your website, you’ll need to pick a name for it yourself. This needs some thought, as it’s how users will find you directly. Plus, it can make a difference to whether they see your site when they search for something online.

Website designers use the term ‘domain name’.


What’s a domain name?

A domain name is your website name. It’s the address that gives people access to your website. Your domain name is part of your online identity, so make sure you pick a good one.


Your domain name should be:

  • Linked in some way to the name of your organisation
  • Easy to pronounce
  • Easy to spell
  • Short
  • Easy to find – What would people search for if they wanted to find your products or services?
  • Linked to location if you’re local – Including your town or area in your name could help people find you quicker


Buying a domain

Once you’ve thought of a name, you’ll need to check if it’s available for one or more ‘domains’. Sites like Namechk or Namecheckr can help you find out whether your name is available. These sites check domain names and social media usernames across multiple networks. This helps you make sure your domain address and social site name can be the same.

The best domain name to buy has ‘.com’ on the end. It’s the most common extension and it’s been around the longest. This makes it instantly recognisable. Be aware that your name might not be available with this option.

Think about buying the same name with various different extensions, like ‘.co.uk’, ‘.net’ or ‘.org’. This can prevent others from registering a similar address. You could even buy mis-spelt versions too, to make sure all potential customers reach you. Doing this can also help to stop fraudsters from producing fake sites to scam your customers.

Once you (or your web developer) register a domain name, you can use it for both your website address and an email address. Having an email address that matches your domain name looks professional and builds credibility.

Chapter 3

Design ideas and tips

Read time:

3 mins

Your overall aim

Before you start to design your site – or hire someone to do this – think about its purpose. When someone visits it, what do you want to happen? Do you want them to buy something? Maybe it’s there to give them help and advice. Keeping your aim in mind will help you work out a design that works for you and your customers.


First impressions count

Research shows that people take just 50 milliseconds to decide if they like a website. Not very long for you to encourage them to stick around!

Think about how you can make your site look appealing and professional. Visitors should see a clear path for them to get what they need. If they can’t see this, or if it looks too complex, they may go elsewhere.

Make your website accessible right from the start. You can find out more about this here.


Our design top tips:

  • People look at the top left of the webpage first – So put your most important content as close to top left as you can
  • Tell people about your business – Make this clear and concise, near the top of the page
  • Make it easy to navigate – Put yourself in your audience's shoes
  • Keep it simple – Have a clear layout and avoid too many graphics and links
  • Make your content keyword-rich – Users type these words when they look for your products or services
  • Use good quality images and short text – A picture speaks a thousand words
  • Use clear titles – This helps increase visibility for your website in search engines
  • Make the most of search enginesFind out more about search engines here
  • Give clear calls to action – Direct your audience by using words like call/email/buy/volunteer


User Experience (UX)

Design your website with your users in mind. They may not start or end their visit the way you plan. So think about how their journey looks if they start somewhere other than the home page. Is it still easy to get to where they want to be?


Your website should help your customers:

Find what they need

Know how to make things happen

Reach out to you

Finding what they need - the ‘3 click’ rule

In terms of navigation, if it takes more than three clicks to find what they want, a visitor may give up.

With the right setup, you’ll be able to see how long people spend on your website. This means you can adjust these routes to be slicker. It takes longer doing this after the website launch, though. Getting it right at the start will likely save you time and money.


Knowing how to make things happen

Make your calls to action clear and easy to follow. Let your website lead the visitor where you want them to be. Good examples include ‘Find out more’ or ‘Get your free quote’. Make it flow and be as simple as possible. If someone wants to buy a product from your website, make it easy to find that ‘buy now’ button.


Reaching out to you

Make your contact details easy to find. Your visitors don’t want to follow several screens to find out how to get in touch. How will you show your details? You might want to show your phone number, email address or social site. You could have a form where they can submit questions. Just make sure there are no barriers to stop them reaching you.

Chapter 4

The build process

Read time:

3 min

What do you need to build?

Even if someone else is building your site, you’re still the content expert. You know what you want your website to show and do. You might give your web designer some basic information and ask them to write words around this. Maybe you’ll prepare a more complete script for them. They’ll also need your branding elements like your logo and colour scheme.

If you’re creating your site yourself, you’ll need to map the structure and create all the content.

In this chapter, we’ll guide you through the build process, and what this includes.


The build process

Step 1

Design the structure

Step 2

Build the content

Step 3

Test the experience

Design the structure

To start, let’s look at the overall site. What do you want or need to include?


Think about:

  • Home page – What’s the first thing you want people to see here?
  • Menu – This can guide the user to different parts of the site
  • Search – Where will your search field be, and on what pages?
  • Keep it simple – This means not too many buttons or links on any one page
  • Contact details – How will people find these?
  • The buying process – How many pages will you need to take someone from viewing the product to buying it?
  • Booking options – If your services are bookable, how will this look?
  • Policies and other static information – These should be visible but are not usually prominent


What’s a sitemap?

A sitemap is a file where you list the pages, videos and other files on your website. It also shows the relationships between these so that search engines can read this file and understand what’s on your site. They’ll be able to see the content on your web pages and when it was last updated.

This is important for your search engine optimisation (SEO). If search engines can’t see this file, they won't know what’s on your site and will read it as out of date. You can find out more about  SEO here.


Build the content

You may be doing this yourself or instructing your web developer to do it. Either way, this includes all the text, buttons and visual elements in your website.


You’ll need to build or give your web designer:

  • Branding components – Your logo, colour scheme and anything else that identifies your organisation
  • ‘About us’ information
  • Static content – Your privacy policy, terms and conditions and other pages that are less likely to change over time
  • Product or service information – Visuals and any text that is helpful – like sizes, ingredients or available dates
  • Buttons and other ‘active’ elements – This means anything the user can click, tap or hover over


This isn’t a complete list, but hopefully will give you a starting point. You’ll likely see what needs to be built when you design your structure.


Test the experience

Before your website goes live, you’ll want to test it. Testing will give you confidence that your site works well and does what you expect.

It’s a good idea to have as many people as you can to do this. They could all be looking for different things.


What you’ll be testing


Does it match what you expect? Double check for spelling and accuracy


How fast is it? Use speed tools to test this


How easy is it to use? Try different routes into and out of the site


Is the mobile experience as good as on a laptop? Test using different browsers and devices

After the build

When your website is live, it’s a good idea to review the site regularly. Think about where you can improve it. Why not use analytics to help you understand how your visitors are using it? Find out more on using analytics to understand your visitors and user base here.

Chapter 5

Legal requirements

Read time:

2 mins

What are the rules?

There are UK certain laws and regulations that you need to follow.


To keep legal, make sure you:

  • Research which regulations apply – These may include sector-specific ones
  • Display your company information – to follow the Companies Act
  • Provide a privacy policy – You need to do this if your website collects visitor data
  • Meet laws around cookies – The Information Commissioner’s Office can tell you more
  • Follow data protection rules – These include General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • Include Terms and Conditions – These apply if you're selling products online


Privacy Policy

Your privacy policy needs to provide information about how you collect and store visitor data.


You need a privacy policy if your website:

  • Uses analytics or tracking software
  • Stores cookies on users’ devices
  • Collects personal data
  • Prompts people to register or log in
  • Includes third-party advertising or tracking codes


Cookie laws

Cookies are small files which websites place on visitors’ computers. Use them to give website users a better experience. For example, they can remember what items are in their shopping basket when the user leaves the site then returns. You can also use them to track users as they move between websites, to provide targeted adverts. You see pop-ups to ‘accept cookies’ as you visit websites.


The basic rules are that you must:

  • Tell people the cookies are there
  • Explain what the cookies are doing and why
  • Get the person’s consent to store a cookie on their device


As long as you do this the first time you set cookies, you don’t have to repeat it every time that person visits your website.


Selling online – terms and conditions

The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2014 apply to online selling. You must give your customers certain information if you’re selling goods online. The gov.uk site has guidance about this.


Next steps

We hope this lesson helps to get you started. Why not check out our other resources on this topic?


Bank of Scotland Academy is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Bank of Scotland does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 29th September 2023.