Regardless of your line of business, it’s widely acknowledged that a great website can contribute towards your business success.
In the first of a series of posts about how a website might evolve throughout your business journey, Lisa starts by discussing the different web design options when you’re first starting your business. As when you’re first starting out, with so many other areas requiring cashflow, you may be well be restricted by cost.
Where do you begin?
1. Good Planning
Before building your site, we recommend creating a brand identity and planning out the purpose of your site and its main features. Your plan should include the following:
- Brand Purpose & Identity: You will have already put together your brand identity, along with a set of basic guidelines e.g. logo, colours and font style. It’s essential to define the purpose of your brand alongside, the objectives of your website as this will influence all your decision making further down the line.
- Check out your competition: Before you start on any brand communications, it is wise to see what your competitors are up to. Whilst it is tempting to mimic the market leader, ideally you stand out with a unique identity and remain true to your purpose. When we talk about competition, this not only refers to supplier offering the same product or service, it also means looking at what customers might choose as an alternative to your brand.
- Choose a unique domain name: Your domain name, or web address is usually your business name. You will need to find a domain name that is not being used by another company and purchase it from a reputable Domain Name Provider.
- Required Features: Think about what your site needs to do in order to achieve your business goals. For example, if the site needs to display your portfolio, then it must have a good quality photo gallery, if you want to collect leads, you will need to have a contact form and a “thank you” message. If you are selling products then you will need a shopping basket, secure checkout page etc.
- Layout: List out which pages you think you might need. Home, about us, services and contact pages. Also have an idea of how the main menu might look and what extra pages you might need to include if you want your target audience to find you through search engines.
- Content Plan: It is important to think of the main information and messaging you want to convey to the user on each of the pages. Also consider which words or phrases (known as keywords) a potential user would type in to a search engine in order to find your site and ensure that these keywords are included in your content. This may mean separating out your content into different pages. It is important to consider both SEO and the customer experience and find a good balance when writing your copy.
2. Where to build your website
Website hosting services prices vary, depending on the type of technology and support you choose. Things to consider when choosing a hosting provider:
- Server Type: A shared server is the cheapest option, which may appeal when you’re first starting your business. A shared server means that you share a server with lots of other customers, which may result in reduced performance. A faster, more secure and clearly more expensive option is a virtual private server (VSP).
- Support: Check your hosting company has a phone or chat support so that you can be helped quickly if you have a problem.
- Easy to use interface: The host needs to provide a tool such as cPanel to enable you to have easy access your server and make changes.
- Server Security: Make sure the hosting company performs regular security maintenance as well as regular backups of your content. There should also be a simple system in place to install Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates.
3. How to build your website
Small business owners rarely have time to master the technical skills required for web development - this is where Web Building Platforms come into the picture. There are two main types of platforms enabling website creation.
- Content Management Systems (CMS): A CMS is a software program or that is used to create and manage digital content. A good CMS will make it easy to maintain your site. Wordpress is the world’s most popular CMS. It is a good starting platform if you have some custom requirements for your website that are unlikely to be accommodated by the website builders mentioned below. It’s likely that you would need a developer and maybe designer to customise your site – additional resources that you would need to budget for.
- Website Builder: Website builders (such as SquareSpace, Weebly or Wix) are a solution for beginners with minimal technical knowledge looking to create their own site. A wide range of templates are offered, which can often be edited with drag and drop functionality. Overall, though, they are generally less customisable than CMS platforms, so you may end up with a website that looks similar to others.
Whichever way you choose to create your website, it is important to ensure that can handle your needs as your business grows. As your offering evolves, you learn more about the market and your marketing budget increases, it is likely you will wish to redesign the website in a few years’ time. It is also worth noting that creating and launching your website is the easy part of the journey. The real challenge comes in driving the relevant traffic to your new site and encouraging conversions.
If you are just starting out in business and are looking for some Marketing advice, please get in touch with our team. We would love to hear from you.