It’s 2017, and this means that if you’re running a business and don’t have a website, it might as well not exist! Today, whenever the average person is looking for a product or service, the first thing they do is search for it online. If they can’t find anything about you on the internet, they’re not going to make a purchase – it’s as simple as that! While getting a professional website up and running takes a considerable investment of time and effort, it isn’t something that you can get around. If you’re feeling totally lost in terms of your site, here’s a full guide to planning it out and giving yourself the best chances for success.
Choose and Register the Domain Name
Every website needs a name, and this is a good a place to start as any. After you’ve come up with a name you’d like your site to appear under, you need to check whether it’s available for purchase, or whether someone’s beaten you to the punch. A quick Google search will bring up dozens of tools you can use to check if a domain name is available. If the name you want isn’t available, try different ideas for the name without making it too hard to memorise, or different suffixes like .net or .org. You may even want to place a location at the end of the domain if you’re targeting a local customer base (E.G www.jonesplumbersNYC.com) You’ll usually have enough wiggling room to pin down a decent domain name, just don’t be too blasé about it. Your domain name is going to have an impact on your SEO efforts, and ideally it should include words that your target market are likely to use when searching for a business like yours. Once you’ve settled on one, your next step is to purchase it. This can either be done through an individual webhost, or through whatever service you use to actually build your website. Even if you’re not planning to do any actual building for a while yet, purchasing and registering the domain is important to get out of the way, as it will ensure that no one can use it in the meantime.
Plan Out Your Content
Although you may know your business like the back of your hand, figuring out exactly what to say on your site can be a real challenge, and one of the biggest reasons that business owners put off creating one over and over. If this idea is kind of off-putting, then I’ve got some good news for you: you really don’t have to say that much at all! In my experience, business sites work best when they’re minimalist, and have a single function for each page; submission forms, contact information, etc. While it’s your site and ultimately your decision, most good website development follows a universal format, and include four main pages. The first is the homepage, where you should include the basic information about your business, where you’re based, and a nice, straightforward pitch, telling your customers why they should choose your business over any others. You should also have a products or services page, with all the details of the different products and services you sell. If you’re a service business with several different services, be sure to have some details on each one, describing what the service entails and your system for pricing. Next, plan out your “about us” page. This will essentially be an extended version of the pitch you include on your homepage. Provide some background on the company, maybe some biographies on your founders, and the story of how you first turned your idea into a reality. Last, but certainly not least, be sure to include a “contact us” page. Have your business premises’ address, your primary email and phone number, alongside links to all your social media profiles. Though it doesn’t fit too neatly under this subtitle, it’s also very important that you make sure your site is responsive – meaning that it will adjust to the kind of device it’s being used on. More and more people are using their phones and tablets as the main vehicle for browsing the web these days. If you fail to make your site responsive, then you’re going to be cheating yourself out of a huge chunk of your target market.
Create a Professional Logo
I know you’re probably raring to go, but before you dive into building your website, it’s important to get one design element out of the way: your logo. If you haven’t already decided on one of these, then go looking for a good graphic designer and get to work! The colours, style and font of your logo will have at least some effect on the design of the rest of your website. After all, if your logo clashes with the design and theme of the rest of your site, people are certainly going to notice. Talk to your higher-ups to work out a clear idea of the kind of message you want to get across with your logo and other visual elements, and then take steps to have one created. There are a number of ways you can do this. Probably the most economical would be an in-house job, although this can be pretty strenuous on your time if you don’t want to sacrifice a shred of quality. There are a lot of different logo wizards out there which allow you to design a unique logo in simple steps, and most of them are quite affordable. Just beware the word “free” here. Most of the ones that profess to be free in fact charge you for downloading the logo. If you’re determined not to spend a single penny, you can probably get by using Photoshop or a similar program, and various YouTube tutorials. Your other option, which will usually garner the best results, is to hire a graphic designer for the job. The web is full of quality freelance designers, and after a Google search you’ll be able to come up with dozens of great candidates. Many of these professionals have high rates, but you generally get what you pay for. There are freelancer directories you can go to for this, but these should be approached with caution. Sites like Fiverr can be a hotbed of poor-quality work, and you’ll have to spend a long time searching if you want to find the real gems. Whichever option you choose, creating a professional logo is an essential step towards a good website, so don’t skip over it and have one made as an afterthought!
Put Your Plan into Action
Once you’ve gone through the steps above, you’re finally ready to put your plan into action, and turn your idea into a real, functioning website! There are three main options you can take here. You can use a DIY web-builder service, a CMS like WordPress, or you can hire a professional web developer and have them execute every little detail. This last one generally gets the best results, but when you’re running a start-up on a tight budget, you’re most likely to go with the most popular option; WordPress. WordPress has such a massive reputation for a good reason. It’s not only very economical, but gives you access to a wide range of features which can make your site something that’s really worth talking about. It’s also compatible with a lot of hosts and domain providers. This CMS is one of, if not the best platforms for creating a website that’s going to have an active blog, which is more or less essential if you want to keep up with modern marketing trends. Furthermore, it has countless plugins and extra features you can add to the site, making it easy to do things like let users set up accounts, order products online, and so on. Just bear in mind that you may need a little help to really get the most out of WordPress. It’s intended as an intermediate web-building program. You don’t necessarily need any programming and coding skills, but they can certainly help when you’re trying to make certain things work! Getting up to speed with WordPress’s backend menu can take a lot of work, trial and error. This can be a valuable skill to have, but understandably you may not have time for it! Web builder programs, despite having certain limitations, are much easier to get to grips with, and simply allow you to drag and drop different features wherever you like. There are many different factors to consider when you’re chewing over your options as to how you’re actually going to build the site, and it’s mainly a question of your available time and capital. You need to make sure that you have everything up to a professional standard in time for when it needs to be launched, and that you’ll be able to get a return on your investment in due time.
If thinking about your first business website was causing nothing but headaches, I hope this guide has helped simplify the whole process!