Many small businesses choose to have an online presence in some way. This could be a social media account like Facebook or Instagram, a multi-source review site like Yelp, a business listing on Google, or a business website, to name a few. According to Bizmap, LLC having a website is important to small businesses for many different reasons. A website provides a way for people to quickly and easily learn about your business. A customer looking for a product or service may first do an online search to investigate the options. In this way, a website can build credibility with customers, as well as allowing you to capture leads and track visitors. Your website must be an accurate representation of your business. It can also be the source of e-commerce if you decide to sell your product or service online.
There are several steps to setting up your business website, which you may remember from your e-commerce session. These include:
- There are several steps to Registering your domain name.
- Hosting your website.
- Securing your website.
- Building and designing your website.
- Ensure mobility set up your company website, which you may remember from the e-commerce session.
- These include:
Registration of your domain name.
Each website has its own unique name, such as Amazon.Com or Google.Com. This is your «domain name». It is a unique name that identifies you to all other computers on the Internet. There are a number of companies, known as «registrars,» that will help you register your website name.
Examples of registrars (among many):
- Go daddy
- Google domains
Find an easy to remember «.Com» name for your site and verify that the desired name is available. You can do a quick Google search and many registrar sites will have a domain availability checker.
Once you have successfully registered your domain name, it will remain in your name and will be under control as long as you pay to maintain it. Think of it like leasing the name while you’re in business operating your website. There are usually promotions that give you the first year for a low price, however you can lock in those low prices if you pay and sign up for multiple years. Always check prices, term length, and hidden fees. It’s easy to gather information from a few providers and then compare costs and terms to make the best decision. A domain name is something that you will keep for a long time (and continue to pay to keep), so generally thinking long term is a good idea.
To fully secure a name, it is not a bad idea to also buy the .Co, .Org and .Biz extensions for it. You can even get creative with extensions and buy extensions like .Coffee or .Zone. Just be sure to evaluate the price of each to determine if additional extensions are worth buying.
2-Hosting your website.
Securing a domain name doesn’t mean you have a website, but it is the first step in setting up one. The files that make up your website will need a place to reside so that your website can be available when someone enters your address (your domain name). You can choose to buy (by having your own network server) or lease (by having your site hosted by a web host). In the vast majority of cases, people rent accommodation space (or pay for a hosting service).
Cheaper is not always better. Check out hosting companies’ packages to compare a domain to hosting and email, and read reviews on usability and reliability.
Consider which website building platform you will choose to build your website when choosing a hosting company. Some hosting companies are more flexible and compatible with certain platforms than others. Also, consider the amount of resources your website will need to function properly. For an ecommerce website, a more robust hosting plan would be necessary. Compare different hosting providers and do a little research to find the one that best suits your needs. Many different comparisons can be found online, like this list of small business hosting services from PC Magazine.
Protecting your website: add an SSL certificate
As mentioned in the e-commerce session, an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate provides authentication for a website and is used to protect and encrypt sensitive information such as credit cards, user names, passwords and other private data sent through from Internet.
Most hosting companies offer SSL certificates that you can purchase for your domain. SSL-protected website pages are those marked «https» instead of «http» in their URLs.
Creation and design of your website.
You will need to decide whether to hire a professional web developer to create your website or your own. If you decide to create your own, look online for «how-to» video tutorials, which can be very helpful.
Most of the companies that you can buy your hosting and domain packages from have some website templates to make it easy to create your own site. You can customize the template with your own colors, fonts, images, text, and graphics to suit your brand. (It is important to be consistent with the appearance of your brand in your different marketing pieces.) If you plan to add ecommerce capabilities to your website, links to your social media, or perhaps a blog, make sure the template you choose provides a way to add these features.
Building yourself: website builders and CMS platforms
Website building platforms, also called Content Management Systems (CMS), like Shopify or Wix, allow you to create and manage a website without much prior web design knowledge. These WYSIWYG (pronounced «magic wig») or «what you see is what you get» editors allow you to easily insert text and graphics on your page without the need for coding. You can see how it will look as you go. They may also have predefined templates that you can customize.
Examples of CMS platforms, to name a few:
- Square space
- WordPress (+ WooCommerce)
- Google Sites
These platforms have powerful capabilities and some are easier to use than users. Do your research and look for tutorial videos that can be very helpful, especially for navigating advanced features.
Hire a professional website developer.
Before hiring a web developer, it is important to determine the purpose and budget of your website, as well as the needs for ongoing maintenance. It’s also helpful to get an idea of whether you want your site to be one page, providing different information as visitors scroll down, or you prefer a site with multiple pages, allowing users to click on different tabs or options. menu to find additional information. . Consider how many clicks your users will need to find the most important information.
Look at other websites the developer has created and ask for references. Did the developer deliver the product in a timely manner at the quoted price?
Did the developer listen effectively and present a product that matched the vision of the business owner?
Once you have identified your developer, negotiate through a written contract the specific responsibilities of the developer, timelines for project completion, and a full budget for the total project. Make sure the final site post is included.
This may include arrangements for ongoing site maintenance, depending on how often you need to make changes, the complexity of your site, whether you use advanced features like a shopping cart or scheduling tool, etc. You can keep it very simple and hire a freelancer to create and publish your site, where you would be responsible for ongoing updates and maintenance. Or you can choose to hire a developer on an ongoing contract to provide changes, updates, and improvements to your website.
Hiring your website offers several advantages. A professional developer has the technical knowledge to create a site that works with all browsers and can help you follow best practices. Investing in a professional developer will allow you to spend more time building a successful business and less time learning the new trade of being your own website developer. Freelance web developers can be found through sites like Upwork and Fiverr.
Make sure your website is easy to use on mobile devices, as well as desktop and tablet computers. Customers shop on all of their devices, so you want to provide a good experience no matter where they are watching from.
Add ecommerce capabilities.
Once you’ve created your website, you may want to add e-commerce capabilities so that you can sell or transact for your online business. Various tools allow you to incorporate «shopping carts» or other e-commerce features on your website. Visit the eCommerce session to learn more about selling online.
Tips for building a successful site Make your site easy to use.
No matter how advanced your website design is, never forget the basics of user experience. If a visitor cannot successfully navigate through your site, the chances of achieving your site goals (i.e. a lead or a sale) will decrease. If you have a multi-page site, provide a clear, easy-to-understand navigation bar that will appear on every page of your site so the user knows how to go back to a page they had previously visited or visit a new page that the information they are looking for . Keep your website goals in mind and tailor the user experience journey to optimize those goals. A «call to action» is a button or question that asks users to respond. Make sure you have a call to action on every page and that it is easy to identify and aligns with your goals for the site.