According to a recent survey, 81 per cent of consumers now look online before making a purchase. It’s a simple equation: if you don’t have a business website, you’re losing custom.
But building a business website can be a daunting prospect – and a potentially expensive one. If you want to get a professional to build your business website for you, the costs can quickly spiral.
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However, thanks to new innovations over the last few years, it’s now perfectly possible to take a DIY approach to building a business website, and end up with professional-quality results. Read more in our step-by-step guide.
1. Choose your domain
Your domain is the address at which internet users will be able to find your site – for example, www.yourbusiness.com. Your first step is to choose your domain.
In most cases, you will probably want to register something as close as possible to your trading name, but there might be reasons to choose something else. For example, if you are a plumber in Leicester, you might choose ‘www.leicesterplumber.co.uk’.
This may give you an advantage in terms of search engine optimisation, or SEO – that is, the way in which websites and their content are designed with a view to appearing as high as possible in search results on search engines like Google.
You can register your domain through a range of low-cost platforms like GoDaddy, 123 Reg, and 1and1.
2. Decide the purpose of your business website
Once you’ve registered your domain, you need to decide exactly what you need your business website for. For example, are you using it just to display contact details, along with some information about your business? Do you want to host a blog? Do you need a customer support function?
Or, along with all these things, are you also looking to sell items online or take payment? If you need an e-commerce function this will have a bearing on several of the later steps in this guide, so make sure that you think carefully.
3. Choose a hosting provider
Next, you need to choose the hosting company that will store your data, and make it available on your domain. There is a range of hosting companies available for UK customers, although you should remember that many do not actually store your data in the UK, but rather in data centres abroad. You should bear this in mind if you are handling sensitive information.
Your choice of hosting provider will depend on a range of factors including storage limits, bandwidth, and cost. However, you should also consider the software options that the hosting company provides, for example Wordpress, Joomla, or Drupal. We’ll cover these more in the next step.
4. Choose your software
Given that you’ve decided to build your website yourself, you’ll probably want to find a solution that gives you the best possible site for the least possible effort, and with the lowest level of existing knowledge. Luckily, there is a range of software options that help you build a business website quickly and easily, with great results.
To begin with, you should understand the difference between options that are available through your hosting provider, and third party alternatives.
Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, and similar solutions can be installed through your hosting company’s back end services. These work on a template basis: you can install one of thousands of templates available through the platforms, and then tweak them to your taste. While you don’t need much coding ability to do this, you should note that you will need to learn how the systems work in order to tweak those existing templates and get the most out of them.
Alternatively, you might also choose to use a third party option. These include platforms like Wix and Squarespace. While these also run on templates, they tend to be easier to tweak and are often built with businesses in mind as opposed to blogs or consumer sites.
Squarespace, for example, gives you the option to drag and drop items onto individual pages, and you can quickly build a great looking site with absolutely no coding ability.
Bear in mind that using solutions like Wix and Squarespace, which are becoming increasingly popular, will incur an extra cost on top of your hosting and domain bills.
However, if you want to build an e-commerce website, you may find these options significantly easier than Wordpress and its competitors, as you won’t need to fiddle around with plugins to build shopping carts and take payments. Instead, everything is there from the outset.
5. Build a site plan
You need to think carefully about what you want to include in your site. The simplest way to do this is with pen and paper. For example, a basic site might include:
- Home page
- Details of services offered
- Contact form
Of course, your website might be more complex than this, especially if you’re including an e-commerce function. Don’t worry about the content of the pages at this point. Instead, just think about which basic pages or page templates you will need, and how they will link together.
6. Think about mobile
It’s vital that you think about how your site will look on mobile, as an increasing proportion of consumers now use their phone or a tablet as the first port of call for browsing. Sadly, many websites aren’t optimised for mobile viewing as standard.
However, if you use a service like Squarespace, or if you use specific Wordpress templates, you’ll find that your site is ‘responsive’ – that is, it automatically resizes and reformats to fit different sized displays.
7. Populate your business website
Once you’ve chosen a provider and template, and have added the pages according to your site plan, you need to start adding content. This might include your contact details, information about the services your business offers, and a list of products and prices.
Throughout this process, you should think carefully about SEO. This is the process by which you optimise your site to ensure it ranks highly in search engines when users search for relevant terms. Read more about making Google work for your business and, for more information about ranking in local search results, read more about SEO for local businesses.
8. Promote your business website
As well as good SEO practices, you should consider promoting your website through pay-per-click advertising. This refers to the ad results that you see at the top of, for example, Google search results, or on social media platforms.
With even a small budget, this can be a great way to increase the visibility of your site. Use our interactive guide to pay-per-click advertising on Google for more information.
What do you use your business website for? Let us know in the comments