At a time when 71 percent of small businesses have a website, you can’t afford to be left behind without one while your competitors thrive due to theirs. But setting up a business website from scratch can be intimidating, which is probably why you haven’t done it yet. Fortunately, all it takes to get one is following a few steps that you can do mostly on your own. So here’s how to get started when you’re ready to set up a website for your business.
Choose a Domain Name
The first step is to figure out what your website will be called. In other words, you need a domain name so you can tell your target customers where to find your website. It’s best to keep it simple, short and easy to remember. It could be your business name, or at least a few words related to it. For example, if you own a wedding planning business in Dallas, and it’s called The Wedding Planners, a good domain name might be theweddingplanners.com. Note that .com is the most popular option for domains, but you can also choose .org or .net.
Once you decide on the domain name for your site, check to make sure no one else has it. You can do this by just typing the domain name you want into Google. If a website appears, it’s taken. You can also search domain name registries, like DreamHost or Name.com, to find out if a domain name is registered. If it is, it’s time to adjust the name slightly. So instead of theweddingplanners.com, you might choose theweddingplanners.net, or dallasweddingplanners.com. As long as it describes your business and isn’t registered to anyone else, you’re ready to buy the domain name, which should cost between $8 and $12 in most cases.
Pick a Website Builder
Now that you have a domain name, you’re ready to decide which platform to use for your site. This means choosing from a range of website builders, which requires you to consider how much help you want as you build your website. Some platforms are known for being great for beginners, requiring very little work, but they tend to create pretty basic websites. On the other hand, some website builders require more time and design knowledge, but the payoff is a unique, complex business website. So choose based on how much time you want to spend building your website, and what kind of site you want to end up with.
For example, Wix is great for beginners since the features are mostly drag and drop, and you can pick from dozens of design templates so you don’t have to design your own layout. Wix works for any type of business, so whether you want a simple site or an ecommerce website, you’ll be happy with it. Another option is Squarespace, which is best for sites that need to look pretty and not just practical, since it features lots of great looking designs that you can customize. You don’t have to be great at coding or designing to do this with Squarespace, thanks to the really helpful template customization tool.
If you want even more control over your business website’s design, consider WordPress. This is the best website builder when it comes to customizing your design, and it’s flexible enough to do nearly anything to your site. Granted, it’s not drag and drop, and site hosting isn’t included like it is with Wix and Squarespace. Plus, you’ll need to take the time to get familiar with the features of WordPress, such as the many plug-ins and templates available to you for better site customization. If you really want to customize your website but don’t have time to play around with all the features, consider hiring a WordPress developer so you can get the exact functionality and design you have in mind.
Select the Right Design
No matter which website builder you choose, you’ll need to put some thought into the design. Even if you’re just looking through templates, you should know which design elements should be included. For example, one decision to make is whether you need a full-width or boxed-width design. With full-width layouts, the background picture and content take up the full width of the screen, which is a popular look for visual-heavy sites. So if you plan to put up lots of pictures and want several tabs for your menu bar, full-width is the way to go. With boxed-width, there’s a noticeable frame on both sides of the layout, so the content is more boxed into one area. This works well for traditional business websites that are more focused on text than images.
Another decision to make when you choose the website template is the kind of homepage you want. Do you want lots of images and very little text, or mostly text and just one image…or a full slideshow of images with minimal text accompanying it? Finally, you’ll need to consider where you want the menu bar to be, and how many pages you want the site to have. If you’re having trouble with these choices, you can always talk to a web designer for advice, or even hire one to build you a full site. This way, you’ll get the exact look that’s best for your type of business.
Create Your Content
The last step of building a business website is writing the content. First, think about what you want to tell your readers–and how many pages you’ll need for this. At the very least, you need some content on the homepage. Typically, this should give a basic overview of your business, such as its name, location and a short pitch about how it can help your target audience.
Another common page of content is the “About Us” section, which goes more into depth about the business than the homepage content does. It might discuss how you got started, which organizations your business belongs to and any awards it has won. You might also put customer testimonials here.
Every business site also needs a “Contact Us” page that has a contact form, or at least lists the company’s address, phone number, email address and hours. It should also have buttons or links to social media pages. You might consider embedding a map to your location if you want to make it easy for customers to find you.
Many business sites also have pages for their products or services, in which they describe each one and have accompanying images. You’ll definitely need this if you plan to sell directly from your website. You might also think about adding a blog section so you have a reason to make frequent updates to your site, which is good because it gives readers a reason to keep coming back. Plus, your site will show up on search engine results pages more often when it’s updated frequently.
Knowing these steps for building a website should help get you started. If you’re confused about any of the steps or don’t have time to implement them, your other option is to hire a web designer who can do it all for you. Either way, you’re on your way to having a better online presence for your business!