In our highly connected world, every business needs a website. Your online presence is just as important (if not more) than a brick-and-mortar store where customers can visit. A website gives businesses an inexpensive way to advertise their goods and services to anyone, anytime, anywhere. But if you are just launching your business or setting up a website for the first time, the prospect of creating a website may seem daunting. However, website design and development has evolved dramatically over the past decade. Now anyone can easily and inexpensively set up their own site in five simple steps.
1. Register Your Domain Name
Before you can start designing your business website you must decide on a domain name. This is a critical step in setting up a business website. It will not only be the online home for your business, it will be the means by which people search for your business. There are some things to consider when determining a domain name:
- Searchability: If you are selling goods and services, you will want your business to be competitive for search terms. This means focusing on keywords central to your business. (For example, if you sell tires, tires should be in the domain name.) Don’t make it too long, however. That can be hard for people to remember.
- Simple is Better: Choose something direct and to the point. Using lower case letters with no spaces or special characters is important. Make it easy to type into the browser window.
- Use Geo-targeting: You can improve your chances of finding a good domain name AND improve search in your marketing area by using your location. If you own a gift shop, for example, a domain name like bestgiftsphoenix.com will garner more traffic from your area than a general name such as bestgifts.com.
2. Find a Hosting Partner
Once you’ve found and secured a domain name, you will need to find a hosting site. There are a lot of options for hosting online. It’s important to know which services will best benefit your business. Things to consider when choosing a hosting site are:
- Cost: The price you pay for hosting is determined by the amount of traffic you predict, and whether it’s an eCommerce site. If your site is just a static page for online presence only, you may want to consider more affordable hosting options like shared hosting. If you are selling goods online exclusively and anticipate a lot of traffic, you may need a dedicated site is a bit more costly.
- Reliability: Check ratings and read customer testimonials about hosting sites and how often they were down. You’ll want a hosting service that can give you 99% uptime consistently.
- Easy-to-Use Control Panel: if you’re setting up your website yourself, you’ll want to use a site that has a user-friendly control panel. Control panels let you upload and manipulate pages, access files, view statistics and bandwidth, and easily install plugins and widgets onto your site. The more tools you have in the control panel, the less you will have to rely on FTP and coding to manage your site.
3. Write a Content Outline
Once you have your domain and hosting service, it’s time to decide what you want to put on your site. Keep the content simple. Business websites generally have the following four pages:
- Homepage: This page should state your business name, what you sell, and your mission statement or business pitch. It should also include where you are located if you have a physical address.
- About Us: This is where you should include your background, how long you’ve been in business, team members, and other pertinent information that shows credibility and trustworthiness.
- Products: This page should detail your products and/or services. This is usually the best place to include graphics, especially for products. Include a few short sentences about each product, and links to pricing and buying options if you are running an eCommerce site.
- Contact Us: This page should include your email, address, phone number, social media links, and hours of operation. Including an embedded google map to your physical address is also a nice touch. A form that allows users to ask questions or make product inquiries too is also helpful.
4. Decide on a Design
Once you know what content you want on your site, it’s time to get creative with the design. If you already have a logo, your website design should be aligned with those brand colors and fonts. If you’re using WordPress you may find it overwhelming choosing one out of hundreds of template choices. When deciding on the right one for your business, consider these things:
- Make sure it’s responsive. This means that the template adjusts automatically for desktop, tablet and mobile viewing.
- Choose the right header for your brand. The header is an important feature of your site because it is generally the first thing people will see. This is your business’s first impression, so carefully consider what you want it say and how you want it to look.
- Find an easy menu bar. The menu bar should prominent and easy to navigate. Users should be able to find what they are looking for simply and quickly without having to scroll through pages.
5. Create Content
After the site is up and the layout and design are complete, you can go back and put in content. You may want to keep it simple at first with the basic pages and minimal description. However, providing a bit of narrative such as customer testimonials, bios, and relevant industry information can be a great way to get the attention of potential customers. If you want a robust site with additional content, a blog is a great way to give your customers free industry related information while also highlighting your products. Your site content is important for SEO as well. Don’t forget to optimize your site content the top ranking keywords in your business.