Millions of pounds change hands online every minute. Are you reaping the rewards? Find out how to set up a website perfect for your small business.
So you want to set up a website?
Are you looking to improve sales for your small business? Expand your marketing opportunities? Reach more people and have a 24/7 presence for your audience? If yes, there’s no question about it – you’ll need a website.
Fortunately, website building’s no longer solely in the realm of programmers and tech geniuses. There are several ways to build a website to boost your business’ profile.
But before you get going, you’ll need to think about a couple of things. First, define your approach. Consider what type of website you want to create, and the budget you’re working with. Check out our handy guide and find out how much it costs to create a website.
If you already have an idea of what your website’s going to be about and how much you’re looking to spend, read on.
3 ways to set up a website
Are you short on time and want to jump straight in? A website builder is the quickest, easiest way to get going. If you’ve got a bit more technical expertise you’ll want to try a CMS for greater control and functions. And if you’re an independent techie who’s happiest when cracking into raw code, you can build your own website from scratch.
The route you take depends on the cash, time, and knowledge at your disposal. Let’s look at how each option can benefit your small business.
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1. Use a website builder
- Beautiful design templates
- No coding knowledge needed
- Connect domain name with ease
- Simple email address setup
- Create a site in a matter of hours
- Less effective for large scale ecommerce websites
Website builders are the most simple, quick, and effective option for small businesses. They don’t require knowledge of programming or coding. And they have a range of stunning design templates you can easily customise. Website builders are great for solo entrepreneurs looking to craft a simple and effective online presence. Why? Let’s find out.
▶ Find out more: Best website builder for small businesses
Easy to use
You don’t have to be tech-savvy to use a website builder. There’s no coding involved and most website builders offer strong tech support. Plus, there’s plenty of online forums you can mine for help if you get stuck. Simple interfaces and drag and drop features take the hassle away. And you can create a website in the time it takes to cook a meal.
Top notch templates
Website builders offer a huge range of attractive templates so you don’t have to start from scratch. Easily edit them to personalise your website and appeal to your target audience. Pick a template based on what you’re selling and create an awesome experience for your users.
Most website builders are free of charge, with no obligation to pay when you’re done. It’s a risk-free approach to creating an online portal for your business. The catch? Most free plans mean you’ll have to deal with ads littering your site and hogging your domain name. It’s worth upgrading to get rid of the ads and make your site your own. You can do this from as little as £6/month, and we reckon it's worth every penny.
Everything in one place
Website builders let you connect a domain name and add an email address or two. Paid features let you connect useful apps like Google Analytics. You don’t have to worry about hosting because it’s already set up. And don’t mess around downloading anything; create your entire website from your browser.
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2. Use a CMS
- Provides more technical flexibility
- Allows for multiple editors of your site
- Less susceptible to hackers than a site built with a website builder
- More limited range of templates
- Greater expertise needed to set up and maintain
- You’ll need to know how to code
Another way to set up a website for your small business is with a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS is a popular way of creating and modifying content online. Everyone's heard of WordPress – the world's most popular CMS. Other names you might have heard of are Drupal, Joomla! and Django.
But is a CMS right for you? The downside is that it’s more difficult to use than a website builder. You’ll need to be pretty tech-savvy and be comfortable with code. Failing that, you’ll need to shell out to hire an expert. Regardless of your approach, though, a CMS is still a highly flexible option, and gives you a greater level of control and functionality. Let's take a look at the key benefits:
Thousands of plugins
CMS’ generally offer a huge selection of plugins to increase what you can do from your website dashboard. WordPress alone offers over 56,000 plugins to connect your website with the world and add a host of special features. Try Yoast SEO to focus your content and LiveChat to add a chat box to you site.
Suitable for multiple users
Are you managing a team who will need access to your website? A CMS is a great option for you. CMS websites allow for several users all adding unique content. Manage your team members’ permissions with ease and assign them tasks.
3. Start from scratch and code it yourself
- Freedom! Absolute, total creative liberty over your site
- Maximum technical flexibility
- Easily scalable
- Requires a lot of technical know-how
- Little support available if you get stuck
- Difficult to maintain
Have you got time and tech ability on your hands? Want total creative control over your website? If so, programming your website yourself might be the way to go.
So what will you need? Knowledge of coding languages like HTML and CSS to structure your website’s content are essential. And it’s likely you’ll need an expert or two at your disposal if you get stuck. Sites like Codecademy offer free, step-by-step tutorials to help you get to grip with creating cracking code.
If you're comfortable with code and are ready to crack on, check out the benefits this approach can offer:
Everything’s there for a reason
You have ultimate creative control over a site you create yourself. Every piece of code you bring to life is there for a reason. When you start from scratch you eliminate unwanted spaces, sentences, and images. And a lack of pointless code speeds up your website and is better for SEO.
It’s easier to see your mistakes
When you write your own code, it becomes easier to identify and solve issues with your website. Trace bugs and misfiring code back to something you’ve written, and solve the problem quicker.
Like the person making it, a website you code yourself is completely, 100 percent unique. You won’t be reliant on design templates thought up by someone else. And there’s no chance of your site looking like a carbon copy of your rival’s!
Don’t be fooled; creating a website from scratch is not easy. And for the beginner it’s likely to prove a frustrating and tiresome process.If you want the benefits but lack the skills, you can pay an agency or freelancer to do it for you. Find out how much freelance web designers are charging in 2020.
▶ Read more: The best web hosting providers for a small business
Planning and design: our top tips
No matter how you’ve decided to create your website, you’ll need to plan well. If you don’t have a strong idea of what you want to build, neither will your user. Here are some things to consider before you get going.
Think about your user’s journey
This gives your website structure before you even start to build it. It’s about paving a comfortable path down which your user will walk. This involves thinking about where they will start. Is your landing page engaging enough to stop them bouncing straight away? Are the other pages on your website inviting? Well-signposted? Put yourself in the shoes of your user and let this guide your hand as you plan.
Draw inspiration from websites you love
Looking at websites of businesses in your niche is a great place to start. Study them and think about where they work and where yours can be better. Draw ideas from the structure and use this to plan your own website’s layout.
Consider your keywords
It’s likely you’re not spending time making your own website just for the fun of it. You want people to visit your site and engage with your business. This is why you need to think about how your audience will find you. Which means optimising your site for search engines like Google and Bing. Think about the words you’re customers will be using to find you and jot them down.
Always consider the look of your website from mobile devices. You may be creating your website on a desktop computer or laptop. But it doesn’t mean your user is viewing it that way! From your computer you can right click a page on your website and hit ‘Inspect’. Click the button that looks like a smartphone and it’ll reveal how your website looks when someone checks it out on a mobile.
It’s up to you to decide what looks good. It largely comes down to a mix of your personal taste and the kind of message you want to convey. If you have a logo or company colours you’ll want to theme the aesthetic of your website around them. Our tip: black and white always look good together. And a splash of a third brighter colour reflects your brand’s vibrant personality and adds energy!
Keep crucial visual elements like font, headings and text size consistent across your site. Think about the experience of the user as they navigate the different pages of your site. Don’t make them feel as if they’re jumping around the web.
Less is more. Don’t cram in blocks of text and give the user too much to look at. People tend to scan articles, so try to leave clean space around your text and images. The more you break up the content of a page, the more eyes will be drawn to your key message.
No matter what business you’re running, you’ll need your users to be able to get in touch. Your website should provide a contact form or your phone number. We recommend a bold and accessible form that doesn’t require too much info from the user. Do you have a newsletter and you want your user to subscribe? Leave a box where they can do this.
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Connect a domain name
A domain name is the first step towards projecting a professional image to your online audience. If you’ve used a website builder, you can connect a domain name by upgrading to a paid plan. Find out how much your chosen domain name will set you back.
Optimise your site for SEO
Make sure your site can be found online. Whether you can successfully direct your target audience to your content will be the fine line between the make or break of your website. Make people click through to your website with concise and compelling statements. And If you’ve opted for a website builder like Wix, you’ll get a handy SEO plan to get you going.
Start creating powerful content
A big part of SEO is creating amazing content. Original, captivating content will boost your site up to the top of search engine pages. Whether it’s blog posts, informative articles, or reviews, content is king. And it’s a great way to form relationships with your readers and keep them coming back for more.
Enable analytics and start driving traffic
Once you’ve got your domain name sorted, it’s time to start analysing. Where are your visitors coming from? Who are they? CMS offer a bunch of superb plugins for analysing traffic. And website builders offer integration with Google Analytics once you’ve upgraded to a paid plan.
Head spinning? The online world is full of mind-boggling terms, especially when it comes to website building. Let's get to grips with a couple.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO is the buzzword for making your website as visible as possible for people searching online. The results pages of search engines like Bing and Google are dense jungles, with thousands of websites jostling for the same digital space. Optimising your website helps you cut through the thickets and get your webpages seen by the world.
If someone clicks to your page and doesn’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll leave straight away. This is called ‘bouncing.’ A bounce rate measures what portion of people are bouncing. A high bounce rate might mean your page doesn’t draw the reader in. So you could look at including more engaging writing or eye-catching images to invite people to read on.
You Could Save by Comparing Web Design Quotes
Do you currently have a website live?