Starting Your Business Website
Starting your business website. In this post I’ll be talking about how to get started with your business website (in plain English).
This post is aimed at people who haven’t ever done this before, to help them know what to consider and take in to account when getting started with a business website.
Getting Started With Your Business Website.
Starting a business website can be a minefield if you haven’t done this before, and you can end up going down a lot of dead ends, only to find (in some cases) that you’ll have to start all over again to get your business website up and running in the way that you want it to.
Hopefully, this guide will help you avoid some of those dead ends, and also help you get your site up and running sooner, rather than later.
Starting at the beginning.
Let’s set the scene: You’ve started a business, and you know that you need a website to allow your customers (and new customers) to find you, and to obtain your contact details to get in touch.
When getting started with a business website, the very first thing that you need to start with is a domain. The domain is the part of the website address after the www.’s and the domain appears in email addresses after the @ sign. The domain of this site is someguycalledralph.co.uk .
You can register a domain with most hosting providers.
It’s important for you to keep control of your domain, and I’d suggest not relinquishing control (transferring it to someone you don’t have access to).
The reason for keeping control of your domain is that if anything breaks or becomes unavailable, you can usually get things fixed if you have ownership of your domain. If you don’t have control of your domain fixing things, in some cases isn’t possible, and if you can’t regain control of your domain, that could be you starting all over again with a new domain (so a loss of historical branding reputation in the context of your website).
Make sure you register the domain, make sure you know who it’s held with, and make sure you have access to the account containing your domain. Keep records if needs be. Being organised and knowing who you pay to renew what has a direct relationship with your site being, and staying online.
When it comes to actually choosing a domain for your website, you might have a look at this guide which covers things you would be wise to consider when choosing a domain. This covers most considerations you’ll need to take in to account.
Once you’ve got your domain registered, you’re then going to need to consider how you’re going to get your website online.
Starting Your Business website.
Getting started with a business website be quite variable.
Variable in the sense that there’s quite a few different ways of getting a website online, variable in the sense that we all have different skills and capabilities, and variable in the sense of how you want to manage your website moving forward.
There’s effectively a spectrum of options here, and at one end you’ve got the “I’m going to pay someone to do everything” approach and at the other end you’ve got the “I’m going learn to code, then make my own bespoke website” and in between the two you have options such as “I’ll do it myself, but I don’t want to have to do anything technical” and “I’ll do it myself, but I don’t mind doing things that are technical”.
After reading the paragraph above, I’m sure you’re beginning to get the picture about how variable things can be.
Let’s take the above in to account and apply the “we all have different skills and capabilities” factor.
Do you like computers?
The answer to this question will help a lot with deciding how to go about starting your business website.
You don’t like computers.
If you find that you fear turning your computer on, or regularly find yourself in a position where you want to throw your computer out the window, or don’t like tech in general, then starting your business website might not be an enjoyable experience for you, and it’s unlikely that you’ll end up with a website that serves it’s purpose.
You’ve really got two options here:
- Pay someone to make your website for you.
- Use an “easy website builder” type service.
Paying someone to make your website.
When it comes to paying someone to make a website for you, you can always obtain the services of someone that can create your website for you. Yes, that does link to my pricing page! One thing to bear in mind about my pricing is that I’m cheaper than a lot of other parties that provide an equivalent service. Although my “Enhanced Site” offering is £400 – £500 other people will charge you around £1000 for the same type of website.
I can appreciate why this might not appear like the most cost effective solution when starting your business website.
That said there is a lot to making a website, more than just what the humans see, there’s also what search engines see, and as it’s this that dictates where your site appears in search results, it’s quite an important factor.
Taking search engines and what they see in to account is called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This in itself is probably more work than creating the site itself, and there’s no manual. Sure, there are guidelines, but following them, and doing it all correctly as per the requirements of search engines takes a large amount of effort, and experience also plays a part in this.
By paying someone to create your website for you, you’ll gain the benefit of the experience of this person, rather than you having to gain this experience on the fly. If you have hours of time to put towards making your website, it is achievable, if you’re prepared to read, learn and implement your learnings.
If you do decide to pay someone to make your website for you, one of the main considerations you’ll need to take in to account is how your site is updated in the future. No matter what you might think, websites do need updating from time to time. Things change, like addresses and phone numbers, the products you sell, the services you provide and so on. If these things do change, you’re going to need to have your website updated.
If you want to be able to make changes to your website in the future, rather than paying someone to update your site, then you’ll need talk to the person who’s making your site about this. What you’ll need to make sure of is that they’re going to create your site using something that you’re able to use when making changes and updates to your site.
The other thing to bear in mind is that if you do want to be able to update your site in the future, but you’re not particularly computer orientated, this might dictate the need for an easy website builder type service to be used to make your site, and there can be implications with using these services, which I’ll come to in a moment.
If you do decide to have someone make your website for you, here are some good questions to ask that person before committing to using their services:
- What security measures do you undertake? You’ll at least want to know that this isn’t too much of a concern for the type of site you’ll be getting, or that your site is secured, patched and will automatically update if security is more of a concern for the type of site they’ll be making.
- What SEO activities do you undertake? At the very least, the person making you a website will need to make a sitemap, make a robots.txt, define keywords, alt tag your images, and submit your site to google for you.
- If there’s a problem with my site, can I call on you for help? At the very least you’ll need a “yes, but my time is chargeable”. You definitely don’t want a “no” in response to this question, as that could be your site permanently offline.
- Will you update my site for me if I need you to? There’s more on this below, but if you want someone to update your site in an ongoing manner, you’ll need to establish things like if there’s a cost, and how long it will take for changes to be made.
Using an easy website builder type service.
You may want to use one of these if you’re starting your business website and doing this yourself, or if you’re paying someone to make your site initially, but you want to be able to update your site in the future.
There are companies that offer easy website builder type services such as:
- Shopify (this is really e-commerce orientated, so more of an easy online shop type service).
Although these easy website builder services do tend to make creating a website easier, there can be some implications when using them.
The first implication is cost. I’ve discussed this in quite a lot of detail in this blog post about whether there is such a thing as free web design (there isn’t, by the way!).
The “long story short” is that costs can very quickly start ramping up when using services like these, especially when you start involving email services.
The best advice I can give you is to plan what you’ll need, then check the pricing so that you know what you’ll be getting in to financially when using an easy website builder type service.
To give you some comparison, you could be paying as much as £200 per year when using an easy website builder type service, where as you could potentially pay as little as £40 per year if you use an “I’ll do it myself in standard hosting” type service.
The other implication when using an easy website builder service is functionality. This is basically a combination of what the easy website builder service will do, and what you have access to.
The “access to” part that I’m talking about is the ability to access and modify site specific files. Not being able to do this would potentially prevent you from doing things like defining a caching policy, or configuring your site to use compression. Not doing either of these can negatively affect website performance, and your site won’t be as high in search engine results if it doesn’t perform well.
The “functionality” part is really what the easy website builder service is capable of doing. In some cases, easy website builders can be restrictive with regard to some of the search engine optimisation work you’ll have to do to make your site more appealing to search engines. Again this can negatively affect where your site ranks in search engine results.
The other thing to bear in mind with the functionality side of things, is that someone that works for easy website builder company has to have developed the functionality for it to be available to you, and they haven’t always coded the things that you want to do on your site.
If, for example, you wanted a booking calendar on your and the easy website company hasn’t developed the functionality to do this, it’s going to be difficult at best, or impossible at worst to have a booking calendar on your website.
The easy website design companies can’t entirely cover everything that everyone wants to do with their website so they can be a bit restrictive when it comes to this. This also applies to some levels of customisation that you might want to make to your site, because if the type of customisation you want hasn’t been developed, you won’t be able to do it.
You Do Like Computers.
If computers are your cup of tea, and you’re happy to dedicate some time to starting your business website, you might consider using some standard web hosting (i.e. not an easy website builder type company) and installing your own content management system (CMS) in the hosting, then using that to create your site.
I’ve written a post about considerations to undertake when choosing web hosting, which is worth reading if you’re starting your business website and want to do everything yourself.
The hosting alone doesn’t provide the mechanism to create your site, so you’ll need to take some additional actions to be able to start deploying your site, such as installing a CMS, or connecting a site builder installed on your computer to your hosting account.
There are a few different CMS’ that can be installed in standard hosting such as Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. If you wanted to code your own site, frameworks such as Laravel or Codeigniter (you’ll need to be able to code PHP to be able to use these) can also be installed in standard hosting, so you have a lot of options here.
WordPress is one of the more commonly used CMS’ as it has a lot of themes (effectively site templates) and plugins (used to add additional functionality to your site) that can easily be obtained and installed. To give you an idea of what’s involved with using WordPress, you can find some related guides on my blog:
Whilst the above is at the more basic end of WordPress usage, when making a site using any CMS, you’re likely to have to undertake some optimisation to make your site run well. This is where things become a bit harder, and there’s no one size fits all answer to some of the optimisation activities that you’ll have to undertake when starting your business website.
You might consider having a look at some of the posts in the WordPress Optimisation category on my blog to see if this is something you’ll be suited to.
If you read any of the pages I’ve linked to and think something like “I don’t like computers as much as that!”, then you’re really looking at either using an easy website builder, or paying someone to make your website for you.
There’s More Than Just the Website.
There’s more to making a website that just creating the website that visitors see when starting your business website.
As I’ve mentioned above, you’ll have to carry out additional tasks, mostly for the SEO side of things, but also as far as security goes if you’ve decided to go with standard hosting and a CMS.
The security side of things will vary according to the CMS that you’re using.
The SEO side of things, although more standard in the tasks you’ll have to undertake, there’s quite a list:
- Identify target and deploy keywords
- Optimize the title tag
- Write your headlines in an H1 tag
- Write a meta description
- Check the URL slug for SEO-friendliness
- Add target keywords to your body content
- Review your content quality
- Mark up subheadings with header tags
- Improve navigation with internal links
- Apply schema markup
- Make sure your page is indexed
- Increase page speed (optimise your site)
- Make sure your page is mobile-friendly
- Set up a Google place for your business, then embed this on, or add this to your site
- Add links to your social media profiles to your site
- Deploy a robots.txt
- Deploy a sitemap
- Create a Google Webmaster Tools account, add your site to it, request Google index your site.
- Create a Google Analytics account
- Add Google Analytics tracking code to your site to be able to track site visits
Whilst it is possible to work out how to do all these things, and apply them to your site, if you feel that this list is extensive and you’re not going to either be able to dedicate your time to this, or be able to carry it out at all, it’s worth considering paying someone to do this for you.
There are SEO companies that will take on a created site, then carry out just the SEO parts (the list above) so that you don’t have to. In some cases, this alone can be more expensive than the creation of a site alone!
You might wonder if you have to actually do all of the above. Well, you don’t, you’re not obliged to, but then again, the whole point of having a website is to be found online, and what the above does is make your site easier to be found online, so it’s worth putting the effort in to the SEO side of things if you’re making your site entirely on your own.
Whatever You Decide…
Whatever you decide to do and however you decide to go about starting your business website, there’s some overall advice when it comes to making your website that’s worth following as it will make your life easier (and your website easier to manage) in the future:
- Start as you mean to go on. If you start making your site using one method, then decide to change later on, you’ll have to completely remake your site. You can avoid this by checking your options and choosing what’s best suited to you.
- Check that ongoing pricing suits your budget. You don’t want to find that your costs exceed your budget when operating a website.
- Be organised. Gain an idea of what is held where and who you pay for what. This will help should any problems arise (you’ll know who to contact).
- Keep track of your logins. There’s going to be a lot of these so make sure you keep track of login details, and gain an understanding of what you’ll need to log in to, to perform specific tasks or actions.
- Check that the CMS or easy website builder service you decide to use will provide the functionality you want on your site.
- If you’ve decided to use standard hosting and do things yourself, try and work out if you’re going to be able to do what’s needed, and that you have enough time to dedicate to creating your website, as this can be more than you’d expect.
- Read up on the CMS you’re using. You’ll find things out in advance of having to actually do them if you do this. You’ll also become aware of things you need to do, but didn’t know you had to.