Some recent data suggests a decent website can contribute as much as 25 per cent to the growth of a business but well over half of small businesses (59%) are still without a professional website. Many think a website is only needed by large companies and the perceived technical difficulty may also be a roadblock to creating a company website.
So, what does it take to create a simple-to-maintain business website? Here's our guide for beginners.
The research, conducted by GoDaddy found that almost half of businesses thought they were too small to need a website, with 30% citing cost and almost a fifth saying the time to build and manage a website isn't justified.
Before diving into how to create your own website, there are a few gotchas I want to mention.
- Write down any usernames and passwords you create during the process.
- If you use a third party to either do the work or support you, make sure you get them to hand over all usernames and passwords.
- Watch out for the hard sell - many companies selling website building services look cheap but then try to up sell other products and services.
- Think about security from the start. Adding SSL certificates will add some expense but they are important as search engines prioritise secure websites.
- Ensure that the site you create works on both computers and mobile devices.
Start With Content
What information do you want your website to convey? It may seem like an obvious question but it does need some thought. Will you want a photo gallery? What about price lists that need to be updated regularly? Or a contact form? And don't forget a simple description of what your business is about.
I'd suggest making a list of the different types of content you'll be publishing to the site and working on that content offline so you're not rushing when you're building the site.
Hosting Services And Domain Registration
Before you build a web site you need a place to put it. This can be a bespoke website ever that you configure yourself or you can pay someone else to do it for you.
A domain is the technical term for a website address. For example, when you visit this site, lifehacker.com.au is our domain name.
Small businesses should look for a web hosting company that provides domain registration as that will make the initial process much simpler. It is possible to buy your domain from one place (domains are sold through authorised domain registrars) and your hosting from another provider but you'll then need to link them.
In some cases, that link is easy to complete but in others it can be more complex. I'd suggest keeping things as simple as possible.
Web hosting has come a long way since the days of uploading a few static HTML pages, some images and perhaps a few extras like a gallery or discussion board. Today's web hosts need to offer databases, automation, blogging platforms and a bunch more. When you're ready to take your data into your own hands and run your own website you need to find a good web host that can make life as easy as possible for you.
Thankfully, there are dozens of great companies looking for your business. Today, we're looking at five of the best.
Out Of The Box Websites
Many services, such as Google Sites, wix.com, squarespace.com and weebly.com are out there and allow you to do the entire hosting, domain registration and website build from one place. Some web hosting companies also offer simple website building tools that don't require any specialised skills.
These are generally very easy and offer a variety of included or extra templates so you can create a website quickly without needing lots of technical skills or specialised design expertise.
How To Build A Bespoke Site
Once you've signed up for hosting and have registered your domain, it's time to build your website. Fortunately, the vast majority of hosting companies have simplified this process by automating many of the basic steps.
What you're looking for is your website's Control panel, sometimes called CPanel. There, you'll likely find some website building tools.
There are many different tools to choose from. Personally, I've found Wordpress to be the easiest to use as there's a large user community, thousands of plug-ins and templates, and lots of support if you need help. But there are other platforms such as Joomla and Drupal that are well supported and provide an alternative.
One of the easiest ways to start publishing your own content is to use out-of-the-box software that integrates easily with a hosting platform. It makes the whole set up process and admin side of the website super easy. One of the most popular tools for doing that is WordPress. Lots of web hosting companies offer integrated packages that include WordPress-specific services. Here are a few of the best and most popular - some of which are offering big discounts for a limited time.
With those tools, you'll need to choose your own design template from the thousands of free or paid options. Then you'll need to create the pages you want and add the texts and images you want. Fortunately, all of that is as easy as using word processor software.
Don't Forget Social Media
When you register your domain name, it's a good idea to register a Twitter handle and create a Facebook page for your business. While you may not have the time or inclination to spend time on social media, there are plug-ins for most website tools that allow you to automatically posit content from your website directly to those platforms.
That can be a handy way to promote your business with very little extra effort.