Starting Your Website
Unless your small business deals directly with only one or two clients, chances are you need a website. Even if you mostly rely on word-of-mouth to attract new customers, the first step many of them will take in vetting your operation is to check out your website. If you don’t have one, you might have a hard time securing new business. Don’t worry! Setting up a website is fairly easy, even if you’re on a tight budget.
Domain Names and Hosts
The first thing you’ll need to do is register your “domain name” with a domain name registrar. The use-friendly part of a website address, such as google.com, is the domain name. Lots of domain names are already taken, so you might need to get creative.
Next, you’ll need a “hosting service.” A host stores your site on a special computer called a server. Servers are designed to handle connections from many people at once. When shopping for a host, don’t jump at the option offering the most bandwith for the cheapest price. Instead, make your selection based on the quality of customer service as well as uptime. If your site is unavailable to your customers for any reason and you can’t get someone on the phone to fix it, then what are you paying for?
Building the Website
Chances are, you don’t have time to learn how to write HTML and CSS code. Don’t worry ¾ you won’t need to! Making a website might sound intimidating, but just about anyone can accomplish it with a couple weekends’ worth of work. Content management system (CMS) software will help you structure the pages of your website, decide on a design and make sure all your pictures and paragraphs are in the right place. Learning to use a CMS program can be done by just about anyone willing to put in some extra time. There are countless tutorials for all skill levels just an internet search away.
Most CMS software will get you started by using a template. While this is just fine, it could cause your site to look like every other site out there. By tweaking the design so the site visuals match your brand identity, you’ll add legitimacy to your customers’ experience.
Content and Organization
When you start putting together your site, ask yourself what purpose it will serve. Do you need to sell products? Will it inform customers of upcoming events? Here are some standard pages that most business sites include:
- About: This page informs your customers of your business’ history and mission. You may or may not choose to add a personal touch by including short bios about important team members.
- Recent News: Many businesses employ a blog-style page as their homepage to immediately engage customers with news of recent or upcoming sales and events.
- Contact Information: General contact information is usually listed at the bottom of every page. However, a dedicated page ensures your patrons definitely won’t miss it.
All of your pages should have a main menu that allows customers to navigate to any other page with just one or two clicks. Otherwise, they could get frustrated while trying to find something and leave your site.
Remember, your website doesn’t need to revolutionize the internet. A simple but professional-looking website can be very effective. As your business grows, you can always continue to grow your website along with it!