Any new business needs a website. Whatever industry sector a company operates in, its website will be one of the main places people go to find information on its products and services. The web is far too big to ignore. If you don’t have a web presence, you’re missing out on free advertising and potential customers.
The basic process
- Choose a domain name
- Check availability and buy the domain
- Choose a hosting package and buy it
- Install a content management system (CMS)
- Customise your website with a theme
- Begin using your website
Free platforms vs hosting
It is possible to create a website for free using the many blogging platforms available, such as Blogger, Tumblr and WordPress.com. But using such free platforms usually means a compromise when it comes to the web address and site design. For example, Blogger allows you to create a blog-style website from a variety of templates for free, but the address will be www.(companyname).blogspot.com. Other services operate similar policies. A proper domain name is far more professional for business use. With your own domain name, your web address could be your company name – www.yourname.com, .co.uk, .info, for example.
Register a domain name
Domain names cost money, but they aren’t usually expensive. The first thing you must do is decide on a preferred web address. For most businesses the name of the company will do, although sometimes a clever play on words, popular advertising slogan or product/service name will be used. It is probably best to keep it simple when starting up.
Check the availability of your domain name before you purchase. There are lots of different websites selling domain names. If you know anyone who runs a website, ask them for a recommendation. Most domain sales sites have good and bad points, and ultimately the best option may come down to personal preference.
Most of these sites have a domain name checker on the homepage that also provides a quote for the cost of available domains. Domains can cost as little as £7 for a .com. Other options will be cheaper, but for most users .com is preferable as it is the widest-ranging domain, but a .co.uk can often be more effective in targeting local traffic.
Once you have a domain, the next thing you need is somewhere to host your site. Most domain sellers also offer hosting packages, and if you’re a novice, it’s probably best to opt for one of these. Again, prices vary, and it’s best to shop around, but you should be able to find an adequate package for around £5 per month / £60 a year. The amount of space offered is something to consider. If your website will need to host lots of content, especially large files such as video and photographs, it is worth considering paying a slightly higher monthly fee for unlimited space.
Install a content management system
A content management system (CMS) allows you to organise, upload and edit new content onto your website. The CMS will be the software you use to run the website day-to-day. It will also allow you to adjust the design of the site quickly and easily.
Several different CMS are available. Some people design their own from scratch, but for the sake of simplicity, WordPress is a common option for both individuals and small businesses. Many hosting sites include a link for easy WordPress installation, making it simple to get the CMS up and running for your site. If your host doesn’t have a link, visit WordPress.org to download the CMS and follow the installation instructions.
Find a theme
WordPress is very easy to use and customise to your liking. Thousands of free themes are available through the software. To begin with, play around with a few different themes before choosing one you like best. Click the ‘Appearance’ tab on your WordPress dashboard and select the ‘Themes’ sub-menu to browse a selection of different themes.
Free themes are available all over the web. Some of the best can be found at Smashing Magazine, which covers web design hints, tips and trends.
Once your chosen theme is installed, your site will begin to look something like a business-ready website. If you want to make changes to the colour scheme and layout of your site, you may need to learn some basic HTML and CSS. This may sound daunting, but it is actually very simple. Some excellent free HTML and CSS tutorials can be found at W3 Schools.
Once you have a basic site up and running, you can start to build up content. Begin with the basics – an ‘about’ page detailing your business, what services you offer, how you can be contacted. Post a blog about developments in your industry. Tell customers where to find you offline. Whatever you do, remember to keep it professional – your website is one of the most visible elements of your business.