“Your business needs a website.”

In the past, perhaps this statement wasn’t true for every new company. But these days, virtually all start-ups should have an online presence from day one. There are plenty of things your business can do with a website: advertise your services, sell products online or communicate with existing customers. You can even send people there for more information and use it to gather sales leads.

No grand plans for your site? It’s worth creating one anyway, just so something meaningful appears when a prospective customer types your company name into Google.

Where to start?

As tempting as it may be, don’t rush in headlong and start building your site. You’ll end up wasting time and money. Instead, plan carefully, thinking about:

  • What your site is for
    Come up with some clear objectives. Do you want to sell your products and services online? Will the site provide help for existing customers? Is it going to be a simple ‘shop window’ to provide you with warm sales leads?
  • Who your site is aimed at
    Try to build a picture of the people you want to visit your site. Who are they? What will they respond well to? Think about how you want them to react to your site. Do you want to surprise, excite or reassure them?

Once you’ve had a chance to consider these items, you can start to build a map of your website. This should cover the structure of your site, including the pages you want, how they link together and what they will contain.

Don’t forget the essentials

Before you start building your site, give some thought to how people will find it online. To make your website available to people on the internet, it must be hosted somewhere. Specialist web hosting companies can supply space for as little as a couple of pounds a month.

You should also buy a domain name for your site. This is the address people type in to find it. Domain names are inexpensive and essential if you want people to be able to find your site.

Getting it built

Once you’ve planned your site, it’s time to build it. Assuming you’re doing this yourself, there are a few main options:

  • Create it from scratch
    If you are comfortable working with computer code, you can program the site yourself from scratch. Although this gives you ultimate control, it’s not really an option unless you’re a web designer or can afford to employ one.
  • Use web design software
    Programs like Microsoft Expression Web and Adobe Dreamweaver give you a high level of control over your site, but let you edit it in a friendlier way. Although they generally hide the website code, it helps to know the basic elements.
  • Find a template solution
    This is usually the best option if your technical knowledge is limited. A package like InstantSite will let you build a template-based website in a few minutes. It takes care of the code behind your site, so you can create the structure and add the graphics and text you want.

Remember the content

When building your website, try to keep its purpose and audience in the forefront of your mind. Whenever you create a page, ask yourself whether it will appeal to the people who read your site. Does it contain the right information? Does the language sound good?

If you don’t mind looking silly, read back what you’ve written out loud. This will highlight places where your text could be improved. People tend to scan web pages, so use short sentences, lots of headings and bullet points to make it easier.

Ecommerce

If you plan to sell through your website, you will need to add ecommerce functions. At a basic level, people could email you their orders, but this is insecure and inefficient. Instead, look into off-the-shelf ecommerce systems.

These can create a product catalogue and shopping cart for your website. They also take care of secure payment via credit cards. Our ecommerce packages can do all this (and more), leaving you to take care of fulfilment.

Finishing off

Once you’re happy with your site, review it carefully. Watch for spelling and grammar mistakes, and make sure all the links work properly.

Badger colleagues and friends for their opinions (but only ask people who will tell you the truth!). Even better, run it past some typical customers and see what they think. After all, they’re the people who really matter.

More information about building websites:

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