Are you an owner of a small or medium company? Or maybe you are the head of a large organization? As a matter of fact, the size of your company or online project doesn’t really matter. Nowadays, every company, regardless of its size, has to have a website - whether it comes to online sales or a simple presentation of your business, having a site is an absolute necessity.
The first place that today’s consumer will look for information about product or service is on the web. That’s why having a well-designed and easy to use website is going to give your business a serious competitive advantage.
If you are one of the businesses with no website, you are not alone - according to a statistic released by Blue Corona, in 2019 36% of the small businesses still don't own one. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't be planning on creating a website! But you probably know that and that is why you're here - so let's move on.
Planning the Process of Building Your Website
Large companies and small to medium businesses have different kind of issues, when it comes to planning their future website (or redesigning the existing one, for that matter). With big corporation, usually the issues lay in the slow process of getting things approved, due to the large number of staff whose approval is necessary.
As a contrast, small agencies get the job done way more quickly, but more often then not things get hectic due to proper plan of action. Whether you do it in-house, or you turn to an agency, there is a good chance you won't have a documented plan on the process, therefore is much easier to get lost in unplanned activities or skip important steps.
Fortunately, there is an easy solution to this. Just grab a pen and a piece of paper (or, if you've forgotten how to write by hand like many of us, get your laptop!) and start researching. In this article, we've prepared some basic, but crucial steps you need to go through, based on our own experience and knowledge.
Before we continue with the 7 steps we've prepared for you, here are a few quick tips that may help you along the way
- You need to consider not only the information you will find, but also whether or not it's applicable to your own project. For example, if you are a small company, a strategy requiring a team of 10+ might not be for you, or the budget can be quite different from the numbers you have in mind.
- Don't hesitate to rely for help on the online communities: if you are an active member of a professional Facebook group or often write in a forum related to your business, use the knowledge your peers might have gathered! Many of them have likely went through the same process already and may give you valuable advise on how to approach this or who you can contact.
- If you're thinking of hiring a professional, it's a good idea to check whether there is a digital agency that specialized in your particular niche. Many small business owners aren't even aware that this type of agencies exist! If this is the first time you hear about this too, check out this great article from Databox, where you'll find examples of niche agencies and what additional value they can offer you.
So let’s get started!
Right after you come up with the idea of building a website for your project, you have to answer probably the most important question of all – what's the goal of my website?
Are you looking to simply create awareness that you exist ( for example, you provide a local service, like a barber shop) or you are looking to build another channel to sell your products? Do you offer a direct purchase or they need to fill a form and ask for an appointment? If you're redesigning your site, what were the main issues and how do you plan on correcting them?
These are all vital points upon which will depend your entire strategy and, of course, budget.
Once you've decided on your goals, you can hire a web developer and a web designer - you can also create your own website on WordPress or another CMS of your choosing. Many hosting providers offer their own option for creating websites as well (we have a feature called Sitebuilder, for example).
Building website is a lot easier when you have a goal on your mind, regardless of what that goal might be – conversions, subscriptions, visitors, popularity, or building online community!
2. Web Hosting and Domain Name
Very often you can see web hosting and domain name in the same sentence, especially when the web hosting provider you picked offers them as a package ( In HostPulse, for example, when you order a hosting plan you even get a free domain name).
But what do they mean?
Basically, the domain is the name of your website (or the address of your website - it's a lot easier to remember www.hostpulse.net than it's actual IP address which is 126.96.36.199).
The hosting (often referred to as "web hosting") is the service offered by the hosting providers which physically store your site. In a nutshell, in order for your website to be viewed in the Internet you will need a web hosting.
Why is the domain name of your website so important?
The domain name is of huge importance, of course - just as it was choosing a name for your business - the one you'll register will become the face of your company on the web.
That’s why it is crucial to come up with a domain that is easy to remember and that is going to be associated with your company. We have a couple of quick tips here:
- Try to keep it short, whenever possible. Obviously, nowadays, most short domains will be taken, but you can be creative and see what part of your name can be shortened or which words you should absolutely include and which can be left out. For example, if your business name is " Macy's Handmade Jewelry" you can go for "www.macyshop.com" or "macyhandmade.com"
- Choose the right extension. If you came up with a great abbreviation, but the .com or local version of your domain is not available, don't be afraid to explore some more exotic domain extensions. So, if "www.macyshop.com" is not available, you can certainly go for ".shop" or "design" but random choices like non-local extension (.us if you are based in UK ) or .edu (used in academia) should stay out of your sight.
- Try to keep it readable. This one seems like a no-brainer, yet so many business have realized too late that their domains are either absolutely unreadable or they unintentionally form some weird word combination (if you want to have a few laughs, check these unfortunate choices)
It would be best if you spent as much time as it is needed to come up with a good domain name. You can either try to connect it with your products or name it after your company.
Read more about this: Five Essential Steps Following the Registration of a Domain Name
Choose the right hosting plan
Finding the right hosting plan might be a bit challenging if you don’t know what to look for. If you aren't working with an agency and you need to choose it yourself, try to answer these 3 questions:
- Does this hosting provider have reliable and secure servers?
- What is the expected traffic on my website and what parameters do I need?
- Is there a 24/7 support team?
For most small businesses, shared hosting is a good starting option. It's very cost-effective and, what's most important, it usually comes with cPanel, which is a control panel that will help you manage easily your website (if you've never heard of it, you can check this guide on what can you do with cPanel)
If you are still having trouble deciding what hosting plan to choose, you can either contact the sales team of the respective hosting company or register in some professional hosting forum and ask for advice there - you can try and visit Web Hosting talk, Hosting Discussion or even open Quora.
You can brainstorm the structure of your website along with its goal. Probably you have some favorite sites you visit often - sit down and think what do you like most about them (besides the products you're probably buying, of course!)
There are some pages you will find in all websites - About Us, Blog, Contacts etc. Make sure you have those, but also, think of what can distinguish you from the crowd. For example, if you are offering an unique service within your business niche, why not feature it and gain some competitive advantage?
Reading a bit about user experience when it comes to website can definitely help you as well. You will learn all sort of little things that can be very important to your visitors: is it easy to find your contacts, is the information required for purchasing too much etc.
After you have brainstormed the entire structure of your website, you can proceed with its design. If you've chosen to go with an agency, this is where you hand them the mock-up you've created in the previous step and give them some cues on your desired look.
More often than not your designer will provide you with some advice on the design - don't reject it right away on the grounds that you already know what you want. As any other professional, designers have been doing this for years and can likely spot flaws in the project much easier.
In other words, if they tell you "Listen, I think this yellow logo really doesn't look good on the electric blue background" it's probably best to listen to them.
If you're building the website yourself and you've already chosen the platform, it's time to start looking into the design option it offers.
With WordPress - the most popular CMS - a great place to start is ThemeForest, which offers hundreds and hundreds of designs (called "themes") that you can choose from. Most of the themes you'll find will cost around $50 and they usually come with way more features than their free counterpart. You can go for a free theme, of course, but it's quite possible that you will soon find yourself very limited by its options.
If it's a platform like Wix, Shopify or an internal feature like our SiteBuilder, you will likely find many templates within the tool itself, so make sure to read the help section and find out how to get there.
5. Optimization / SEO
If you've never heard of SEO, don't worry - as soon as you launch your website online you will start hearing it left and right!
SEO or Search Engine Optimization refers to making your website appear in the first results for a particular search engine (usually Google) when people search for something.
If you are counting on visitors (and therefore purchases) coming from Google, you will need to consider adding SEO to your plan.
Unfortunately, SEO is quite complicated and unless you're prepared to invest a LOT of time into learning, the best option here would be to hire an SEO agency. Their services are rather pricey usually, but don't let this dissuade you - SEO is one of the marketing investment with the highest return of investment.
There are a few things you can do on your own, though.
One of them is start collecting ideas for a blog - you can be sure that your SEO advisor will make you start a blog. Try to write some articles and see if this is something that you can do for yourself or you will need to find somebody to outsource it to.
The professional content writers will provide you with amazing materials, but they will also cost a fortune, so keep this in mind when searching for such options. If somebody is offering a $5 article, it's really unlikely that it will be any good.
Another thing you can do is making sure your site is as fast as possible. Right now, marketing reports confirm that 3 seconds is the average time required for a website to load and that most visitors will leave if it takes more than 8. Whether you hired an agency or you're working on the website yourself, speed is of vital importance, so make sure to address this.
6. Gain some popularity
After everything is set and done with the creation of your website, you have to start developing a marketing strategy. Most people think that getting a website is enough, but unfortunately this is just the beginning - now you need to promote it, if you want to get some value out of your investment.
The marketing giant Hubspot released an excellent (and not very long) guide on marketing for small businesses - make sure to check it out!
Social media is SMB's best friend - be sure to choose at least one that is corresponding to your type of business and invest some serious efforts in it. For most businesses, there are three main channels - Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, but a quick search in Google can give you a better idea in what direction you should be looking at.
Don’t forget that if you are a new business, it might take time until you gain a large customer base.
7. Monitor your performance
Creating the best version of your website is constant work in progress. You should regularly monitor the performance of your website, your content, and your marketing campaigns. Try to analyze your customer behavior and draw some conclusions what they like about your website and what they don't.
As a starting point, you should install at least Google Analytics and try to get some insights from it. Analytics is easily integrated with most CMS, so if you are using one, simply google how to do this. The tool provides very useful data, such as:
- Where are your visitors coming from?
- How much time they spend on your site?
- What channel are the best customers coming from?
Analytics can be somewhat complicated, but if you don't have any idea what is happening on your site, you won't be able to improve it either and therefore, get the most out of your new asset.
As you can see, building a successful website is a long process, and these 7 steps are just the basics. Never stop experimenting, learn as much as possible (even if you're paying someone else to do this) and most importantly, have patience.
Nothing great has ever happened in a day!