You’ve taken that giant step and decided to build your own business...well done! You know that every business needs an online presence these days, whether or not your business is primarily done online, so it is essential that you can clearly and effectively portray your brand message, services and contact information.
DO YOU REALLY NEED A WEBSITE?
With the rise and rise of social media, and with these platforms becoming more sophisticated it is possible to get away with simply having a Facebook page represent your business. Facebook pages are great as they are easily accessed and recognised by most people and can contain all of the important information about your business. Some people can start to build their profile exclusively through Twitter, or Instagram through consistent and high quality posts.
Really, The Key Point Here Is WHO Are You Selling To And WHERE Are They?
A local business dealing in a physical product or service - such as a small bakery or a landscaper - may only require a Facebook page and word of mouth will do the rest. However more digital and online based business - such as designers and coaches - will want to reach a wider community and be easily found online.
It is also important to check what your competitors are doing. I’m not talking about copying anybody but if the majority of graphic designers have slick websites and you only have a Twitter account, it is very likely that no-one will be able to find you, let alone trust you with their money.
WHAT IS YOUR BUDGET AND SKILL SET?
Building a website yourself is definitely doable, depending upon what type of content you are looking to deliver, how much time you have and how specific your design aesthetic is. There are a number of easy to use web site builders available which will usually take care of the domain name purchase and the website hosting - both of which will be incorporated into a monlthy or yearly fee.
What is a...Domain? - A website address. The www.(insert-business-name-here).com bit. This can be purchased for a one or two yearly fee and prices start at around £7 for two years. When you are choosing your business name is is important to also do a domain name check to find out if there are similar website names already in use.
Each situation is different but in my experience websites that will include an active blog will work best with Wordpress and Squarespace, sites that are looking to sell physical or digital products are easiest to produce on Squarespace but other builders such as Wix and Weebly also integrate sales pages and plug-ins can be used on Wordpress to seamlessly integrate a shop, they just take a little more techy know how. Image based websites that show case a portfolio are very quick and easy to put together without a web designer on Squarespace. If your website will have a lot of information, and a strong, specific brand, or if your site needs to include more complex content such as a membership area, then I would advise working with a web designer and developer to help build a clean HTML website that will be user friendly.
What is….Hosting? - Your web host will store your website and files in a server to allow it to be accessed by internet users across the world. Typically web hosting is included when you use a web builder, such as Squarespace or Wix, but you will need to purchase hosting if you are using Wordpress or a custom build website. Hosting can be purchased from most domain sellers and you will generally be able to package the two into one purchase. Web hosting will cost around £5-10 per month. If this sounds too complicated then your web designer will definitely be able to either walk you through the process or set it up for you.
Using a web builder can be a great, budget saving solution for new businesses and many of the builders come with professional looking templates. It is also possible to purchase excellent themes to be used with Wordpress to give you a powerful blogging website with a more bespoke design.
There are limitations to how much customisation can be done to these types of sites, however it is possible to tweak and change Wordpress themes and Squarespace sites to a huge range of different designs and styles but it will take time if you are not familiar with web coding, html or css, of if you don't have access to graphic design software such as Photoshop.
CUSTOMISING YOUR WEB BUILDER PAGE
Google is definitely your friend. There is always someone else who has had the exact same problem as you and the answer can often be found with a little searching.
Graphics can be created online using sites like Canva and Pixlr and again, these are great tools to create eye-catching web graphics on a budget.
"With A Little Practice And Perseverance Building An Awesome Website Or Blog Is Completely Possible On A Shoestring!"
CREATING YOUR BRAND
Before you jump in to designing and creating your new website, think about your branding. Do you already have a logo, image or aesthetic in mind, or are you starting from scratch?
If you're creative, this is something you can tackle yourself. However, if design is not your strong suit I would definitely recommend employing someone with experience as having a strong logo and cohesive brand for your business will help you to look professional and stand out from the crowd immediately. They will also be able to guide you when it comes to colour choices and fonts - both of which should be kept to a minimal palette!
CONSIDER WHERE YOUR CUSTOMERS AND CLIENT BASE CURRENTLY ARE AND FOCUS ON SPREADING YOUR MESSAGE THERE.
IF YOU HAVE DESIGN SKILLS, TRY DIY-ING YOUR WEBSITE, ESPECIALLY IN THE EARLY STAGES - YOU DON'T WANT TO BLOW THE BUDGET RIGHT OFF THE BAT.
WORDPRESS AND SQUARESPACE ARE THE MOST COMMON OPTIONS MEANING ANSWERS ARE USUALLY A GOOGLE AWAY
ALSO KNOW THE VALUE IN HIRING A PROFESSIONAL TO HELP WITH BRAND AND WEBSITE DESIGN - IT WILL DEFINITELY HELP YOU TO STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD.
REMEMBER YOUR BRAND SHOULD REFLECT YOUR BUSINESS AND YOUR CUSTOMERS NEEDS AND ASPIRATIONS. THINK ABOUT WHAT YOUR COMPETITORS ARE DOING BUT DON'T BE AFRAID TO STAND OUT.
A BRAND SHOULD ALSO BE COHESIVE AND BLEED INTO EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR CUSTOMER FACE - SOCIAL MEDIA, EMAIL, WEB SITE.