You’re a business professional, a savvy entrepreneur, who knows how to make things happen. One of the first orders of business will revolve around creating and launching your first website. The good news is, even if you don’t know much about web design or coding in HMTL, you can still build your own website. Although it does take time and it does take effort, it is doable. Here are 10 tips to help you get your first business website successfully launched and off the ground.
1. Plan Your Website Before You Start
One of the biggest obstacles to launching a business website is a lack of planning. Think about the layout and what functionality you want on your site in advance. If you’re a visual planner, map it out on paper, or with index cards that you can arrange on a board. Name each page and break down what needs to be on it. From services to resources, the more you can nail down a framework for your content, the faster it’s going to come together. If you’re in doubt as to where to start, look at your competitor’s sites and make notes on the items and features you like. This will come in handy, especially if you’re working with a web designer. After all, the first thing he/she is going to ask you is “how you want your site to look,” and it’s always good to have concise answers. Collect product images, copy, and other content prior to starting and the process will go much more quickly.
2. Set Realistic Goals
Decide what you want your website to do. Are you after sales conversions or are you collecting leads? Is it just about boosting brand awareness? Do you need to integrate an app or two? The answers to these questions will help define the tone and functionality of your site. If you run a real estate brokerage, for example, it would be helpful to have maps integrated into your listings, and maybe a search module that allows potential buyers to find out what’s available in their ideal location. Restaurants should have menus and event calendars, but not necessarily eCommerce. Look at your website as a visitor would. What functions and features will bring them the greatest satisfaction? Do you intend to include a blog? Some features are as simple as integrating a widget. Others may require some custom coding. Make a list of the necessities and a separate list of the “nice to haves.” Discuss the specifics with your web designer to see what will best suit your budget.
3. Start Learning About SEO
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, is one of the most important components of doing business on the web. SEO helps to boost your visibility with search engines and drive “organic” (unpaid) traffic to your site. A good SEO strategy will bring remarkable value to your marketing efforts, so understanding what it can (and can’t) do, is always a good idea. Do targeted keyword research by using Google Keyword Planner or Keyword Tool. Finally, read up on current SEO trends to find out about the specific do’s and don’ts of SEO. They change frequently, so it’s always a good idea to stay current. Not having an SEO strategy is akin to having a bad SEO strategy, and not knowing about the elements that could potentially tank your ranking will probably harm your business in the long run.
4. Check Out the Competition
In order to stay on top of trends in your industry, you need to know what your competition is up to. You know this from a marketing standpoint already, but web trends are no different. Look at your competitor’s sites and take a page from their book. If there are features you like, chances are others will like them too. You don’t have to steal design elements directly (and you shouldn’t), but there’s nothing wrong with emulating certain features and functionality. What works for them can definitely work for you.
5. Use an Open Source CMS
WordPress is one of the most powerful open-source CMS’s (content management system) on the web. The advantages to using an open source CMS is that there are thousands of developers all over the world who can work with it, so you’re allowing yourself lots of flexibility at the outset and going forward. Whether you want to build your own website yourself or hire a professional web designer, WordPress is one of the best ways to go. Even if you start with one web design company or designer and move on to another at some point in the future, you won’t have to go through the hassle of finding somebody who knows your system. WordPress is the most commonly used CMS on the web so there are plenty of designers and developers that know how to work with it. WordPress is also easy enough to learn by yourself. You will need to purchase web hosting and install WordPress onto your web hosting account. Web Hosting Hub is a great choice for hosting WordPress and you can read my full review on this host here.
6. Make Sure You’re Mobile-Friendly
You may come across the term “responsive web design” here and there, which basically means that your website will need to be mobile friendly and be properly viewable on any device. Why does this matter? The majority of people today access the web from their mobile devices, and use them for everything from research to purchasing products. Search engines favor mobile-friendly sites, so it’s to your distinct advantage to make sure that your site is mobile-ready. Most CMSs like WordPress offer responsive themes/templates. If you are working with a web designer who is building from scratch, they will more than likely have the responsive end of things covered, but it’s worth making sure. During the design phase, always check your website on all of your mobile devices to make sure it looks great and functions as it should.
7. If You’re Using a Web Designer…
While you’re browsing open-source platforms, templates, and various different web design tools – and realizing that this is going to take time and effort – you might be tempted to hire a web designer. When you’re deciding on a web designer, make sure that you’re impressed with the work they’ve done in the past. Ask your colleagues for recommendations (if you like their sites, of course), or browse freelance sites such as UpWork, Freelancer or Fiverr to get the job done. If you are looking at creating complex web apps, you might want to hire a specialist, but for most basic design and content creation services, there are plenty of cost-effective options out there, and hundreds of talented designers, coders, and copywriters that are ready to work when you are.
8. Plan Out a Budget
While one person’s idea of “a lot of money” will differ from another’s, it is good to keep in mind that you will need to plan out a budget. Know that you will have to pay something – nothing good comes for free. If you’re building a website yourself, then you can literally save thousands. You will need to purchase a good WordPress hosting plan, a domain name, and likely a premium WordPress theme, which totals a couple hundred dollars at most. However, hiring a professional web designer, will cost a considerable amount more. You will need to shop around and determine whether you can afford hiring a professional web designer or not. If you go into the process with a budget in mind, you will more than likely be able to stick to it.
9. Don’t Use Flash Intros or Music
Flash is a proprietary compressed animation technology that was developed by Adobe. It’s pretty slick and cool, but sadly it isn’t compatible with many devices, especially iOS (Apple, iPhone, and iPad). It is considered a dead technology. Many people have Flash disabled on their devices or computers, so don’t use it. Avoid Flash at all costs. Fortunately, there are plenty of options to create movement on your home page that don’t involve Flash, such as using full-screen video.
10. Keep It Simple
There is nothing that looks worse than a busy, cluttered site that makes it impossible for the user to find what they are looking for. The last tip in this article is to make sure your website has a clean, easy to navigate design. Your site navigation should be at the top of the page, your contact information should be in the footer, and whatever your product or service is should be clearly represented on the home page. Keep it as simple as possible and let your business speak for itself.
Guest Post by Jay Douglas of Howtogetonline.com