Previous blogs have covered the benefits of having a website. But how do you get your own and jump into the world of online business? This blog outlines the process of getting online in four simple steps.
Step 1: Choosing a Content Management System (CMS)
A majority of modern websites are built within Content Management Systems (CMS). The two major benefits of these systems are a simple setup process and super-easy management of your website once it’s all up and running. There are just a few things you should consider when choosing the right CMS for you.
1. Core functionality
In short, does the CMS do what it says it will do, and does it do it well? The answer will most likely be yes if you’re using the well-known ones. But it can never hurt to do a bit of research.
Personally, we use WordPress but here are some other suggested CMS providers (updated June 2018):
(Source – w3techs)
The ability to really make a website your own is a major part of being online, of really crafting a digital footprint that is unique to your company. For this reason, a flexible CMS that allows full customisation should feature high on your shortlist.
Any website needs to have the ability to expand when needed – you never know when you’ll want to add more pages to your website. The CMS you choose should offer this is a basic thing.
5. Content editor
Easily uploading and changing content on your website is important, which is why having a CMS with a good content editor is essential. Look for those that make the process simple and clear, yet with a good range of options for editing.
Things can always go wrong. When they do, having good support from your CMS provider makes all the difference to solving your issues and getting you back to providing for your customers.
Security is a big issue on the internet. You can ensure you and your customers are safe by choosing a reputable CMS provider that explicitly talks about security.
Step 2: Web hosting
A lot of CMS providers will also offer hosting services, making life very simple. There are still things you should look out for though.
Look for time-period choices and their costs. For example, you might want to test your website for a few months but only have the option to purchase for a year. Or having emails included might cost a bit extra. Looking at a range of hosting options can be a good idea to make sure you get what is right for you.
Speed is essential. A slow website leads to lost customers and loss of business: customers are impatient! Checking the speeds offered by your chosen hosting service is important. There are many free tools to do this and good CMS providers will state their server speeds.
Much like choosing a CMS, good hosting support will make any online problems a lot easier. You’ll also be less likely to have a website that is offline for an extended period of time should something happen. If you choose a good CMS provider, their support should also extend to hosting.
Many hosting providers offer email using the same domain name as your website. For example, firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a great way to expand your digital presence easily and cheaply.
Step 3: Purchasing a domain
A domain name is the publicly visible name of your website that is used in URLs and your web address. h2o digitals’ domain name is “h2o-digital.com”. Once again, the use of a CMS should make this extremely easy as many offer domain registration services when you opt to host your website with them.
Choosing a domain is as simple as typing in your desired name (usually your business name) and you’ll be told if it’s available or not. It can be a good idea to have a few variations of the one you want just in case someone has already taken your first choice!
Cost of a domain:
- Domain: £7 to £20+ per year (depending on the domain type)
Step 4: Design and Development
The design of your website is arguably the most important aspect of your online presence. Good design can make you stand out from the rest of the companies out there, as can a bad design. This is also the time to get creative and put your brand identity online. A good design is also essential to a positive user experience, something you definitely want your customers to have.
There are only really two options: use the provided templates in CMS websites to customise your website yourself or have a professional designer create your website for you. Take a look at the pros and cons.
Design your own website using templates
- Absolute control over what you do: no reliance on someone else’s creative interpretation of your vision
- Potentially more satisfying
- You website might not look professional and will look similar, if not the same, as other websites using the same template
- Limited customisation
- You’ll probably end up with something that will have to be re-designed at some point
Use a professional designer
- Can change the very fabric of website through coding, adding a big range of customisation options
- Optimisation for SEO and search rankings
- Expert design and online knowledge, which can assist you in building your online presence
- Initially more expensive
- Can take a little time due to a range of factors that are considered during a professional design (layout, navigation, colours, purpose etc.)
- Exact design is only available once the work is complete, meaning you have to wait a little while to see the finished thing
Setting up your own website is easy but if you want a professional website that will stand up to competitors and handle the demands of your customers, hiring a web developer is always going to be the best option.
Don’t panic! This doesn’t need to be a major expense. Any web designer worth their salt will be able to build you a website in stages, meeting your needs of having a website while respecting your budget. If at first you just want something basic, they should build you something basic but completely functional. If and when you want to invest more, it is easy to add extra pages, features, and content.
With any luck, you’ll now see the process of getting yourself a website as something that is fairly simple but essential. Building one yourself is an option but if you run into trouble don’t hesitate to get a professional web designer to build your website for you – it will be the best investment you make in your business!
But getting yourself a website is only one part of the digital journey. Once you’re online you need to make sure customers can find you, achieved through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and online advertising.