Setting Up Your Website
- Lesson Materials SEO Terms Handout
- Completion time About 25 minutes
Your website is your business’s central hub out here on the internet. It’s where potential and existing customers alike go for information about your business and what you have to offer them.
The point? Your website is pretty important.
From deciding to DIY or contract out the initial development to determining the right color scheme for your brand, a lot goes into creating the perfect website for your business and your customers. So we best get started!
DIY or Hire?
When it’s time to start building your business website, the first question is whether you’ll do-it-yourself or hire a professional. You can hire someone to design the website, develop it into fruition, write the copy… pretty much any aspect of building a new website can be contracted out.
Gus Ba, VP of Digital Experience and Product Design at Eastern Bank recommends the following:
I would recommend that an entrepreneur buy a premade website template on a site such as Themeforest. They range from $10-50 depending on the features. This is much cheaper than hiring a designer that can cost from $500-$5,000. Additionally, an entrepreneur's time is the most valuable resource they have and should be better spent building the business instead of trying to design their site.
Whether or not to do it yourself depends on several factors you’ll need to take into account. Let’s have a look:
Scope of The Website
What are your needs for the website, and what is its purpose? If you just need a few pages to let customers know about your hours, location, and contact info, then tackling the build yourself will be more manageable.
When you start including contact forms, user accounts, or online payments, the process gets complicated fast, so you might be better off paying for some help.
Your Budget vs. Developer Rates
Developers, web designers, and copywriters have one thing in common — they’re not free, and the good ones aren’t cheap. Freelance rates will vary depending on the location and skill level. Some will charge by the hour while others use project-based pricing.
A good ballpark? Expect to pay between $2,000 - $6,000 for a typical small business website build. If you need to sell products online, it’ll cost a good deal more — as much as $10,000 for the initial build. Copywriting varies depending on scope, but web copy typically starts around $1,500 - $2,000.
For more info on pricing, check out Plato’s web design price calculator.
Your Skills (or Lack Thereof)
Developers aren’t cheap, but you do need a quality website.
Many website builders like Wordpress and Squarespace make it super, super easy to find beautifully designed templates and customize them to create your business website. They make it a lot simpler to design your own site, but you still have to be decently tech-savvy and understand what makes for user-friendly, clean design and compelling sales copy.
If that’s not you, we strongly recommend bringing in a professional to craft your custom site.
Buying a Domain
Now that you know who will give birth to your beautiful website, it needs somewhere to live. That means it’s time to choose and buy your domain name.
Choosing a URL
The common sense option is to use your brand’s name as your URL — e.g. http://www.yourbrand.com. Using your business name as a home for your website helps to make branding more cohesive and ensures it’s radically easy for customers to find your site online.
Other considerations to weigh when choosing a URL include:
- Where and how you’ll advertise it. A good URL is brief, memorable, and easy to spell. That makes it more effective for print, video, and radio marketing, among others.
- SEO. A URL including a relevant keyword that describes your site or business can help you rank for the term in search.
- Cost. Most domain names cost around $8-10 a year to host, but some highly sought after URLs can go for a lot more; up to $5,000.
- Availability. Of course you can’t choose a URL that’s currently in use. For example, your site can’t live at http://www.grasshopper.com/. If your business name isn’t available as a .com, consider other endings like .co, .org, .ly, and a whole host of other recently released suffixes.
Where to Buy
You can buy domain names from a lot of companies like GoDaddy and Google Domains. If you’re DIYing it, you can buy a domain through most website building platforms, too.
Where you buy your new domain will depend on URL availability and pricing, so you may need to shop around a little.
Building the Website
Okay, so you’ve found a plot of land for your site — now it’s time to build it up.
Before you jump into designing your website, it’s important to hammer out a central theme and color scheme for the whole site to follow.
Take a minute to write down the overarching, top-level goal of your website. Is it to get customers into your brick & mortar location? To educate them about a need they have? To convert customers and compel purchases? Once you have a central objective, every aspect of your website can work toward achieving it.
You should’ve decided by now whether you’ll hire a professional or build the site yourself. Continue accordingly:
Finding a Pro
If you’ve deciding to outsource your website build, your next challenge is to find a skilled web developer that you can afford. The quickest way to find talented developers is through sites like Guru and Upwork. You can browse through pros and quickly find their specialties, rates, and reviews from past clients. And the sites make it easy to contact freelancers and pay for any work.
When choosing someone to work with, pay close attention to their past work and client referrals. You want someone capable, but you also want them to be easy and pleasant to work with.
Gus also recommends looking for a designer who understands business goals: “You don’t want a designer who can just make a site ‘pretty’, but rather design a site to increase conversions and/or accomplish the business owner’s business goals.”
Deciding Which Website Builder to Use
The first step in building your own website is to decide which platform you’ll use. Building your site on a customizable platform makes it really quick and easy to get set up and gives you access to thousands of design themes and other ready-made components. Some of the most popular options include Wordpress and Squarespace.
Check out a detailed comparison of the two behemoths over in Resources.
Here’s what you should keep in mind when considering web builder options:
- Ease of use. The whole point of a web building platform is to make your web designer hat fit a little better. It should be supremely easy to navigate and customize your website.
- Cost. Most website builders have similar starting price points, but you’ll also need to consider additional costs like premium design themes, shopping carts, and other components.
- Flexibility. A website builder is only as useful as it is flexible. It should offer plenty of options to customize the look and functionality of your website, both now and down the line.
Choosing Theme and Colors
Choosing colors, for your website and your brand more generally, has to do with one thing: what will your brand convey to customers? A metric ton of research has been done to figure out why colors and images make us feel the way they do. It seems like a small thing, but the colors your brand uses can have a sizable impact on the feelings you evoke from consumers.
I'd stay away from dark colors [Ba explains]. Blue and white breeds trust and professionalism. I would also stray away from using too many colors.
To help you choose the best color scheme for your business, head on over to Resources and take our Branding Color Quiz.
Deciding What Information to Include
The information you include on your website should all point directly back to your main objective. For example, if the point of your site is to entice customers into your brick & mortar location, it’s pretty important that you mention the address. If the goal is to get visitors to buy something online, you definitely need to include pricing information.
When designing an ecommerce business, I would weigh greater importance on the product images and the checkout flow. For informational websites, it’s all about the content and the call to action.Gus Ba
Consider your overarching theme and then put yourself in your visitor’s shoes. What information do you need if you’re looking to buy a new coffeepot online?
Am I Selling Online?
That brings us to a very important question when it comes to designing your website: are you selling items online? If the answer is yes, then your business’s website becomes even more important, and it requires more intentional design.
The most obvious thing you’ll need in order to sell online is an online payment processor. Some of the more popular options include PayPal, Amazon Payments, Stripe, and Square. You can also choose to build your site with an ecommerce tool like Shopify, or take advantage of Squarespace’s online store template.
Here’s what to consider when choosing an online payment tool:
- Security. Customers need to know that their payment information is safe, so top-tier security and encryption is a must-have.
- Fees. Payment processors charge a small fee per transaction, which varies from one option to the next.
- Integration. Some online payment tools can integrate with accounting and bookkeeping solutions, automatically syncing information and making your life easier.
Keep User Experience in Mind
Whether you’re building your own website from scratch or reviewing a professional developer’s work, there are a few key tenets of good user experience you should keep in mind. At the end of the day, your site’s design should be aesthetically pleasing and supremely easy to use; the copy should be clear and compelling.
"The best practice is to remember that less is more,” Ba mentions. “Whether that be less clicks, less fields, less content. Less is always more in terms of design."
Follow these best practices to make it happen:
- Keep it simple. A simple website makes it easy to find what you’re looking for, so make an effort to remove less-than-essential components, anything that doesn’t further your main objective.
- Optimize for speed. Forty percent of users will abandon a site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load, so you need to be fast.
- Be responsive. It’s 2016 so expect that at least half of your website visits will come from mobile devices. It’s imperative that your site looks just as good on mobile as it does on desktop.
- Prioritize clean design. Cluttered or clunky design makes it hard to find things and gets in the way of a user’s path to conversion.
- Perfect navigation. The last thing you want is a user who can’t find what they came for. Thoughtful, easy-to-follow navigation puts what the user needs exactly where they’re looking for it.
Putting It All Together
A lot goes into designing and building your business’s first website. At the end of the day, your website is key to creating a professional image for your business that attracts customers and furthers your goals.
That’s why it’s well worth the time, effort, and cost to craft a beautiful, high-functioning website from the very beginning of your business. Your online presence, and your bottom line, will reap the benefits.