The first step in deciding how to build your small business website is to consider your objectives – what do you want your website to DO?
For example, do you want to show your previous work to potential customers? Tell people about your business values? Do you want potential customers to call you, email you or book an appointment? Do you want them to be able to schedule appointments online? Do you want to sell any products online? What about in the future – will you grow and perhaps want to add more functionality to your website as time goes on?
Determine what you need from a website
Start by asking yourself these questions:
- What information do you need to communicate to your site’s visitors / customers?
- What is the one main action you want visitors to take after they view your site (e.g., buy products online, come to your brick-and-mortar store, request a quote)? If there is a secondary main action, note this down as well.
- Do you need an online portfolio of past work to demonstrate your value to potential clients or customers?
- Does your site need any other functionality? E.g. an online shop, ability for customers to pay invoices online, book appointments or sign up to receive your newsletter?
The truth is that a small business may only need a simple ‘brochure style’ website when they are first starting out. This might include:
- Who you are
- What you are offering / your services
- Pictures of your work / products
- How to contact you / get in touch with you
You should also think about the expected traffic to your website. If you want to sell products online worldwide, you may receive a lot more attention than a local business. Your needs here will influence which platforms and hosting solutions are suitable.
Choosing your website building platform
WordPress is an open-source project, meaning it’s free to use. However, you will be responsible for finding your own web hosting, which is an additional expense (more on this later).
Over 35% of all websites on the internet are built with WordPress and with good reason. The options are unlimited with WordPress – you can literally build any kind of website, with any kind of functionality. You are only limited by your own knowledge, or by the level of budget you have to pay for designers and developers.
One of the most common misconceptions about WordPress is that it is just a blogging platform. While WordPress started as a blogging tool, it has evolved into a powerful website builder and a robust content management system (CMS).
Many top brands use WordPress to power their websites including Ebay, Facebook, Sony, the BBC, the New York Times, and more.
Hosted website builders (E.g. Wix, Squarespace)
It is no longer as difficult as it was a few years ago to build your own website and this is due to the existence of easy-to-use web building platforms. Of course you have to pay to use these services, but it’s really no different to paying for your Netflix account month-to-month!
There are so many web building platforms out there that you might struggle to choose the best one for you. Good all-in-one solutions are Squarespace or Wix – two of the most popular and reputable website building companies.
These platforms offer complete website designs based on templates, which you can customise with a drag-and-drop tool. You will need to use their hosting services (which are wrapped up into one monthly price) and you’ll have less overall flexibility in terms of both design and functionality.
Why use WordPress?
WordPress offers the most freedom and flexibility in terms of customisation – you can easily change how your site looks or add new features as your business grows in future.
WordPress is free software. It means you are free to download, install, use and modify to suit your needs. You can use it to create any kind of website. However, while the WordPress software is free, you do need a domain name and web hosting to install it:
- A domain name is the address of your website on the internet. This is what your users type in their browser’s address bar (e.g. example.com).
- Web hosting is a bit like the land your website built on – it’s where all your website files ‘live’.
While you don’t need to be a developer or techie to make a WordPress website, it is more complicated than some other website builders. For this reason it is often worth hiring someone to create, manage and maintain your WordPress website for you.