Because we’re now living in the digital age, it is impossible to deny that having a web presence for our business is crucial to staying connected to our customers. Without a website, you simply do not exist to most digitally-based consumers. While it may seem like a magical mix of tech-knowhow and digital sorcery, creating a website is simpler than ever.
Depending on your budget, there’s two paths to follow when creating a website: Either do it yourself or hire an expert. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so depending on your amount of capital and free time, see which one works best for you. Before you know it, your business will be on the web! Let’s begin.
Doing It Yourself
While having a solid knowledge of coding used to the standard for putting up a professional-looking website—and it is always good to have for anything web-related—it is no longer a requirement. By using ready-made templates to speed up the process, you can have a website ready within an hour.
If you’re looking for template-based companies that offer an all-in-one package, take a look at the following:
- Yola: (http://www.yola.com) Yola offers you the ability to pick out a basic website template, fill out a few simple forms, and form a rough outline of your website. From there, you fine-tune the template using a built-in editor, changing it to fit your style of business. You can integrate third-party services like PayPal, Flickr, and GoogleMaps (among others) to enhance your website. The service is free, with a premium features package called Yola Silver currently running at $100 a year.
- Wix: (http://www.wix.com) Similar to Yola, Wix offers a similar built-in editor with customizable options to get your business started immediately. Wix offers an image-heavy design, so this might be a better option if you business is built off of photo galleries of your products. Wix also has smartphone-oriented design features that make sure your website run across all platforms smoothly. The service is free to use as a Wix.com hosted address, though paying for domain hosting that redirects to your site and removes ads from your site will cost you $5 – $16 per month.
- Homestead: (http://www.homestead.com) Homestead offers industry-specific templates for you to choose form if you’re confused by the multitudes of options other services offer. The advantage of Homestead is that they offer over 250,000 images that you can import to your website, saving you the cost of buying images from stock-photography websites. Homestead also offers analytics for your website so you can track your webtraffic. The cost is free for the first 30 days, with a continuing subscription fee of $5 per month.
These options are great if you’re looking for a no-nonsense solution for web design. However, you may feel boxed in by their templates or the lack of unlimited customization. Adding other websites also will cost you per website, so if you’ll have multiple sites or redirects, this may not be the best approach for you. If you’re looking for an in-depth approach to creating your website, consider investigating further, registering your own domain name and picking your hosting. The process is quite simple:
- Pick a domain for your business: Basically, you’re looking for your business’ name, with a .com, .com.au, .net and so on added at the end. If your name is taken by another entity, you can either buy it off them by contacting the owner or come up with another name. Having a website that doesn’t use your company’s name plus an ending can create some confusion for customers looking for your brand. Some companies even base their business’ name by finding out of the domain is taken, while others (ie. Twitter) cave in and purchase the domain to preserve their vision.
- Register your domain: Once you’ve picked out a domain and you’re sure that no other entity owns it, register your domain to ensure that you own that name. Several companies, like Namecheap (http://www.namecheap.com), offer both domain registration, so you may find that you’re able to kill two birds with one stone.
- Find hosting: By taking a cursory look at any web search for “hosting companies”, you’ll find hundreds of companies that offer a wide-range of plans to host your website. Look for online coupons that can offer savings. Some of the most popular companies include HostGator (http://www.hostgator.com), Dreamhost (http://www.dreamhost.com), and Bluehost (http://www.bluehost.com). As their offers and hosting plans change frequently, investigate which one is right for your business.
- Build your website: After you’ve picked your domain, registered it, and found hosting, now it’s time to get your website up and running. One of most popular options is to use WordPress, an open-sourced CMS (content management system) that helps manage your website and your content easily, with almost infinite customization. It is far from the only CMS on the market, but it is by far the most ubiquitous. All of the previously-mentioned hosting companies offer a quick installation of WordPress with easy-to-follow tutorial videos.
At this point, you have a legitimate website—congratulations! Now, your primary goal is fill in your company’s information. WordPress allows you to swap templates so that you can see how your content looks in a variety of settings.
Customizing WordPress is beyond the scope of this article, but WordPress.com has its own articles and forums (https://wordpress.org/support/) where registered users can ask questions and have them answered. As with anything web-based, if you have a question, chances are someone else has had the same question and had it answered online. Thousands of online articles and videos have been written on the minutia of customizing WordPress, from creating child themes to customizing CSS, so be sure to search for customizing your WordPress to your business needs.
Of course, you can expand from this point onward by yourself, building your knowledge incrementally, but have you considered letting someone else handle your web duties?
Hiring Someone Else
If all of the previous DIY tactics overwhelmed you, don’t count yourself out of the loop. Looking into hiring someone else to build your website is a good strategy and can save you time, money, and effort that you can use elsewhere in your business model.
Local web designers can easily be found by a simple Google search. Compare freelancer’s rate and ask to see a portfolio with examples of their work. The advantage of having a local designer is the ability to meet in person and discuss exactly what you like for your website. Conveying your ideas and seeing them in action is almost the same as our previous DIY methods.
If there’s a website you like, consider sending the company or web department of the company an email on who their designer was and what the rates are.
Universities are great places to look for new web designers that are looking to expand their work portfolios with legitimate businesses like yours. By providing them with opportunity, you can save money on having your website built on a fraction of the price that professional web designers offer. You’ll also be subject to some novice mistakes and perhaps some delays related to their course load and exams, so take into account the time of the year when you’ll be hiring them.
Outsourcing on websites like Elance (http://www.elance.com), Upwork (http://www.upwork.com), and the like (http://www.moreofit.com/similar-to/www.elance.com/Top_10_Sites_Like_Elance/) offers a chance for the web-illiterate entrepreneur to have their website’s done by freelancers from around the world. Workers bid on your project by submitting a proposal, which you can accept from a variety of specialized applicants that display their recent projects, portfolios, and even site-based tests of skills. Simply register to the website of your choosing, follow their tutorials for placing a job, and decide on a price for your website. You can have your website built in piecemeal by a variety of workers, or you can find a dedicated web designer at a price you determine. There are numerous upsides to this method, as you get below-market rates from poorer countries like the Philippines, India, and Romania, but care must be taken to ensure that those who speak English as a second language fully understand your directions. And by giving out your information, you must be sure to deal only with trusted services that won’t compromise your security. Despite these concerns, outsourcing is a very affordable option.
In conclusion, you owe it to your business’ success to explore of all the options discussed in this option and see which is right for you. Your customers will thank you.