You Don’t Have a Website? Your Competitors Do!
Getting a website for your business is not that hard! You’ll need some help from a web developer, and you’ll need to spend some money, but setting up an attractive, professional website doesn’t have to elevate your blood pressure, and it doesn’t have to break the bank.
Take a deep breath. I’ll explain the basics and break down the costs for you.
Here are the basic requirements for your online presence. We’ll discuss each one in detail.
- A domain name
- A web host
- A web developer
Until recently, there were a limited number of domain extensions (.com for commercial sites, .edu for schools, .gov for government agencies, .net for network-related sites), but recently the number of extensions has been expanded to include hundreds of other options.
Many businesses still prefer the .com extension because it is the most widely used.
How to Check a Domain Name
If you don’t already have a domain name, you’ll have to register one and make sure it’s not already taken. You can check this several places on the web. The easiest way is to open up a browser, type the address below, and then press ENTER.
Type the name you want to check in the box at the top of the screen. Network Solutions will tell you whether the domain is currently available. Your domain name must be renewed every year. The cost is usually $10-12 per year.
TIP: Pick a domain name that is easily identified with your business and is easy for people to remember.
Choosing a Web Host
Your web host is the company that stores your website on computers called web servers. Most web hosting companies charge $5-$15 per month to store your website. If you sign up for multiple years, the price is usually discounted.
There are many web hosting companies. Here are two things to consider when choosing one:
Technical Support – You should be able to reach tech support within a reasonable amount of time when you have a problem. Read reviews.
Price – A reasonable fee to pay for web hosting is approximately $5-$12 per month. If you are doing ecommerce or have large storage requirements (high-resolution pictures, videos, etc.), you may need to pay more. If your site is small and very basic, you can find hosting packages at lower rates.
Here are links to reviews of popular web hosting companies:
PC Magazine – The Best Web Hosting Services of 2017
CNET Web Hosting Solutions
Web Hosting Geeks – Best Web Hosting Companies 2017 (lots of reviews)
TIP: Many hosting companies will register your domain for the first year for free when you sign up for a hosting account, so sign up for your hosting account and pick your domain name at the same time!
Creating the Website
If you are comfortable with computers and are willing to use online resources for research, it is certainly possible to create a WordPress site yourself. However, most business owners will want to hire a developer to get the site started.
Choosing a Web Developer
Choosing a web developer is a bit like picking a date for the prom. You’re going to be stuck with him or her for a while, so it’s a good idea to put some thought into the decision.
Your web developer should try to understand your business and work with you to communicate your company’s marketing message through your website. You should have a comfortable working relationship with him or her, and they should respond promptly when you have a question or problem.
Here’s a checklist of things to consider when looking for a developer:
- Give your local Chamber of Commerce a call and ask for the names of a few local web developers.
- Ask friends and colleagues for the names of developers who built their websites.
- Check the developer’s website and portfolio. Read testimonials and reviews.
- Call a prospective developer and ask for references. Call the references ask what it was like to work with him/her.
Cost estimates are in the table below. The biggest chunk of money up front will go to the web developer, who should provide you with a detailed proposal in writing summarizing all costs.
|Domain Name Registration||$10 – $15 per year|
|Web Host||$5 – $15 per month|
|WordPress Premium Theme||$50 – $100 (one time cost, if needed)|
|Web Developer||$1500 – $3000 (one time cost)|
The cost of the web developer will depend largely on the content of the website. A “brochure site” with a few pages and contact information will be at the lower end of the spectrum, and a larger site with a home page slider (those big hi-res images that slide across the screen), interactive forms, multiple pages, videos, etc. will be priced at the higher end. Sites with shopping carts that need to process credit card payments will run even higher, depending on size and complexity.
TIP: Include a couple of hours of training in the cost of the project, so the web developer can show you how to update the site yourself.
WordPress or Not WordPress?
You and your developer will need to decide on a platform for your website. A platform refers to the software used to create the website.
WordPress is a popular web-based software application for creating websites and blogs. It started as blogging software, but was adapted for websites because it’s easy to use without knowing HTML code. It’s estimated that approximately 50% of all websites today are created with WordPress.
WordPress sites are responsive or mobile-friendly, so your website will automatically work on tablets and smart phones. Since about 60% of website traffic comes from mobile devices, it’s crucial that your site is responsive. Furthermore, Google now uses mobile-friendliness as a “ranking signal.” In other words, if your website is not mobile-friendly, don’t expect to be anywhere near the top of the Google search results.
Other Website Platforms
Wix is another option for beginners, since it uses a drag-and-drop interface and requires very little technical knowledge. However, because Wix sites are based on built-in templates, customization options are somewhat limited. Although some users like this user-friendly option, other Wix customers complain of slow load times and slow responses from technical support.
Drupal and Joomla are two other popular website platforms, but both have a much steeper learning curve and require some technical knowledge and coding skills.
What Should Your Website Do?
Your website should provide information about your products or services in an easy-to-navigate interface.
The majority of your visitors are using smart phones or tablets, and they want to find information quickly and easily. Don’t waste their time with irrelevant personal data, and don’t overload them with a lot of unnecessary facts and figures. They are there to find out what’s in it for them. The goal of your website is to help them.
TIP: In order to make sure your website is easy to navigate and user-friendly, find a non-technical user to test it out. I use my 89-year-old aunt. If Aunt Bessie can get around a website and find information, I know anyone can.
Updating Your Website
All websites are, and should be, a work in progress. After you launch your new site, don’t let it sit on a virtual shelf and gather dust. Make it a point to update the site on a regular basis with new products and services, helpful information for customers, industry-related information, etc. As your business grows and changes, your website should reflect those changes. In fact, Google rewards websites that change regularly with higher placement on search engine lists.
If you build training into the cost of developing the site, you will certainly be able to change text, prices, and pictures on web pages yourself. Depending on your comfort level, you may also want to create new pages, add them to menus, change formatting, and perform other routine maintenance tasks. For more technical issues, you can always call on your web developer to help out.
Creating a website for a small business in 2017 is easier and less expensive than ever before! Take the plunge, and good luck with your new website!