A few things to think about before you start.
What is a domain name? It is your unique address on the internet akin to your place of business in the real world. Most companies will go for a domain name that is the same as their company name. It is therefore an important part of your research when creating your business branding that your company’s domain name is available. Google your brand name to see what else comes up on the search results – you don’t want to be mixed in with any dubious results. If all is fine, go for .com or .co.uk, alternative URLs include .tv (as used for Alexandra Hill) and .london. If you have a unique URL then protect it and buy .co.uk and .com.
So that’s it right? Nope
This provides access to the internet. Good quality web hosting ensures you are open for business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Do not go for the cheapest, go for one which is reliable, with good additional features such as free email addresses, and domain names as well as good access to the support. I can provide a recommendation based upon your requirements.
So that’s the technical bit, we are good to go. Just need to work out who we are targeting.
Who is your target audience? 5 year olds? Middle class professionals? Silver surfers? Everyone? Small section of local population? The answer to this question governs how you should present your website. Much in the same way as you would make a very different presentation to a primary school class versus a council meeting, you need to remember that your style must reflect you whilst still appealing to and engaging with your clientele.
Now we know who your audience is, what look should we go for?
What style are you going for? Have you got any existing branding – business cards, flyers, logos etc? Are you looking to rebrand? Look at your competitors and note down what you like and dislike about their websites and what features you are looking to add. Look through a range of other websites too. Collate your ideas using pen and paper (toddler colouring sessions are not what they seem in our house – Mummy creates website designs, Eddie draws a caterpillar and Laura puts the crayons in and out of the tin.) Pinterest is a good place to store a mood board.
Now you need to decide the actual content for the website.
The content drives the layout of the website. This is the part that clients often find the hardest. You need to decide what information you want to give to your clients and what information your clients will be looking for. Try and write the content from the two perspectives and use an amalgamation of these. It is important to remember to be clear and concise and the old adage – less is more.
The content will also drive the functionality that is required on the website
Are you writing a blog? You’ll want social media integration, your posts should automatically publish on your chosen platforms. How about photographs, slideshows, videos etc? What about small businesses? The most important thing is that clients can contact you, so clear contact details and possibly a contact form.
What is SEO? Search Engine Optimisation is simply a way of assisting Google, Bing, Yahoo etc to find your website. If you don’t tell them what your website is about how will they know? When you search for a website, you type in a few chosen words to the search box and hey presto! you get the site you want. You need to work out what your clients are going to put in that box when they are searching for you and that will provide your keywords for search engine optimisation.
Everyone wants the very best website they can have. You can go down one of three routes, employ a professional like myself to create a bespoke website, buy an off-the-peg website which will be very limited in terms of functionality and styling or try to learn how to do it yourself whilst running your business.
Obviously I recommend employing a professional. They will create what you are looking for in a website whilst taking care of all the important things in the background such as protecting your website from attacks and spam as well as maintaining the underlying technology so that it keeps pace with the latest devices being used.
A website constantly evolves, if your budget does not currently match the cost of the website you would like, start with something simple and as your business grows add more features and pages. It is important to be on the web these days and having a good quality small website is better than no presence at all or even worse a poorly functioning website!
There are grants available to help you set up your business from either the government, local government or charities.
I hope my guide to ‘getting started’ helps you. If you have any questions or would like a quote please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.