This post is written specifically for business owners who have never built a website before, and feel like they don’t even know where to begin in asking questions.
The truth is that the time you know the least about how your website should or will look, is when you need to start planning for the future of your business and your digital hub. Because there are a lot of choices to make regarding where a website is, and how it is built that can lock you into a decision later down the road. For example, a business that built a website on Squarespace, but had to transfer platforms, because their SEO company only works with WordPress. (BTW, if that last sentence was gibberish to you, keep reading, because I’ll explain what that all means.)
I get asked all the time: with social media, do I really need a website? Most of my business comes from referral anyway.
To answer; maybe.
Websites are a tool for a business to take control of how they are seen online. With social media profiles, like a business page, the downside is that your business’s visibility to your clients is reliant on what Facebook allows or doesn’t allow you to do. They can also shut down your business profile at any time, and for any reason.
Owning a website and building it up over time has these benefits:
- Ability to target and drive traffic to a message or promotion from different places
- Provides a resource and information to your clients
- Establishes a reputation with search engines like Google
- Ability to set up marketing systems that are designed just for your business
- Websites are a saleable asset – websites with a good amount of visitors, that turn visitors into clients is worth money in the sale of a business. But, value is built over time, so the time to think about the value of a website is before you consider selling your business.
The website platform is how the website is constructed, or the content management system (CMS).
There are a number of DIY platforms such as Squarespace and Wix that guide you through how to make a website. I would advise you that if you want to later add a more technical part to your website, a lot of website owners find themselves outgrowing Squarespace and Wix quickly.
Ever heard of HTML/CSS; websites are still written in code, but now they usually exist on a platform such as WordPress. The problem with coding a website in HTML/CSS is that they tend to lack modern security features and are not easily updated.
WordPress.org provides the most flexibility for designing a website for a service-based business. While I readily admit it can be a challenge to learn WordPress, there are a lot of resources out there — and most are free.
One suggestion is to find a web designer to help you get set up, design the site, and plan the technical components of what’s going to help your business, and then have them teach you how to maintain it, or keep them on retainer for maintenance.
In my WordPress Web Design Package, it includes website development, and then once the website is launched two months of maintenance. During these two months, I create a private video library on how to maintain and edit your website.
Parts of a Website
When you make a website, there are parts that you are buying, perhaps from different places, and not knowing what goes into a website can make you a target for a bad purchase, or not having ownership of something you really should have ownership of.
A website’s domain is leased from the ICANN registry and is the web address of a website. Mine, for example, is highlyanticipated.net. You buy the domain from a licensed website registrar. The popular place to buy a domain is GoDaddy, but they are my least favorite to work with, and not a good value in my opinion.
I like to buy domains, hosting, and SSL certificates on Namecheap.com. I’m consistently impressed with the price and customer service. I wrote a blog post about what you’ll need to buy from Namecheap here.
The business owner or company should ALWAYS own the website domain.
Don’t work with a marketing company that licenses a website and holds it ransom. Tell, you’ll get the domain and allow access to it. While moving a domain to a different service is a pain, it should ALWAYS be an option.
Hosting is storage for all the design files that make up your website. Most of my clients are able to work with basic hosting packages. You’ll want something that is right-sized or you could pay more than you need to. If you have a lot of images and posts on your site, or features like video hosting, a membership page, or a huge archive, you might need to pay for more expensive hosting.
Have you gone to a website and had a warning that the website wasn’t safe? That’s because they either didn’t have an SSL certificate, or it wasn’t installed properly.
Because you’ll want to use an email account attached to your domain. Some of the domain registries have an additional option to purchase ’email hosting’ either by using GSuite (Gmail) or Outlook. These options are great because they will walk you through setting yourself up and connecting email to your domain.
Another strategy is to use your website hosting as email hosting. It can be done, but I don’t recommend it because if your email fills up, so does your website’s storage, and the set up is more technical.
Basic Elements to a WordPress Website
A WordPress theme is a base of how the site is built. There are free themes and there are premium themes and everything in between. I design my websites using the Divi Theme which is a premium theme. The reason I use Divi is that developers update the theme files constantly with improvements to user experience and website security.
A child theme installs additional design templates that modify the “out-of-the-box” look of the Divi theme. Most child themes further specify the look of the website.
Plugins support third-party applications and also increase what a website can do. A common plugin that I use is Really Simple SSL, it scans for the SSL certificate and eliminates a lot of errors. I also use plugins to read how traffic is going on a website. The one I use the most is Monster Insights.