“When I started my business, I didn’t have the knowledge to build a website,” explains Lori Farkas-Gillespie, owner of Red Artichoke Stories and personal historian based in Salt Lake City. “I also didn’t have the time or desire to do the research necessary to know what website would be a good fit for my business.”
Soon after implementing much of her business plan, Lori knew that to launch and get making money with her new enterprise, she needed a website that could not only tell people what she did, but that reflected her well-thought-out brand and strategy to attract the types of customers she wanted to work with.
The biggest problem for her was where to start. She wanted it done right; her online reputation hinged on this one element. She knew this was not her skillset. However, she also knew as a savvy entrepreneur, she needed to understand the different components behind launching a well-built website, especially what it could do for her and the price points along the way.
As for Lori, and thousands of other small businesses out there, this point is an exhilarating business launch period, like where the rubber really hits the road and you feel confident you can finally go out and make some money. It can also be stressful if you don’t understand some of the basics.
A hosting service is a company that serves your website information to the Internet. They have large servers where they store information for hundreds of thousands of clients. Many hosting services offer all-in-one options where you can get your Domain Name, Website Builder, Email Address Management, and pay for Hosting at the same place. Here are a few common hosting companies and some pros and cons for each of them.
Pro – Locally based with comprehensive customer support and unlimited sites and free email
Con – Servers can be slow at times
Pro – Ease of domain and web hosting registration
Con – Types of services and help info is confusing
Pro – Local and Solid
Con – Email Service costs extra
The main things you’ll look for when choosing a hosting company will be pricing, bandwidth, email address options, and customer service. You can typically pay for your host services on a month-to-month basis, but it is less expensive to purchase a year or more at a time.
That little thing you type in when going to a website is called a domain name. With the ever-growing demand for a great domain name, also called a URL, picking the right one has become more than challenging. Knowing that it functions as the digital home base of your business, everything you do and say online as your business should point back to your domain.
You’ll want to pick a domain that is your business name, or as close to it as possible. Remember, this domain name is also something that, when used as your email address, will work hard marketing your business for you.
You can also use your domain name or something similar when setting up your social media handles, what you go by on your business social media platforms, so those can work hard for your business as well.
Using a Builder vs. Hiring a Pro
A website builder is a user interface program that allows you write the code for your website without having to actually learn or touch the web code on the backend. It’s kind like a box of cake mix versus individual ingredients from scratch; all you have to do is understand what you are going for, and follow the directions. You still need to understand the instructions on the box, measuring utensils, and how to use the oven, but you don’t need to know everything that goes into it to guarantee a great finished product.
No matter what builder you use, there is a learning curve. You can find basics on all builders below on YouTube to cover set-up and basics of understanding, but keep in mind, building it yourself can pull you away from what you love to do and may take a long time to complete.
Pro – Widely used by amateurs and pros, and extremely customizable, installs on all host providers above
Con – Will require time to learn technical aspects
Pro – Easy to use, drag and drop interface, installs on most providers above
Cons – Limited on ability to customize
Pro – Simple to get started on, with great SEO
Con – No customization, cannot install on your own host company, recurring billing to use their software
The most effective way to use a builder still begins with a solid idea for what you are trying to accomplish, and sort out a main menu- what I want to give my customers as options when they visit my customer’s site.
Home | About | Services | Shop | Contact | Blog
This will be your main menu, or the organization for your website. I use scratch paper when working this through with my clients, and create the home page on its own page. With each tab, grab a new piece of paper and jot down what you want to go on that page. This is officially called wire-framing your website, and some people in the creative world refer to it as storyboarding. You are creating the vision so that when you get into implementation, you save lots of time.
When you have your site on pages, you can jump in and begin creating your site in whatever builder you’ve decided to use. You’ll pick a theme or template within your chosen builder, and begin organizing and writing from the menu on down to the content.
“If you decide to go with a developer, consider the relationships that they have created with their other clients, and their staff,” shares Sarah Johnson, owner of JamboJon, a local content and creative services agency. “Do they follow up, do they keep their commitments, are they responsive? If you like their work, and they are able to update their practices with changes in technology, that is important, but above that make sure that you have a good relationships with communication that is open to feedback and follow through. Many of our customers have been frustrated that previous developers are either order-takers who lack creative vision, or unable to follow up in a reasonable time with projects and changes.”
Tips from some Local Small Business Pros
“The most important component of any website, especially from the onset is choosing messaging and graphics, whether illustrations or photography that focuses on your customers,” explains Sarah. “They don’t care how big your building is, or what your equipment looks like. They want to know you can solve their problems. Pick images and write text that showcases the problems solved by using your product or services.”
“My favorite tip when setting up a website for the first time is to think about how your website can solve problems for your business and for the people your website will serve,” states Paula Sageser, Owner of PCS Creative Services, a local web development company. “Think of the top three things your business needs from the site, and the top three things your customers will need from your business site. The overlap on these two lists is a great start for determining overall purpose and direction of your site.”
In communications and sales since 1999, Asenath Horton has extensive experience in overseeing and managing strategic planning, design, and media relations. She has assisted hundreds of businesses, from technology startups to multi-million dollar enterprises, run successful marketing and public relations programs. Find her at http://www.asenathhorton.com.