With so many people using the New Year to launch brand new businesses, we’ve seen a lot of questions about how to get started out online.
The first step to building a business online is to set up a website. A website acts as your central hub, featuring all the information customers need to know about you. Using a Facebook page has limits, but using a Facebook page that points to your website goes one step further towards boosting your brand.
So, in today’s post, we’ll be taking you through the basics of starting a website.
The first decision
The very first decision you need to come to is whether you’re willing to spend any money on your website. We would absolutely recommend that you invest in your online presence. But good news, it really doesn’t cost that much, and any costs can be claimed as business expenses on your accounts.
The downsides to free websites
Free websites may be better than nothing and can be a good option for those with minimal cash or those who are just testing the waters out.
However, if you’re serious about your business, a free website simply might not be good enough.
Having a free website with limited customisation, free themes and a free domain doesn’t shout professionalism.
It might have been fine ten years ago, but now you’ve got a booming online market to contend with. Hundreds of new websites get launched every day and you’re competing with them for attention.
We’re not suggesting that you fork out thousands for a brand new website design. To get started, all you really need to do is decide on a platform and pay for a few small things – a domain, hosting and a theme.
Choosing a platform
The easiest way to set up a website is to choose a Content Management System (CMS).
There are plenty of simple options to choose from, such as WordPress (what we use), Squarespace, Weebly and Wix.
Overall, the most popular one is WordPress.org. It’s simple enough to learn, easy to install and there are options to add your own code if you want, but you don’t have to.
However, you know your needs best, so do your research on the pros and cons of whatever platforms you’re considering.
Extra tip – If you do choose WordPress, be aware that there are two versions. The free WordPress.com is hosted by them, with limited customisation. WordPress.org is the self-hosted version which will give you more control.
A free website builder will usually give you a URL that looks something like this:
The problem here is that it’s a bit long-winded and the chances are that people aren’t going to remember the full web address if they go to search for it online.
Buying a domain will mean that your website URL will look like:
This makes it easier to search for and remember, providing that your domain is relatively short. It looks cleaner and more professional, so we’d recommend getting hold of a domain.
How do you buy a domain for your business?
First of all, you need to check whether your domain name is available. Someone else might already own the one you want if you work in a popular industry or have a common name. They may be willing to sell it, but if the cost is steep, it might be best to avoid. Domains can go for thousands of pounds.
If your domain is unavailable, you may have to find an alternative or simply a different name. For example, you could go for .co.uk instead of .com, or add an extra word to the domain like “the” or “UK”.
However, if you’re planning to buy hosting, most packages will include a free domain for a year which makes everything a bit easier.
Extra tip – Try to pick a name that is also available over social media channels, to keep your brand image and marketing consistent. You can check whether a name has been used with this website.
Hosting your website
Hosting is a way to gain control of your website. All it means is that you pay a company to host your website files remotely.
A free site means that your website is technically owned by whatever platform you’re using. They could shut it down if they wanted (although they probably won’t).
Hosting your website also opens up the possibility to have full creative control and customisable features. Free website builders are usually limited and therefore lead to lots of very similar looking sites.
How do you buy hosting for your website?
Hosting packages can be very cheap, starting from around £2-3 per month (which is usually charged as a year upfront).
There are add-ons you can purchase and more expensive packages depending on your needs, so shop around and check out plenty of reviews before you sign up.
Extra tip – A lot of hosting companies have been bought by the same parent company EIG. So, the chances are you’ll get a similar service and price if you’re comparing hosts such as HostGator and Bluehost.
Getting a theme
A theme is essentially how your website will look and operate. You can choose from a range of free themes, but the danger is that you have limited customisation and it might look very similar to others.
Paying for premium themes usually involves a one-off cost to download it. There are thousands to choose from. Some will be built specifically for your industry in mind. For example, some will focus more heavily on images, others around news stories or e-commerce stores.
Where to buy themes
You can take a look at a website like Theme Forest which has hundreds of options. You can also find themes directly through WordPress or Squarespace’s theme directories if you prefer.
Another alternative is using a service like Elegant Themes which is a subscription or one-off fee. It gives you access to free themes including the simple drag and drop Divi theme.
Extra tip – Choose a theme that includes regular updates from the developer. The last thing you want is an outdated theme to crash your website.
So, there you have it, an introduction to the basics of setting up a new website. We hope this short guide has helped. Our main recommendation is that you do research to find what works best for you and your business’ needs. Starting a website these days doesn’t have to be tricky or expensive.
Are you interested in getting your new website seen by the right people? Once you’re up and running, you can get a free website review and quote from us.