One of the most important things to do for your business is to create an online presence. In today’s age, it’s not enough to rely on a business card to generate leads. This remains true even if you run a storefront operation. Foot traffic and traditional media, like newspaper ads, radio advertising or local television spots are not enough to keep your business afloat.
If you’ve decided building your own website is in your business’s best interest, the next question to ask is who will do it. As someone whose first company specialized in small-business website design, I usually encourage people to hire a professional. However, I realize for most startups, and even for seasoned entrepreneurs, hiring a professional Web designer is not in the budget. Even so, please don’t find just anyone who “knows computers” and pay them to put something online. Because your cousin knows 10 computer programming languages does not mean she has what it takes to build an effective business website. Instead, consider building your own website. It’s not as hard as it sounds and it doesn’t need to be a long, drawn-out and technical process. The remainder of this article will provide steps so you can learn how to make your own web site.
Before creating an effective website, you must have a plan. Asking yourself a few questions can kick off the planning process. What is your website’s purpose? Do you want to generate customer leads? Do you want to establish yourself as an expert? Do you want to sell merchandise online? While these may seem basic, your answers determine whether you develop a one-page site that merely has a teaser video, a few lines of text and an email sign-up, a multiple-page site with a regularly updated blog or an ecommerce site where people can buy your products online 24 hours a day.
Part of this process will include determining who you want to reach. Ideally, you’ll already have a good handle on your target consumer. Think about what you wish to convey to this person. What type of language does he or she expect you to use? What types of information would your target consumer look for on your site? Once these things have been established, you can sketch out the pages you’ll need. You may have “Home,” “Why Choose Us,” “Contact Us,” “Our Blog,” “Services,” as some of your pages. Remember your site’s text is important; if you’re unable to hire someone to write Web copy for you, run it by some potential customers to make sure the content is engaging.
In addition to running your business, you probably don’t have time to learn a computer programming language or two. Instead, look for website templates that allow you some control over customization. There are several you can choose from. Each of these provides pre-designed templates to select as your site’s backdrop. Some sites even have business specific templates for your industry. If you decide to build an ecommerce site, double-check the platform you use supports that.
As I mentioned, make sure to select a platform that gives you some control over the design, such as the ability to pick fonts, add logos and product or service images, and change the color scheme. Also, pick something that would be easy for you or a staff member to update. Lastly, with so many people using mobile devices, you might want to look for a platform that offers mobile website builder software. This guarantees your site will show up well and be functional on smartphone browsers, too.
Now comes the fun part: actually getting to build your website. This is where your planning comes alive. Log in to the platform of your choice, pick your template, and start adding text and photos. Go back to your original planning documents and make sure you hit each of the key points. Before officially launching your site, run it by a colleague and a few of your top customers. Consider their feedback and change things as necessary.
With proper planning, selecting the right platform and getting valuable feedback, your business’ website will be up and running in no time.