The Great Resignation prompted a massive realignment of people’s priorities. Some people looked at the pandemic, looked at their lives, and decided it was the right time to retire. Others looked at their jobs or careers, discovered they weren’t happy and found something else to do.
More than a few of them started new businesses. Of course, that left these new small business owners competing with around 33 million other small businesses. With so much business focused online now, a new business owner needs a business website.
For the first-timer, the steps to design a website are often shrouded in mystery or at least shrouded in acronyms and techspeak. If you’re working on your first business website, keep reading for critical steps in designing your website.
Before you ever get into the actual design of the website, there are two key things that you must take care of first. You must get a domain name and secure web hosting. Let’s look at each.
A domain name does some technical things that only matter to servers. For the purposes of a business owner, it’s basically just a website name that lets people find it on the internet.
You should put some thought into your domain name. Ideally, the name will come as close as possible to the real name of your business or organization.
Let’s say that your business name is Pisano Pete’s Pizza. You want a domain name that has most or all of that name in it. Something like PisanoPetesPizza.com or PisanoPetes.com.
Many new business owners find web hosting the most confusing element of getting their website online. A little working knowledge of how websites operate can help clear up that confusion.
Those files need a place to live where internet users can access them. Web servers provide homes for files and let internet users gain access to said files. You can think of web hosting as a bit like renting space for your website files.
You will get your choice of several types of web hosting, such as:
- Virtual private server
Most businesses use either shared or VPS hosting. Shared hosting puts multiple websites on a single server and they share resources. VPS hosting typically lets the business customize more settings and provides more guaranteed resources.
Some organizations deal with sensitive information or have specific needs that make shared and even VPS hosting impractical. For example, colleges or trade schools often deal with sensitive student information.
In those cases, you’d want dedicated hosting so you can exert more control over the server’s security measures.
Once you lock in a domain name and hosting, you can start the actual design process
Custom Vs Content Management System
One of the very first steps in the design process is the decision about what kind of website you want. There are two main choices available. You can go with either a custom website or use a content management system.
A custom website design means hiring a website developer or website development company and building the entire website from the ground up. This option does have benefits.
Some businesses need websites that can perform specialized functions. In many cases, that calls for writing the code for the functions from scratch. You need web developers for that kind of work.
This approach also gives you way more latitude in how the final product looks. You can customize everything from the color schemes to the layout.
The custom approach does create some disadvantages. The process is often slow. It can take months for a developer or company to finish complex websites with unique needs.
You need a crystal clear picture of what you want the website to do, as well as how it should look. You should expect multiple meetings with the developer or company to finalize details. In most cases, you must also approve the website at various stages of development.
Content Management System
The content management system is, not surprisingly, a much more popular option for most small businesses. These systems have core code that doesn’t vary much between websites, which ensures that you get a baseline level of performance and functions.
There are many CMSs out there, but the WordPress CMS has the widest adoption. Of the websites that employ a CMS, around 62 percent of them use WordPress.
Most content management systems offer you ways to alter the appearance or function of the website. For example, you can typically find themes that adjust the appearance. You can find plugins that offer you new or different functions than the basic CMS software and themes provide.
As a general rule, even if you get a custom theme for the CMS, it’s still typically less expensive than a custom site.
While the CMS approach is faster and less expensive, make sure you don’t need special functions on your site before you go down that road.
Search Engine Optimization
Regardless of the type of website you go with, you must still consider search engine optimization. Over the years, search engines developed a list of rules and overall best practices. When search engines evaluate websites for ranking purposes, those rules and best practices play a heavy role in how a website does.
While search engines don’t categorize it this way, successful businesses often divide SEO into two major areas: technical and non-technical SEO.
Technical SEO concerns itself primarily with what happens behind the scenes on a website. For example, search engines know that users will leave websites that take a long time to load. So, page load speeds are a factor in how your site ranks.
Other technical concerns you want to address include:
- Site security
- Eliminating redirects
- Excising broken links
- Mobile readiness
There are a host of other technical SEO concerns, but these typically require help from a service that specializes in SEO.
Non-technical SEO typically focuses on things that site visitors actually see, such as content. At a basic level, search engines want new content on websites at regular intervals.
Of course, search engines also want high-quality content on those websites. Sadly, search engines also need clues that help them put websites into the correct box or category.
Bridging that gap often means doing good keyword research. Your site must focus on a specific industry, business, or service. The keywords that turn up on your site and in your content must support the idea that your site focuses on that business or industry.
There is an area of crossover between technical and non-technical SEO. User experience bridges that gap. For example, navigation has roots on the technical side, but it mostly matters to the user experience.
Small businesses that don’t operate exclusively online typically serve a fairly small geographic area. After all, it’s unlikely that most people will drive a long way for a Pisano Pete’s pizza.
Websites for these kinds of businesses often rely on a special area of SEO called local SEO. Rather than trying to compete with every other website on the planet, local SEO focuses on helping websites rank well in their local community.
That often means taking a different approach with content and keywords. For example, the content will often use keywords that specify specific locations or that highlight local events.
As a general rule, business websites must gear themselves with SEO in mind.
Once you get the body of the website in place, your next step is content. Every website needs a minimal level of content simply to survive online. For example, every business site needs certain pages, such as:
- Product or Service pages
- About Us pages
- Contact Us pages
Every page on your site needs a bit of content on it. Your services page, for example, needs cogent descriptions of what you offer. Your product pages must give compelling descriptions of the product and likely offer pricing information.
Beyond that basic content, though, most websites will employ other kinds of content to help with their SEO efforts. Let’s look at some common content types.
Blog content offers the path of least resistance for more new businesses. Content management systems often install a blog section by default.
A blog is often an easy way for you to generate new content, as you’re mostly talking about your business or at least your industry. It’s a subject you should know a lot about.
Of course, not every business owner can translate their working knowledge of their business or industry into writing. In those cases, businesses often rely on blog writing services.
These services help ensure you have a steady stream of fresh, relevant content that you can post on your blog.
Video is everywhere online these days. People post videos on dedicated platforms like YouTube and TikTok. Of course, you can also create video blog content.
Video often sees much higher levels of engagement, which is part of the reason why businesses use it. Plus, you don’t always need new content to develop video content.
You can turn existing posts into video content and breath new life into a post. This is work that you can do in-house if you have the right software and skills, but many businesses outsource video content development.
There is a portion of the population that loves surveys. You can leverage that love of surveys into useful information for your website.
For example, let’s say that you’re thinking of expanding your product line or the services you offer. You can build a survey and offer it right on your website.
This lets existing and potential customers weigh in on what they would or wouldn’t consider a valuable addition to your product line or services.
There are other kinds of content that you could potentially use, such as white papers or reports. Although, that kind of content often works best with businesses that specialize in technical or professional services, such as marketing, IT, or finance.
You won’t find them on every website, but you do find forms on most websites. Two of the more common forms you see are contact us forms and email address capture forms.
Contact us forms show up on contact us pages and often streamline people inquiring about services or looking for customer service help. A web developer can add a contact us form on your contact page. If you use a CMS, you can find plugins that will let you add contact forms.
Email capture forms can, potentially, show up just about anywhere on a site. You usually see them either on the home page or embedded in a sidebar.
These email capture forms often prove valuable because they let you develop an email list of existing customers or warm leads. You can leverage those lists to improve performance when you launch new products or sales.
If you use a third-party email list management system, the third-party service will often provide you with a little snippet of code that you insert on your website to create the email capture form.
Steps to Design a Website and You
When it comes to the steps to design a website, there isn’t always an orderly path. In the beginning, you have straightforward steps like getting a domain name and web hosting.
After that, though, things get complicated. You must pick between a custom or CMS site. You must address basic SEO concerns.
You must also generate content for your site, which is inextricably tied in with SEO.
LocalBizFinder offers marketing services such as blog writing and local SEO for small businesses. For more information about our services, contact LocalBizFinder today.
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