Benefits of having a business website
Establishing and maintaining a business website offers a number of benefits to your company. Consider these primary advantages when deciding whether to create a business website:
- Effective advertising: When potential customers search for a product or service online, your website may come up as a response to their query.
- Low costs: You can host your entire product or service catalog online rather than printing costly magazines or brochures that you must regularly update.
- Simple access: Customers can easily find your website by searching for your business name or directly typing in your URL.
- Increased productivity: Sharing information with customers is simple. Your employees can direct them to the website, saving time for other work endeavors.
- Easy education: Your customers can educate themselves about your products or services through your website without the need to speak with customer service.
- Market expansion: If you sell your products online, you can engage with an entirely new range of potential customers all over the country or world through your website.
- Ability to promote and sell: Your website can serve as a marketing tool by sharing reviews and testimonials from satisfied customers to entice potential customers to make a purchase.
- Quick updates: It’s easy to update a product’s description or price online, unlike print publications which require extensive time and money inputs.
- Simplified hiring: When looking for new employees, you can post job openings and application details on your website.
- Online identity: You’ll have a strong, reputable brand identity online with a functioning website.
- Customer service: You can quickly respond to customer questions and concerns with online forms, email and live chat services through your website.
Related: 10 Steps to Starting a Business
How to start a website: the basics
When building a website, you have a couple options — you can do it yourself or you can hire a web designer to manage the process for you. You don’t necessarily need to have a background in web design to create your own website. There are a multitude of pre-built sites you can use that allow you to input your design preferences and content to create a custom website. If you prefer an entirely unique website not hosted by a third-party site, you’ll likely require the guidance of a web designer.
If you’re interested in building a website on your own, follow these steps:
1. Select your platform
The first step when building your own website is deciding which website building platform to use. You’ll need both a website builder, also known as a content management system or CMS, and possibly a web hosting platform, depending on what CMS you choose.
2. Obtain a domain name
After you’ve established which CMS you want, you’ll choose your domain name, or website name. The name you choose is what shows up after the “www.” in your web address. Some CMS platforms provide free domain name access while others don’t, so consider options when you’re reviewing which CMS to use.
The domain name you choose should meet these criteria:
- Features your company’s name
- Includes keywords or indicators
With these features, both customers searching specifically for your company and those searching broadly for a product or service should find your business.
3. Choose your template or theme
One of the benefits of using a CMS rather than fully constructing a website is the access to pre-made templates and themes. Once you select the look of your homepage, that design will continue on all the subsequent pages you add to your website. This keeps your site cohesive and professional with very little time and effort from you.
4. Create individual web pages
After you’ve established your design theme, make each individual page for your site. Common website pages include:
- Home page: The home page is the entry to your website and usually includes navigation and featured information.
- Contact page: The contact page includes your company’s phone number, address, email information and possibly an online form for questions or comments.
- About us page: The about us page provides history about the company and employees.
- Products or services page: The products or services page gives visitors a comprehensive look at what your company does and sells.
- Blog page: The blog page usually includes content-heavy articles about your company’s products and related ideas.
Depending on the specifics of your company and industry, you may include other webpages as needed.
5. Proofread and review your site
Before publishing your site, go through and proofread all the pages and check all the settings for accuracy. Make any necessary changes and updates to ensure your site is professional and comprehensive.
6. Publish your site
Publish your site so it’s searchable. You can check this by typing your URL into your search engine’s search bar or searching for your company name in your search engine’s search bar.
CMS options and costs
Not every CMS offers the same features. It’s important to research various options before making a selection, especially since some require more web design knowledge than others. Review this list of a few popular CMS options and their associated costs to see which might best suit your needs:
WordPress is a highly popular CMS because it’s very customizable. That customization does require some technical knowledge — you’ll have to know some basic web design to get your WordPress site running. There are many tools and resources available to help you learn how to build your WordPress site, though, so if you’re prepared to educate yourself, this platform does give you more options than other CMS sites do.
Pricing varies depending on a number of factors, but you can expect start-up costs of a couple hundred dollars followed by a low monthly payment of around $15.
Weebly is a favorite among businesses who just need a basic website with a professional layout and design. Weebly requires very little technical knowledge — to build your site you simply drag and drop various elements onto the page and add content. Since it’s so user friendly, it doesn’t have some of the advanced customization options that WordPress and other CMS platforms offer.
Weebly is relatively inexpensive and offers several pricing plans. For the most basic plan, which does include some Weebly branding, costs $6 a month. A midrange plan, which allows video hosting, costs $12 a month, and the high-end professional plan is $25 a month.
Squarespace offers its users a number of useful features and add-ons, like a domain name and business email address. Like Weebly, Squarespace uses a drag-and-drop model, making it easy to quickly customize your website and add content. The themes and design options are industry based, adding relevant pages automatically for businesses like restaurants, real estate agencies and non-profits.
Squarespace offers users four different plan options, all varying in price:
- Personal: $12 per month
- Business: $18 per month
- Basic commerce: $26 per month
- Advanced commerce: $40 per month
Wix is a great CMS option for beginners. It requires very little web design knowledge and allows you to drag and drop the elements you want onto your webpage. This CMS also includes a number of useful templates optimized for both desktop and mobile devices. One of the biggest perks to using Wix is the number of apps you can integrate with your site for increased functionality.
Like Squarespace, Wix offers four different pricing plans to meet the needs of a number of different businesses. Options include:
- Combo: $14 per month
- Unlimited: $18 per month
- Pro: $23 per month
- VIP: $39 per month
Joomla is most similar to WordPress when compared to other CMS options. It provides users with several customization options, but you’ll need some background in web design to build the most effective site. Joomla is a great choice for businesses who need a highly unique website and have employees on staff capable of designing and managing Joomla’s platform. It’s even capable of running an e-commerce site.
Joomla has a variety of different pricing options depending on the specifics of your website and the included features. Generally, you can expect to spend anywhere from $30 to $400 a month after initial setup.
Key features to include on your website
When designing your website, whether you create fully original site with the help of a web designer or use a customizable CMS like WordPress or a drag-and-drop option like Weebly, you’ll want to include these features on your website:
More than likely, your home page is the first page of your website potential customers will encounter. Since it welcomes visitors to your overall website, it’s important this page is particularly well designed. In most cases, the home page includes the following information:
- Company name
- Company logo
- Navigation options
- Company information
- Call to action
The call to action is particularly important. You want to give your customers the immediate option to take action when they arrive on your home page rather than navigating to other pages. Consider adding a button for making reservations, shopping for items or completing a form directly from the home page.
Clear navigation is key to a successful website. You want your customers to be able to quickly find the information they need and hopefully complete a desired action like filling out a form or purchasing a product. Many sites include a navigation bar at the top of every page of their website with hovering sub-menus, making it easy for customers to access the information they need.
Products and services
No matter what industry you’re in, the goal of your business is to educate customers on your products or services and entice them to make a purchase. A products and services page does just that. For maximum impact and conversions, consider including the following elements:
- Professional images
- Clear call to action
- Obvious pricing
- Answers to frequently asked questions
- Testimonials and reviews
- Easy-to-use payment system
- Alternative options for visitors to consider
You’ll want to include an easy way for your customers to get in touch with you on your website. Ensure the information you include on your contact page is up-to-date. Offer a contact form that allows customers to immediately send a message to your staff.
Best practices for creating a business website
When establishing and maintaining your website, It’s best to keep both your needs and the needs of your customers in mind. Use these best practices to ensure everyone has a positive experience:
Keep the navigation simple
Your navigation should not only be easy to find, but it should be simple to use. It rarely makes sense to link to every single page or sub-page on your website. For example, if you sell clothing, providing a top line navigation item for every single product will likely overwhelm your potential customers. Instead, provide navigation links to general categories and allow for specific searches or sub-category navigation from those category pages.
Update contact information
Regularly check your contact information page to ensure the information provided is accurate. If you change the email address for customer queries or change your main phone number, immediately make the update on your website so you don’t lose any important customer calls or messages.
Use a simple design
It can be tempting to incorporate bold design elements into your website to set your company apart from competitors. Rather than including bright colors and unusual fonts, choose one interesting feature to include on all your webpages that’s eye catching but still professional for maximum design impact.
Creating content through a blog is one of the best ways to share your industry knowledge with potential customers. Include specifics about your products and educational information about your industry in general. Customers appreciate information designed to help them make an informed decision about a product rather than just obvious advertising.
One of the best advantages of maintaining an active business website is that you have access to data about your site visitors. You can use this information to analyze the efficacy of your website’s design, features and other elements so you can improve how the site operates for better customer conversions.
Optimize your website
Search engine optimization, or SEO, helps potential customers find your website organically through search engine queries. Optimizing your website by including specific keywords, regularly adding new content and maximizing user visits can all help new customers find your website.
Your website should have media like pictures and videos included on it. These elements attract the visitor’s eye and break up large chunks of text. Images or videos are especially vital for product or services pages to help customers see or visualize what your company offers.
Whatever branding and design choices you make on your website should be consistent with your branding and design choices on your social media pages and other company documents. Consistent branding, colors and fonts shows professionalism and helps customers remember your company.
Link to social media
Provide links to your social media channels on your website. Ensure that you regularly update any social media pages you link to for a cohesive and informative user experience. Conversely, link to your website from your social media pages to help social media users find your website easily.
Frequently asked questions about starting a website
How do I build my website for free?
Many CMS platforms allow you to make a website for free — it’s the monthly hosting that tends to cost money. However, there are some CMS platforms that will host your website for free, though you’ll likely have to keep the site’s name in your URL and keep some of the platform’s branding on your website’s pages. For example, Wix and Weebly both offer free website design and hosting, but you’re limited on what you can include in your website.
How much does it cost to start a website?
Pricing varies significantly depending on what CMS you use to start your site. In most cases, if you use a drag-and-drop CMS site, you can start your website for free and host it monthly for a low cost, usually of less than $20 a month. If you create an entirely original website and use a web designer to help you make it, you’ll spend significantly more. While costs vary depending on industry and region, most web designers charge roughly $75 an hour for their services, resulting in web design costs in the thousands of dollars.
How do I create a free website on Google?
Google allows businesses to create free websites. To build yours, follow these steps:
- Use Google’s website builder. Google has a simple, step-by-step site builder that guides you through the process of creating your website.
- Optimize your website. Once you’ve established the basic information and design principles, go through and optimize your content for SEO.
- Update as needed. Regularly update the information on your website to attract new customers and ensure the provided content is accurate.
Starting a website is an excellent way to add credibility to your business. Besides improving your company’s reputation, a well-designed business website can also attract new customers, help you track how visitors interact with the content on your website and allow you to make sales online. Ensure you create an optimized, easy-to-use website for best results.