Welcome to the How to Create an Awesome Website series in which we share tips from web development and marketing experts! This is part 1 of the series.
Nowadays, local businesses need a website to attract new customers. At Vendasta, we work with thousands of local businesses to help them stand out online. Since each business is unique, we provide different web development services to our clients to highlight their products and offerings. Do you run a business? Here, we break down our techniques in a simple guide to help you make your own website with ease.
Step 1: Start with the Domain, Hosting, and CMS
Before you jump into building a website, the first thing you have to do is to determine where your site will be hosted and under what domain name. A lot of local businesses underestimate the importance of a strong domain name, so don’t make this mistake!
Because a domain name is the first thing a person sees when looking for a business online, a good name helps a local business establish instant credibility. This is a critical first step in laying out your business’ branding.
Your business needs to appear professional, so you must find and acquire the domain name that suits your business best! Keep it short, and make sure that consumers are able to remember the website easily. The better the domain name, the more website visits, the more brand exposure, and ultimately the more sales for a local business.
Where Do Businesses Go to Register a Domain?
There are many domain registrar companies available for businesses to choose and buy their preferred domains. One of the most notable domain registrars is GoDaddy, but it’s not the only option for purchasing domain names. GoDaddy has been criticized for its relatively expensive domain registrars, so if you are looking for something more affordable, NameCheap is a great alternative.
Most domain registrar companies allow a business to search the availability of desired domains before purchasing, so you should do some research on the domain before acquiring it.
What is Hosting?
Hosting services are where a business’s website sits or “lives” on the internet. A hosting provider offers a virtual space for you to upload your files and provides the bandwidth to load your website for online visitors, along with many other services.
If you are looking to compare website hosting services, PC Magazine has an awesome head-to-head comparison of the top hosting providers.
In late 2017, Vendasta launched its website hosting service, Website Pro, which hosts our clients’ WordPress websites with the most trusted source on the internet—Google Cloud Platform.
When You Think Content Management, Think WordPress
A Content Management System (CMS) is a web application that helps with the creation and editorial management of digital content. A CMS is a foundation for a website to create and manage content most effectively.
Most local businesses need a CMS because it is too difficult to manually edit your website’s code. It is unlikely that a small business has developer capabilities, or understand the backend work to maintain a website’s content. Think of a CMS application as a middleman, someone who takes care of the framework of your website while you’re focusing on polishing your brand creating promotion messaging, etc.
Why WordPress? WordPress has nearly 60% of the market share amongst CMS-based websites and is recognized as one of the greatest tools for website management. With over 75 million websites using WordPress, we believe that WordPress is the go-to web development tool.
If you are looking for easy-to-use CMS applications that can accommodate your specific needs—Wordpress is a clear winner.
With a ton of different plugins, WordPress is a content management system that allows you to collect data, analyze trends, and utilize website statistics to better understand your market or industry. Its simple analytics tools are a critical component of running a successful website considering that less than 30% of small businesses leverage website analytics because they can be difficult to understand and use.
Step 2: Make Your Own Website & Give it A Unique Design
The first thing to do when creating or designing your website is to hide it—you don’t want people stumbling upon a website that is unfinished. There are plugin options that allow you to set your website’s status to “maintenance mode” so that visitors will see that your site is not quite ready! This allows a business to build their website without having the whole world peering over their shoulder as they construct the site.
Tip: Find a “Coming Soon” or Maintenance Plugin and activate it in the “Plugins” menu in WordPress.
In terms of design, be sure to avoid clutter and focus on consistency. There is no single formula for success when it comes to designing a beautiful website, mainly because people have different creative tastes. Unless you have an artistic eye or a background in design, it can be a good idea to hire a freelance designer or web agency to make sure that your site is clean and consistent.
Why does design matter so much? Because it impacts how consumers perceive your brand.
The University of Surrey conducted a study on the aesthetics of websites and their relation to a business’s credibility. The data showed that 75% of a website’s credibility depends on the site’s overall design.
Your business is unique, so your website should look apart from other websites as well!
Every local business has its distinctive character and story that form its brand. Be sure to include these differentiating factors in the design of your site to establish a unique identity for your brand.
It often takes a few attempts at designing your websites before you nail the perfect style for your business! There is just no shortcut to understanding your users’ preferences, so you need to invest time and resources into researching, testing, and optimizing the website design.
Split URL testing (A/B testing) allows you to try different versions of the design to figure out which version is preferred by users. Afterwards, you should ask your users, partners, staff, and friends to provide feedback, then use the feedback to refine the website.
Step 3: Strategize Your Content
The content you put on your website is critical for building brand awareness and driving conversions and sales. You need to put thought into creating compelling content on your website to paint a clear picture of your brand and convince visitors to convert.
What are the Website Content Basics?
When it comes to web copy, what you say will vary depending on your niche, products, business model—a million things! However, every business website should cover these basic elements.
Consider these questions when filling out the details of your site:
- Contact Details
- Where is your business?
- What are the hours?
- How can a consumer/client get in touch?
- Do you have other social profiles?
- About Us
- Who works in this business?
- What is the mission of the business?
- What is the backstory?
- Why should people choose you over competitors?
- What products/services does the business provide?
- What are the prices of these products?
- How can a client order your products/services?
- Why should a client use these products/services?
What is Your Content Tone and Brand Voice?
It’s not just what you say, but where and how you say it matters too. Determining your brand voice should be a step you take early in your business development process.
When determining your business tone, consider:
- Who is your audience?
- What personality do you want your brand to portray?
This can greatly affect the way you tell your brand story, and position your products and services to your target audience.
Additional Content to Consider
In addition to the sections listed above, you may also want to include the following sections:
A business blog
A business blog is a great way to provide useful information to your clients, and also generate organic search traffic by ranking for industry-related keywords on Google and other search networks. What you might write on your blog is up to you, but here are some ideas to start:
- Helpful articles about your industry/products
- Product and feature updates
- Press releases
- “Behind-the-scenes” company culture articles
Need some help on coming up with ideas for your blog? Check out our blog post on how the best content marketing managers brainstorm ideas for blog posts.
Is your product or service difficult to explain, or do you have a complex ordering or setup process? You may want to include a FAQ page where you can address the most common questions your clients ask. The more information and easier the process is for them, the more likely they are to convert!
Step 4: Evaluate & Check for Errors
We constantly talk about how websites help in building credibility for a business. However, credibility instantly goes out the window if website visitors are running into countless mistakes and errors—or can’t even load the site at all!
Be sure to check and double check for errors before your site goes live! There are typically two types of errors that website users will come across: technical errors and clerical errors.
1) Technical Errors
For most small business owners who look to develop their own sites, this can be very tricky. Without technical knowledge, it is possible to miss things –and when you miss things, your users will likely notice them.
As mentioned, sometimes it is best to have a web designer take a look at your website before it goes live. The designer will ensure that your sitemap makes sense and that all of your pages are pulling valid information.
Here’s a common example of a technical error: A user clicks a section of your website and nothing happens or a 404 error appears. This means that a backend error has been made, and the fix is a simple coding error. Of course, this can be fixed quite simply but it isn’t easy for people without a technical background to diagnose.
2) Clerical Errors
Clerical errors are the spelling errors, grammatical issues, and typos that appear on a website. Although they are bound to happen, it is best to avoid these errors as your business should appear as fine-tuned and professional as possible. Of course, if a website has a ton of content, it can be hard to proofread thousands of words without missing anything.
For smaller websites, manual auditing might be enough. If your website is a bit larger, you should look at scaling the auditing process to different software providers such as WebCEO or ScreamingFrog.
My personal favorite tool for writing is adding the Grammarly extension onto my browser. Basically, the tool will proofread your work in real-time, allowing you to focus on the creative process rather than nitpicking spelling/grammar.
In conclusion, designing and launching a business site is a big initiative, and there are many important things to consider. However, many questions about the what and why of your site should be answered in your initial business branding process.
Zach Yuzdepski is a Content Strategist at Vendasta, the #1 platform for selling digital solutions to local businesses. In his spare time, he likes to disappear to the lake where you can find him golfing, fishing, and wakeboarding. @ZachYuz