Today, when it comes to growing your business an online presence is mandatory. Whether you want to build your brand, reach your clients, or sell your products online, you’ll need a website that’s attractive, informative, and easy to navigate.
If hiring a team of developers and designers may be more than you can afford, don’t worry. Plenty of freelancers and courses allow those with little programming knowledge and a tight budget to build a platform that will get their business noticed. Let’s take a look at some of your options:
Drop and Drag Website Builders
Dozens of website building platforms are available today at little or no cost. While initially it can seem daunting to those who’ve previously never dabbled in programming, sites like Web.com, Wix.com, and GoDaddy.com are straightforward and easy to understand, even for beginners.
As long as you’re comfortable “dropping and dragging” elements into a customized template, you can feel confident that you’ll be able to create a web site. Before you choose a website builder, think about what’s important to you. Do you want it to be mobile-friendly? Do you plan to send out a newsletter regularly? If you’re going to do business globally, you may want to consider a multi-lingual site.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, most web builders have a customer service team at the ready to answer your questions and provide support should you get stuck along the way. With multiple platforms available at your fingertips, eliminating the cost of hiring a pro allows you to put that money into other areas of your business.
If you don’t have the time or desire to build your website yourself, you may want to hire a freelancer. When choosing your web site designer and developer, make sure to take a good look at their portfolio. Do they have experience creating sites in your field? Does each site they design look fresh and inviting rather than like clones of one another? Do they both design and code, meaning are they both a developer AND a designer, or do they only do one of these tasks? If you’ve seen a site you really admire, consider contacting the business owner to find out which designer and developer they used.
Because prices vary greatly among web site creators, it’s a good idea to get several bids, making sure that each estimate includes the same items for the final design. How many pages you’d like and how much help you need creating content will also factor into the overall cost. You can expect to pay from several hundred to several thousand dollars if you go with a pro, depending on their level of experience. But if you think of your website as your virtual storefront, you’ll probably want it to look as polished as possible.
Take a Course
If you’re determined to build your website yourself but want a bit more hand-holding along the way, take a course. Online tutorials, both free and tuition-based, abound on the web and can get you started without requiring any prior knowledge of coding.
If you’re more comfortable in a face-to-face environment where you can ask questions and have someone there to walk you through the material, colleges and schools that offer continuing education classes can provide you with the tools you need to build a web site that’ll show off your business.
Things to Keep in Mind as You Create Your Website
Whether you choose the DIY route or feel more comfortable hiring a professional, there are certain elements you’ll want to include on your site. Here’s a list of must-haves:
1. Start With a Simple Domain Name
Having a simple and catchy URL makes it easy for customers to find and remember how to get to your web site. If you can, avoid dashes, numbers, or underscores as people tend to forget to include them. Use .com, which experts say is what most people default to, as opposed to .org or .net.
If your business name is already taken by another company, sites like Panabee and Name Vine can assist you in finding out what else is available.
2. Make Sure Your Web Site Is Secure
Especially if you’re transacting business, you’ll want to know that your site can’t be hacked. Find a hosting company you can trust to keep the site safe as well as up and running smoothly. A site that’s slow to load is annoying for customers, who may just give up and move on to a competitor.
Look for a hosting company that offers round-the-clock tech support. Especially if you have buyers in other times zones, you don’t want to miss any opportunities because of technical issues.
3. Include All the Essential Web Pages
- Home Page – Make sure it offers a clear and concise mission statement.
- About — Offer your bio and what makes your business special.
- Contact — Include a phone number, an email address, and your customer service hours. If you’re a brick and mortar shop, make it easy for customers to find you by adding a link to Google maps. It’s also a good idea to include a phone number and email on every page of your web site to make it easy for users to find.
- Testimonials — Let customers learn more about your business from your satisfied clients.
- FAQ – This is a good opportunity to list the questions you get asked most frequently and answer them in a succinct manner. Ultimately, this can save you time and the hassle of repeating yourself.
- Blog — This is a great way to make sure you’ve got fresh content on your site. For example, If you own a wine shop, let customers know about a new vintage you’re bringing in, a tasting you’re offering, or a dinner you’re co-hosting at which you’ll be pairing wines with various courses.
4. Utilize Search Engine Optimization
Even if your website is visually stunning and user-friendly, if customers can’t find it, what good is it? You’ll want to use the correct terms and keywords through your site to make it easy for search engines to locate.
5. Keep It Simple
Keep your message short and sweet. You probably don’t have time to compose a novella about your business. A few well-worded sentences focused on SEO key words can have some decent impact when it comes to bringing visitors to your site. While you might be excited to present all you have to offer, if your pages appear crowded or difficult to navigate, you run the risk of visitors feeling overwhelmed and clicking away.
Make the site easy to browse by using bolded words across the top of the page or a drop down menu that’s simple to understand.
6. Include Social Media Icons
Make it easy for your customers to find you on social media. If a customer likes you on Facebook or follows you on Twitter, make sure you’re updating those feeds regularly so you can stay in front of them and let them know what you have to offer.
7. What to Avoid
It might be tempting to add some jazzy music or video that auto-plays when you visit your site, but it can be off-putting and jarring for visitors, especially those who are sneaking a peek while at work. Avoid flash or anything that takes forever to load as you run the risk of annoying customers by wasting their time.
You no longer need to be super tech-savvy to create a website that highlights what your business has to offer. Consider trying out a website builder and creating your site yourself. Or, turn to a professional who can make your company shine online. Maybe you’d like to go semi-pro yourself with the help of a course in website building. Whichever option you choose, make sure to include key elements that will get your site and your business noticed by your target audience.
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