A Guide to Building Your Own Business Website

This is a handy guide for small business owners who are considering saving money by building their own website instead of hiring a professional web designer/developer.

Is building my own website the right option for me?

Most business owners will probably make best use of their time by spending that time on their core business and hiring a professional to build their website. But if you have an interest in web technology, want to learn, and have more time on your hands than cash, it might make sense to give the do-it-yourself option a go. It can also be a great exercise to help you work out what you really need in a website so that you will have a better understanding of your wants and needs when it comes to hiring a professional to build your website. Here is a list of some reasons for doing it yourself:

  • You are interested in internet technology and want to learn more
  • You have plenty of free time
  • You cannot afford the cash outlay to hire a web designer
  • You just need a basic website with a few pages of information about your business
  • You have some skills and experience at building websites
  • You are just testing the waters with your business
  • You have a clear idea of what you want on your website

If a few of these apply to you, and the other ones don’t cause you any major concern, you might be ready to for the DIY website approach, so let’s get started!

Step 1: Register a domain name

This is a good thing to do yourself anyway, even if you get someone else to build your website, because, you will be in full control of what may become a very important asset for your business. You will need to decide what type of a domain ending is appropriate for your business, e.g. .com, .co.nz, .co.uk, .org, etc. For example, if you are in New Zealand and your website is targeting a New Zealand audience, a .co.nz or .nz domain is a good choice as it shows that you are a New Zealand focused company. If you are targeting an international audience, .com may be appropriate. If you are on a budget and/or you are trailing your business idea, don’t worry about trying to snap up multiple domains at this point. Just pick one good one. Having keywords in the domain can help with search engine optimisation but don’t get carried away. Go for something shortish and memorable. Often using your company name is a good choice. You can check domain name availability and register a domain name at a domain name registrar. There are many choices of registrars, usually with similar pricing so it doesn’t really matter which registrar you choose. For .nz domains, 1stdomains.nz and domains4less.co.nz have similar pricing. For .com and other domains namecheap.com is usually one of the better priced.

Step 2: Choose a platform to build your website on

These days there are many easy-ish website building systems available so you can build a website without knowing how to write code. It certainly helps to know some code so that you have an understanding of how the web builders work, how the search engines see the web pages and even to free yourself from the limitations of the web page builders. But we will work on the assumption that you don’t know much or anything about HTML (the language for structuring a web page), CSS (the language for styling the web pages), or common web programming languages such as JavaScript and PHP (used for adding functionality, actions or logic to your website). With that in mind, we will look at some popular options for building a website for people who don’t code. There are 2 main approaches that you can take:

  1. Use an all-in-one website hosting and website building system such as Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Shopify (for online shops). Wix and Weebly operate on a freemium model so you can start with the free version to try them out and upgrade to one of their paid plans when you are ready. You will need a paid plan to be able to be able to use your own domain name for the website and remove their advertising. If you are selling products on your website, be aware that they will clip the ticket on your sales so factor that in if you are comparing costs.
  2. Get a separate website hosting plan and install a website platform. The most likely choice here will be the popular WordPress system as it is the most popular content management system and has the largest selection of themes and plugins (for extending functionality). You will need to purchase a theme that comes with a web page builder. There are many websites that sells themes, Themeforest is a popular one. Free themes are also available but these usually won’t come with drag and drop page builders and often won’t have much in the way of customisation options.

The first of these two options will be the way to go if you are just looking for an easy way to get up and running quickly. But if you are a bit more technically inclined and have plenty of time, the second option will give you more flexibility and you will have a website that you have more control over and can be moved to another hosting provider.

Step 3: Plan your website content

Plan and organise the content for your website. Focus on the messaging that is important to get across to your target audience and what outcomes you want to achieve, e.g. phone us, send us a message, order or buy something, make a booking, etc. Check out your competition and see how they are doing it, learn from what they do well and don’t do well. Put yourself in the mind of a potential customer/client. If possible, talk to some of your customers to find out what things are most important to them when it comes to your product or service offering.

Write up your website copy in a word-processor or start with pen and paper if that is an easier way for you to start getting your ideas down. When you are writing copy for your website, make sure to put yourself in the mind of your potential customers. Think about what they might search for to find a website like yours. Think about how you can convince them to go with your product or service instead of a competitors. Get other people to proof read your copy and make suggestions.

Gather your images, photos, videos etc. and select the ones that work best to tell your story, are of good quality and reflect well on your business. If your business is already established, get testimonial from your clients/customers.

Step 4: Build your website

Now it is time to get stuck in to the actual building of your website. If you are doing this for the first time, this may be something of a trial and error process, or even an exercise to see if it is possible for you to achieve a suitable result with the self-build platforms, without tearing all your hair out! But even if you come to the decision during this process that you need to call in a professional, you will be very well prepared by having planned, gathered, written the content for your website so you will know what you want or at least know what the gaps are that you will need more help with.

You may want to try more than one platform for the sake of comparison to see which is easiest for you to work with and which one produces the best results and provides the feature that are important for your website.

Once you have completed building the website, get a few people to review the website and provide feedback on any issues with the website and suggest any changes that could improve the website.

Step 5: Launch and promote your website

Unfortunately, in the online world it is not as simple as ‘build it and they will come‘! Your new website will be a desert island in the world wide web until you build some bridges to it and make it easily found by your target audience. At this point you should probably do some research and learning up on search engine optimisation, there are many different strategies and approaches to SEO. At the very least, you will need to make sure your website pages, especially the home page are suitably set up to be found in search engines for certain keywords or phrases; make sure your most important keywords are included in the important places such as titles and headings, link text. Get links to your website from other websites. Consider any organisations, networks that you belong to, to see if there are opportunities for getting links to your website. You might be able to get links from complementary businesses. Set up a business listing on Google if you don’t have one already and register with relevant online directories for your region or industry. Get active on social media networks promoting your website and your business. Building traffic to your website takes time. If you need to get traffic to it fast, look into investing in advertising such as Google Ads or advertising on Facebook.

Step 6: Keep working on it

Even once you have already got to the point where your website is working for you, you can’t rest on your laurels and leave it at that. You need to keep tweaking, updating and adding fresh content to your website to keep it current, relevant and competitive. Monitor the activity on your website with a website data analytics package – Google Analytics is the most obvious choice. Keep an eye on how you are coming up in search engines relative to your competitors. Make sure your content is up to date and fresh, and keep working on link building, keep working on growing your social media presence.

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