Website 101

Building a website might sound like an overwhelming task for small business owners with limited tech skills and small budgets. The good news is that if you’ve been operating without a website, then you probably don’t need a complicated, custom solution to create an online presence for your business. This beginner’s guide will help get you online in no time

1. Focus on Function

The first question you should answer is: What does your website need to do? Do you want to showcase your products? Tell customers where to find you, when you’re open and how to contact you? Share a menu or list of services offered?

“Step away from the computer and think critically about the most important messages your website needs to convey before you begin the design process,” says Mallory Whitfield, content analyst at FSC Interactive in New Orleans. “Determine the goals of your website, and make sure the website you create can achieve those goals.”

2. Keep it Simple

“Remember, your website is not a permanent thing,” says Shannon Lewis, co-founder of Panoptic Development in Providence, Rhode Island. “It can evolve and grow as your comfort level grows.”

Simple platforms like Strikingly, Squarespace, Weebly and Wix let users create basic websites with very little tech knowledge for under $100 a year. Even just a single page with contact information for your business will establish your online presence and help customers find you.

Just be sure to use a custom domain name, and make the domain as true to your business’ title as possible. If your domain name is too long or complicated, it will be harder for customers to find you.

3. Branding Is Key

Choose design and color schemes that fit your brand. Your brand identity and message should be consistent whether customers are visiting your storefront or your website, says Grant Greenberg, director of Lumentus Digital Reputation Management in New York.

4. Make it Mobile-Friendly

It’s likely that at least half your visitors will be using mobile devices, so choose a design that will seamlessly shift between desktop and mobile. “If [your website] isn’t mobile-friendly and easy to navigate using a handheld device, [customers] lose interest quickly,” says Walter Wise, a marketing consultant at BPI Strategy in Boston.

“Responsive” is the buzzword that signifies that a template or website theme is designed to work on desktop and mobile browsers.

5. Know When to Seek Help.

Professionalism is important, so be prepared to acknowledge your limitations and seek someone else’s expertise if necessary.

Pool the knowledge of your employees and trusted associates to help set up and design your website. Even hiring someone to provide guidance, write a small amount of copy or polish your finished website will be much more affordable than a comprehensive custom Web design.

“A website and online presence is the front door to your business, and you want to make a great first impression,” Greenberg says. “Professional design and marketing experts can help boost your online presence, get the site done quickly and also build in all the features you need to be successful.”

By: Karen Sams


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