Building Your Business Website

Many small and medium size businesses either do not have a website or have one that was thrown together by cousin Bob. Basically, it is a second or third thought and not something that is considered important enough to spend either the time or money to do it right. Think about this: If you are not online, you do not exist. Period. Even worse than not existing is having a bad existence online.

For many owners, the idea of having a website sounds great because, well, everyone is doing it. Once the business owner gets into the nitty gritty of having to have one created, the sudden overwhelming information of what to do, who to hire, how much to pay, domains, hosts, and what the heck is that seem to land like a brick on them. With that in mind, here are some simple ideas to help you organize what you need in order to be online:

  1. Decide the Purpose of the Site.
    • Will you sell your products/services or inform your customers of what you have to offer?
    • This question is really the first and only question regarding the purpose of your site. Many web designers (us included) may ask questions about what features and functions you want. Do not let that overwhelm you. Instead, decide first if you want to sell products online or not.
    • Selling Online: This will require a shopping cart and fairly serious site development including hooking up to a payment processor. Marketing is also a big factor in this because to sell the products the customer has to find your site.
    • Inform Customers: This is where most new websites begin. It's not overwhelming. Having a very nice looking site with product and service information is much cheaper and easier to create. As your visitors increase you may want to consider adding products they will be able to order from your site.
  2. Choose Your Domain Name.
    • Make it simple.
    • Do not include dashes unless absolutely necessary. You would be surprised how many people cannot find the - key.
    • Make it non offensive and easy to remember.
    • Use .com if possible, if not use .net or .biz. People trust .com the most.
    • The cost should not be more than $15 or so a year.
    • This is critical because changing your domain name will lose you customers.
  3. Choose Web Host.
    • What the heck? OK. A web host is the company that has the server or hard drive where your website files will live. The domain is just the address that points to that hard drive space. Imagine a house is built on a piece of land. The post office assigns the address so mail and visitors can come to your house.
    • At uPoint Media we keep our domain name company (we use to buy domains) and the hosting company separate. The reason is if we decide we don't like the host or find a better deal, we can move the files but keep the domain without confusing our customers. We use 3 different companies, but Hostgator is our favorite for price, up time, and features offered. Even their baby business hosting service is inexpensive with great features that you won't every worry about, but your web designer will.
    • The cost varies between $3 per month to several hundred dollars depending on what you need. Most basic plans will suffice.
  4. Hire a web designer or Do It Yourself.
    • Many business owners start by hiring their cousin or a friend only to get upset a year later when the site is still not complete. We suggest hiring an actual designer. Of course, we're biased, but we went into this business to help small businesses get online and look professional. So, let's talkaboutsomeDIY alternatives just so you don't think we're trying to strong arm you into a sale.
      • Once you choose your domain name (and it should not cost you more than $15/year) you need to choose a host. Call the host companies and say, "My name is George and I want to build my own site without paying a designer." You will get great information on what they have available to help.
      • WordPress software is usually installed by host companies and they can walk you through getting it started. This is a fairly easy to use program that allows you to control your site without knowing how to do web design. There are some great themes available free. All of the themes and cool little features are in the program so it's easy to use. Oh, it's free.
      • There are many other software packages and sites that offer services to allow you to build your own site. Some are free, some charge depending on what you need.
      • There are also excellent tutorials on WordPress and others to help you figure out what you need to do to make your site better.
  5. Choose a Payment System.
    • If you are going to sell something through your website, we strongly recommend having an SSL certificate installed. This provides a secure encrypted link during the purchase process. Most are about $69 per year but many host accounts include them for free. Contact your hosting company for advice.
    • Many people use systems such as Google Wallet or PayPal Merchant Services to handle their payment systems. They're pretty easy to setup. Often they include a single line needed to put into your web page to make the sale. They also have much more advanced options if your business grows to the point of needing an type purchase system.
    • Using your own bank merchant account is fine as well. You will want to talk to them about selling online and find out what requirements they have in order to allow you to do so.
  6. Test and Publish Your Site.
    • This part is actually very important as well. Have friends or family try the site using different devices and browsers. There are quite a few of both. This is necessary to be sure that each function of the site works as it should regardless of the actual device or browser that is being used.
    • To make sure everyone tests the site completely, simple write a script that tells them each thing to click on in order. Have them write any issues they have so you be sure to check out the issues.
    • A good web designer will do this testing for you.
  7. Stay Relevant.
    • After your site is published, you need to have a plan to stay relevant. This means adding more content daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.
    • Use your site to promote new products, services, prices, discounts.
    • Add a blog to add tips and information free for customers to read. This adds value to your business because customers always love free help and advice.
    • Use social media to stay in touch with your customers.

Though having a website can seem overwhelming, it can be easily organized so that ongoing updates take less than an hour a week. As you plan your marketing for your business, include your website and social media contact points. Your website is the extension of your business to people you have never met and that have never walked through your door. Make a good impression online and your business can grow exponentially. If you have any questions, please use our contact form and we'll be glad to get back to you.

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