Whether you already have a business, or you are about to start one, a website is a must-have asset for almost every business these days. A website can be anything from a single page, to simply advertise your goods or services, or many pages and your only outlet for selling your products or services.
Whatever business you’re in or starting, there is probably a good reason to have a website for it. If your business is renting rooms with AirBnb, having a website can help you to advertise your rooms with local councils and the tourist board. If you sell on EBay or Amazon, a website can give you an additional outlet or simply provide a professional face for your business.
In this article is a summary of the things you need to do to get your website up and running. Note that we do not get money from anyone that we recommend on our site. We only recommend companies and services that we use for ourselves and for our clients.
Get a Website Name (Domain).
A website name is called a ‘domain name’ in the web world. ‘hairyrobot.co.uk’ is a domain name. Ideally you would have a domain name that matches your business name. However, this isn’t always possible because someone else may have the same business name as you and already own that domain name.
You buy a domain name from a ‘domain registrar’ or re-seller. This is a company that offers a service to register your domain name in a vast directory which contains every single website name (Internationally managed by ICANN). You pay the domain registrar a fee for your domain name which can be as little as £10 a year.
We recommend Namecheap.com to get a website domain name.
There are many domain name registrars and re-sellers including the popular Go-Daddy. We use NameCheap because they have proven reliable, have no hidden costs, have an easy to use website, and provide great support (although some reviews say otherwise, we’ve never had a problem).
Get a Host for your Website.
A domain name is simply an address or unique postcode for your website, similar to a postal address that tells people where your business premises is located.
Therefore, in addition to having a domain name, you have to rent space on the internet for your website pages, in the same way that you rent a shop for your business.
The place where your website exists on the internet is usually owned by a website hosting company. Just as you pay an AirBnb ‘host’ to rent a room (I don’t know why I keep using AirBnb as an example, maybe because I’m staying in one while writing this!), you pay a hosting company to rent space on their computer servers to store your website pages.
Some domain registrars (including Namecheap), where you buy your domain name from, also rent out space to store your web pages. This can be a good, simple option to start with if you are not very technical and have a small business.
However, if you have a larger business or have a lot of web pages to build, it is often better to buy your domain name from a company that specialises in registering domains, and rent space for your website pages from another company that specialises in hosting websites.
If you are going to sell goods or services online (E-Commerce), there are website hosting companies who specialise in this, such as Shopify (see our article Shopify or Woo-Commerce?).
We recommend Siteground.co.uk to host your website.
SiteGround is one of the main hosting providers for WordPress and they have web servers in the UK. Also their support is exceptionally good with fast response and a very knowledgeable support team who are able to assist non-techies too!
SiteGround isn’t the cheapest option for hosting, although their first year introductory prices are very good. After that, they remain a little cheaper than other leading hosts such as BlueHost, whilst giving a lot of free extras including SSL (security certificates), CloudFlare CDN (for faster delivery of website content) and other tools to optimise your website performance and security.
Choose a ‘platform’ for your website
Think of a website platform as the shop fittings for a shop. Before you can display your products or services, you need to kit out your shop first.
There are website platforms for specific types of websites (online shop, online bookings), and some that are all-rounders. Just as you might choose a supplier like ScrewFix or Ikea for your shop fittings, you choose a platform most suited to your needs.
We recommend WordPress as the website platform to use.
WordPress is a web platform used by over 30% of the world’s websites. It’s FREE and is included with SiteGround’s hosting service, and most other hosting companies.
Nowadays WordPress has become much more than a simple blogging platform. It is possible to create practically any type of website using WordPress, including online e-commerce shops, travel reservation sites, and online courses.
Installing WordPress as the foundation for your website is very straightforward. SiteGround give you instructions on how to do this on their website. You can also watch this video tutorial on installing WordPress.
Choose a Theme (Template) for your Website
A WordPress Theme is a ready-made design template, with a layout of text and photos already created. You can use a theme as the starting point to create your website, picking a theme that most suits your business from the WordPress Theme Directory.
There are literally 1000s of themes available, many are FREE, or free with the option to pay extra for more bells and whistles. Some themes are professionally designed, often for a particular business type, say a doctor’s surgery website, or a building construction firm website. You can also pay a WordPress developer to create a theme for you entirely from scratch.
In recent years, the choice of theme has become less important since the introduction of ‘page builders’ (see section below). With a page builder you can, without any coding skills (an eye for design is useful though), create web pages to look and feel exactly as you want without needing to code anything. However, if you’re not creative, an off-the-shelf theme maybe better for you.
We recommend the Astra WordPress Theme.
Astra is a FREE theme, although there are options to pay for additional features which give you more control over the look and feel of your website and pages. Like most themes, Astra lets you choose a colour scheme to match your business, and select from a range of fonts for the text.
Our main reason for recommending Astra is that it is FAST to load. The speed at which a web page loads is really important for your website visitors – no-one wants to wait 20 seconds for a web page to load. Additionally, Google penalises websites that load slowly – they move slower-loading websites further down the list on their search results page.
Astra also works well with page builders (see below). If you’re feeling more creative, you can install Astra in its basic form and then use a Page Builder to design your web pages.
Create your Website Pages.
After you’ve rented space for your website from a hosting company (SiteGround), you’ve chosen the platform (WordPress) to build your website on, and you’ve chosen a theme (Astra) as the foundation for your website, then you’re ready to create some web pages! (I hope you’re still with me at this point!)
Making a web page is like creating a display of your goods in an empty shop that you’ve rented, or making advertising posters to show off your business goods or services.
A website needs some preparation to create ‘web page content’; the photos, text, videos and artwork such as a logo or other graphics to put on your web pages. All the important stuff to impress your website visitors and hopefully turn them into customers!
Use a Page Builder to Design your Pages
WordPress and even its themes have some limitations over controlling where you put content on a web page. That’s where page builders come in.
What is a Page Builder?
A page builder is a drag-and-drop editor that lets you place content on a web page more or less where you want it to go. Page builders have ‘widgets’, bits of content that you’d normally find on a website, such as a navigation menu, a contact form, a page title, a search box. You drag these widgets onto a page and then see what it looks like on a desktop PC, a tablet and a mobile phone.
Page Builders make it a lot easier to design your web pages. They give you the option to create a different layout for different types of pages. For example, one layout for blog posts (where you put information, like this page), one layout for a gallery of photos, and another for your products and services.
We recommended Elementor Page Builder for WordPress.
Elementor is a FREE page builder with an option to buy a Pro version which has many more widgets and functionality. It’s the most popular page builder for WordPress at the moment.
Elementor is easy to install as a WordPress ‘plugin’. I haven’t covered WordPress plugins in this article but watch this how to install Elementor video to find out more.
Elementor are adding more widgets to the page builder all the time and there are other companies that create different widgets to use in Elementor.
We recommend that you try out the free version of Elementor and then upgrade to the Pro version if you need more options to design your website.
Publishing your Website.
In web speak, the day you publish your website, your website opening day, is known as ‘going live’.
Most people build their website before going live. Luckily it’s easy to create your web pages and your whole website before showing it to the public online. This is known as building your website ‘off-line’, i.e. unpublished. It gives you a chance to show it to your friends and family, and maybe have some of your customers review it before you publish.
It is usual to create your own ‘holding page’ while you are building your website. A holding page is a simple page that says ‘Coming Soon’ with maybe your logo and a short description of your business. Creating your own a holding page is quite simple and tells any visitor that your website is on its way. You can create a holding page in Elementor, or using a free WordPress plugin.
When you have your domain name, have rented space for your website, and have built your web pages, you can set a date to GO LIVE!
Congratulations is in order, you have your own website.
“I’m not technical or artistic, how can I get help to make my website?”
If you’ve read our articles and don’t think you can build your own website, there are many companies that can provide this service for you.
Some people are happy doing the technical work, but not the artistic work such as creating a logo or making a web page attractive and useful to its visitors. Others are artistic and happy creating web page content, but not confident about setting up the domain and hosting.
You can find companies that specialise in either aspect of making a website, and many companies that will do everything for you (except provide the content like photos and text about your business, that’s down to you.)
Hairy Robot provides consultancy on every stage of website creation. We also build websites and arrange hosting for some of our non-technical clients. Contact us for more details.