Web advice and services for small UK businesses

How to Make a Website for your Business

Introduction

This article explains how to make a business website yourself. It doesn’t have to be difficult. I will explain what you need to make a website, the different components of a website, and how they all fit together to make your business website.

Why you need to make a website for your business

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, simply advertising 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.

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 with the same business name as you may 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.

Why Namecheap?

There are many domain name registrars and re-sellers including the popular Go-Daddy. I use NameCheap for most of my own and my clients’ websites because they have proven reliable, have no hidden costs, have an easy to use website, and provide great support. Namecheap charge in dollars, so your bank may add a currency conversion fee. Even so, NameCheap is one of the best value registrars on the web. You’d expect that from their name I guess.

Get a host for your website

A domain name is simply a unique postcode for your website. Like a postcode, it has to have an address that it relates to. That address is where your website is stored. Therefore, in addition to having a domain name, you need to rent space on the internet for your website pages, just as you would rent an office or shop for your business. You rent internet space from a ‘hosting provider’, also referred to as a web host.

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. It’s rather like renting an office in an office block. Your domain name (via your registrar) will tell search engines like Google and Bing, and browsers like Google Chrome, IE Edge, and Safari, where your web host (office block) is located. You web host will then direct them (and your customers) to the exact location of your website and pages (your office).

Some domain registrars (including Namecheap), 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 registrar that specialises in domain registrations, and rent space for your website pages from a different company that specialises in hosting websites.

If you are going to sell goods or services for customers to purchase online (e-commerce), there are website hosting companies who specialise in this, such as Shopify. I highly recommend using a dedicated e-commerce host if your main business is selling products online. See my article Shopify or Woo-Commerce?.

If selling online (i.e. enabling customers to purchase through your website) is not your main business, I recommend Siteground.co.uk to host your website.

Why SiteGround?

SiteGround is one of the main hosting providers for WordPress and they have web servers in the UK, which means your website will be a little quicker to load for your UK customers.  Also their support is exceptionally good with fast response times and a very knowledgeable support team who are able to assist non-techies too!

SiteGround isn’t the cheapest option for hosting, although their introductory prices are extremely good, with 70% discount for up to 3 years. After that, they remain a little cheaper than other major 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.

Hairy Robot is hosted on SiteGround as are most of my clients’ websites.

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 how you want to display your business .

I recommend WordPress as the website platform to use.

Why WordPress?

WordPress is a web platform used by over 30% of the world’s websites. It is FREE and is included with SiteGround’s hosting service, and by most other web hosts.

WordPress started life as a tool for bloggers and writers, to create simple text and photo based websites without needing to know web technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

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 the section below). With a page builder you can, without any coding skills (although an eye for design is useful), 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.

I recommend the Astra WordPress Theme.

Why Astra?

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.

My 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

So, when you have registered a domain name (NameCheap), have 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 layouts 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.

I recommended Elementor Page Builder for WordPress.

Why Elementor?

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. The latest version of WordPress has moved to drag-and-drop content placement, but it is still in its infancy compared to Elementor.

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.

Free Elementor ready-made layouts are available, with more in its Pro version. The Astra theme also has many free starter sites using Elementor.

The Elementor developers are adding more widgets to the page builder all the time and there are other companies that create different widgets to use in Elementor.

I 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 is 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 completed all the steps in this article and created 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 my 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.)

I can provide consultancy on every stage of website creation. I also build complete websites and arrange hosting for some of my non-technical clients. Contact me for more details.

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