With information at everyone’s fingertips these days, any successful business really needs a good website. You might be worried that setting up a website will cost a lot of money, but that is no longer the case. There are useful, easy-to-use, cheap tools and great tips out there available for everyone. With this information, even a person that has never built a website before can create a good one. If you’ve never built a website and don't know how to code, here are a few ideas that will get you going, help you along the way, and keep you from walking into common mistakes. Even you can learn how to design a website yourself!
What is hosting? When you create your website, the first thing you need is a place to put it. Information on the Internet actually takes up space, like when you install new software on a hard drive on your computer. This space is known as your website hosting. Think of it as a couch for your website to sit on with its visitors. With hundreds of hosting websites out there, you need to make sure you use a stable and reputable hosting account like BlueHost or Host Gator. Using a no-name provider could end up costing you a lot of downtime, lost files, and poor customer service. Picking the right hosting company is a crucial first step as you build your website.
Picking a Domain Name
So you’ve decided on your hosting, but what are you going to name your website? There are a few rules that are good to follow as you pick your website name, or domain.
- If the website is for your business, your domain should match your company name as closely as possible. Ex: YourCompanyName.com
- If the website is for yourself, then YourName.com is a great option.
- If the website is about something that interests you, try to come up with a name that makes the purpose of the website clear.
Domain names will commonly end with .com, .org, or, .net. However, within recent years, a large amount of domain extensions have arisen. Now your website can end with almost any word imaginable, with examples ranging from .pizza to .agency. The best thing to do right now though is to stick with the ones that are commonly used, as the extension of domains has not really gained ground yet.
A few things to keep in mind as you choose a domain are:
- Is is brandable?
- Is it memorable?
- Is it catchy?
Make sure that your domain is as short and to the point as it can be and that it is easy to add to a business flyer or card. Overall, if you like it and it fits what you are going for, then use that domain.
Content Management without Coding
After you have your hosting set up and your website domain in place, it is time to sit down and figure out just how you want to design your website. You want to make sure it not only looks great, but also that it is easy to mange once it's set up. Some planning ahead will make it easier for you to keep your site up-to-date without taking up large amounts of your time.
The best way to go about simplifying your website is to consider using a content management system, also called a CMS, like WordPress. A CMS allows you to change how your site looks as well as update the content without having to have any knowledge in coding or advanced design. It is a simple way to update your text and images by easily setting up what you want to be featured. The CMS takes care of the hard work for you. What makes this even better is that there are thousands of users working in WordPress, so there are many tutorials, how-to's, and troubleshooting guides out there for you to go to if you need help. WordPress is easy to install, and most hosting companies will even install it for you.
Designing Your Website
When you start designing your website, there are no real rules of the Internet. If it fits your style and what you want it to look like, then go for it. However, you might want to take a look at some popular sites and identify the common features that you may want to incorporate into your own site. Whether you are looking at themes and using a CMS, or designing it totally on your own, there are some great examples out there that can get you great results.
Keep Your Website Clean and Simple
Decide what information is most important to your users, and make sure that this information is prominent on the home page. Less important information can be placed on other pages that will connect to your home page.
Make sure the site does not look too busy or come across as confusing. Your main message should be clear to visitors coming to your site within 10 seconds of them landing on your page. A good example of this is limiting yourself to one or two easy-to-read fonts throughout the entire site. Decide on a color palette. Do not go for using every color in the rainbow. Simple and to-the-point all the way through is the best way to design a great website. Also double and triple check that your site doesn't have any spelling mistakes, broken links, or other kinds of errors.
If you want your visitors to stay on your website, you need to make it easy to use. Make sure your menu is easily found and the options are clear. You can use sub-menus as well to keep similar pages together without having all options on one page. Keep your information updated and clear.
Provide Contact Information
No matter what information you put on your site or how much information there is, your main goal should be to make it easy for the customer or visitor to contact you. Based on your business and website, this will look different for every site. You may only need an email address, while others may want to post an address and directions to a brick and mortar store. No matter what the information is, just make sure that you get your contact information on the website and that it is easy to find.
Design to Find
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a system used to get your website ranked higher in search engines like Google and Yahoo. Even if you have the most beautiful, useful website out there for your niche, if you’re landing on the 100th page of a Google search for similar businesses in your area, your site isn’t being seen. There are tools within your CMS that can help you design a website that will rank higher in the search engines. One example for WordPress is the plugin Yoast SEO, which helps in numerous ways to manage your site and its content optimally for search engines.
In the past, you could expect your customers to only visit your website from a desktop computer. In modern times, people visit all kinds of websites from many different devices with various screen sizes. From tiny iPhones to huge monitors, you have to think about how your website will respond to all devices. You can do this by cross-checking what your website looks like pulled up on each type of device. It should look like it is designed to fit every size of screen and not just the computer screen you used to design the site. WordPress and its plugins make it pretty easy to create a responsive site. Obviously it's hard to actually own every type of device, but a quick check on a friend or family member's tablet, phone, or desktop once in a while is all you need.
All of this information on how to design a website might seem like a lot, but with some planning ahead and basic research, you can be sure the website you build will be a great tool in getting your business off the ground. If you want more information on website design, SEO, and more, check out Virtual Market Advantage’s other blogs here. This one goes over how to protect your content when you put it out there on the Internet.