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Building your website

As a small business in the digital age, you will need a website that shows the greatness of your brand. You’ll want to consider colour, design, user experience, payment gateways, SEO and many other important website aspects.

Before embarking on your website journey, make sure you understand your goals. Many businesses get most of their sales from referrals, and won’t get as many direct sales from a website, whilst other start-ups rely on the website entirely. No matter what, you do need a website. How it functions is up to you.

How much does a website cost?

It depends.

But here’s our disclaimer: You should always try to budget for a website. Design is an industry where you get what you pay for, so having even a modest budget set aside for your website should be a high priority. (Approximately ~£2000 to start).

We recommend hiring a designer if you can afford it. A good designer will assess your needs and deliver a solution that meets them, all the while considering things like conversion optimisation and user experience. Going with a full-service web design agency is a good option if you want to get design and development all together.

The best way to approach a website for your business is to first determine what you’ll need the site to do. What are your goals?

If you’re primarily looking for a website to give your customers a way to get your prices, your menu, your office hours, directions to your office,or other basic information then the effort and cost will be less.

To figure out how much a site might cost for you, consider these factors:

Building a website by yourself

If you are getting started and don’t have the budget for a web design firm to complete your site, a DIY website builder is a great option.

The benefits to doing it yourself are obvious: it is less expensive, customisable, and easy to edit. The disadvantages are that you may have difficulty customising the site to be exactly what you want. It may always look a bit DIY, which can refute how professional you otherwise seem.

Here are some top options for DIY website builders:

MrSite
Pros Cons Best for
Inexpensive, easy to update on your own, very user-friendly to website novices There is no preview view, so when you make changes the world sees them, the best MrSite websites benefit from some knowledge of design, sites look different on different browsers Small business owners on a very tight budget, those with very little technical skill
Squarespace

Squarespace is an easy to use platform that allows users without much development experience to create beautiful websites, but doesn’t offer much flexibility or room for creativity beyond the basic customization of themes.

Pros Cons Best for
Everything—domain, hosting, payments, traffic statistics, and mobile-compatible site—are all included together and on the same platform. Offers less room for creativity. Beyond editing the content there’s not much else you can do to make your website what you want it to be outside of the developer platform. Blogging capabilities are especially limited. Less tech-savvy users who want a relatively simple but professional, easy to use and easy to build website. Its visual-focused layouts and easy to use ecommerce makes it perfect for designers, photographers, restaurants, and online shops.
Moonfruit
Pros Cons Best for
Notably awesome templates, multi-layered templates make it easy to customize, full control to change CSS and html, very user friendly Support options are limited (no phone support), blog is limited, not a great “Shop” feature for ecommerce sites (though it is improving) Small businesses, startups, and sole traders who are not selling anything online and want something very basic
Wordpress

WordPress is a content management system that allows users to write content for their website without having to code. If they do know how to code, it also allows users to take full control of their website and customize it to make it truly their own.

Pros Cons Best for
WordPress has an open-source platform, so anyone can create plugins and themes and as a result, there are thousands available for use on your site. Though WordPress is free, there are hidden costs—the domain, hosting, better themes, and many plugins need to all be paid for separately. Because anyone can make a plugin, they can be finicky and break your site. To get exactly what you want, you might have to hire someone who’s very familiar with WordPress. Users who are more comfortable with web development and able/willing to put in the time and effort required to get the most out of the power that WordPress offers. Many developers will also use WordPress as a content management system to give you the ability to update your site after they create it.

Finding someone to help build your website

Many founders don’t have the technical expertise or the hours to build a website by themselves. Instead, they opt to hire web developers and designers. Before consulting a search engine for a web design firm, ask your connections. Most of your business acquaintances will have gotten their websites from somewhere, and will be able to provide you with tips and tricks, as well as a list of agencies to check out.

If you’re worried about funds, fear not. Matthew Broderick, a virtual assistant based in Birmingham, says it’s possible to keep prices down. “Hire someone who knows what they're doing but don't be drawn into spending too much. An attractive and responsive website can be set up easily within the region of £350-£500 for a small business, especially if you use Wordpress.”

If your connections don’t have great suggestions, here are a few UK-based web design firms worth checking out:

Selling products or services on your website

Some sole traders will never use their website to sell products and services. Yes, the website might help users down the sale funnel, but the services provided take place off the internet.

Others, such as those providing software solutions and physical products, will want to be able to sell things from a website. Sometimes the website will even function *as* the product, in the case of a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution.

Setting up a shop

If you’re selling things on a website, you’re opening yourself up to certain rules, concerns, and vulnerabilities. Because of this, many website builders that offer e-commerce options have done the hard work for you. They’ve implemented secure payment processing systems, database structures and more.<>

If you’re building a shop on your own or with the help of a developer, you’ll need to keep security, payments, and cookies in mind.

Security considerations

If you’re selling things on your website, then you are potentially collecting sensitive customer information. This information includes home addresses, credit card numbers, and purchasing information. Customers will not be happy if this information gets leaked.

That means you need to be extremely careful when selling things online. You’ll also need to comply with security regulations set forth by the Data Protection Act and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.

Getting paid online

Many small business owners and startup founders cope with security and development issues by using third party payment systems. The advantage to these systems is that security is taken care of by the third party. The disadvantage is that you will be charged fees for the service, usually per transaction.

Here are three services you can use:

Cookie policy

When people surf around the web, many websites add cookies to their computers. Cookies are small text files that record data about users’ visit to the website and their preferences. That way, the next time they visit the same website, you can personalise their experience and make it quicker, easier and more enjoyable.

If you use cookies on your website, you are legally obliged to inform visitors under The Cookie Law and get their consent. This can be done by finding out what sorts of cookies your site uses, then telling your visitors about these cookies, and implementing a way to get their consent, potentially by using Optanon or another, similar service.

For more information on cookie policy in the EU, read The Cookie Collective’s helpful explanation.

Conversion optimisation and A/B testing

The internet has made room for a whole new psychological science called conversion optimisation. Basically, this means tweaking and changing things on your website to encourage people to sign up, buy or click.

For example, if you change the colour of a button on your website, you might see signups increase. But conversion optimisation isn’t just for sign ups. A conversion might be someone opting in to your newsletter or downloading an eBook or guide. Optimising your site can help you generate leads, get more people to buy, and figure out how to price your products.

Thankfully, there are tons of tools that can help you A/B test the colours of your buttons, the copy on your pages, and the layout of your site. (A/B testing just means you test two things against the other to see which gets the best results).

Here are a few:

Sometimes testing leads to surprising (and extremely useful!) results. Don’t rely on a feeling or intuition. Instead, test.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) and search

Getting Google and other search engines to recognise you may seem harder than climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, but being a top search result can position your brand above the rest.

SEO has a bad reputation of being spammy, but search engines are getting smarter. If you want to appear in search results, you need to create authentic, helpful content that gets attention.

Black hat tactics (such as paying for links) are getting punished by Google.

Wondering how you can take advantage of search?

  1. Create compelling, informative content. It’s not enough to have some words up on your site. Your content needs to be compelling, informative, and strategic. Think of it this way: If you’re selling hot tubs and you create a blog post on whether to choose bromine or chlorine as a chemical treatment, you’ll catch the attention of hot tub buyers, who in turn might buy from you. Your audience might search “bromine vs. chlorine” and be led to your site. Providing great resources might mean hiring a writer or contracting a freelancer.
  2. Try and get people linking to your site. If people link to your site, you’ll get traffic, but you’ll also acquire SEO value. The higher the value of the site that links to you, the more power it has. Need some link building strategies? Check out this awesome list of link building strategies by PointBlankSEO. It’s important to be cautious with all link building strategies, though. Certain practices are considered black hat tactics, and they can result in being blacklisted by Google.
  3. Have a fast, well-designed, professional website. SEO is another reason you need a fast and professional website. The faster your site, the more Google will like it. A spammy-looking, shoddy site is unlikely to be the favorite of any search engine.
  4. Get to know Google and other search engines. Know what Google’s webmaster best practices and quality guidelines say. If you want to get the most traffic you can from the U.S.’s biggest search engine, it’s important to know what will work well and is considered acceptable practice. Ignorance is not an excuse with Google.
  5. Educate yourself on SEO. We believe that Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO is one of the best resources out there when you’re just getting started with SEO. It will help you understand how search engines work, why search engine marketing (SEM) is necessary, and how to do keyword research. The rest of Moz’s resources are worth a read, too.