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Building your website
- Here is the big idea
- Decide between building a website yourself or having it built for you.
- Use tools to help A/B test your website and optimize it for conversion.
- Double-check that your SEO is superb, so people can actually find you.
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?
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:
- The scope of the site:
- Do you only need to tell your customers your hours, prices and give them directions to get to you?
- Do you need a way for customers to get in touch with you?
- Do you need to sell something/process payments online?
- Does your website require users to log in and create an account?
- The rate of the designer and developer (or agency) you hire. In London, many freelance designers go for £55-200 per hour. Some offer fixed rates. Prices go up fast once more development gets added in.
- Whether you can do it yourself. If you have a bit of technical skill and your website doesn’t need too many complicated features, you can probably build a site on your own.
- How quickly you need the site to be completed. The amount of time a designer/developer will need to complete the work will vary hugely by the specifications you want for your site.
- How much copy and content writing you’ll need. It may seem easy to write the site yourself, but experienced copy and content writers can help you optimize your site for conversion as well as SEO.
- What you plan to do for hosting. You will need to pay for hosting to keep the website up and running. Usually, you will pay this on a monthly basis. UnitedHosting, heartinternet.co.uk, One.com, and Vidahost are all reliable UK-based hosting companies.
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:
|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 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.
|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.|
|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 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.
|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:
- Red Website Design - Red Website Design is a Chesire-based design firms that boasts cheap everything. Their prices are transparent and are based on number of pages. They offer web, e-commerce, logo, and infographic design, as well as some online marketing services.
- KD Web Design - KD Web is a full service digital agency in London, offering web design, internet marketing, mobile & app layouts, as well as branding. Take a look at their portfolio to see what the agency is capable of.
- Popcorn Web Design - Popcorn offers website and graphic design services, as well as hosting, e-commerce sites, and SEO help. Popcorn has a robust portfolio with explanations as to why they created websites in the way they did.
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.
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:
- PayPal - PayPal is one of the oldest online payment gateways. It has a lot of features and is easy-to-use. The downside is that PayPal charges hefty fees.
- SagePay - SagePay offers a host of payment solutions, including online, face to face, and mail & telephone payments. There are a lot more features than PayPal, and the system is widely regarded in the UK.
- Barclaycard - Barclaycard does not offer as many features as PayPal or SagePay, but the team will help you get started if you don’t know how to implement a solution.
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.
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:
- Optimizely — Optimizely lets you track engagement, clicks, conversions, sign ups, and whatever else you need..
- Crazy Egg — Crazy Egg’s heatmap software will help you figure out what parts of your site are successful and what parts aren’t.
- Unbounce — Test your landing pages with Unbounce’s easy to use A/B testing software.
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.