You can’t have a business today without a website — no matter how local and how small you are. But you can save yourself a LOT of time, angst, and money by picking the right hosting company and formats.
There are certain “must haves” that will make your business life much, much easier. They are:
Must-Haves for your Website
- You must be able to EASILY update and/or edit it yourself.
- It must work well, automatically (that means without you having to do anything to make it happen!) on a computer or a mobile phone.
- It should be very easy for you to create a basic website — no need to spend a lot or money OR time on a website before you know how successful the business will be.
- You must own your own URL — e.g., MyWebsite.net, not HostingCompany.com/MyWebsite.
- You want the simple format of the original to be easily scalable into a bigger, better, more professionally designed and managed website. (A new web designer shouldn’t have to scrap what is there and start from scratch to get you improved functionality you now need for your expanding business.)
A great list of must-haves comes from Forbes Magazine here.
3 develop-your-website options you can test for free
There are plenty of free sites that can never look professional. Here are three good sites that start free but can then morph into professional. (All three sites have a free version that will include ads on it. You can play with the free versions to see what you can do and if you like what you create. But if you decide to run with a version — you need to upgrade to a “pro” version of the site without any external ads. (Thanks to music marketing guru Dr. Eddie Severn for the first two.)
WIX.com: You can build your site using their templates or code the pages yourself. When you have a site ready for the world, you pick one of their plans which include web hosting: $5/month is their cheapest, but it includes Wix.com ads. Better plans run from $11 to $25 a month depending on your needs. (For an example of what can be done, Dr. Severn’s son created this site on wix.com.)
WEEBLY.com: Another site with lots of templates which differ based on your needs. Their prices run from free to design to $4/month (paid annually) for a site which includes their ads. You’ll want either their Pro ($144/year) or Business ($300/year) plans.
WordPress.com: This is the gorilla in the industry for blogs — and the one I use for SeniorDefender.net. But… it also has shopping cart capabilities and some good tools of their own — and a ton of outside apps designed for it. For example, I use a plug-in from Fat Cat for my form that offers a free report if you join my subscribers, and I use a Mail Chimp app to deliver the free report and keep my subscriber database. You can try WordPress with their free version (includes their ads), then upgrade to their Professional version which costs $300/year. I can tell you their customer support is both excellent and free (for professional version users) — and when have you EVER heard that before?!.
When I needed a web designer to add an autoresponder, it was easy to find one who worked with wordpress websites. And… I was surprised to find several professional designers who will design and maintain your sites for you — that use WordPress as the base platform they build upon.
If you want a web designer from the first
You can find web designers at Upwork.com. I like hiring someone from there, especially someone “up and coming” instead of “renown” — because they care very much about getting a good recommendation from you so they can get more work from others through the site. Of course, there are always bad apples, so you need to proceed with caution. I started with a small project, offered a price for it on the high side, spelled out EXACTLY what I wanted, and the money wasn’t released until I informed upward.com I was satisfied.
Another alternative — if you have a college in your area you may be able to find students to set up your website. The problem is figuring out which professor to contact. You might think computer science — but sometimes the most appropriate students for web design are taking electronic design — in the art department. Find out who teaches a class in website design and contact her/him about hiring one of their best students.
You may also need art work created. I have successfully used Fiverr, although I always hire 2 different designers for each project, so I am protected if I don’t like one of the results.
Start with what you need!
Most new businesses don’t need a huge website from the first. You can add on later — when you know more exactly what your buyers will want. Start with only what someone needs to:
- Understand your offerings (a home page and??)
- Understand your credibility (people buying online demand to know with whom they are dealing. You need an “About” page that both gives your credentials and humanizes you.)
- Complete whatever transaction you want to accomplish (Sign up for something? Call for an appointment? Click a link to receive something? Buy something?)