For small businesses setting out into the digital unknown in 2020, figuring out how to build a website can be a daunting task. It’s something you know you need… but how do you get there?
Think of your website journey as a body of water. You want your online presence to be a beautiful lake – a place where people love to come, a place that has value to people.
But every lake starts with a trickle of water – and without those tributary streams that build into a river that finally forms a lake, you just end up with a soggy marsh.
Building a website is much the same.
Your website domain, your content management system (CMS), your theme and your content are all affluent streams that come together to form the gorgeous end result that you aspire to.
But how do you get there?
Here we’ll break down the facts about building a website in 2020, starting with a stream and ending with the lake.
We’ll share information that website building services don’t want you to know, and what to do to end up with a website your customers will love.
Let’s get started.
Building a Website
This is the online hub of your business. Without a website, people searching for you online are left directionless and will usually go elsewhere – usually to your competitors.
Your website is the key to your digital brand awareness and when it’s done right, you’ll be able to interact with your customers, build mailing lists and make sales, all from your site.
Have A Purpose
As a new business, you’ll be told many different reasons as to why you need a website.
Exposure, traffic, search ranking, discoverability…
But the real reason you have a site is very simple – in fact, it’s the same reason you started your business to begin with.
One word: Sales.
Every facet of your site needs to service the goal of directing your customers towards your desired action, generating leads and closing sales.
Are you feeling like building a website is looking to be a bigger job than you were expecting? We understand, and we’re here to help. For a limited time, Ambitious is offering a FREE business consultation where we assess all of your digital marketing (including your website) and look at how you can improve.
Why You Should Avoid ‘Build Your Own Website’ Services
You’ve no doubt seen ads for services that claim to let you ‘build a website in a click’.
They’re everywhere – services like Blogger, Tumblr, TypePad, Wix, WordPress.com – and they’re not what they seem.
It may be tempting to pay upfront and ‘design’ a site yourself, but these services are inferior to professional solutions in almost every way.
Don’t believe us? Let’s take a look at some reasons…
It Isn’t Cost-Effective
It’s true, most of these services have free options and it’s tempting to jump right in and build your site for free. You can consider the paid options later, right?
The free options are limiting in almost every way – you don’t have access to your site functionality, the provider runs ads that don’t benefit you, and you are limited as to the storage space you can use for your website content.
But this is the way these services get you invested in the site you’re building on their service.
So, then you decide to pay a subscription plan. They seem cheap, but actually the cost is the same if not more than what you’d pay hosting your own site.
It Confines Your Options
Using ‘build your own website’ services means you have to play by their rules. When compared to any standalone CMS system, this immediately confines your options as your business grows.
You will be limited in terms of functionality, design and file access, plus your site won’t be anywhere near as customisable as it would be with your own professional CMS-based site.
It’s Actually More Difficult
Here’s the kicker – ‘create a website’ services are marketed as a user friendly, easy-to-use alternative to traditional web development. But they are actually more difficult to use in the long run due to the limitations once your site gets bigger.
What seemed like an easy-to-use system at first soon becomes a bloated, unorganised mess where a single change could crash your site.
Compared to the logical, structured management of a CMS based approach, your website will be an unmanageable disaster that will take away from the time you spend actually running your business.
We know it’s hard news to take when you find out the ‘build your own website’ options won’t cut it. We see business owners staring down the barrel of learning web design from scratch – but it doesn’t have to be that way. Click here to get a free consultation with an Ambitious expert so we can discuss your website options.
Picking A Web Host
Web hosting sounds like a scary term used by computer hackers who live in basements, but it’s really quite simple.
Think of your computer: the files on your computer are ‘hosted’ on your hard drive, so you can access them any time.
Web hosting works in a similar way – you pay a ‘hosting provider’ to use space on their bigger, purpose-built hard drive called a ‘server’ that can be accessed by lots of people via the internet.
Some hosting providers include:
Here are three things to consider when selecting your hosting provider:
‘Uptime’ just refers to the time that your site is ‘up’, that is, accessible by anyone. Choosing a hosting provider that has great customer service for when your site goes down is very important.
Look for a hosting provider that has a ‘100% uptime guarantee’ – this won’t ensure your site is up for 100% of the time, but if things do go wrong, the provider will fix it promptly and you’ll often be compensated for the downtime.
While this is mainly something for larger sites to consider, it’s still important to keep in mind.
The Importance of Speed
Having a fast-loading website is one of your greatest assets. Not only does it provide a better customer experience, but it drastically improves your SEO (search engine optimisation). This means that your site will be far more likely to rank higher in Google.
Your web hosting has the potential to make a 50% speed difference in your site’s loading time.
There’s no way to accurately compare the speed of various hosting providers – however, ‘you get what you pay for’ is generally a good rule of thumb here.
Things to Avoid
Here are a couple of things to avoid when choosing your hosting provider:
If one hosting provider is drastically cheaper than all the rest, there’s more than likely some sort of catch. Again, you get what you pay for.
Are you feeling unsure where to start with web hosting? That’s fair enough. Luckily, Ambitious is offering limited business consultations right now. We’ll assess everything to do with your digital presence, and we’ll be able to point you toward the perfect hosting provider for your website. All for FREE.
Shared hosting generally decreases your website speed because the provider is hosting multiple sites from the same server.
This Is Your Domain
Your domain is simply your website address – the thing that you type into the Google search bar to get to your site.
For example, ‘apples.com’ for an apple selling company is a very broad domain name that is certainly taken. But hammersmithapples.com is not taken and can be purchased for use.
There are a few ways you can find a great domain name, but the challenge lies in finding one that isn’t already taken.
One way of finding a domain name is to use a tool like 1stDomains to search for names until you find one that is available.
Use a Tool
The Right CMS For You
Once you have your hosting and domain name sorted, it’s time to choose a content management system for your website. This is the heart of your site – the place where you can make changes, install plugins and work with your theme. Here are the top CMS providers in the world right now:
Wait, didn’t we just say to avoid WordPress.com? Yes, we did. WordPress.com is one of the aforementioned ‘free site builders’. But WordPress.org is a CMS provider – arguably the best in the business.
Up next is Joomla. Like WordPress, Joomla is relatively simple to use but offers boundless possibilities. The large library of free-to-use plugins doesn’t hurt, either.
Drupal is the most advanced of the three, but it pays off in the sheer level of functionality on offer here. If you have a dedicated web designer that knows their way around a CMS, Drupal is likely your best bet.
Selecting a Theme
Your theme is your own personal touch that you put on your website. It should represent your business and be a functional way of communicating your brand’s story.
There are lots of free themes out there – but to get the premium, uncut website experience you’ll need to pay for one. Expect to pay around $30 to $60 for themes, which is not much at all considering it’s a one-off investment and you usually get access to lifetime customer service from the creator.
ThemeForest is a great place to start looking for a theme for your website.
Unfortunately, we can’t go into every single detail regarding website themes, but there is a lot more to discuss. If you feel like you need an expert to help you out with finding the perfect theme, the Ambitious team can help you out. Book a free strategy session now to speak to one of our experts about which theme is perfect for your site.
We hope you find the information here useful. Building a website is a key step in your digital marketing journey, the more you learn about it, the more you’ll come to realise that you can’t cut corners when it comes to your site.
You want to end up with a beautiful lake that is a prime destination for your customers; but unfortunately, many find it all too easy to slip into the mire of ‘build a website in minutes’ services.
Your site deserves better than that.
Here at Ambitious, we’ve been delivering quality websites to our clients for years. If any of the information here was valuable to you, there’s a lot more where that came from.
But you need to act now.
Get in touch now to book in your free digital marketing strategy session with one of our experts. We’ll walk you through every step of making a beautiful and intuitive website – from a trickle in the mountains all the way to a majestic lake.