You have landed here because you are interested in small business website design and hosting, presumably for your own business. At least, I hope you want to learn more about starting your own website, as I am about to guide you on how you can do this professionally and in a way that will ensure you make a potent impact on your potential clients. So let’s get into it.
Finding a Web Designer
The first step in getting your business website up-and-running is to find an experienced web designer. Sure, you could use one of the many website builders but do you have the technical know-how to use them? Despite the advertising that tells you it’s easy to set up a website, it is actually much more involved than that. Particularly if you have a particular style and brand you want to implement.
A web designer can collaborate with you and help you implement your vision. That might be starting a new design from scratch. Or you may have styling and branding on your physical business materials already, e.g. a logo on your van or on paperwork. Having someone who understands design strategy can take the pressure off you and allow you to work on your business without distraction.
Designing a new website is a long process. You are looking at a minimum of one-month designing and building for basic websites. It could be as long as six months for a website that has many pages and more technical functionality that requires complex coding. Beware any design agency that is not taking the time to build your site. That should set off alarm bells. Small business website design and hosting should be a substantial undertaking, or else you are doing something wrong.
Developing the Website
Whether you use a standalone platform, such as WordPress, or create a standalone website coded from scratch, there will always be some level of coding involved. There is some drag-and-drop functionality in WordPress and other site builders but do they really let you implement your vision? What if that contact form doesn’t look the way you expected? Do you know how to change that yourself?
It’s a common misconception that website builders are easy for non-technical people. I know people who work in I.T. but if you ask them to edit a WordPress theme, they get confused and usually ask me for help. If technically-minded people are asking for help, imagine how difficult it can be for someone who is in a non-I.T. business.
Another common pitfall is over-reliance on WordPress plug-ins. Not only do these slow down your website but they also introduce stability and security risks. Excessive, unverified code from different sources, that is not created by the website developer, always leads to problems. An update might install automatically and you then discover you have lost important website functionality.
A skilled web developer will not create a website for you where the design and functionality are based mainly on third-party plug-ins. That’s cutting corners.
Writing Website Content
When undertaking the task of arranging a small business website design and hosting, people often neglect the actual content of the website. Every website needs good quality content if it is going to rank organically on Google. What does this mean? Well, there is a reason why you see blog posts all over the Internet. Writing many articles that inform your potential clients that you are a serious business is important, but crucially, if your content can find it on to the first page on Google Search then it is going to receive many more clicks. This is known as ranking organically.
There is no need to spam or harass people in an effort to get them to share your content. If you are creating high-quality content then this should happen naturally. Your content demonstrates you are an authority on whatever your business may be.
It is unrealistic to expect every article to rank highly but by following some common techniques, you can get a few strong articles bringing you site visitors. If a digital agency is promising you that all your content will be high-ranking, they are, to be perfectly blunt, lying.
If your website looks professional enough, then you are likely going to convert some visitors to paying customers. You see, this is why you should always hire a professional web designer and developer, rather than go it alone. You might have good content but it loses credibility because it’s appearing on a website that looks like it was made for pennies. That does not fill potential clients with confidence.
Try to look at it from a business position. If you spend £2000 for a designer/developer to build a website, and also get direction on how to write content that ranks on Google. Will you recoup that money by gaining more customers over the course of the next year or two? If the answer is ‘yes’ then it’s wise to invest in the services of an expert.
Hosting your Website
Website hosting is simply the server on which your website resides and also the assignation of a domain name to the website, e.g. ‘yourbusinessname.co.uk’. This can be confusing to set up if you do not understand the technicalities of how it works.
If it’s a WordPress website, you need to have a database set up to store the WordPress data. Additionally, you need to store the WordPress installation files and understand how to connect these to your database.
Whatever you do, please do not cut corners and use a Raspberry Pi to host your website. Low-cost devices like this are too unstable and you risk your website regularly being unavailable to your customers.
You can hire someone like me to do this for you. You can try it yourself by buying third-party hosting too. But like the other tasks in getting your website created, it takes time for the inexperienced to do. However, it is possible. It would be a little bit like me fixing a leaking tap. Sure, I could manage it, but it would take me a day to do it. It would likely take a plumber 10 minutes. I would rather pay the plumber £80 and have the day I would spend repairing the tap freed, to be able to work on the things that I do understand.
If you decide to allow someone else to take care of your hosting, they may go down one of several routes. The easiest is for them to pay a hosting provider for a hosting account and domain name. You could do this yourself but remember the caveats I mentioned previously.
Another way businesses take care of hosting is to hire a virtual web server which runs in the cloud, such as Ubuntu Server. Amazon Web Services are probably the best-known provider of this option but Microsoft and Google offer similar services. This requires a good working knowledge of technical computing concepts and networking. It is actually a skill that not many designers have. Luckily for me, I worked in I.T. support for many years before I switched to web design and development, so I am fairly comfortable with working with Linux and Windows servers.
Large corporations will usually have their own in-house servers or may also rent a virtual server. For a small business, buying the hardware and running your own web server is usually overkill. You would also need to hire a technician to maintain the server. This makes it a very costly option.
Conclusion I hope this has given you a better understanding of the process of how to get a small business website and hosting set up. There are aspects of this you could try yourself but it is so much easier to let an expert do this for you.
In the long run, your business will have a sheen of professionalism compared to your cost-cutting competitors. This is desirable as you do not want potential clients leaving because they lack trust in you. If they land on your website and see a cheap-looking mess, they will move on and spend money elsewhere.