10 steps to creating a business website
Around a third of businesses still don’t have their own website, according to the Lloyds Bank Digital Index 2019. And only 24% of businesses have mobile-optimised websites and services. If you are one of the businesses without a digital presence, see why it is worth getting online and how you should go about it?
Having a website can be beneficial for both businesses and customers.
For small businesses it is one of five digital factors1 that the Lloyds Bank Digital Index has identified as being able to help increase productivity and result in a higher turnover. Productive small businesses are significantly more likely to:
- Use data to make decisions on how to improve their online presence
- Use cloud-based IT systems
- Allow customers to view products and services on their website
- Plan to grow their marketing capabilities
- Use or intend to use ‘smart’ devices in the next two years.
A website allows your business to be showcased 24/7, potentially globally, to prospective customers.
Even if you have been very successful for a long time on social channels or aggregator sites, you may find having your own website beneficial as you can then have a more direct relationship with your users rather than them being intermediated by a third party.
A shop window for your brand
A website enables potential customers or donors to either find you through search or discover more about you after they have seen your other marketing material or been recommended you by word of mouth. It is a shop window for your business and is a key element for finding and enticing new customers.
If you have products and services you can sell online or you can accept donations digitally then having a website is essential. It gives you another channel to go directly to your audience. In the Christmas peak of 2019, internet sales formed 21.5% of all retail sales2. Even at their lowest point in 2019 in August they were 18.1%. And the proportion of online sales is showing an upward trend too.
But even if you can’t sell anything directly online, you can use a website as an extension of your brand and your business card. You can offer information about your business and services, demonstrate happy customers with testimonials and showcase your experience, knowledge and other credentials to encourage potential customers to have confidence in dealing with you.
The other benefits of having a website include:
- Access to a global marketplace
- Access to niche markets
- Reduce some overheads
- Increase sales
- Support automation of sales process.
What you need to consider when setting up a business website
1. Decide your website’s purpose
First you need to decide what you want your website to do for you and how you want it to operate. Will it be a shop? Will it be mostly static with information about your company and its services? Or do you want to make regular updates to show what your latest thinking is, highlight your knowledge and provide your clients with useful articles so they visit your site often and rely on your expertise? If you are thinking about regular updates, do you have the resources and time to provide these?
Knowing what you want to do can help you decide how best to develop your website, how you update it and whether you need shopping software and the ability to handle card payments.
It is, of course, possible to start with a simple website and grow it over time.
Understanding what you want your website to do and its audience can also help you think of how you might promote it to the right audience through social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. See more in our guide to using social media.
Once you know why you want a website, what you want to do with it and what you want it to do for your business you can start getting one set up.
2. Buy your domain
You can’t have a website without a domain name – you will generally want one closely related to your business name and then decide the domain type, for example, .co.uk, .com or .org. What you choose may depend on availability, cost and your type of organisation. Domain names can be free or cost anything up to a publicly reported $49.7 million USD for carinsurance.com in 2010.
You can purchase a domain name (mycompany.com) from a domain registrar, such as Easyspace†, Godaddy† or UK2†, or through the third-party website builder you use to create your website.
3. Get a website created or build your own
- Hire a web designer to create a website. Ideally it should be one that you can edit and update yourself using a content management system (CMS), so that you can quickly change things when you need to without going back to the site designer or developer.
- Build your own website using a third-party website builder. For example, sites like Moonfruit†, Squarespace† and Weebly† allow you to build a website using simple, customisable templates. They usually promise that you won’t require any coding skills. Some will offer a free trial which will give you an insight into how easy or tricky building your site could be.
If you decide to opt for a third-party site, make sure they offer the features that you want for your site, such as galleries, animations, video, mapping tools, links to your social accounts and forms if needed. If you want to add a shopping cart, you will need to make sure that you can integrate it fully with the rest of your site seamlessly.
Ideally, make sure any design for your site will work equally well on a mobile phone as it does on a laptop or desktop computer.
4. Add shopping carts to your site if needed
If you want to build an online store you may want to opt for a specialist ecommerce provider. Examples of shopping cart software include, Big Cartel†, OpenCart† and Zen Cart† to display your products, as well as to track orders and manage inventory. Check out the reviews to find the best one to suit you.
5. Use secure online payment software
Keep your customers' details secure by using trustworthy third-party payment software. As well as Lloyds Bank Cardnet which allows you to accept online payments quickly and securely, there are other providers such as Google Wallet† and Paypal† that you can use for your online store. Integrating this software may be possible via your third-party shopping cart software provider. Non-profit organisations may also use software specifically designed for fundraising, such as Blackbaud†, DonorPerfect† and thankQ †. For more details see our guide to accepting online payments .
6. Choose a web host
You will need to decide how to host your website. Web hosting is basically the technology that holds your website on a server and then delivers the web pages to your customers’ browsers via the World Wide Web.
What you need will depend on the likely number of visitors to your site and how quickly numbers will scale up. You may get web hosting as part of your package with your domain provider or website builder. If you haven’t opted for that type of solution, then when choosing a web host you may need to consider things like:
- The location – this may affect speed and the language that is used to service customers.
- The speed that is on offer and how quickly a page loads when a customer tries to access it.
- The reliability of the hosting platform and any guarantees offered.
- Whether you are being offered shared or dedicated hosting. Shared hosting is where different websites are on the same server.
- The security of your data - understanding what the back-up and continuity arrangements are. If you want to do online sales does the host have an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate – which gives you the green padlock in your browser – to encrypt data from browser to the web host?
- What, if any, email services are included and whether there are space limitations?
- What technologies can be used? You need to make sure the host can handle any scripts and codes that run your site such as PHP, MySQL etc. and whether the host technology will run smoothly with whatever CMS you are using.
- Costs – any upfront, monthly or annual costs?
- If you want to swap providers what happens to your website and information? How easy would it be to move your website to a different host and for it to look and remain the same?
- What support is offered? Is there 24/7 customer support for when things go wrong?
If you have not bought your domain name through the hosting company, you will need to make sure your provider will allow you to use this domain name for your website. You need to be able to set the name you have chosen as your primary domain – the one that customers see in their browser address bar. Most of the big providers allow you to do this.
7. Fill your site with useful, engaging content
Write copy and use images that help visitors learn about your company's unique brand. Think about your website from the point of view of a user. What do they want to know about your business? Make it easy for visitors to find the information they're looking for by including the following pages:
- About us - Give visitors to your site an overview of your organisation, its history and your company mission statement.
- Web shop/donation page - Include a shop that displays your various products, or, for non-profits and charities, create a page where visitors can make donations.
- Contact us - Provide your visitors with a way to get in touch with you by post, email, and phone or through social media.
- Product pages – If you are selling online then you will need to make sure you add good descriptions of each product along with photos so customers know what they are buying. You’ll also need to provide shipping information and terms and conditions.
If you have decided to add content, think about how you will manage this; for example will you have a blog or offer whitepapers or opinion pieces? How will you promote your content? Can you do this on social media?
You also need to be sure that you can easily update your website yourself with articles, pictures and so on without requiring any technical skill or incurring too many additional costs.
8. Make security a priority
Protect your company data and keep your website secure by performing routine security checks on your office computers and developing an IT security policy for staff. This includes:
- Installing antivirus software to protect you from malware or other viruses.
- Using spam filters to reduce your chances of clicking on harmful links or downloading suspicious email attachments.
- Changing your passwords regularly, ensuring they are always at least 8 characters long with a mixture of symbols, numbers and letters (both upper and lowercase).
9. Optimise your website
You also need to make sure that you can add the information you need to make your web pages accessible so that your website is usable by everybody including people with different disabilities. It should also be findable by search engines.
To judge your site’s performance, you’ll need an analytics program such as Google Analytics†. This will show you, among other things, where your visitors are coming from and which pages are being looked at and how frequently, to help you improve the visitor experience. Importantly, knowing where visitors leave your site can help you understand how well it is working. For example, you may get an idea of whether a visitor left after finding the information they wanted or if lots of users are leaving in frustration because something does not work properly or they can’t find what they need.
10. Join up your marketing efforts
You may want to consider how your website can integrate with your marketing ambitions. For example, in exchange for a whitepaper or brochure, you might ask users for their email address to send them a link to download it and use that opportunity to ask if they would like to hear from you more regularly.
You may also want some automated email programmes that automatically send follow-up emails when someone has shown an interest in a brochure or a product. Some systems will remind customers that they left something in their basket without buying as a gentle nudge to get them to complete the purchase.
You might also want to consider setting up a regular newsletter to stay in touch with customers – you will need to set up a subscription mechanism here too.
Some third-party review websites will allow you to add a module into your website that shows reviews of your products and services for a fee. If you post frequently on Twitter you can also add an element that will showcase your latest Tweets which can act as a reminder to prospects and customers to follow you.
If you are running a campaign, you may be able to create specific landing pages with their own URLs included in the campaign which will help you understand the success of your efforts with the number of visitors going directly to that page.
For further information you can visit pages listed below.
- Rules for selling online
- A guide to data protection
- For tools on digital support for charities
- Advice on keeping your organisation secure
- Get certified by Google at The Digital Garage with free online courses
- Tech Nation Digital Business Academy online free course includes courses on SEO, data analytics and how to get your first 100 users