Starting with a website
Many people starting off with a small business opt for a free or low-cost website to help keep overheads low, or simply because they don’t have the time or money to invest. It totally depends on what type of business you run, and who your customers were. You’d expect a local plumber working on their own in a rural area, and a high-end fashion boutique in London to have very different websites.
Start off by planning on a sheet of blank paper what sort of website you need. Does it need a shop/purchase now function? Does it need a map and directions to find your business? Are opening times important to your website visitors? Or are visitors most likely looking for company information and contact details? Do you want it to include a blog or a portfolio of your work?
Think about your branding, positioning, and marketing. What message does your website need to get across, and to whom? What impression do you want to give?
Paying for web design
Expect to pay anything from £400 – £3000 for a fully functional website. Just be sure that you hold all the rights to the content, and that you can update it yourself without having to keep paying a fee to make simple changes or add content.
Get recommendations if you can for web designers, ask around at networking events or ask people you know in similar industries. Also look at websites you particularly like, often there’s link at the bottom to whoever designed it.
If you do hire a web designer, make sure you plan out carefully what you want before you meet with them so that the meeting is productive and it will save your costs if you are more clear about what you want, and what you don’t.
If you plan to DIY your own website it’s also a good place to start by planning out what you need from the website and what you want on there.
DIY website options
The boom in platforms offering free, or virtually free websites is good news for those wanting to start off with a low budget web presence. They can be good quality too, with great design, easy to use templates and many of them come fully mobile responsive.
There are two types of WordPress websites, the wordpress.com platform offers a free/low-cost way to blog or design a simple website is hosted for you on their own servers. The good points being low cost and good SEO, the bad being that you’re limited with customisation.
This is the self-hosted version of WordPress which offers software you can use to create a fully functional website or blog. Whilst the software itself is free, you will need to pay for templates built on the software, for certain plug-in features, and for hosting. As it’s ‘self-hosted’ you will need a web host such as 123-Reg to provide space on the world-wide-web for your website to sit, costs vary widely but expect to pay around £165 a year. This is a massively popular way for people to build their own websites, and many web designers build websites on the WordPress platform.
This awesome little find is brilliant. Strikingly* is free (with a pro upgrade if you want extra features, however, the free version offers plenty), it’s simple to use and allows you to build a beautiful professional looking website in minutes. You can even add a blog.
There are loads of options, some better than others. Take a look at Wix, Weebly, Vistaprint and Squarespace.
Things to consider when planning a website:
- Free usually means free for basic functions with the ability to upgrade for more functionality. Look carefully at what’s on offer
- Can you use your own domain or are you happy with a subdomain? for example yellowphotograpgy.co.uk or yellow photography.wordpress.com
- Does the platform offer any support on free plans? Such as email or web chat. And how important is that to you?
- There is a ton of support and training out there. Most platforms have a knowledge base of articles/videos to help you get set up. Google and YouTube will become your best friends!
- Doing it yourself may save money but it will take longer, and will require time learning and making the site, so less time available for your core business tasks
- If you’re thinking of paying someone, find out what platform they will be building your website on, how easy it will be for you to update it to avoid ongoing costs and if you will own the domain, website, and content