How To Build Your Own Small Business Website
7 Steps to Grow Your Business
If you want to build a small business website because you’ve got a product or service to sell, then stick around.
In this first video of my website series, I’m going to cover the types of websites you want to consider, planning a website structure, how to create a website for business and some of the caveats to avoid.
By the end of this video, you’ll be able to determine what kind of business website to build yourself or hire someone like me to build it with you so you can get back to the workbench.
Hi. I’m Lisa Stewart. Founder of Build-Your-Own Small Business & BYOMoney Message.
If you’re a STEAM entrepreneur and you want to learn to grow your business, build products that sell, and connect with your customers, start now by subscribing and whacking the bell like a kitten for notifications so you don’t miss anything!
I’ve been designing and building websites since 1997, from Fortune 100 companies, non-profits, to small businesses. What’s amazing is to see a plethora of types and platforms spring up the first 24 years on the interwebs.
Eight examples include:
- Brochure / Portfolio
- Entertainment, Media, & Leisure
- Personal Services
Shew! That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more, but I wanted to give you an idea of the kind of website platforms that exist today that connect our communities.
BEFORE WE GET STARTED -I want to mention the act of search domain names: Don’t do it -until you are absolutely certain you’re going to buy it that very moment. Bots watch your keystrokes and then buy up the domain within 24 hours so you can’t have it. It’s nasty but it happens.
If you’re thinking of starting a business or a new product and you’re just flirting with the idea of a domain name, please don’t tell your family or friends. Far too many times, I’ve seen eager Earnie’s jump onto Google and start searching for you -thinking they’re helping you- when the simple matter is that they’re actually hindering your progress.
So, shh! Mum’s the word!!
For more information on this: Download my Brand Strategy Guide today -7 step guide to helping you plan your business. Domain searching is covered within.
Step 1: Define Your Role
Now, before we get into how to build your own business website, you’ll want to ask yourself:
What kind of business owner are you? One who…
- Needs a website today? Fast (not cheap or good)
- Wants a low-cost website? Cheap (not good or fast)
- Wants it done by someone like me?
Other questions to ask yourself are:
- How much design control do you want?
- How much time do you want to invest building your site?
- How big is your site going to be? Will you need to expand it later?
- How important is a shopping cart?
If you need a website today and you want a low-cost website, you’ll have to roll up your shirt sleeves and get to work building it yourself. Is this something you seriously want to undertake? Designing and developing websites is both art and science.
Step 2: Website Objectives
Next, define what it is you want your website to accomplish? What’s the ultimate goal you want to achieve with your marketing investment?
Do you want to…
- inform, or
For my makers, inventors, and product developers who want to sell physical consumer products, consider your product type. Product types, such as
- Limited Production Run
These product types will inform the architecture of your site.
A showcase website is either a brochure or portfolio to exhibit your products as a maker or service provider.
For those with bespoke or custom products and services, I’d recommend a brochure/portfolio site with a way to contact you. This type of website makes the most sense.
A selling or shopping website is a robust e-commerce site that allows your customers to buy off-the-shelf products without complications.
For those with OOAK, LPR, and mass-produced, then you can consider an eCommerce site with a shopping cart. This is where you have inventory that’s already boxed up and ready to ship.
Again, any product that requires conversation prior to purchasing (without consulting a simple FAQ found on your product page) will most likely fall under the brochure site.
I maintain that you should keep it as simple as possible. Because as a SMB, you have other things to worry about than babysitting your website. Amiright?
Suppose you’re selling services in addition to your product. In that case, you can consider a shopping cart, 3rd party ticketing service, subscription service, or perhaps book-a-call subscription point-of-purchase model.
For other service providers —such as dance instructors who have a series of classes— you can opt for a subscription service payment plan. The same goes for dog groomers who want to encourage repeat business.
Interior designers, spa owners, restaurants, and financial advisors can consider the same mixture of commerce options as I just stated.
Step 3: Website Architecture
This is where I want you to be careful. This step is uber important because you want to be mindful of your customer’s journey. By that I mean when you customer lands on your site, on any page, will they know immediately where they are and know how to navigate elsewhere?
It’s like being Harry Potter who apparates from his fireplace and accidentally lands in Borgin and Burkes. If your customer lands on your checkout page and hasn’t gone thru the selection to purchase the product, something’s amiss. Understanding hierarchy to move the browser thru discovery, selection, and purchase is a logical way forward.
Much of these issues are solved for you inside website builders like Wix and Squarespace, and its one of many decisions you’ll want to address.
Step 4: Website Design Atmosphere
Before undertaking a project like building a website, you’ll want to get your design guidelines in order. Design guidelines are the components built from your brand development process.
Your values, unique selling position, and promise are just some of the highlights that help inform the colors, imagery, and words you choose to connect with your audience.
Many small business owners come to me for a website but don’t have the design guidelines to pass along to me. This is when i suggest we work thru their Brand development together. Once completed, you’ll know what words and messaging you need for each section of your web site.
Small business owners can find this exercise of decision making a bit daunting without it. Decision fatigue is real and can cause resistance to finishing your website project.
I don’t want this to happen to you.
On the flip side, a bonus to completing the brand development is that they also get messaging frameworks to extend in their marketing collateral like business cards, invoices, and website.
This consistency will give you the professionalism your business deserves.
Step 5: Choose a Website Platform
There are two types of ways to build a website: with a website builder like Wix and Weebly or WordPress – a content management systems (CMS).
Much of website creation is done with CMS -software that’s used to manage the creation and modification of digital content. The best known popular content management system is WordPress.
30% of all websites on the internet, including big sites like BBC America, NYTimes, Rolling Stone, CBS New York, and Star Wars franchise are built on WordPress.
Following on WordPress’s heels is Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly, (now owned by Square Up called Square Online). Plus a few others.
Based on your role, your needs, and product type, narrowing down which website platform to choose and implement will be easier.
Let’s review the Website builders like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace first.
Without unpacking each platform, I’m going to cut to the chase and spotlight the feature that best resonates with your goal. You can visit each website later to scour the details pertinent to you.
For instance, if you’re the type of business owner who requires a website today, consider Wix for your platform.
$23/mo includes a shopping cart.
Squarespace is a great platform where professionals can use pre-built templates for their website. If you don’t want to mess with extraneous shopping carts, Squarespace has a fluid shopping cart system for those with an inventory.
$18/mo includes a shopping cart.
If you’re the type of business owner who requires a low-cost website, then Weebly/Square Online can be the platform to consider. Weebly offers an easy out-of-the-box editor and attractive, simple templates. Definitely no frills but it does have the best SEO features.
What I love about this is that because I’m a big fan of SquareUp (you know that merchant with the square white dongle) and integrating their POS (point of sale) is seamless.
When I first enrolled with SquareUp, I was able to use their app on my iPad, making my inventory look like a fast-food menu. My customer’s receipts included the photo of their purchase too!
Another thing about SquareUp that nobody tells you is that if you’ve already got your inventory in their platform, you can sweep it into your website.
Paid plans range from $6/month to $26/mo with store tools, shipping calculators, and inventory management.
Another reason I love Square is that many website builders support Square’s payment solution.
Finally, many small business owners don’t know that you can create subscriptions for your recurring payment plans. Appointment setting is also available for solo entrepreneurs through SquareUp. Bonus!
When choosing any of these sites for your business website, a word of warning: while design is sexy, much of the building is done on the backend. Honestly, the backend isn’t sexy. It can get quickly overwhelming.
Another mistake is believing that tweaking the design ‘just a little’ won’t break anything. It can and it does. I’ve seen it happen to the best of small business owners. Have you ever spent half a day playing with color-coding a photograph only to find it doesn’t match with your design guidelines?
There are many design and content decisions to be made, and this is where many small business owners experience frustration and shame —because they weren’t able to finish it.
It’s like eating Thanksgiving turkey dinner and unable to finish dessert.
I don’t want this to be you.
You should have your cake and eat it too for rolling up your shirt sleeves and getting to work!
This high-level overview of where you can begin your search is just that.
A few CAVEATS Using Cloud-Based Web builder platforms:
- Some run ads on your site -until you upgrade
- Some prices don’t include your domain
- Some also don’t include stats or analytics
- Some severally limit your data -meaning that if you want to upload endless photos, videos, or expect a ton of traffic, you might want to budget for that.
- Transaction fees can eat into your profits if you’re not careful.
- You don’t own the platform. Should the company ever go bankrupt and close its doors, your business is shut out in the cold.
- Migrating your content is impossible if you ever want to transfer your site to another platform. You get to look forward to hand-coding it all again.
Who wants that?
According to Stanford, 75% of people base a business’s credibility on how their website looks.
Having said that, if you want the flexibility of migrating your content, consider building your business website using WordPress.
Before I transition into regaling you with the wonders of WordPress.org, let me share the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
WordPress.com is a cloud-based builder like the ones I mentioned earlier. It comes with the same set of restrictions until you upgrade. Honestly, I would recommend that you start with this one for two reasons:
- to get your feet wet playing around with design and code and learn just how easily you can break something without too much repercussion, and
- to establish a WordPress.com home base in the event you decide to go with WordPress.org. You’ll need that for stats, plugins, and assorted connections.
You can find why this is important in the long run and the instructions in my Free Brand Toolkit in the description box.
Both WordPress.org and WordPress.com have the versatility to migrate from theme to theme relatively easily. There are a few minor hiccups in translation, but you don’t have to spend copious amounts of time hand-coding and lose time doing it.
WordPress.org is open-source software that you install on your server and then use theme templates to curate the site you want. From a simple brochure site to a full-blown shopping cart experience.
I’ve been designing and developing websites since 1997 for Fortune 100 companies, small businesses, and non-profits. I’ve been working with WordPress since 2007.
Are you familiar with WordCamp, the annual conference for WordPress developers? You might be interested to know that I was asked to design the 2017 conference website, logo, and the adorable Wapoo character.
Awww! Isn’t he adorable? Almost as adorable as Baby Yoda.
I’ve helped other clients launch their business sites using WordPress, too.
If you’re the type of business owner who wants a website designed and developed by someone like me, then consider booking a discovery call (on my SquareUp Appointment) so we can chat about your requirements. You’ll find the link in the description box.
In the end, it’s not just about looking good, it’s about having an outstanding user experience for your customer. This means ensuring that it performs well both on mobile and desktop.
Did you know that more than 51% of your customers are now searching on their mobile devices? It’s ever more vital to optimize for that experience.
Speaking of optimizing…
Step 6: Optimize for Search
As you build out your website, you’ll want to define what you want to be known for. Many business owners make the mistake of purchasing a domain name that becomes it difficult to create authority because of the lack of keyword awareness.
Brand development will help define your pillars that will inform your content strategy and build effective keyword planning.
When you have all of that flushed out, You can use a free keyword finder like Google Ads Keyword Planner to identify popular searches.
Step 7: Publish & Secure
Depending on how large your website is, you can publish it in one of two ways: page by page or all at once as a big reveal.
For SMB owners, I’d recommend that you strive to get your first 5 pages populated with your keywords as soon as humanly possible. You can launch your website immediately and then continue publishing page by page.
Lastly, be sure to opt-in for an SSL certificate. It’s a site-wide security that encrypts the connection between you and your visitor. It improves e-commerce conversion, boosts trust, SEO, and looks favorably on by Google and other search engines.
Depending on which web builder and ISP you host with, some SSL Certificates come free or based on your paid plan.
If you have a website published today, check your address to see if it reads HTTPS:// to verify your security.
CTA: Download the Website Planning Guide to help you achieve your website goals faster and join me this Friday Live when I review the 10 guidelines for building the credibility of a web site.
Because in the end, your website should
- Attract with an aesthetically pleasing design
- Resonate with your ideal audience along their journey
- Connect with your customer that converts them to purchase
Now that you’ve got your first steps on to how to build a small business website continue with the series “Starting a new business?” right here. Remember to whack that notification bell like a kitten to be alerted when I publish a new video on websites.
Remember, great things take time. I can’t wait to see you in the next video. #KeepBuilding
👉 DOWNLOAD FREE BRAND TOOLKIT – https://buildyourownsmb.com/7steps/
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