Just ten years ago a small business might have paid $20,000 for a simple five-page brand new website design and development project. Today, that same website could be up and live in less than an hour and at a cost of under $100.
That is how far we have come, just in the past ten years alone. With so many open-source CMS platforms available it has snowballed into an endless supply of developers creating themes and plugins, absolutely crushing the demand for custom design and development shops.
This is great news for established businesses that want to update their website without having to pay another huge web design bill, as well as for brand new businesses — and there has been a major uptick in new online businesses over the recent months.
The global pandemic forced many businesses to adapt to a 100 percent online model, while many people that were laid off turned to the internet, starting new businesses from their home and scaling side-hustles into a full-time job.
My agency has seen a lot of inbound inquiries from this new wave of online business owners, looking for marketing advice and SEO. What I have noticed was a lot of businesses using third-party platforms, like Wix, Etsy, and Teespring.
While those are ok platforms to start on, the sooner you can move to a fully-owned website, the better. So, I thought it would be helpful to write a blog specifically for those just starting an online business and who might not have a lot of experience when it comes to websites.
With the options available today, anyone can create and launch a brand new website quickly, without any prior knowledge or experience. I hope this helps the new wave of online business owners start on the right foot. Let’s jump right in.
First, Understand Why to Avoid Third-Party Controlled Sites
I mentioned seeing a lot of websites built on Wix, or new businesses selling on Etsy and Teespring.
Most people that go with these options do so because they think it’s the easiest way to launch due to not knowing anything about web design and development, and they think it’s a more affordable option.
They are wrong in both account
- They are Not Truly Free (or Affordable): Just because a platform allows you to set up a shop for free doesn’t mean you aren’t paying for it some other way. For example, someone selling on an Etsy storefront is going to end up paying much more in processing fees than they would be if they had an e-commerce platform built using WooCommerce on the WordPress CMS.
- They Aren’t Easy Like Claimed: Wix’s whole angle is how easy they are to get set up. In reality, that platform is a complete nightmare. WordPress is 100 percent easier to learn and build pages on.
- They Offer Little to No Creative Control: Have you ever seen a Teespring or Etsy shop? If you have seen one you have seen them all. When you use these options you have no creative control and very little to no branding opportunities.
Don’t worry — you can launch a new website quickly without any prior design or development experience or knowledge. Let me walk you through a simple six-step process.
1. Set Up a Quality Website Hosting Solution
Before you can build a website you need a home for it. Look at a web hosting account as online real estate you own, where you can put your website. Web hosting companies have thousands upon thousands of servers, all stacked in rows located in climate-controlled warehouses.
When you set up a hosting account you are essentially renting space on a server, where you can place your website files. When someone types in your website URL or clicks on an advertisement containing your website address they are served your website from that server.
It’s not as complicated as it sounds. There are shared hosting options as well as dedicated server options. A new website just starting can get away with a shared option. A new website doesn’t need an entire server and most new sites are on a tight budget.
If your traffic spikes and your business is booming, then yes, switch to a dedicated server. As soon as you can justify spending about $225 a month on a server, do it. But, just starting, a shared option is fine and will run anywhere from $15 to $25 for a quality option.
I would suggest hosting your new website at the same place you get your domain from. Many companies, like HostGator and GoDaddy, will give you a free domain when you sign up for a hosting plan with them — take advantage of these kinds of offers when just starting.
2. Pick a Brandable Domain Name (with Matching Available Social Handles)
Once you have a web hosting option you need a domain name. There are so many different domain extensions available now, but for simplicity (and SEO) I always advise that you go with a .com.
The average person automatically thinks “.com” when it comes to website addresses. While you might be able to register a great domain with a weird extension you have to realize that 99 percent of the people will type .com in their web browser’s address bar.
Think of a name that is brandable, memorable, and relatively short. For example, a local realtor would want to opt for “joesmithrealtor.com” rather than “hirejoesmiththebestrealtorintheunitedstates.” — short and sweet is always best.
One of the most effective ways to advertise an online business is through social media, both organically and through paid ads. Having your business name as your social handles is something I always encourage.
Even if you don’t think you will spend much time on a particular social network it’s still a good idea to at least claim the handle and set up an account. You never know, through testing you might discover a big opportunity.
So, if you were considering the domain “abcwidgets.com” you would want to make sure the handle @abcwidgets was available on the major social platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and Snapchat.
3. Select a CMS to Build Your Website On
A Content Management System allows you to build, edit, and add to your website. The most common choices are WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. For nine out of ten situations WordPress is always going to be the better choice.
It’s simple to install, there are endless themes and plugins available, and it’s a CMS that you can use for free, while also getting started and fully launched using free themes and plugins. You can start a website using WordPress for $0.
Aside from that, it’s very user-friendly. The installation process can be done via a one-click install within your web hosting account. The setup process is easy and there are numerous free tutorials online, both blogs and YouTube videos, that walk you through every step, from installation to customization.
For an e-commerce website, a lot of people love Shopify, but it’s important to know that your site is hosted by Shopify so you don’t have full control. There are a lot of limitations as far as customizing, and the cost is high when you add up all the apps required to build a store.
WooCommerce is the WordPress e-commerce solution, and it’s free, with an endless number of plugins that can be used for free. The only costs are your hosting and payment processing fee from whatever vendor you use, such as Stripe or PayPal.
For beginners, no matter what kind of website you want to build — e-commerce, service provider, or just a blog — WordPress is the best option without a doubt.
4. Begin Creating a Brand Identity for Your Website
Once you have WordPress installed you can navigate over the theme settings and view all of the available themes to install — for free. Spend time looking at all of the demos and determine which option will provide you with the best foundation.
Look for a layout that matches what you are trying to accomplish, and from there you will want to brand it and customize it, making it your website. There are a few things to focus on:
- Consistent Brand Colors: Most themes have some pre-set color options, as well as the ability to set your colors. It’s a good idea to have two main colors and then a third accent color. You want to pick colors that are pleasant and that you can carry over to all marketing and branding initiatives.
- Custom Logo: You need a logo, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Fiverr has plenty of options, and that is all you need to get started. Make sure you give the designer your brand’s colors and keep in mind that your logo needs to work on your website — both mobile and desktop — and social media.
Once you have the basics laid out you will want to secure your website.
5. Secure Your Website: Protection from Hackers and Human Error
Once your website is built you will want to take some measures to ensure that it’s safe and protected. You want to make sure it’s protected from hackers, while also making sure that potential visitors feel comfortable visiting your website and interacting with its content and even submitting personal or financial information through your site.
Here are some basic security measures to address before launching.
- Install an SSL Certificate: Most hosting companies will provide you with a free SSL certificate and handle the installation as well. This makes all information submitted on your website encrypted and secure, and this is a must if you are going to accept payments on your site. Most payment processors require an SSL. You can easily tell if a website is secure by looking at its URL in the browser bar. If it starts with HTTPS it’s secure, whereas HTTP is not secure.
Set Automatic Daily Backups: If your website is hacked or compromised you want to be able to go back online live as quickly as possible and without losing newly created content. Setting a daily backup is simple, and can be done either directly with your web host or by using a third-party plugin. This allows you to restore your website and lose no more than 24 hours worth of updates and new content. This is also helpful in case you ever make a mistake updating your website, causing it to crash.
Install a Security Plugin: There are many free security plugins for WordPress that will help protect your website from brute force attacks and hackers trying to gain backdoor access. These plugins will block known hackers and also hide your administrator login URL, making it harder for hackers to attempt to gain access.
Enable Automatic Plugin Updates: If you use a lot of plugins on your website it’s important to keep them updated. Sometimes hackers find a hole and will then exploit it, trying to get access to all of the websites using the particular plugin. Until the developer patches the issue it can put your website at risk. If this does happen you will want to update the plugin as soon as the developer releases the fix. Enabling automatic updates ensures that your plugins remain updated at all times, always running the latest version.
6. Prepare for Your Website Launch
Your website looks great, is fully functional, and ready to launch? Great — here are some tips to help you get started on the right foot. These are things you need to do immediately.
Start a Blog on Day One
Content marketing is so important, and it’s a great way to attract organic traffic from Google. The hardest part of publishing content is starting, which is why it’s best to start on day one. That way, you are fully dedicated to publishing content from the start. The longer you wait, the more difficult it’s going to be to find time to blog.
Install Google Analytics and Advertising Pixels
When you have data available to you it allows you to achieve better results. Knowing where your website visitors come from, what they do while on your site, and how long they stick around is valuable information.
Install Google Analytics right away so you collect data on every single person that lands on your website. Also, install a Facebook tracking pixel and advertising pixels from any other platform that you might use in the future. Doing so early allows you to build a large remarketing list and custom audience consisting of every person that ever visited your website.
Don’t Get Discouraged
This might be the most important piece of advice. No matter how easy people make it look, know that starting an online business isn’t easy. Whether you are shifting an existing business from offline to online and launching a new website for this venture or starting a brand new online business from the ground up — understand it’s going to require work and patience.
Stay dedicated and put in the work, and eventually, you will begin to see progress. If it was easy everyone would do it. Many will try, and many will give up. Be persistent, put in the time and effort, and watch your website become a valuable business asset.
Building a website isn’t as difficult as it once was. Before, you would have to hire a web design company to create an eye-appealing design and then code it. There wasn’t a massive library of free and low-cost themes available, optimized for performance and usability. Before CMS platforms like WordPress, it required technical skills to update and add content.
Today, you can have a brand new website up and running within an hour, and now that the global pandemic has completely changed the way businesses operate, more are going to have to improve their online presence or establish it. With money being tight for many of these small businesses, knowing how to get an effective website online quickly and inexpensively is a major help.
source - https://www.serplogic.com/tutorials-case-studies/brand-new-website