Building and maintaining a website is tough. The truth is, there are so many things that you need to consider, and questions you need to ask yourself before you’re anywhere near ready to create your site.
Once you have a solid idea, and the drive to make that idea into a reality, you’re likely ready to begin taking the first step towards building your very own website.
Whether it’s building a website for a small business or creating a platform to boost your online presence, the need for reliable software and a striking aesthetic remains the same. This is aimed towards those who haven’t yet built their site, so for those of you that have and are looking for some pointers to improve it, it would be worthwhile to read Three Ways To Level Up Your Website.
Programming or Program?
Okay, you have your idea, it’s strong and you’re determined to make this business dream a reality. Great! Now it’s time to start thinking about the technicalities of making a site. There are two main ways of building a site;
1) Coding from scratch
2) Using a pre-built CMS platform
However, both of these approaches have different strengths, and you should consider these before you jump into either. Coding your site and building it from scratch is a challenge, but it allows you to finely tune the mechanics of the website to suit specific needs that may not be offered (or very constraining) on a CMS platform. On the downside, though, building a website from scratch is more time-consuming, and if you don’t have any prior knowledge of coding and aren’t keen to learn, likely not the best fit for your site.
Pre-built CMS platforms such as WordPress or Squarespace are great and only getting better, with more customisation options being constantly added and a user-friendly interface. If you plan on posting a lot of content on your site, this is arguably the best way to go, as it’s accessible, easy-to-use, and the quickest option for a first-timer.
Securing Your Domain Name
This one goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: your domain and website name is going to be a big part of your brand, so you need to make sure that you get a good one. As the first thing a potential customer sees, your website name needs to make a good impression, and have an air of professionalism so that visitors won’t hesitate to share it.
Finding a name that fits can be difficult, so make sure you put plenty of time and thought into it, ensure the spelling is correct and most importantly - don’t pick something random and nonsensical. Some things you can do to find a name is by combining words, adding a suffix to an existing word, or making up a word that lends itself to future branding (think of the likes of ‘Etsy’).
When considering your domain name, you should also consider your long-term plans - it’s never too soon to be thinking of this - as too focused a name may become difficult to build upon. Some of the biggest websites in the world have been able to grow and develop out of their original purpose into something much bigger, so you need a name that will be able to adapt to these changes as well.
Having a niche name may help get your business or sites purpose across, but it could be extremely constraining when the time comes to branch out. Hence, having a long-term plan can help you pick the optimal name for your site.
Lastly, you’ll want to avoid using extensions like .net in favour of .com or .co.uk, it looks better, and will signal to people that your site is legitimate.
Website Hosting & Tech Support
This might not have been one to cross your mind, but it’s kind of an important one. Investing in a website host (essentially a company that provides the facilities required to maintain a site and make it accessible on the internet) is a smart move when you’re trying to build a business. It may be tempting to go for a cheaper option, but you could find that the tech support isn’t as good - if you’re going to invest in one of this article’s tips, this should be it.
Thankfully, for a small business, quality hosting companies such as hosting.co.uk often offer fantastic services for an extremely reasonable price and often work to support some of the best CMS systems too. That means that you can use some of the best pre-built CMS programs such as WordPress with reliable hosting services keeping your website up and running. Furthermore, try to find a hosting company with 24/7 customer support so you’ll always be able to navigate any issues as efficiently as possible - consistency is going to be key to growing your website’s audience.
Website Layout and Navigation
Of course, how your website looks is going to be the thing you’ve likely put the most effort into - what colour scheme? What pictures? How the site looks is undoubtedly important - you want to ensure it’s a pleasant viewing experience with a clean, modern feel and striking visuals. However, people can get a bit carried away when they’re let loose on their CMS program, and end up with a cluttered and disconnected site.
To avoid this, go into creating your site with a plan.
Even have a rough sketch on hand of header placements, menus, pictures etc and try to visualise how all of these components will come together once you’ve introduced them. Know what kind of menu(s) you’ll need, what tabs, where you want your pictures to be placed and pick a font that is easy to read! Furthermore, you’ll need to consider this aspect thrice, because most CMS have three layout options; computer, phone, and tablet.
What looks good on the phone may not translate on the computer webpage, so make sure whatever you’re doing looks good and is functional in all three of these layouts. People will be visiting your site from a range of devices; you want your site optimised for all of them.