How to Create a Website for Your Small Business
Investing in small business website design is a crucial step for any entrepreneur. In the digital age, your website is often your first impression, and it can even be your biggest sales tool.
Creating a business website for your small business might seem overwhelming at first, but it’s worthwhile. And, best of all, if you do it right, it can be an enjoyable process.
By now, you might be asking, “How do I set up a website for my small business?”
Keep reading to learn:
- How much it costs to create a small business website
- What the best free tools for your small business website are
- Simple steps to create a website for your small business
Preparation: What to Do Before Your Create Your Small Business Website
As a business owner, you don’t want to do things just for the sake of doing them — your website is no different.
If you want your website to be a success, you have to give it a specific purpose. That being said, the first step of creating your website is defining how your website fits into your business plan.
So, ask yourself:
- Do you want your website to sell your product?
- Do you want it to capture leads for your sales funnel?
Once you determine your website’s purpose, the rest of the steps for small business website design will start to flow naturally.
As always, make sure that you choose a measurable goal. Google Analytics will help you track website performance and see how you’re progressing towards your goals.
Research What Your Website Should Be
So, how do you know what goal to set for your website?
You should do two types of research before creating a website for your small business: customer and competitor.
Customer research includes defining your target demographic and your existing sales funnel.
Ask yourself questions such as:
- Who is my customer base?
- How do my customers use the internet during the sales process?
- Are my customers comfortable making purchases online?
- What search terms do my customers use?
- Are my customers active on social media?
By answering the questions above, you’ll understand what your customers need from a website. Then, you can make sure that your website’s goal aligns with your customers’ needs.
In addition to customer research, competitive research can help you set goals for your website. Take the time to look at your competitors and see what strategies they use in their small business website design.
Make sure to pay attention to what their customers are saying to learn what works and what doesn’t.
Budgeting: How Much Does it Cost to Create a Website for a Small Business?
Once you know what you want your website to accomplish, it’s time to put together a budget for your small business website.
Creating a small business website can cost a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. The most significant factor affecting cost is whether or not you want to make your website yourself.
If you (or someone on your staff) can create the website, expect to spend a few hundred dollars. However, if you want to hire a professional designer or agency, you can spend anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000 on small business website design.
How Can I Create a Small Business Website for Free?
While there are a lot of free tools to help you build your small business website, it’s never going to be completely free. Even when you DIY your website, you’ll have to pay for a few essentials, including web hosting services, your domain, and an SSL certificate.
Besides these costs, creating a website yourself can be very cost-efficient if you use the right tools.
In fact, the better question to ask is “What is the best free website builder for small business?” You’ll be happy to learn that there are plenty of high-quality free website builders to choose from such as WordPress.
WordPress is a free open source content management system (CMS) you can use to build your website. It’s one of the most popular website building options available.
Since the 2017 debut of the Gutenberg editor, WordPress has made many changes that make the platform easier to use, including more intuitive design, extensive resources, and help services.
One of the best things about Gutenberg is that it makes the webpage design process easier for beginners. Gutenberg block builder incorporates many common layouts used in small business website design to allow for quick, on-brand website creation.
Create a Small Business Website in 5 Simple Steps
After you create your plan and your budget, it’s finally time to build your small business website.
So, how do you make a small business website?
Following along with the guide below will empower you to take your plan and use it to launch a fully functional website for your small business.
1. Choose Your Website Domain
Before diving into small business website design, there are a few important housekeeping tasks you need to complete.
The first step in creating your website is choosing a website domain. Your website domain (also known as your URL) is your website’s address on the internet.
Choosing Your Domain Name
Many small businesses use their business name (or brand name) as their domain. The benefit of using your brand name is that it’s easily recognizable and will help reinforce brand awareness.
But, there are some situations where using your brand name isn’t the best method. For instance, if your brand name is difficult to spell or excessively long.
You may also want to reconsider using your business name if there are other companies with the same or similar names.
And finally, you may not have the option to use your brand name as your domain if that domain name is already taken.
If someone has already registered the domain name that you want, it’s possible to contact them and purchase the domain. However, this might lead to spending more money than you planned on your domain.
Additionally, the process of purchasing a domain name from another individual can take a lot of time.
Domains and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The domain you choose can affect your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) performance. SEO is the process of building your website so that it ranks high in relevant search results.
Accessibility and usability are two of the top criteria used to determine your website’s SEO. For that reason, it’s important to choose a memorable domain name.
Ultimately, your domain name should be easy to remember, say, and type. To achieve this you want to avoid a domain name that’s too long or complicated.
For example, we advise against using hyphens or unnecessary numbers in your domain.
In some cases, it might be appropriate to use a broad keyword in your domain name. Using a keyword can be a good way to help people understand what your business does.
However, you have to be careful if you’re going to use a keyword in your domain name. Search engines (and online users) frown upon “keyword-stuffing” your domain.
Before search engines paid attention to the user experience, many websites used targeted keywords in their domain( such as home-furniture-delivery-finders.com).
Since many of those websites contained low-quality content, similar domains no longer rank well in terms of SEO.
So, is there a good way to use a keyword in your domain?
Take Firecakes for example. Firecakes is a donut bakery, so it makes sense that they added the word “donuts” to their domain, firecakesdonuts.com. They use a broad keyword to help people understand what they offer, but their entire URL is simple and memorable.
As a general rule, if you can find a broad and brand-friendly keyword that results in a catchy domain name, use it. Otherwise, don’t focus too much on using keywords.
If you’re having trouble coming up with a domain name, try using a tool like Google Keyword Planner to help you brainstorm ideas. You’ll have the opportunity to browse keywords related to your business and see if any work well with your brand name.
Many web hosting providers allow you to register a domain when you buy web hosting services, allowing you to manage everything in one place. You can also purchase an SSL certificate when registering your domain.
If you purchase web hosting services from iPage, you’ll get a free domain for one year with your hosting plan.
2. Choose Web Hosting Services
In addition to your domain name and SSL certificate, there is one more essential website service you’ll need, and that is web hosting. Web hosting services store your website’s data and then send it out when people visit.
There are a few different types of web hosting services. Choosing the right type of hosting depends on your website’s complexity and how much traffic you expect.
We recommend that small businesses begin with shared hosting. It’s the most cost-efficient option, and if you need to upgrade, you can always do so when your website traffic grows. Furthermore, shared hosting is usually all you need to create a small business website.
iPage offers shared web hosting as low as $1.99/month, and, as a bonus, customers also receive an SSL certificate and free domain for one year. If you choose to DIY your website, we also have dedicated WordPress plans to choose from.
Some hosting providers, such as iPage, offer additional services such as small business website design and marketing support.
Once you select your hosting services, you can register a domain name at the same time.
Web hosting services are priced out monthly, but they are usually billed annually or for up to three or five years at a time.
On the other hand, you pay for domains annually, and you can set up automatic renewal through your hosting provider.
3. Claim Your Social Media Accounts
In addition to selecting a website domain, you’ll also want to register social media accounts for the top platforms where your customers hang out —such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Social media accounts and websites work hand in hand. You can drive traffic to your website from a social media account and vice versa.
Similar to domains, a social media handle can only be used by one account. The handles are first come, first serve so it’s best to claim your handles as soon as possible (even if you don’t plan to use the account right away.)
Namecheckr is a free website that allows you to check the availability of social media handles across several platforms. Simply type in the handle you want, and it will let you know if the handle is taken or available on each platform.
Usually, a social media handle will be the same as or similar to your brand name. However, it doesn’t have to be exactly the same as your domain name.
If you find that the handle you want is taken, there are a few ways to deal with this:
- Change the handle, the spelling, or add punctuation
- Message the account and ask for the handle (if the account is inactive)
- File a trademark violation (if your brand name is trademarked)
Consider any social media platforms you might want to use as marketing channels in the future, and claim those handles, too. This way, you can avoid the trouble of trying to change your handle or obtain one from someone else later on.
Once you’ve registered your brand’s social media handles, you can link to them on your website and drive more social engagement.
Include links to social media in your footer and contact us page. In some cases, you may even want to add an Instagram feed on your main page or testimonial page if you’re a visual brand.
As for adding social media links to your main menu navigation, that’s up to you.
Some brands choose not to do this so they can avoid people clicking off their website right away. However, if your social media accounts are set up to drive sales, then you may want to include these links at the top of your website, as well.
4. Plan Out Website Navigation & Pages
Now that you’ve registered a domain, purchased web hosting services, and claimed your social media accounts, it’s time to begin the actual design of your small business website.
At this point, it can be tempting to jump right in and start creating new pages (if you’re going the DIY route). But, that approach can end up wasting a lot of time and even money later on.
Create an outline for your website navigation and simple wireframes for individual page content first. This will help you use your time and money wisely. An outline will ensure you don’t do any duplicate work, and it helps you to tell a story with your website.
Ultimately, the best small business website design is one that has a pleasant user experience.
Good website navigation makes it easy for your customers to find the information they need, so be careful not to skip this step.
As you define your navigation, make sure to avoid some of the common navigation pitfalls such as too many menu items, poor positioning, and generic labels. It should be easy for your website visitors to find the most important information.
Similarly, you should also create a wireframe for your footer navigation. There are several legal pages each website must include, and they’re typically linked in the footer.
And finally, while this doesn’t require its own page, make sure that you have your current copyright information in your footer. Your copyright prevents others from taking your website content and using it as their own.
Creating Web Pages
Do you know what the best part about creating your navigation first is?
You’ll have an exact list of all the website pages you need to build.
The pages you need will depend on your website’s goal. For example, if you want to use your website to sell products, you need an online store page. If you want to educate your customers, you might choose to have a blog or a page incorporating positive client testimonials.
At this point, if you are hiring an agency, a professional website designer, or website design and marketing services offered by your web host, then you’ll need to be able to share your requirements.
Using Wireframes to Create Your Small Business Website
Platforms like WordPress have simplified the website design process significantly. It no longer takes extensive experience in web development or computer science to build a small business website.
However, wireframing is one professional skill that can help DIY builders create better designs. Wireframes are like blueprints, and you can create one for each page on your website.
With a simple diagram of what you want to include on each page (a pencil and paper are just as effective as fancy software tools), you can easily visualize all of your website pages and plan out the content. Going through this process forces you to look at your website from a customer’s perspective to see if the layout makes information easy to find.
Learning skills like wireframing might take some time at first, but new skills can help you reduce your overall time spent on small business website design. In particular, you can save a lot of time by getting things right the first time without having to make extensive design edits.
5. Test & Launch Your Website
Okay, so you have your domain name, brand, content, and small business website design ready to go. What else is left?
Before launching your website, it’s critical to make sure everything works properly. This is your opportunity to look at your website from your customer’s point of view.
Ask a couple of friends or colleagues to look at the website. Ideally, get feedback from people who don’t know a lot about your business. If something on your website isn’t clear, you want to fix it before you officially launch.
During the review and testing period, go through your pages, and make sure they are intuitive. Take the extra time to review your home page as it’s often the first place people end up.
You can create an internal checklist or use an online template.
You should review and test the following, at minimum:
- All buttons work
- All pages are live (no 404 errors)
- Test all forms
- Make sure images load and videos play
- Check the mobile version of your website
- You have all the required legal pages
After your website passes the testing and review stages, it’s time to launch.
Maintaining Your Website
Creating a website for your small business is a big accomplishment, but it’s really just the beginning step of the whole process. Moving forward, you’ll need to dedicate resources to maintaining your website with current content, supported by a promotional plan that drives relevant traffic.
Here’s the good news:
Maintaining a website usually isn’t as demanding as creating it. Unlike small business website design, website maintenance doesn’t require building completely new pages. Instead, website maintenance includes tasks like updating copy, optimizing for SEO, and performing website backups.
Once again, depending on your skills, team, and budget, you can choose to do the maintenance yourself or hire a professional.
As a best practice, it’s good to budget either time or money each month for website maintenance.
Final Thoughts: How to Create a Website for a Small Business
Creating a website for your small business doesn’t have to be overwhelming. The process can even be fun and rewarding if you’re thoughtful about the process from the beginning.
If done well, your website can do a lot of heavy lifting for your small business. So, take some time to ask the right questions and make a plan before diving in headfirst.
If you’re a beginner to web development and small business website design, there are plenty of resources and services to help you along the way.
Learn more about your hosting options and see if full-service hosting, design, and marketing is right for your business.