Whether your small business has a physical location or not, it’s vital that you have a website if you want to compete in the online marketplace. Local, regional and national consumers are turning to the search engines when they need to find products or services like those that your business offers. If you want to reach them when they need you most, you’ll need to make sure you have an attractive and easy-to-navigate website where consumers can view and purchase your products.
Getting started building a website can seem a bit daunting at first, but with the four-step process below, you can be on your way to building a new website or online store for your small business in no time.
- Choose and register your domain name.
The first step in creating a website or online store for your small business is choosing and registering your domain name. If you use a web design platform like WordPress or Squarespace to design your site, you can purchase your domain right from this provider. Most companies will opt for their company name as their domain name. For instance, a jewelry store called Patcha Designs might try for “patchadesigns.com”. If you are working as an independent contractor or sole proprietor, you can also use your name as the domain.
Unfortunately, the domain name that you want to use is not always available. In this case, you’ll need to get a little creative. You will still want to choose a domain for your small business that is relevant and short or catchy enough for consumers to remember. Taking the example we used before, if “patchadesigns.com” was already taken, the jewelry store might instead try “patchadesignsjewelry.com” or “patcha.design”.
- Find a web hosting service.
After you’ve chosen and purchased your domain name, you’ll need to choose a web hosting service. A web host provides the technologies and services that you’ll need to make your website available on the internet. Many web hosting companies will also help you purchase a domain name through their services if you haven’t already purchased one.
There are a variety of web hosting service providers available, and choosing the right one will depend on your individual needs. In addition to price, you will also want to consider features like bandwidth and storage as well as their customer support. If you need additional services like email addresses, you should also take this into consideration when looking for web hosts as some service providers offer convenient packages providing these types of services.
- Pick the right e-commerce software platform and payment processor.
If you plan to sell your products or services on your site, then you’ll also need to find an e-commerce software platform or shopping cart provider. These platforms make it easy and cost effective to sell your products online. You also need to consider how you plan to process payments. Will you take PayPal or just credit cards? You may want to use an ecommerce platform that has been developed for small business owners to ensure that your site is easy to manage over time.
Many all-in-one website service providers like Squarespace or Wix will provide this software for you, in addition to offering web hosting and domain name services. These all-inclusive website building platforms make it easy to manage your online store all from the same dashboard that you use to set up and build your site.
- Design a functional and attractive website.
Once you have figured out the logistics of your website, it is time to design the site itself. It’s important that your site or online store is both attractive and easy to navigate. If visitors have a hard time finding what they are looking for, then they are likely to leave your site without making a purchase. As with the other steps in the site building process, using a full-service website builder will come in handy when you start designing your site. These platforms make it easy to design a beautiful and functional website using professional templates and convenient drag-and-drop functions.
If you do not have the time or resources to create your own website or online store, you might consider hiring a web designer, developer or marketing agency to create the site for you. Though this option is often more expensive than using a DIY website builder, it gives you the peace of mind in knowing that a professional is designing and managing your site content. Not to mention, this option allows you to focus on your core functions and work to grow your small business over time.
From registering a domain to designing your site layout and content, building an effective website requires working capital. Before you get started creating your new online store, make sure that you have the funds to help carry you through each step of the process. Decide whether you will plan to use an all-in-one website builder or hire an outside web design agency to create and manage your site, and work to develop a budget.