Not having a website means you’re losing out on potential customers. The excuse of websites being too complicated or too expensive to create is no longer valid. Bluehost offers you a domain, a business email, AND a professional WordPress website for just $3.95/month.
Follow the 5 simple steps in this guide to have your small business website up and running in no time:
Step 1: Choose and Register Domain Name
The very first step is to decide what name you’ll give your website – for example, www.YourBusiness.com.
First things first, you’ll want to check and see if your business name is available. To find out, enter it into the domain search tool below, powered by Bluehost. If you are taken straight to the registration page, it means your name is available, if you see a message that the domain is not available for registration, then you will have to adjust your business name.
If the .COM version of your business name is available, consider using this for your website. Otherwise, try different phrases before settling for an alternate suffix, like .NET or .INFO. Consumers overwhelmingly use .COM when entering a web address. So even if you promote your .NET website, you could lose customers who typed in the .COM version instead.
Tips for Finding Business Website Domains
If your business name is taken, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you search for alternate names:
- Domain names are important for search engines, like Google. Consider including words that people are likely to use when searching for your business. “ProStar Lawncare” is probably better than “ProStar USA.”
- Domain names should be easy to pronounce and remember. Keep your name as short as possible and avoid punctuation like dashes. As a simple rule of thumb, make sure somebody can find your domain if they hear it spoken out loud.
- Use location to find a unique URL. If all other options are taken, add your city/area name to the domain. For example, a company called Smith Plumbers based in Albany, NY, could try www.smithplumbersalbany.com. This, again, can help your website appear in Google since customers are likely to enter their city name when searching for a service.
Step 2: Choose Which Platform & Host are Right for You
Once you’ve chosen a domain, the next step is to decide where to host your website. A host is the service that actually stores your website and transmits it to visitors. In our experience, the two best host platforms are Bluehost and Weebly.
Uses: Serves huge range of businesses; templates for almost every industry
Uses: Simple informational websites, light blogging and ecommerce capability
Bluehost is the most versatile hosting option and the one that delivers the most value. You can register your domain, host your website, AND get a business email address for just $3.95 per month. Click here to check out Bluehost’s hosting plans.
Weebly is a bit more user-friendly, and offers more personalized customer support. This can make it a better option for less tech-savvy users who only need a simple information website. However, the tradeoff is a higher price tag $12/mo, and this doesn’t include a domain or email account. Now let’s explore each of these options in more detail:
Option 1: Create a WordPress Website using Bluehost ($3.95/month)
If you are a little more technologically savvy, and want access to unlimited features and functionality, WordPress is the way to go. Bluehost offers affordable hosting plans and a free WordPress website (with a domain and business email account included) for just $2.95/month. You can also learn how to setup a WordPress site here.
Getting Started with WordPress
Just bear in mind: WordPress is an intermediate website builder. You won’t need any programming knowledge per se, but you will need to familiarize yourself with their backend menu. Unlike Weebly, which lets you edit the website just by dragging and dropping elements, WordPress has a more traditional edit menu.
Option 2: Use a Website Builder like Weebly ($12/month)
For small business owners who are short on time, are less technologically advanced, but are willing to pay a little bit more, we recommend using Weebly. Weebly is part of a new class of tools called website builders that utilize drag-and-drop interfaces to make it easier than ever to design a site With Weebly, you start by choosing a template, then customize with your own pages, text, images, etc.
The editing process is very intuitive. If you’ve ever used Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, you’ll easily grasp the tool. Add elements by dragging them from the sidebar. Adjust the size by dragging from a corner, and change text by double clicking within the text box. It’s also very easy to add interactive features to your website. Most website builders will have a click-to-add option for Google Maps, YouTube/Vimeo embeds, web forms, and more. This makes your customers more likely to share and spend more time on your website.
When to Use a Website Builder Besides Weebly – Ecommerce Website ($29/month)
If you’re just selling one or two products, Weebly has the capability to handle this. However, if the primary purpose of your website is to sell products, you may want to choose a website builder that specializes in creating an online store. We recommend Shopify as the best dedicated e-commerce platform since it’s all-in-one multichannel selling solution includes a full suite of web store, marketplace, social, and in-person selling tools. It’s pricing is comparable to Weebly’s e-commerce plan at $29 per month.
Step 3: Outline Your Website Content
Now that you know which platform you are going to use, it’s time to decide what your website is going to say. Figuring out what to say on your website can be difficult, and one of the main reasons business owners put off creating one.
The good news is you don’t have to say much at all. Business websites work best when they’re simple, featuring minimal text and just a single “option” on each page – i.e. submission form, or “contact us” button.
Business websites also tend to follow a standard format, using these 4 essential pages. As you go through the list, don’t worry about formatting each page yet – just think about the text, images, and content you’ll include:
- Homepage: On the homepage, you should include the name of your business, where you’re located, and a simplified pitch – a few lines about what makes you unique and/or why customers should choose your business.
- Products and Services: A page with details about the products you sell or services your provide. On the page which you detail products or services, spend one to five sentences describing each type you offer and give the pricing.
- About Us: Provide your company background and list organizational memberships like being part of the Better Business Bureau. Also include customer testimonials, which helps make your company seem more trustworthy and credible.
- Contact Us: Your address, email, phone number, the hours you are open for business, and links to any social media accounts such as Twitter and Facebook should appear on this page. You should also embed a Google map of your location and include different ways of getting there (i.e. subway, train, car etc) if applicable.
— Sally Kane, Content Director, PaperStreet
Special Tools for Mobile Websites
These days, more than half of customers browse from their smartphones instead of a computer. As a small business owner, this means it’s imperative to have a mobile-friendly website.
The good news is most of the top web-builders, including Weebly, automatically create mobile-optimized websites for you. Known as “responsive” themes, these websites can detect the type of device you’re browsing from and automatically shift the content to give you the optimal experience. WordPress also has multiple responsive themes available.
That said, even if your website is responsive, it’s usually a good idea to make some additional adjustments for your mobile site. In general, you want to remove any excessive details. Your mobile website should focus entirely on your call-to-action – whether that’s getting users to call your business, fill-out a contact form, join a mailing list, or make an online order.
Click-to-call buttons are especially helpful if you want mobile visitors to dial your business. This is a button that – when clicked from a mobile phone – automatically populates your business’ phone number into the visitor’s dialpad. An embedded Google Maps widget is also key for customers who are browsing on-the-go, as they can quickly bring up navigation to your store.
Step 4: Decide on a Logo
The colors, font, and style of your logo will affect the design of your website. This is because you want a consistent theme between your logo and web pages.
If you already have a logo that you are using in the offline world, then perfect. Find the digital file, or create a high resolution scan to use on your website. If you do not already have a logo, or want to upgrade from your existing design, there are three key ways to create one:
- Do it Yourself – There are a number of logo design software out there that will allow you to create your own logo. We recommend Tailor Brands if you want an easy way to create an appealing logo. You can try it out for free, and if you find a design you like then it’s just $24 to download.
- Use Fiverr.com: Fiverr.com is a site that matches you with all kinds of service providers who are willing to do projects, including logos, for just $5. If you use the $5 option you will have to wait a couple of weeks to get your logo. For around $20, you can generally get it that same week. If you find a designer with a portfolio you like, this is easily the best option for the money.
- Use 99Designs.com: 99Designs.com runs contests where multiple designers compete for your logo and other design business. This is a great option because you get to see many different professional and creative designs (It’s how we found our logo at Fit Small Business!), yet only pay for the one you wind up choosing. The price on 99designs ranges from $299 to $799 depending on how many designers you want competing and the quality of those designers.
If you’re interested in obtaining a logo from 99Designs, check out our full guide How To Create a Logo, Flyer, or Menu with 99 Designs.
Step 5: Design Your Website
Now that you have all the pieces for your small business website ready, it’s time to put them all together into a nice looking website.
It’s been shown that it takes someone less than 3 seconds to decide whether to stay or leave once they hit your website, so it is imperative that you make a good first impression. Here are a few tips to ensure your website is keeping people engaged:
- Have clear navigation – You want people who visit your site to instantly know what your business is about and where to go to learn about your products or services, find pricing, and contact a representative. If your site is not clear, people will get frustrated and exit out.
- Use call to action buttons – Implementing buttons with clear actions will immediately attract the user’s eye. This helps you to lead the person to take your desired action.
- Make sure your site is loading quickly – People are impatient, and if your site takes even a fraction of a second too long to load, people will give up and look elsewhere. Make sure your web host provider, like Bluehost, has fast load times.
- Keep it minimal – Don’t overdo it with the design and definitely don’t feel like you need to cover every square inch with information or a design. White space is your friend. By keeping the look minimal, you can focus attention on the things that you want people to really pay attention to.
Consider Hiring a Professional to Build Your Small Business Website
If you simply don’t have time to create a website, or if you want a unique design, there’s a few different ways to hire an expert.
“If you plan to outsource your website, make sure you haveaccess to it in case you need to make changes. Many of our clients have had their websites held hostage and charged exorbitant fees to make simple edits after a design has been approved. Control your digital assets by requesting account passwords for everything if you want to avoid this.”
— Tom J. Cameron, President, Digital Pudding, Inc.
Hire a Designer on Upwork ($50-$300)
If you’re just looking for a simple website (text, photos, videos, email capture forms, online store, etc.) you should find somebody to design it with a web builder, like Weebly. Freelance websites like UpWork have people who will design your site for around $10 – $20 per hour.
Hire a Professional Designer with 99Designs ($1,000-$4,000)
If you want to create an advanced website on WordPress and aren’t happy with any of the templates available, or don’t have the skills to customize one, hiring a designer is another option.
Just as you can get a logo designed by 99Designs.com, you can also have your full website designed through this site. The concept is the same: you submit a brief on what you are looking for and get back anywhere from 20 to 60 designs. You only pay for the design you choose, and the price ranges from $599 to $1,599, depending on which package you go with. We used 99designs here at FitSmallBusiness.com for our own website – so if you want to see an example of a 99designs website, you’re looking at one!
After you have chosen the winning design, you will need to find someone to code the design for your website. 99designs has coding partners that will be able to do this for you and who have experience working with templates from 99designs. Typically the cost to code 1 responsive page (a page that also works on mobile) is $300, and each inner page (all pages other than the homepage) costs around $150.
To learn more about the costs involved when a professional creates your website, view our complete guide to website costs.