In 2015, more than a third of total retail sales growth in the United States came from online sales. In fact, U.S. e-commerce grew 14.6 percent that year and has continued to flourish. In this digital age, no modern business should lack a functional, attractive website.
When your business is starting out, a web presence is vital to the growth of your customer base. Without one, customers won’t find your business when they search online. That’s a major missed opportunity.
Building a website is one of the most important first steps a small business can take. But how do you do it, and where do you start?
Step #1: Understand your website’s purpose
Why are you building a website? Will it be purely informative, or focused on product sales? Do you want to include a blog to spark customer interest and keep people coming back for educational content?
What about online sales? If you don’t currently have the budget, infrastructure, or employees to handle online sales, that’s okay. At the very least, you can offer your customers valuable information about your business and your products.
Step #2: Select a web hosting service
A web hosting service supports your website and makes it available to internet users. If your business is quite small, consider saving money by using a shared web hosting service.
Later, you can update to dedicated hosting, which is faster and more powerful. If you’ve decided to use a content management system (CMS), make sure that your chosen hosting service will let you install it automatically.
Step #3: Choose a design template
Now comes the fun part. You get to choose the design and layout of your website. There are thousands of templates available online, although your choices may be limited depending on which service you use.
Play around with different looks, but always keep in mind the preferences of your target audience and your brand image. If you’re selling handmade, sustainably-sourced items, an earthy, artsy look might appeal to your audience and represent your brand well. If you offer IT support services, go for a design that’s crisp and businesslike. Consider consulting a design expert if you’re having trouble deciding on the right look.
Step #4: Consider plugins and add-ons
Depending on your business’s offerings, you may need additional functionality for your website. If you’re a realtor, perhaps you need an area where you can quickly update listings and include photos. If you’re an artist, you may want to showcase videos or images of your work.
Some functionality might be available within your existing template, but if you investigate, you may be able to find plugins and add-ons for your website that work better.
Step #5. Write your content
Your website needs words—the kind of words that draw people in and hold their attention. You want visitors to stay on your website so they read through your content and see what you have to offer. Consider hiring a professional content writer to write copy for your homepage, the business story for your “About Us” page, product and service descriptions, and other key web pages.
If you’re connecting a blog to your website, you’ll also need to have a consistent flow of original, well-crafted posts for your online visitors to enjoy.