How to get your business online – part 2

How to get your business online – part 2

Use our starter guide to set up a website for your business. Part 2: building your site

In part 1 we showed you how to choose a domain name and hosting package for your business’s online venture. Now you just need to build your site. You have a number of options.

Build your own site

On face value this seems to be the cheapest option. After all, why pay someone else to create your website when you can do it yourself? But have you got the right software to build it? One of the most popular website creation suites is Adobe Dreamweaver. The latest version, Dreamweaver CS6, gives you everything you need to create a website from scratch, as well as incorporating e-commerce and mobile functionality into your site. However, while it does feature a useful WISIWIG (What You See Is What You Get) interface, you’ll need to at least understand the basics of HTML coding and web design structure to build it well. If you’re creating your first site, you’ll have to ask yourself whether you can spare the time to learn the ropes. Plus the package carried a hefty price tag – £305 excluding VAT.

Dreamweaver is a good choice for those looking for a scalable DIY solution

Of course, you may not want to pay anything at all. There are a number of online web creation packages that can produce professional looking sites for free using a number of templates. Take a look at Weebly or Wordpress. There are even free downloadable packages such as Serif WebPlus Starter Edition. None of these require any HTML knowledge. You simply use drag and drop interfaces that make it easy to host videos and music files. For a beginner, they are a great way to get an online presence – fast.

There are limitations though. Your site could share a template with countless other sites and, as your business grows, you might find it hard to incorporate more bespoke requirements.

Add e-commerce

Things get more complicated if you want to sell products or services online. If this is the case, you need to look at a full e-commerce offering. This gives you a shopping cart, but also enables you to securely take your customers’ addresses and payment details, create invoices and receipts, and help you fulfil the orders. There are a number of one-box solutions and add-ons that give you this level of functionality, costing up to £500. The alternative is to go for online services such as ClickandBuild, Volusion or Actinic, which can build and help manage an e-commerce site for you for a monthly fee.

Off-the-shelf e-commerce solutions provide a fuss-free way to build your online store

Hire a web designer

The major problem with DIY websites is that you have to do it yourself. But is it the best use of your time if you’re setting up a new business? Also, the Internet is constantly developing. Will you be able to keep abreast of the latest trends and technologies?

Many companies use professional web designers to put together their site. A good designer will work with you to create a custom-made website that meets your needs. They will be able to integrate e-commerce capabilities and advise you on the best content management system – how you get content up on the site itself.

They will ensure that your site is fully optimised for search engines, so that search engines like Google will find what they’re looking for when they trawl through your site.

The downside is cost. It will set you back considerably more than if you’d designed it yourself – and you may have to go back to your designer in future if you want to make changes to your site.

As with all things, you get what you pay for. If you only want to dip your toe in the Internet, there are plenty of free – and hassle-free – options for getting an online presence. However, if you want something more sophisticated and unique to your business, you’ll need to invest time and money. The benefits, however, speak for themselves.

Google ‘web developer uk’ to find web people who can build your site for you.

Market your business

Once your business is online, you’ll need to get it noticed. Look out for our top tips to marketing your business online, coming soon.