The Basics of Setting Up a Website
As an entrepreneur, do you understand the basics of setting up a website? In today’s business world, a functioning, well-designed website is essential for success.
Customers search the web to identify new companies and products or to find out information about those they currently know and use. Even less tech-savvy individuals tend to use the internet to discover how to contact companies. This is the driving reason why I believe every company needs a website.
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In a past life (okay, it was really only a previous job, but it feels like forever ago), I worked for a small business and managed their website. I updated information, added new pages, played with the code, and thought I knew a lot.
Fast forward to when I created my first website from scratch. I either did not know as much as I thought or I forgot it all in the time I was advancing my career. Honestly, it was probably both.
I have now created two websites for my businesses. Neither is perfect, but I have learned a lot through the process. Through research, and trial and error, I now understand the basics of how to successfully set up a website.
If you have never started a business before, or have managed a website, you might not know where to start. The good news is, you do not have to be a computer programming or computer expert to set up a website. In this post, I am sharing the basic knowledge of setting up a website so you too can be successful in this task.
What is a domain name and why do you need one?
A domain name is an identifier in a web address. For example, in the web address JamieVC.com,
In my opinion, if you are going to have a website, you need to buy and use a domain name. You can create a site without purchasing a domain name, but it’s not recommended if you want to look professional. Companies that allow you to post information without the procurement of a domain name will put their brand name in your web address. They enable you to use the internet site for free because you are advertising their company.
JamieVC.com looks and sounds more professional than JamieVCblog.wordpress.com. It is also easier to remember.
Side note – The free sites can be acceptable based on the business type. For example, many successful blogs use the free domain names.
How to select a domain name
A domain name should match your company name exactly.
For example, the software development company that I own is called Kayllian. Our website is Kayllian.com which is a direct match for our company name.
So, what would we have done if Kayllian.com was not available? We could have tried to purchase the domain name from the current owner; however, this option can very well be too expensive to consider.
Or, we would have changed the company name. For example, we might have purchased KayllianSoftware.com. If we made this decision, it would have been important for us to start referring to our company as Kayllian Software and not just Kayllian.
I have seen companies that have added a 1 to the end or have used a tagline or slogan when their company’s name is not available. It is highly recommended that you do not do this. Will your customer remember to add a 1 when they type your web address? If they forget, you are sending your traffic to another site.
Also, if your tagline or slogan is not wildly known, potential clients might not know the website is truly yours when looking at a list of search results or completing purchases on the site. A clear domain name is a part of your brand identity.
This is why it is important to buy a domain name while in the process of finalizing your company name. You do not want to have a logo created or branded items purchased and then realize that your business name is not available.
Another word of caution. The end of the web address – the .com, .org, .edu, etc. – should match the type of business. Do not select an extension that represents a different business type. Doing so could cause confusion and credibility issues.
Where to buy a domain name
Multiple registrars sell domain names. It is best to choose one that is ICANN-accredited. The accreditation process is lengthy and typically only reputable companies succeed.
So, which company should you use? I suggest that you research the options and select the one that is best for your business needs.
Let’s say that you have decided on a company name, but you are not ready to launch a website. You only want to buy the domain name before someone else does. In this case, you are probably in the market for the standalone service of a domain name purchase.
Some examples are GoDaddy, Name.com, Namecheap, or Moniker.
Most of these registrars also offer hosting packages, but they are not required to buy a domain name. You can later decide to use their services or use a different company for hosting. (See below for more information on hosting.)
Other companies will allow you to purchase a domain name but only if you are signing up for web hosting services. If you are ready to launch your website when purchasing the domain, and you would like to reduce the number of accounts for your site, this might be the best option.
A word of caution: Technically, you are only renting a domain name instead of purchasing. At the end of the rental period, you have the decision to extend your ownership or to let your ownership expire. If you do want to keep the domain name, make sure you renew it before your contract lapses. Some people will buy popular domain names the moment they become available. They will then try to sell it back to the previous owner at a much higher price.
All websites must be hosted to be accessible on any computer other than yours. While there are more technical terms and other options within, I’m going to break hosting into three categories:
Content Managed Hosting
To create a site, you select a template and add your information. While you have control over the words and images, you normally do not have access to the backend code. Your options regarding fonts, colors and page layouts can be limited based on the template and hosting company selected.
This is a great option for many small businesses. Knowledge of computer programming is not needed, and there are many options to choose from in terms of page design.
Companies that offer this option include WordPress.com, Wix, Shopify, Squarespace, and Weebly.
To make things confusing, many people mean shared hosting when they say self-hosting. However, there is a difference.
Shared hosting is when you can control, and own, all the backend code. However, you do not own the server the code is posted on for public access. You are simply renting space on another company’s server.
This is an attractive option for established enterprises that do not want to run their own server. It’s also an option for those who want more control over their site. With shared hosting, you can still start with a template or have a website custom made.
With shared hosting, you can still start with a template. You can keep the template as is or you can edit the provided code to customize the look. Another option is to have a website custom made and managed by an employee or freelancer.
Like shared hosting, you control and own the code. The difference is that you post the code to a server that you personally own. You are responsible for maintaining the server.
The chances are that if you’re reading this post, you do not have website creating and hosting experience. With that said, unless you are starting an IT heavy company, and can hire someone to setup and manage your server, a self-hosted site is probably not for you. If this is the case, select either managed or shared hosting.
The design of your website will be one of the top aspects a customer uses to judge your company before they ever talk to you. Your website is an extension of your storefront. Poor designs, broken links, and the lack of necessary information can drive away potential customers.
You have two options when it comes to designing a website.
Hire a web designer
You can either hire a freelancer to design the site or hire someone to your permanent staff for creation and maintenance.
For many small companies, hiring a full-time web designer is not ideal because the job is not a full-time commitment. In these cases, a freelancer might be recruited to create the website and a staff member is trained to update the site as one of their responsibilities. The freelancer would then be contracted for significant layout changes.
Use a pre-designed template
Hiring a designer, whether a freelancer or permanent team member, can be expensive and unneeded for new businesses. A lot of companies will launch their first website with a pre-designed template and later hire a designer to develop a custom site.
If you are using a content managed hosting company, they will generally require you to use a template. They provide you a selection of templates – some free and others for purchase. You select the one that fits your business and simply add your verbiage and images. Through the use of templates, updating and maintaining a website is easy.
If you are using a shared hosting company, you can still use a template. You can either purchase a pre-designed template from a designer or use sites such as WordPress.org. WordPress.org is owned by the same company as WordPress.com but is for the management of shared and self-hosted sites.
Whether you hire a designer or use a template, I suggest you launch your full website at once. Do not have links to pages that only say “coming soon.” These pages are often forgotten and sit with “coming soon” announcements for ages. This makes customers wonder if you maintain your site or if you are really in business. If you are going to take the time to create the page, add the needed content.
With that being said, you do not need to start with a huge, multi-page site. It’s okay for the first launch of your website to be simple. Include just the basic information like a home page, an about us section, product page, and your contact information. Add other pages when and if appropriate.
Website vs. Facebook
A Facebook page is important for establishing your online presence. However, a Facebook page is not enough and should not replace a website.
- You don’t own your Facebook page. Facebook owns the page and has the final control. Why is this a problem?
- If Facebook went out of business tomorrow, you would not be able to access the information on your business page or contact your fans.
- Facebook controls if your page is accessible. Pages have been taken down, with no warning, when terms are believed to be violated or to investigate a flagged page. Pages will not be accessible again until Facebook decides they are okay.
- Facebook controls the page layout. When they change their policies and design, your page changes whether the updates fit your business or not. There is no customization other than the information and pictures you add.
- Not everyone has a Facebook account. There are people from every generation that have not joined, or have left, the growing network. Unless your product requires Facebook for use, like a game that is only accessible through Facebook, you are missing part of your market if you do not have a website.
- There is no revenue generation through advertisement sales. Depending on the nature of your business, you might want to sell ad space on your website to generate revenue. Facebook does not allow this feature.
Should you create a Facebook business page? Yes. Social media is important for connecting with your market. But make sure you also create a website.
What do I use?
- Domain Name Registration – Godaddy
- Hosting – Siteground
- Website Design – I prefer to use templates. For all my sites, I use Divi by Elegant Themes
Good luck building your first website! Remember, your website speaks volumes to your potential customers. Make sure you put in the time needed to send the right message.