Launching your first business website or launching a redesigned site is a big move.
It’s easy in the excitement of a new business to think that it’s necessary to go with a completely custom, fancy website with all the bells and whistles. But this approach is usually not the best way to go for a couple reasons.
The first reason is the cost. Custom websites can be nearly $10,000 for a basic website with a few pages. And if you throw in ecommerce functionality it can be even more. For new businesses, even those with high ambitions, this type of site is almost never a requirement…at least initially.
And the second reason is that your brand might only need a basic website starting out. Flashy looking websites can scare away your target customer if they get the feeling that your prices are out of their range. It’s a fine balance that a designer can help with, but initially you’re probably better of going a different direction.
Here is a plan for launching your first business website and moving into a custom website down the road.
First Business Website: ~$500
To get your website started you need a couple things:
- Content Management System
There are a number of places where you can get these things. The best bet is to get these all in one place. This way your entire website runs on a system that is all connected and all working together.
A friend of mine is starting a new business and recently he asked about this process. I looked around a bit to find what was out there. For my own sites I mostly use WordPress and WordPress-related templates and hosting. So that is one option if you’re thinking about a website especially one that doesn’t require ecommerce.
But this friend needed an ecommerce element, which can kind of throw a wrench into things because there is more complexity when you need to process orders and payments and shipping.
So I directed him to Go Daddy.
Now hold on before you dismiss things. I know Go Daddy hasn’t had the best reputation in the past. I’ve used them to buy domains for years and host a couple websites with them. The uptime has been frustrating in the past, but for the last 1-2 years things have been better, much better.
The reason I think Go Daddy would work for a website starting out is you can get all four elements that you need in one place plus ecommerce and great support.
Support is key here. Things always go wrong with websites. It’s not a matter of if, but when. And when things go wrong you want someone that can work on it and it likely won’t be you.
Buying a domain, getting hosting, buying a template and getting ecommerce all setup should cost you around $500 per year. That’s not too bad.
One thing to make sure of is to host the site on your own domain (www.examplesite.com) instead of a domain like (www.examplesite.godaddy.com). When it’s on your domain you own the content and have the control to change things in the future.
Requirements: Good Hosting, Mobile-Friendly
Even when starting out with a new site you need two things:
- Good Hosting
Fast websites with great uptime are good for business. Shared, cheap hosting options can be good for some websites, but they usually aren’t always fast. You want something that is blazing fast because it’s a better experience for your visitors.
The second is mobile. More and more people are using their phones to access websites. If they don’t get a good experience on your site they’re going to go somewhere else.
Pay more for good hosting and get a design that is mobile-friendly. You can still do this with a template.
Second Iteration: Custom Design, Possibly Better Content System
Once your business is rolling and you’ve proven that you can get orders with your $500/year site you can think about investing in a custom site. This would be a design customized for your brand designed completely from scratch by a great designer.
This would also be the opportunity to change how you manage the website. With WordPress, you use WordPress to manage your site and that’s a great option. Many sites, including big ones, use WordPress. Go Daddy has their own system to and you can stay with these, but there are other options that might be better so now is the time to explore those options.
Team up with a designer and a programmer. You’ll keep these people on your team or in your contacts for the lifetime of your business because you’re always going to need their help with tweaks and support.
First, analyze your content and how your visitors have been interacting with your site. Identify the strengths of your current site and where you can improve to increase sales. Discuss these with the designer and the programmer.
Next, update the text on your site. This is a continual process, but now it’s a good time to do that.
Once your content is ready the designer can use that to build your new design. It’s a process that can take a few months, but it will be worth it because the design will be customized for your brand and for your visitors.
Templates can get the job done, but they do leave things on the table when it comes to representing your brand and offering all the functionality you might need.
Ongoing Iterations: Content And Design Improvements
Once your custom site is launched you’re not done with your website. You want to always be tinkering with things. This includes improving the text on your site to better communicate to your visitors and selling them on what you offer.
And you’ll need your designer to keep tweaking the design. The programmer is there to help you if things go wrong. And the system you use to manage the site will always require updates and you want to be up-to-date because improvements are made to make it easier to manage your content and to make your site more secure.
Your website design is never “done”. It’s easy to think that way especially after you complete a big website iteration, but you’ll always learn things about how your target customers interact with your website.
Get yourself started with something that only costs a few hundred bucks. There is nothing wrong with a template starting out. Your customers will be fine with it. Make sure you invest in good hosting and a mobile-friendly template, though. Those are too biggies.
Then get yourself hooked up with a good designer and a programmer. These will be your best friends going forward because they can help customize your site and get it optimized over time so your website is a sales converting machine.