A strong web presence is essential for any business. If you’re not large or lucky enough to have an IT team at your disposal, it can be difficult to know where to begin, but there are options available to suit every business need and budget.
Hiring A Web Designer
The first decision you’ll need to make is whether to set up your own site or hire a designer to do the work for you. If you own a medium-sized business it may be worth investing in a professional web designer to build your site, organise hosting and provide long-term technical and administrative support. Designers usually offer different price plans depending on your needs and the complexity of your site. A typical quote ranges from around £300-500 for a basic website to several thousand for a more complicated e-commerce site. The designer will probably build your site using a Content Management System, making it easy for you to update and manage your site later on.
If you’re going it alone rather than bringing in the pros, you’ll need to find a host for your website and domain name. Domain names cost around £10 a year and are renewed every two years; your web host should explain this to you. Prices for web hosting vary according to the amount of web space and bandwidth on offer in your hosting package.
The bigger your site, the more web space you will need, and the more visitors you’re likely to receive, the more bandwidth you will need. A typical small business website is around 50 MB in size, although if your business requires a lot of visual and graphic imagery, such as a photography website, it may be nearer 100 MB. Most web hosts include a choice of popular Content Management Systems to help you with building your site (see below), so make sure you know which ones are included before you buy.
Content Management Systems
Designing your own website used to mean grappling with monstrous coding languages. Thanks to modern Content Management Systems, you can set up a clean and professional-looking site even if you think HTML and CSS are 90s boy bands. A CMS works by allowing you to edit your content using a set of menus and commands incorporated into a web page, similar to what you’re used to in word processing programs. Two of the most popular CMS’s are WordPress and Mr Site. WordPress is free to download and is often included for free in web hosting packages. Mr Site is a CMS and web hosting package, offering 24-hour pre-sales and technical support assistance via Live Chat, and comprehensive e-commerce packages starting from £25 per month.
Both WordPress and Mr Site come with a choice of pre-built themes to control the look and feel of your site, that can be installed in just a couple of clicks. Many independent bloggers and professional web designers design WordPress themes for business or pleasure, and offer a selection of free and paid themes designed for WordPress, with paid themes usually costing around £20-50. Just like Google searches, the most popular themes are those that come up first in the theme list, so if you want your site to look unique, it can be worth shopping around rather than opting for the first one you see. Bear in mind, however, that simple themes date less quickly and are more likely to be compatible with later versions of WordPress, and later web browsers.
Whether your website is homemade or custom-designed, it may be vulnerable to DDOS (Denial of Service) attacks from hackers targeting business websites. DDOS’s usually work in one of several ways: by flooding your website with requests so that it can’t cope with demand, by inserting pieces of code into it that break its functioning, or by inserting ‘malware’ which harms the user’s computer.
The market for cybersecurity protection has been called the “Wild West of insurance marketplaces” according to Scott Godes of DDOS-Attack, a leading resource for DDOS. When you’re searching for business insurance deal, consider a host which includes DDOS protection in its price plan. You should also check your existing business insurance policy to see what provisions are made for website attacks.
Web Design Hints
Navigation Keep your site’s navigation as quick and easy to find as possible. Obscure, gimmicky menu items are offputting, and over-ostentatious websites tend to annoy rather than impress
Content For comfortable reading, you should keep content to a maximum of 700-900 words per page, without breaking it up into too many pages and sub-pages (see above)
Tone The tone of your site should be friendly but professional. Avoid going to extremes with corporate jargon and contrived ‘pally’-speak