By STEFANO MARUZZI, VP of EMEA at GoDaddy
Many South Africans who have access to the internet spend some eight and a half hours a day online, according to We Are Social and Hootsuite’s Global Digital Report 2019. With consumers embracing a digital lifestyle, your small business needs to have a presence online to be visible to potential customers.
The good news is that launching a great-looking website doesn’t need to cost thousands of rand or soak up dozens of hours of your precious time. With the right tools and some basic tips, a time- and cash-strapped small business owner can set up an affordable, professional-looking website in a short amount of time.
Here’s how to design a website for your business in three simple steps:
1. Identify the purpose of your site
Start off by deciding how your website can help to drive your business forward. Websites can:
- Generate leads
- Showcase your services
- Sell and ship products
- Create a sense of community among customers/members
- Establish authority in your industry
- Help your business appear in local search results
Then, ask yourself what you want your visitors to do once they get to your website. This could include actions such as:
- Browse through your products and services
- Read a blog post
- Call the phone number
- Request a quote or estimate
- Leave a comment
- Buy a product
Answering these questions can help you build the right website for your needs. You will be able to plan what your website will look like, what sort of content you need to include, the features and functionality you want to add, and how you will promote it to your customers.
2. Think about the domain name
You will need to choose a domain name for your website. Your domain name is the part of your website address that comes after the www. Your domain is your business’s nameplate on the web, so take care to choose a domain name that represents your business and is easy to remember.
How to choose a domain name
- Keep it short. Would you remember it if you saw it on the side of a bus?
- Make it easy to type. Avoid hyphens and unusual spellings.
- Include keywords. Try to use words people might enter when searching for your type of business.
- Target your area. Use your city or province in your domain name to help appeal to local customers.
- Pick the right extension. Industry- or geo-specific domain endings might be a better fit for your business than a more generic .com.
You can register your domain through a domain registrar directly – or, in many cases, your hosting provider will also offer hosting services.
3. Decide how you will build a website
If you are not well-versed in the art of website building, you’ve got options. You can do it yourself with a template-based website builder or use a more sophisticated content management system like WordPress. Too busy for that? Hire a professional.
Let’s take a closer look at your choices:
- Website builder
Website builders, like GoDaddy Website Builder, are great if you’re a DIY-type who wants an affordable, attractive, basic website in a short amount of time. Simply choose a pre-designed template and then replace the text and images to meet your needs.
Do you like the idea of building and updating your own website without learning HTML, but want more flexibility than a website builder tool? If you’ve got a little skill and some extra time, a content management system such as WordPress might be right for you. You can choose from free or paid WordPress themes (designs for the overall style of your website). A range of plugins can also help to boost your site’s functionality and offerings.
- Professional designer
Hiring a professional designer is a great option if you have an idea for your website, but don’t want to build it yourself. A pro can collaborate with you to turn your vision into a functional, professional – looking, customised website that meets your online goals. It can be expensive, but the results are often worth it.
If you have gone the DIY route, you can check with your provider, as hosting is usually part of the package with a website builder. There are dozens of options for website hosting, but you’ll want to make sure that whatever hosting service provider you choose does a good job of covering these bases:
- Reliability: What’s the hosting provider’s uptime guarantee?
- Storage: How much space does the provider offer with their hosting options? You determine what you will need for your website’s files. Hint: Large e-commerce sites and websites with lots of images need more storage capability.
- Bandwidth: Make sure your hosting plan includes adequate bandwidth to be able to handle heavy website traffic.
- Scalability: If traffic spikes, will your hosting provider scale your hosting services to account for the increase? If not, your site could crash.
- Security: Pay close attention to the security features included in a hosting plan, including 24/7 monitoring and protection against DDoS attacks.
- Support: What kind of technical support can you expect, and is it available 24/7?
With a little forethought and advanced planning, you can create a site that can be an asset to your growing small business. You can start small and simple, and add more advanced features such as e-commerce as your needs change and your confidence and your business grows.