If you have a company but don’t have a website, there are a few things you need to know and do before you jump onto the information superhighway. Let’s take a look at five important things you must do prior to making the leap.
1. Register your domain. One of the first things to do is to register your domain name. A domain is your website’s address, the URL (Uniform Resource Locator). Your website’s name should be easy to remember, easily spelled out, and descriptive of your company’s product or services. Avoid special characters and hyphens; this over-complicates things when verbalizing your site’s name.
Registering your company’s name is an obvious “must do,” but make sure to register your company’s products as well. Website URLs are not protected by copyright, so anyone can register them. Registering your products’ URLs will help to protect their online presence. Imagine if your competitor were to register your company name or product. They would then control where your customers go online. That would be unfortunate. A search for your product, service, or company would bring potential clients to your competitors. This is a dirty business practice and one that will cause you trouble.
Registering domains is extremely simple. Choose a service and pick your site name. It typically costs around $15 per year. Register all of the site name ideas you had. It’s cheap, and if you don’t use them, simply let them expire. Better to have what you need than to need what you don’t have.
Also consider registering the same domain with different suffixes. A domain suffix is the .com or .net endings of a site name. Do this to protect your domain. Just because you own yourcompany.com doesn’t mean you also own yourcompany.net.
2. Determine your content. The second thing to know and create before launching your website is your content. What is the purpose of your site? Having a website simply to have a website is a bad thing to do. It needs to have a purpose; otherwise you are wasting resources and hurting your online presence. If you plan on selling products on your site, you need an online store. If you are a design firm, perhaps all you need is an online company brochure. Those are two very different websites. At this point, don’t worry about the design, how to design it, what it will look like, or how you will get it made. Focus on content. Ask yourself these two questions:
- What is the purpose of the website?
- What information is needed to fulfill that purpose?
Once you have answered those questions, start creating the content. Keep in mind that you can always change the content of your website. Nothing is permanent.
3. Select a web-hosting service. You have procured your website name and determined what the site needs to be. Now for the technical parts: This next step can be frustrating because it is difficult to know the right way to go. Where do you host (or store) your website? There are many options. You can host it yourself on your own server, or you can hire a company to host it for you. Self-hosting a site gives you full control over what happens. You don’t have to worry that the host company will shut down, have connection problems, or hold your data hostage. If you use a hosting company, you don’t have to manage a server, high-speed data connections, security, hosting software, or figure out how to do it. If you choose a hosting service, find one that suits your needs and provides “uptime” guarantees.
4. Design your site. The website design process can be the most difficult step. Website design has become much more than just coding in HTML (Hypertext Mark-up Language). You can hire a developer to code the site in-house or you can hire a website-design company. If you site’s design is going to change often, then it may be more cost effective to do it in-house. Typically a website will be designed once and then change very little. The content may need to be updated on a regular basis, but that may not require any code changes. Consult with a web-design company to get ideas on solutions that will fit your needs. Many of these companies have products that allow you to log on and change the content when you need to.
5. Launch your site and use social media. Once your site is ready to launch, make a big deal about it. Tell your friends, send out flyers, add the site URL your business cards and letterhead. If your company is using social media, post it, tweet it, friend it, share it all over the place. If your company is not using social media, then this may be your next project to tackle. Your company may not really need to use social media, but keep in mind that millions of web visitors use these services on a daily basis, and social media may be a good way to get the word out for your company.
For more tips on building a small-business website, check out these articles:
How to Build A Killer Small-Business Website
Build a Website for Your Small Business: 5 DIY Services
How to Start a Website for Free or Low Cost—21 Tools to Consider