These days, building a website is about vision and tools and not about learning to code. Time for a quick history lesson. In the early 90s, having a business website meant creating a few simple webpages. In fact, many businesses only had a landing page with an address, a phone number, and the hours of operations. The internet was like the new frontier and no one really knew what they were doing. Sure, big tech companies had the resources to figure this out but small to medium size businesses used websites like a business card. Fast forward 20 years and now it’s not only about a website but also having a social presence using Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. Does Facebook or Twitter replace the need for a site? It’s possible but unlikely. Both are proprietary platforms that controls what a business is allowed to do. Such restrictions don’t exist for a website. For example, neither Facebook and Twitter allow e-commerce which is becoming more common on sites that allow purchases using credit cards or PayPal.
Having a site just makes sense and you definitely want your own url (i.e. http://www.<your business name>.com). Here are some typical questions you might have:
- Is it difficult to build a website?
- Do you need to read books or take a course to learn how to create one?
- Should you even be spending the time to learn a programming language?
I don’t believe so. Building a website is about vision and communication.
- Are you using the site to gather feedback or is it to promote new events or sales?
- What message are you sending to potential and existing clients?
- Do you plan to sell products or services online?
A website exists to support your business by telling your company’s message. If you hire a web design firm, their talented staff will help translate this message into visual elements on an appealing layout. However, do you need to hire someone? I admit this is a strange question since my company builds websites. However, I also realize that a lot of small companies or individuals simply can’t afford to hire someone to build a site. Fortunately, there are options available and many them are inexpensive or free.
Hosting Provider Tools
If you buy a domain name and web hosting from providers such as GoDaddy, HostGator, or DreamHost, you will get access to some type of “site builder” tool to create a simple landing page using drag-and-drop. It’s generally simple to use but limited in features. No programming is required. You need to pay for a domain name ~$10/year and a hosting plan which is ~$5/month.
Free Website Builders
If you are not sure about paying money for a hosting plan right now, you should try one of the free website building and hosting services. The downside is you don’t get a url like http://www.<your business name>.com. However, you do get a unique url such as:
- <your business name>.<name of service>.com (i.e. plushflowers.wimbly.com)
- http://www.<name of service>.com/<your business name> (i.e. http://www.wimbly.com/plushflowers)
On the positive side, these services are generally free. Here are a few sites which offer these services:
If you believe your business approach is to develop a community through an active voice with regular content, you may want a site which is primarily a blog. The blog allows you to express your thoughts and engage with followers through comments. Most companies with a website almost always has a blog as well. Some popular blogging services include:
These are some great tools and services which can help you get started. The most challenging task will be to decide on content and layout using a template with the look and feel which reflects your business. If you are not sure, the best approach is to look at the sites of some comparable or complementary businesses and pick out some ideas which you like. Often clean, simple, and clear is best. Look and feel are important but the content you provide is key. Remember, building a website is about vision. The tools and technology exists to provide support and should not be the main focus of your efforts.