Creating a website – where to start and what do you need to know?

Today’s customers expect businesses to be online so getting your website right is essential for every new or established business. Some planning though can help make the best choices for your company.

With the web over twenty years old now, getting a business website is pretty straightforward, however there are some aspects to ensuring you get it right. The business name, domain registration, web platform and hosting service used will all affect how well your company performs online.

Registering a domain name is the first step – this is your internet address, the .com or .com.au your business will be known as online. Changing it later is a hassle and it can cost you customers so a well considered choice is important. If you’re a local business then an Australian domain is fine however if you’re looking at selling to the world then having a .com address is preferred.

For purely online services, choosing the business’ name often revolves around what domain names are available. If you can’t find a domain that matches the business’ name, it should be something as close as possible.

One trick if you have a web developer or consultant assisting you with setting up the domain name, is to make sure the billing details are registered to the business rather than the contractor or an individual. This protects the business should the contractor or staffer move on.

If your business just wants a basic online presence, or you have the tech skills, then doing it yourself is fine. However if you want something that will grow with the company then getting an expert in to do this legwork for you is generally the best way to do things. While a specialist will cost, it’s usually a worthwhile investment to spend money on someone who does this work every day.

Before trusting your business to an expert though it’s important to define the work you want them to do and the milestones on which they will be paid. Again, making sure all registrations, username and passwords are in your possession are essential to protect your interests.

The next stage is choosing a platform with a choice of free, template or hosted services. The free services such as Blogger are useful for local businesses or to test an idea and have the benefit of being really easy to use. They don’t scale well though for growing ventures.

A template site such as Weebly, Wix or WordPress.com are good choices for business owners wanting to do it themselves as these sites are easy to use and give a wide choice of options. For a growing business, WordPress.com is usually the best option as it allows a company to scale.

Choosing a hosted site is generally the best option for most businesses but it does require some technical know-how or the services of a consultant, this is where Proquo’s community of service providers becomes valuable in finding the right resources. Proquo’s b2b online trading platform provides small businesses with the opportunity to share, swap and trade with other small businesses in Australia.

Once the website choices are made then there needs to be some thought around the overall design and content. It’s worthwhile thinking about your ‘elevator pitches’ – describing your businesses both in 140 characters and in 500 words. Not only does this help articulate what the company does, but will help when creating social media profiles and with search engine optimisation.

Those descriptions should be a key part of the site but it’s important not to forget other important information for customers such as opening hours, address, phone numbers, street parking, public transport or areas your business serves.

Once the basics of your site are established you can get out and conquer your neighbourhood, if not the world.

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