Websites – What are the essentials?
Having a functional website (yes note the word functional) is an integral part to achieving online success for your business.
The great thing about your website is that it absolutely belongs to you! It is the only thing on the internet that you are going to have full control over. The only place where you don’t have to worry about algorithm changes or censored content. The only place you are completely free to share your views, knowledge, products and services in whatever way you wish. Great, right?
A good business website will set you back at least £5k if you hire a developer. But if you are a DIYer bootstrapping your way to the top, hiring a developer may not be an option just yet. So what do you do? Where do you start? These are questions that I had at the very beginning of my online journey, but fear not, I got your back.
Here’s a list of 5 key things you need to get started
You purchase domain names from a domain name registrar. I typically use Go Daddy, but others I would recommend are 123reg and NameCheap. There is no harm in shopping around as you will find they all price differently.
Before making a purchase you will need to consider which domain name extension(s) you are going to opt for. As of 2017, there are a staggering 882 to choose from. However some have a global reach (.com), others are country specific (.uk) and others still are just random (.tube). Personally I think it is integral you secure the .com version from a business perspective, however you should base the decision on your business and where you intend to operate.
You may think it apt to purchase more than one domain. For instance, I have both the .com and .co.uk for Create Your Own Digital and I utilise both by having the latter redirect to the former. By doing this I am capturing more of my audience and preventing another company from using a domain that could foreseeably cause confusion.
The single biggest challenge will be finding a domain name that is representative of your business and not already taken. You may have to be inventive with hyphens and acronyms to get the job done.
In a nutshell, hosting is like buying a small amount of storage on a huge computer. This computer, otherwise known as a server, allows people to see your website’s files when they input your website address (domain name) and click enter.
There are several hosting companies, offering a range of services at a variety of prices. Having tried a fair few, I am now a huge fan of SiteGround. They are a recommended WordPress host (see platforms below) and they are reasonably priced. In addition to this, they have fantastic support, which is a necessity when running a business. The worst thing that could happen is your site go down and you can’t make contact with anyone or you have to wait days for a response.
When doing a DIY site-build, you want a system that is simple to use, robust and flexible. Am I right? Well, I know these are my ideals and for all of these reasons plus more, I absolutely 100% recommend WordPress!
If you don’t already know this about me, you will definitely discover that I am a WordPress super fan. I first discovered the platform around 2010 and boy did it open my eyes to knew possibilities.
Prior to finding WordPress I had used Wix, Weebly and Joomla. None of these platforms even come close to WordPress for me and I really can’t advocate you try anything else.
WordPress is more than just a platform. It’s a community. There are literally thousands of people driving its development forward. And for a DIY/Bootstrapper what could be better than not having to touch code whilst being able to store everything you need in one place?
Still not convinced? Well, I even wrote a post on why WordPress is the best platform to use. Surely now you will be swayed.
The rest of this post is written on the basis that you made the right decision (oops did I say that?) and opted for WordPress.
Themes are designed to make your life easier and there are a multitude to choose from, both free and paid, that you can use as a template to build a beautiful and effective site. If you want to consider a free theme, you can browse the free theme directory here or via your WordPress dashboard.
For paid themes I tend to shop at Theme Forest, but again there are plenty of options which you can discover via a simple Google search. One such example and my recommendation for a DIYer is the Divi theme by Elegant Themes.
Why? Well this theme is super customisable, flexible and versatile. The learning curve isn’t too steep and Elegant Themes have a library full of tutorials taking you through building your site from beginning to end. No two Divi sites will look the same, so you can create something truly unique for your business and it’s reasonably priced. You can access all of the ET themes and plugins for $89 a year.
Similarly to themes, plugins are designed to make things easier by adding extra functionality to your WordPress site.
Say for instance you want to add a pricing table to your website that allows your site visitor to toggle between monthly and annual pricing, you may add a plugin such as Easy Pricing Table. Or, perhaps you want to see your Google Analytics stats right there in your dashboard, yep there’s a plugin for that too. There will likely be a plugin for pretty much anything you can think of.
Again there are free and paid plugin options. You can search the free plugin directory here or via your WordPress dashboard. Or you can find paid plugins at CodeCanyon or another online suppler.
Read this post for my list of must have WordPress plugins.
The final major consideration in getting started with your website is security. Building a website really is a labour of love and there would be nothing worse than a hacker coming along and destroying all of your hard work. Unfortunately no website is foolproof, which is why you have to take security seriously from the beginning.
In my list of must have WordPress plugins you will note Sucuri. This is just one of the many options available but I like it so I recommend it. Aside from utilising a plugin there are some practical steps that you can take in order to reduce the chances of your website falling foul of an attack.
- Change your username from the default ‘admin’
- Keep WordPress, Themes and Plugins up to date. WordPress will notify you when an update becomes available. Act on these notifications
- Use a strong password and update it regularly
- Although hiring a developer may not be an option, getting yourself on to a WordPress Care Plan Package of some description may be. There are a fair few companies offering this service and it is also a service that I love offering over at Limitless Design.
And there you have it, everything that you need to get started with building your website. It's time to take action.