Who Is This Guide For?
I wrote this guide for people like you, the do-it-yourselfers out there who want to build and maintain their own website.
Maybe you want to stay in control of your own advertising methods, or you simply don’t have the budget to hire a professional web designer right now.
Here are just a few types of people who will benefit from this guide;
- Brick ‘n’ mortar businesses such as therapists, salons, and bakeries.
- Local services businesses such as cleaning companies, landscapers, and personal trainers.
- Freelancers such as writers, graphic designers, and virtual assistants.
Why I Wrote This Guide
Because I remember when I first attempted to build my first website.
I didn’t have a clue what domain name or a hosting was, let alone how to connect them together.
Or why I’d even want to for that matter.
I searched the internet high and low for a simple guide that would just explain things in plain English.
Sure, I found plenty of people showing me the techie aspects of creating a site, but what about all the stuff before that?
I mean, If you were going to build a house, you wouldn’t just go and purchase a load of bricks and start building, would you?
Of course not.
Instead, you’d sit down and create a detailed plan of what you were going to do and have a very good idea of what the finished product will look like once complete.
If you didn’t, you’d find yourself in a right old mess and it’s no different when it comes to creating your website.
It’s for that reason that I put together this guide to cut through the technical jargon and help you lay a solid foundation to build your site on top of.
I truly believe it’ll save you the weeks of frustration that I suffered when I first entered into this brave new world of do-it-yourself website building.
With that said, let’s dive straight in.
A Birds-Eye View of The Pieces That Make Up a Website
- Defining the purpose of your website
- Picking a domain name
- Planning your website pages and content
- Choosing a website builder
- Finding hosting (if required)
- Mobile friendly design
Now you just need to know what each piece does and how they all fit together.
It turns out that creating a website is just like building your own house.
You’ll have to excuse me for reverting back to my earlier analogy, but this is how I finally managed to get my head around the site building process and I think it’ll help things “click” for you too.
#1 First, You Need To Decide The Purpose of The House (Website)
If you were really building a house, you’d have a strong reason for doing so at the forefront of your mind long before entering even the planning stage.
Maybe you intend to rent out the house as a form of income, add to a property portfolio, or even have it as your very own family home.
The same applies to your website.
There’s no point in making one simply because “everyone else has one”.
(By the way, according to a recent survey by clutch, 71% of small business have a website here in 2017 which has risen from around 55% since 2016).
Instead, think about it this way; when a potential customer lands on your website, what action do you want them to take?
- Make a purchase?
- Call to schedule an appointment?
- Fill out a contact form to request a quotation?
- View examples of your previous work?
Whatever it is, it’s important crucial to understand this before proceeding.
Believe me when I say it’ll make the structuring of your site a lot easier rather than fumbling your way around in the dark without a plan.
#2 Next, You’ll Need a Plot of Land (Domain name)
Think of this plot of land as your domain name or website address such as www.yournewbusinesssite.com.
It’s the foundation that your house (or website) will be built on.
You don’t have to buy land right away, you could choose to live with relatives or friends for a while, maybe even forever and free of charge to boot.
The trouble is that this house isn’t technically yours and you won’t look as “cool” when you tell people that you live with your relatives rather than having your own place.
The same thing applies to your domain name.
When you build a free website using one of the many website builders out there (more on these later) you’re essentially renting it and your domain name will include the company’s name as you can see in the example below.
Looks ugly right?
It’s called a subdomain and whilst it’s a great way to build a free site and test things out, at some point, you’ll want to purchase your own domain name to give your business a more professional look.
You can pick up domain names for around $10-$15 per year so they’re not a huge expense in the grand scheme of things and it’s usually a straightforward process to connect your new domain name to your site.
Choosing your domain name
I see far too many people become stuck up at this stage.
My best advice is to keep it simple and use your actual business name in the first instance. E.G. LeakyJoesPlumbing.com.
If for some reason your business name isn’t available and yep, it does happen, then you can always use “keywords” related to your industry along with your town or city if you serve a particular location.
Here’re a couple of examples:
#3 Designing The Rooms of Your House (Website Pages & Content)
You can’t start building a house until you’ve carefully planned out the rooms.
Will you have two bedrooms or three? One bathroom or two?
It’s these rooms that’ll define the building and so it’s important to get this structure into place early on.
In this case, the structure relates to your basic website pages and content.
I’ve put together a short list below of what I believe are the essential pages every small business website should have regardless of the product or service you’re offering;
Give your visitors a warm welcome and tell them what you’re about.
Make sure the purpose of your website that we discussed earlier is clearly present on each page but especially your home page whether it’s your phone number or contact form etc.
About us Page
Did you know the “About” page is the second most visited page of any website? It’s because people like to do business with other people, not faceless companies.
This is a fantastic chance to share your story with potential customers and win them over.
Services page overview
Think of this page as an overview or a list of the services you offer.
Individual service pages
For each service mentioned on the overview page, I highly recommend creating additional pages for those services along with a detailed description and images.
This will not only help your visitors understand exactly what it is your offering, but it’ll also help you “pop-up” in search engines for a wider variety of searches.
Not all businesses have fixed prices as they may depend on a number of factors.
Other business owners might not want to publically display prices in case their competitors see them.
Whether to publically display your prices or not on your website is a decision only you can make.
Personally, I don’t think there’s anything more annoying when I visit a website to find the price of a haircut for example, only to find they aren’t listed.
Usually, I’ll move on to another site, just saying!
Exactly what it says. A page containing your phone number, email address, contact form, social media links, and business address if applicable.
This page should take pride of place in your main menu as you don’t want your customers having to hunt for it.
Creating your pages
When it comes to actually writing the content for these pages, you definitely have the option of outsourcing to a professional content writer but as you’re in the mindset of doing it yourself, I believe this is the best way forward.
And don’t worry, you don’t have to be a published author to write your own website content. I’m certainly not.
Besides, who know’s your business better than you?
No one, that’s who!
#4 Building Your House (Website builders)
There are plenty of website building platforms out there that’ll allow you get a basic shell of a website live on the internet in a matter of minutes these days.
Think of these platforms as the materials you’ll use to build your house
It goes without saying that some are better than others, and the price varies too.
Below, you’ll find some of the most popular options available today;
Option 1) WordPress
Ah, good old WordPress. This is the same platform that I used to create this very site.
Technically, it’s not a website builder but rather a “content management system”.
It’s often touted as “the best” and sometimes even “the only” way to build a website.
Even though I use it myself, I can tell you that’s simply not true.
Sure, there are plenty of advantages to using WordPress such as being able to bend the site to your will thanks to the thousands of website templates that allow you to quickly change the look and feel of your site with just a few clicks.
Not forgetting the plethora of add-on features that allow you to quickly add features such as contact forms, maps, and payment gateways to name just a few.
The major disadvantage of using WordPress is that even though you don’t need to know how to code, you’ll find that it comes with a steeper learning curve than some of the other options out there.
You’ll have to learn how to connect your domain name to hosting account, install WordPress and learn how to navigate your way around the platform itself which can seem quite daunting at first.
You’ll also quickly find that the templates are “fixed” and if you require a different layout, you might struggle to achieve it without hiring a professional to help you out.
Although I love WordPress, I personally know many small business owners that simply do not have the time or inclination to learn the platform as it’s not exactly something you can master overnight.
Option 2) WYSIWYG Website builders
No that’s not a typo.
You’ll find many of them are “drag and drop” which means you can simply drag elements such as text and photos and drop them just about anywhere on the page.
This makes a refreshing change from WordPress where everything is done on the back-end and the as I said, the templates aren’t very customizable.
The other great thing is, you usually have the option to purchase your domain name inside the platform and the hosting is already taken care of which will save you a digital ton of headaches.
But, as with everything in life, nothing’s perfect.
Some of these companies only allow you to create a site using their software.
This could be a problem down the road if you wanted to move your website or change over to a platform like WordPress.
Having said that, the business owners that I mentioned above who opted to use this type of builder are very happy with the results.
#5 Powering Your House (Hosting)
Unless you plan to live off the grid in the middle of nowhere where people won’t be able to find you, you’ll need to connect your house to an electricity, gas and water supply.
Back in the real world, the utility company is the host that powers your website and you can host with any company that takes your fancy, there’s certainly plenty to choose from.
Ranging from a few dollars to $100 plus per month, as with most things in life, the cheapest option isn’t always the best. I myself would rather pay a little more and be safe in the knowledge that my website is in good hands.
This way, there’s less chance of it being hacked and you’ll have access to good customer service just in case things do go wrong.
However, I’ll be the first to admit, that choosing the right hosting company can be a real minefield.
The good news is, most of the do-it-yourself website building platforms out there have inclusive hosting and also take care of the behind the scenes stuff like security etc.
For someone in the trenches running your business, this can be a huge time saver!
#6 Furnish Your House, Make it a Home (Templates)
Wow, we’ve come a long way.
So far, you’ve chosen a plot of land, designed the rooms, and decided what materials to use (website builder).
Now you just need to furnish your home with a template (also known as a theme) which will control how your website looks, feels, and operates which we touched upon above.
Most of the website builders out there have many beautiful templates to choose from and many of them are industry specific which allows you to “plug in your business” and away you go.
Once you’ve chosen a template, it’s important to spend some time making it your own by changing the color scheme to match your brand, add your logo, then your written content and images that you planned out earlier that’ll make up your pages.
A word of warning;
Most templates have demo content and images pre-installed.
I highly recommend swapping out this content with your own or you’ll have an almost impossible time of getting your website to show up in search engines like Google.
The same goes with the demo images. Spend some time and gather your own photos of yourself, business premises, company vehicle(s), staff, and even examples of your previous work.
Believe me, your customers will be able to spot these demo images a mile off and it looks very tacky and very unprofessional.
First impressions and all that!
#7 Finally, is Your Home Welcoming? (Mobile Friendly)
Congratulations! At this stage, your brand spanking new digital home is complete and you can now stand back and admire all of your hard work.
One final, yet crucial element that hasn’t cropped up yet, is the mobile friendliness of your website.
As more and more people use their mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to purchase products or look up local businesses online these days, it’s vital that your site looks and works well on these devices.
Most website builders understand this and are either automatically work well on mobiles, or they offer a separate editor to recreate a mobile version of your site (my preference).
In this day and age, if you don’t take mobile users into consideration when creating your site, then there’s not much point in building a website in the first place and this statement will only become more relevant as each day passes.
Whether you’re building a home or a website, there’s definitely going to be some work involved if you choose to do it yourself.
Your website will also never be truly “complete”. If you intend to utilize it to help attract new customers online, it’ll always need updating to keep things fresh.
Having said that, creating your own business website is definitely doable and it can be a very, exciting, rewarding and dare I say it, enjoyable experience.
Over to you
Do you have any questions or fears about getting creating your site? Let me know in the comments section below and I’ll do my very best to help you out.