8 Steps to Building a Website
06 November 2015
We live in a digital world, with more than 3.2 billion internet users across the globe, of which, more than 20 million are Australian.1 People are searching for information and opportunities to spend, with some 40% of searches on mobile devices related to local businesses.2 All this suggests that having a strong digital presence has never been more important to the success of small businesses.
These days it is hard to imagine a business that could not benefit from a digital presence. For some, simply having a social media presence or a listing in an online directory is sufficient, although for a growing number it means having a website as well. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recently released figures showing that two in five Australian micro business owners have their own website, equating to more than 200,000 micro business websites in the nation.3
The benefits of having a website are considerable. Whether it is designed to build your credibility and brand, provide customers with the information they need to purchase your products and services, or create a medium for you to engage with your clients, your website can provide both your existing and future customers with access to your business 24 hours a day.
So if you’re thinking about your current marketing strategy and how a website could benefit your business, but don’t know where to start, this eight step guide aims to help you identify the stages to consider when starting to build a website for your business.
Step 1. Establish the core objective of your website
The first step if you don’t already have an online presence is to talk to some of your trusted customers about what they would want from your business’s website, asking them about what information and functionality they need.
Determine how your customers prefer to access the internet, so you can look to develop your website to suit their needs. There are more than 6 million mobile wireless broadband devices in Australia4 capable of finding out information about your business so you ideally want to make sure you are working toward developing a website that will work well across desktop, tablet and mobile devices.
You will also need to figure out whether your website will be interactive, where your customers can buy your products and services, book appointments, whether you will use it to publish content (blogs, podcasts, etc.) or whether it will just provide general information and contact details.
During this phase it is critical to think about the experience you want for visitors to your website. This is where you want to structure and prioritise the type of content that your website needs.
- HOT TIP: Now is also a great time to take a look at the websites of peers, both within and outside your industry. You should note the things you like, the things you don’t like and the general functionality. If your competitors mostly have very basic websites there may be an opportunity to develop something better. If they have interactive sites, where customers can buy products and services online then you may need to think about developing this for your site.
Step 2. Choose & register your domain name
It’s a great time to start thinking about your business’s web address as this will shape your online identity, helping your customers to find and get to know you. You want to make life easy for your customers, so choose a domain name that is some version of www.your-business-name.com.au. Keep your name simple, memorable, and easily associated with your business.
The best way to check whether the name you want is available is on a WHOIS service.
Once you’ve chosen a domain you should head to an online register where you can purchase your domain name. A domain costs anywhere from $10-100 for a year.
Step 3. Professional developers or DIY?
The next big question is how much money do you plan to spend? If you need an e-commerce site, a more complex design and functionality, all the bells and whistles or want the help of trusted experts, then it might be time to think about bringing in some professional help. A good place to start is the Australian Web Industry Association or seek out personal recommendations.
However, if you only need a basic website, or just want to test the waters before fully committing, there are providers that can get you up and running using friendly templates that require no technical coding knowledge. You will be surprised how many websites are based on simple templates, and for many small businesses this is the cheapest and easiest option.
- HOT TIPS: If time or budget isn’t on your side, you can always look to launch your website and enhance in stages. There are numerous low cost options, just Google for ’free website builder tools’.
- Remember, there will be ongoing costs. Firm up your website budget and factor in any ongoing costs associated with running and maintaining your website (domain name renewal, hosting your website, buying imagery, outsourcing any maintenance e.g. digital copywriting, Search Engine Optimisation).
Step 4. Creating content & building your website
By this stage you should have decided whether you can do the job yourself, or whether you need to bring in professional help. If you decide to go it alone, there are numerous website building tools that will take you through a step-by-step process to choose a template, populate content and images and then connect your domain name. To choose the right one you need to make sure you have your list of must-have features and content at hand; also essential when talking to professional developers.
If you choose to work with a professional they’ll be able to help you with this, however if you’re going down the DIY route it’s important you also understand and work towards accessibility standards which are in place to ensure universal access for people of all abilities to access the Web. There are free online tools to help with things such as checking your colour contrasts to ensure your content is legible, for example.
Your website is your chance to tell the world what you already know – that your business is fantastic and that people need your services and products in their life! Think about what pages your website needs, and the type of content needed to fill them. The content should be as unique and descriptive as possible, keeping it simple and avoiding business jargon.
Make sure you think about reporting functionality, such as Google Analytics to track who is coming to your site, and continually improve it. A professional developer can help, but website builder tools should also have step-by-step guides on how to integrate this capability.
- HOT TIP: Google ‘royalty-free images’ to find sites that offer imagery you can use without paying ongoing usage fees or consider a DIY photoshoot featuring you and your business.
Step 5. Test your website
Once you have built your website, you would have reviewed the content a number of times, so why not seek out feedback from friends, family, colleagues, customers and anybody else who you think will provide an honest appraisal, with a fresh set of eyes.
Remember to test how the site works across a number of different browsers and devices including desktop, mobile phones and tablets, as well as testing any functionality.
Step 6. Launch time!
Publishing your website will be a great feeling after all the hard work and hours you have invested in it, but having it live won’t be enough to drive traffic. Promote your website on all your business marketing material, including business cards and email signatures as a first step. If you have a database of customer emails, send them the link to check out your new website. In addition, you should tell your friends and ask them to share it on social media with their networks.
Register your business on ‘Google My Business’ and update your existing online local business directory listings to include your website address.
- HOT TIP: 97% of consumers search online for local businesses. Make sure your business is registered on all the main ones (Google My Business, Yahoo Local or Yelp etc.) and that your business details are up to date! Check out the Top Online Directories for 2015.
Step 7. Keep it fresh
Regardless of what type of website you have, don’t forget about it! Keep the content up-to-date – you want your customers to keep coming back!
Monitor your website reporting to understand who is visiting your site, this will also tell you if the keywords throughout the content on the site are drawing the right people through. Be mindful of what your peers and competitors are doing – if they launch a new capability on their websites, your customers will likely expect for you to offer similar features.
Step 8. Make it happen!
The guidelines above should help steer you in the right direction to make your business’s website a reality. This is an exciting time for you and your business – enjoy it! And remember to continually monitor, measure and evolve it to meet your customer’s expectations and achieve your goals as a business.
1International Telecommunication Union, Australian Bureau of Statistics, World Bank
3ABS, 8129.0 - Business Use of Information Technology, 2013-14
4ABS, 8153.0 - Internet Activity, Australia, June 2015