Reckon your business can get away with not having a website? Think again. The UK boasts one of the highest ratios of active internet users on the planet. As a country, we’re extremely online – more than 98% of the total population has access to the web. So, if your business can’t be found online, then you’re missing out.
Whether you’re a B2B or B2C business, your customers use the Internet at every stage of the buying process. From carrying out research to checking reviews and making those all-important purchases, the online world is at the centre of their decisions.
Why your business needs a website
- 87% of customers start their product searches online.
- Between 25-30% of all retail sales in the UK are attributed to online shopping.
- 53% of all web traffic comes from organic search. A website allows you to target these searches with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and win more customers than ever.
- Don’t want to sell online? You still need a good website. 43% of customers always look up a brick-and-mortar business online before they visit it
A good business website forms the cornerstone of your brand and allows you to explore digital marketing techniques like email marketing and pay-per-click advertising. It also helps you gather reviews and build your reputation, establishing lasting authority in the eyes of your clients/customers.
Now you can see why having a site is important, but you may still be worried that the how is going to be too complex or expensive for your business. Fortunately, building a website is easier and cheaper than you may think.
A quick note: if you’re hoping to find a guide on how to create a website for business for free, you may be somewhat disappointed. Whilst we’re going to explore some free options, there are some low fixed costs, such as monthly hosting that we’d recommend investing in to help protect you and your business.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through every step involved with creating your business website. We’ll demystify the technical terms associated with websites and show you how to create a great site without breaking the bank…
Glossary of terms
- Domain name: refers to the full address for your website – which includes your chosen name and the top-level address such as .co.uk/.com.
- URL/web address: the specific string of characters associated with a webpage. Your domain is a URL, but it will also have specific URLs for certain pages. For example, if a customer asked for your shop URL, it might be something like www.mystore.com/shop
- Hosting: your site might look great, but if it can’t be found it will be useless. You need a web host to house your website.
- CMS: a content management system provides a platform for you to edit and add pages to your site. WordPress, one of the most popular website builders in the world, is a CMS.
- SSL: an SSL certificate is a mandatory requirement for websites and ensures digital activity is encrypted. SSL stands for secure sockets layer.
- Website builder: some companies offer codeless website builders that allow you to create a site with no technical knowledge at all. Examples include SquareSpace, GoDaddy and Wix.
- SEO: search engine optimisation is the process of understanding the terms and queries typed into Google and other search engines, then optimising your website to appear for them.
The basics of website creation
Creating a website is all about knowing the steps involved. It might seem scary at first, especially when you’re new to the terms and concepts involved in web design. However, a little knowledge goes a long way – so let’s break it down into digestible chunks.
The core elements of a website
First and foremost, to help you understand how to build a site, here are the four main elements responsible for a website.
- Your domain: This is your website's name and the web address by which people can access your page.
- The ‘frontend’: refers to the elements of your website your customers can see. Images, colours, text and other design elements are all displayed in the ‘frontend’.
- The ‘backend’ This is the hidden part of your site that is responsible for setting out how the front end works. In some cases, site builder tools like Wix act as a backend.
- The ‘host’ Your website needs to be hosted via a web server to become accessible to other visitors.
Don’t worry if you think this looks complicated – most web design tools allow you to focus solely on the ‘front end’ part of your site and take care of the rest in a few short steps. Keep following this guide, and we’ll cover everything you need…
Choosing a domain name
To get started, you’ll need to decide on a domain name relevant to your business. The domain name for Crunch, for example, is www.crunch.co.uk. Before you can actually use the domain, you need to check it out by typing it into your browser.
You might find that another website already occupies your domain or has been ‘parked’ by a domain reseller who will offer to sell the domain to you. In almost all cases, pages reserved in this way will be costly, so we’d recommend trying something different.
If you’re struggling to get a domain name that matches your business, try experimenting with different prefixes and suffixes, as well as different URLs like .com, .org, .co.uk, .uk and more.
Once you’ve got an idea of your domain name, you’ll need to register it. This involves either buying the domain individually from a domain registrar or more commonly, choosing a package that includes your domain, hosting and even website-building tools.
Finding a host
In many cases, domain sellers also provide hosting – but they might not be suitable for your needs. Hosts will typically offer pricing plans based on how many visitors you expect to attract to your site.
For most small businesses, a small monthly fee is enough to cover quality hosting options that ensure your website stays live and accessible throughout the year. Shop around to find a UK host that has dedicated customer service, as you’ll be grateful for it if problems occur.
Lots of popular website builders, such as Wix and SquareSpace, provide hosting, too, so skip ahead if you’re interested in those.
Choosing the right website building platform
Domains and hosting might be the first considerations, but nowadays, you don’t need to arrange them ahead of starting your website. Instead, popular site-building platforms have combined domains, hosting and design into one service – making it easy to build your site, upload it to the internet and give it a URL so people can find it.
Competition between each is fierce, so we’ve created a handy grid to help you understand the pros and cons of each and make a decision based on your needs rather than hearsay or recommendations.
As you can see, every site builder has its pros and cons. To help you decide, we’d recommend the following options based on your situation:
- If you’re a sole trader with a small service-based business, try Wix or GoDaddy for ease of use and affordability.
- If your business has more focus on visuals (e.g. photography or graphic design) consider SquareSpace for its expanded design offering.
- If you think you want more options to customise and grow in the future, choose WordPress.
- If you want to sell products online, Shopify is probably the best bet for its simplicity and support.
Once you’ve made a choice, it’s time to move on to the fun part – designing your flashy new business website with no coding knowledge at all.
Designing your website
All of the tools we’ve discussed use themes and templates to make it easy to build a site. Each theme establishes a set of guidelines and design choices that guide how you’ll create your site and help eliminate any of the potential pitfalls of coding a site from scratch.
We can’t talk you through every type of theme and template, as your choice will depend on which site builder you’ve chosen and your own requirements. However, some general tips to follow include:
Choose a relevant theme
Some themes/templates are built for specific types of business, such as e-commerce retail or art portfolios. When browsing theme options, see if there are example sites you can look at and read the theme description to see what usage the creator recommends.
Try to pick an option that suits your business – a bright, colourful theme with a gallery feature that relies on high-quality photography might suit a coaching company, but won’t be ideal for a funeral director.
Focus on core pages
When you’re creating your site, you need to focus on designing the pages which are most relevant to your service. Think about the action you want a user to take, then plan your pages around that. For example, if you’re a service-based sole trader, you probably want a visitor to book a consultation or enquire via a form – so you need to include a contact page.
In general, the core pages you will need to consider are:
- Homepage: Every site has a homepage where you give people an overview of what you do and what services you offer. Include good photography, your logo, a description of your business and encourage people to get in touch via a button that links to your contact page.
- About: This page lets you tell your brand’s story. Talk about you and your business and why you do what you do. About pages don’t really increase your sales, but they allow customers to learn more and build trust in you.
- Services: If you offer specific, distinct services, create separate pages for each one and describe what it is, what it offers and how a user can benefit.
- Contact: Create a page that displays all of your business’ contact information and allows users to contact you directly via email or telephone.
- Blog: If you can commit to creating regular blog articles about what you do, create a blog page on your site to host each of them in one accessible location.
Editing in the right way
You can’t just slap a theme on your site and call it done. You also need to edit your new theme, using the options available through your chosen site-building tool. Again, this depends on which one you’ve chosen, but in general, look to edit the following to create personalisation for your brand:
- Create visual hierarchy – display the most important information at the top of your page and then work down to a contact/enquiry button.
- Keep things simple and consistent with what users expect. Everyone is used to websites having a logo that links back to the homepage at the top of every page, so make sure you’ve got one on your site.
- Work with a limited colour palette – use 3-5 colours maximum or you’ll run the risk of creating clashes and visual hiccups.
- Choose one style and colour for the buttons on your site and stick to it throughout.
- Use sans-serif fonts where possible, as they are more legible than serif options. Popular choices include Arial, Roboto and Raleway.
- Tweak the amount of white/blank space around any visual elements, such as photographs or logos on your site to make each element stand out.
Make sure you’re mobile-friendly
The most popular way to access websites and browse the internet is via mobile devices, so you need to make sure whatever theme or template you choose also looks great on mobiles. In the past, that meant creating a separate mobile-friendly site. Nowadays, all of the site builders we recommended offer responsive design options that function across both desktop and mobile.
However, don’t just assume that anything that looks good on your laptop will look good on your phone. Test out your site design on multiple devices before you publish it, as mobile users are absolutely essential if you want to succeed.
Optimising for search engines with SEO
Before you publish your site, it’s worth building an understanding of SEO and putting some basic framework into place to help your website compete online. SEO, or search engine optimisation, is all about trying to optimise your website to appear in search results.
SEO relies heavily on finding keywords relevant to your brand. These are the terms people type into Google to find information and you can use a free tool like Ubersuggest to find some for your own business, alongside an estimated search volume number, which is roughly how many times that keyword is searched each month.
Once you have your keywords, make sure each page includes text with the relevant keyword in it. Then use the site builder’s SEO tools to change the ‘meta title’ of a page to include the keyword.
SEO is a complex process, but you can start off yourself for free with the process above. To help improve your chances to rank, here are some general tips:
- Include your chosen keyword in the meta title and main content of the relevant page.
- Link to your most important pages from other pages where relevant. For example, link from your homepage to your service pages.
- Use local variations for keywords to help you appear when users in your region look for your services. For example, a landscape gardener would use the keyword ‘landscape gardener London’.
- Minimise page load speeds wherever possible as this impacts your SEO.
Launching and promoting your website
Once you’ve finished designing your site using the template tools and then polished your SEO, you’re ready to publish your site.
Before you hit the ‘go’ button, we need to set your expectations – you won’t see an immediate influx of customers. Having a site forms the foundation of your digital presence – you’ll still have to promote it to let people know your site is live and get the initial visits rolling.
We’ve focused on keeping costs low, so we’ll share some ideas for cheap promotion to help you get going:
- Tell your business network about the site launch and invite them to offer any opinions or feedback.
- Use social media to post content about your work and services with a link back to your site.
- Include your new site address on any of your business assets, such as business cards, email signatures, letterheads, etc.
- Make sure your web address is added to any directories or listings your business is registered with.
- Reach out to ask businesses or customers you’ve worked with in the past to share your site on their own social media pages.
- Consider investing in some paid campaigns via social media or Google ads to increase early traffic.
Finally, keep your website updated to avoid security issues or errors. Some site-building tools or hosts can automate this for you, whereas others will require manual action. It doesn’t really matter how you update your site – the important thing is recognising when it needs to be updated and getting that actioned in.
Ready to start?
If you’ve followed all the steps in this guide, you’ll now be ready to get your site up and running without having to spend much at all. What you do spend, however, can be deducted from your profits for the purposes of working out tax – so make sure you keep any receipts.
As you begin to grow your business with your new site, stay on top of your income and profits by using Crunch. In a similar fashion to the site builders we’ve discussed in this guide, our accountancy software makes a complex task as simple as possible. Get started with the free version.