Beginners Guide: How to plan a brilliant small business website - even if you have no experience
Updated: Dec 1, 2022
Building a website can feel overwhelming when you first start out. There are so many decisions to make and plenty of technical jargon to wrap your head around. It's easy to feel like giving up before you even begin!
But I'm here to remind you not to let a little bit of tech stand between you and your dream business.
Designing a website does not have to be complicated. All you need is someone to explain things to you in layman's terms, and provide some step-by-step guidance that's easy to follow.
And you're in the right place! 🙌
In this blog post I share a 7-Step Framework that explains how everything works, and guides you through through the process so that you can make the best decisions for your type of business taking into consideration your budget and existing skillset.
✔️ Clarify your main website goal
✔️ Work out your budget
✔️ Find a good domain name
✔️ Choose the right platform to build your website on
✔️ Determine whether to DIY or out-source your website
✔️ Know how to find the right person to work with
✔️ Map out your pages & plan your website content
Ready to feel a weight lifted off your shoulders? Grab a drink and let's dive in...
Step 1: Define your website goal
Before you start planning your website, it's important to get one thing clear: what your main website goal is.
As a small business owner, your website is your store front and best employee that works for you 24/7.
You want it to attract clients and turn them into paying customers... even when you're not around.
But how you do that depends on a few different factors such as the type of business you run and your industry.
Here are some of the more common website goals:
✔️ Book a free discovery call
✔️ Buy a product or service online
✔️ Download a digital product/freebie
✔️ Visit my physical location (salon, cafe, shop etc)
✔️ Book a service online
✔️ Sign up to my newsletter
Plus many more. The important thing is that you pick one thing that will help you grow your business.
Next, you're going to take that goal and turn it into an action. This will become your Call-To-Action button or CTA. A CTA is a button on your website with a simple instruction on it, asking your site visitor to take that particular action:
Book a free call
Download a freebie
Book an appointment
TOP TIP: Ensure your CTA stands out on your website in a prominent position near the top of the site so that it's the first thing people notice. You can have it in multiple places too.
Step 2: Work out your budget
There are 3 things you need to budget for when it comes to building a small business website: your domain name, your site host and your web designer should you choose to work with someone.
1. Domain name
Cost: ± £20 per year
A domain name is your website address. It's usually your business name, or your own name such as www.yourcompanyname.com.
It costs about £20 per year for hosting your domain, including domain privacy and taxes.
You can purchase your domain from a Domain Registry (more info in Step 2).
2. Website Building Platform
± £10-15 per month
A Website building platform allows you to build your website without coding experience, and is perfect for freelancers, solopreneurs and small business owners who want a website that they know how to use.
Popular website builders for service providers include Wix, Squarespace, Weebly and GoDaddy amongst others.
Prices vary across these platforms and the different packages they offer, but generally speaking if you want a website that doesn't accept online payments then you can expect to pay ± £10-15 per month.
You can expect to pay about double that if you want to accept online payments for services and products.
Personally, Wix is my favourite of these platforms as I find it more versatile and easier to customise/ make look on-brand. My second choice would be Squarespace. I don't find it as flexible but the templates are pretty and professional-looking.
Here are their pricing plans
3. Web Design fees
± £1000 - £3000+
When it comes to designing your website, you can either do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you.
Doing it yourself on Wix or Squarespace is simple enough, but often DiY websites can look amateur so its good to have some guidance along the way when it comes to the look & feel of your website, and what content to add.
If you don't want to waste time trying to DiY and are ready to invest in a professional website, you can expect to pay £1000 - £3000+ depending on who you work with, how much experience they've got, and what sort of website and functionality you're looking for.
I'd be careful about going for the cheapest option. Instead of focusing on the cost of the website, rather find a designer that you like and trust, who has had experience working with a business like yours before. This will save you a lot of headache - and money - in the long run.
Step 3: Choose Your Website Address
Now you need to buy yourself a domain name. This is basically your website address (for example, mine is www.caitlinpieters.com).
Ideally it should match your business name, be easy to remember and spell. I also recommend sticking with the more obvious extensions such as .co.uk, .com or relevant to the main country you do business in.
Look for the 'domain name' search box
Enter your desired domain name there to check availability
If your desired name isn't available, you'll need to find an alternative
Remember to keep it simple and clear with straight-forward spelling
Step 4: Select a Platform
Wix and Squarespace are the two top contenders for freelancers, solopreneurs and small business owners. They are affordable and have plenty of great templates to choose from. You can also customise the templates to match your branding, and have all the bells and whistles you might need to grow your business.
Weebly, GoDaddy etc are pretty restrictive and you might find you grow out of them quickly or that you're limited in what you can do on the platform.
Shopify is more pricey and is designed for product-based businesses. You can of course use Wix or Squarespace to sell products (I've got clients who use Wix and rank #1 on Google), but if you have a super busy shop selling hundreds of products per month, Shopify might be a better bet since it's DESIGNED for shops first so has more functionality that a busy shop might need.
Wix versus Squarespace
Having designed websites in both Wix and Squarespace, my personal preference is Wix. Here's why:
Wix gives you an unlimited amount of time to try out their platform. You can create an account for free and build as many websites as you like, play around with their templates and make sure you're comfortable using the platform before you commit. You only pay for a premium plan when you're ready to connect to your domain
Wix is great if you want to have total creative freedom because it's more versatile than Squarespace. I find it easier to design your website exactly how you want it with Wix, where you can drag and drop elements anywhere onto a website page
Wix has it's own built-in library of thousands of stock photos and design elements you can use on your website, plus a whole app market full of apps to make your website more professional
Wix includes built-in tools to help you grow business online, such as an Online Store that can sell physical and digital products, Online Scheduling Software that lets clients book & pay for appointments and services, an Email Marketing system that can gather email addresses, build your list, create automatic emails and send out newsletters. You can also run memberships and have private members areas.
ACTION STEP: The best thing you can do is to create an account on each platform and give it a bash!
Step 5: Decide if you want to DiY or outsource your website
This is not the easiest decision to make; you need to take into consideration your skills, budget, how much time you have to dedicate to building your website and the cost of missed opportunities while you're sorting this all out... which often takes so much longer than you anticipate.
If you’re pretty tech-savvy and feel confident enough to try design your own website, this will be your cheapest option because you won’t need to pay any designer fees.
In this case, you will only need to pay for your domain name and the platform that you build your website on such as Wix or Squarespace.
Where you save on costs, you lose on time. As with everything in life there's always a bit of a learning curve in the beginning, so it could take a while to figure out.
And if you don't have a good eye for design, you run the risk of your website looking amateur which can do more harm than good when you're trying to attract new clients.
Done-for-you website design
Having a professionally designed website will help your business be taken more seriously online, and save you time by doing all the heavy-lifting for you. And the sooner you have a website up and running the sooner you can start attracting clients and increase your income.
Working with a designer is an investment, and not everyone has the budget when they're first starting out. But if you're able to afford one, it can be a quicker path to success (provided you find the right person to work with).
Step 6: Find the right person to help you
It's easy for web developers to bamboozle you with technical terms and use fear tactics to get you to sign up for something you don't really need or understand. And sadly I see a lot of small business owners being taken advantage of in this way.
To avoid this happening to you, here are my best tips for finding the right-fit person to work with:
Ask your friends and peers for recommendations of web designers
Ask for recommendations on social media groups where freelancers tend to hang out
Make a short list of your favourite websites. Visit each of them and scroll to the bottom of the page. It will usually say who designed the website in the footer so you click on the link and view the designer's own website
Have a look through the designer's whole portfolio and visit the websites they have designed to get a proper feel for them
Check out any testimonials and case studies on their website
Book a discovery call with them to see if you're a good fit
Often it's a case of going with your gut instinct. If you find the designer was warm, friendly and open then that's a good sign!
Make sure you feel comfortable asking questions. You want someone who's open, honest and approachable that you can ask questions to without feeling silly
See whether they offer a payment plan. Sometimes you'll be able to pay off your website over a few months which is sometimes the difference between a yes and a no
Working with a freelancer designer or small business owner will help you keep costs down as they don't have the big overheads that a traditional agency would have
You will likely have a higher level of personalised support as you work 1:1 with the designer
Don't just go with the cheapest quote. Everyone and their dog is claiming to be a designer these days. If you're purely price-shopping and want to go with the cheapest option, you will soon need to pay more once you realise your website isn't converting. I see this all the time!
You'll be working closely with the designer for a period of time, so you need to get along well with them and you want to enjoy the process
Remember this is your brand, your vision, your future. You want to enjoy the process of designing your website and bringing it all to life!
Step 7: Map out your website pages
Grab a pen and paper and sketch out how many pages you want on your website. Decide on what to call them (keep it simple and obvious so site visitors know what to expect to find on each page).
This is a thinking process that helps you determine what you need from each page, and doesn't need much detail.
For a simple service-based website your sitemap might look something like this:
Now that you have all your ducks in a row, you should be ready to start building your website!
P.S: Bonus Step
Grab the Ultimate Website Checklist and make sure you have it on hand when you start building your website!
This is the very checklist I use with each of my clients to ensure their websites contain all the essential elements needed to attract clients and turn them into paying customers.
If you found this post helpful, please share it with your business besties and anyone you think it might help 🙌