Building a website can feel daunting. There are so many decisions to make and so many conflicting opinions out there.
What platform should you use?
How much is it really going to cost?
Can you do it yourself or should you hire a designer?
The more you research the more overwhelming it can feel. It's no wonder you don't know where to begin!
The good news is that building a website doesn't need to be complicated: in this day and age you don't need to code, and you don't even need to be 'technical'. Technology is making it simple for us and I'm here to show you how.
You're in the right place if:
You know you need a website but you don't know where to begin
The whole process feels daunting
You're worried you're going to mess things up or make the wrong decision
You don't know if you should do-it-yourself or outsource your website
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 website goal is.
As a small business owner, your website is your store front and best unpaid employee that works for you 24/7.
It's there 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 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
Whatever it is, pick one thing that will help you grow your business.
Next, you're going to take that goal and turn it into a button.
This is your Call-To-Action or CTA. Your CTA is a button on your website with a simple instruction on it, like:
Book a free call
Download a freebie
Book an appointment
Ensure your CTA stands out on your website in a prominent position near the top of the site so it's the first thing people notice. You can have it in multiple places too.
Step 2: Work out your budget
I'm all about keeping things simple. And there are only 3 things you need to budget for when it comes to building a small business website.
This is the most common (and convenient) way to describe a website’s address. It's usually your business name, or your own name. My website address is www.caitlinpieters.com.
You will pay them an annual fee which is usually less than £20 for hosting your domain, including domain privacy and taxes.
A Site Host stores all of the files for your website. These files contain all the code for your site’s pages, images, forms, etc. But don't worry, that's the last time you'll hear me use the word 'code'... that's about as 'techy' as we need to get!
I always recommend Wix or Squarespace for small business owners who want a simple but effective website.
Wix and Squarespace are both affordable and you get good value for money with plans starting around £10-£15 per month for a basic website. If you want to sell products and services online & accept online payments, you'll need the next plan up which costs more.
Here are their pricing plans
When it comes to designing your website, you have a few options available to you:
Wix and Squarespace have brilliant templates for you to choose from, and you don't need to pay extra for them. So you can either try to build your own website, or you could ask a friend or family member with experience to help you.
But if (and when) you get to the point where you're ready to invest in a professionally designed website and know that it's an asset to your business, and will help you get taken more seriously online and make more money in your business, I recommend hiring a designer. You can expect to pay between £500 - £2000+ just depending on who you work with, how much experience they've got, and what sort of website and functionality you're looking for.
It might be possible to pay your website off in instalments, so speak to the designer because sometimes that's the difference between a NO and a YES!
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
I always recommend Wix or Squarespace for small business owners, because they are easy to use and affordable. Both platforms have plenty of professionally designed website templates to choose from.
If you haven't tried either platform out, I recommend signing up for a free account and playing around a bit with the templates in the editor to get a feel for which platform you prefer.
You don't need to pay for anything or commit at this stage; only when you're ready to connect your website to your website address (domain name).
It's important that you know how to access your website so you can make small tweaks and changes as your business evolves. Even if you work with a designer who does the bulk of the work, you don't want to feel like you're locked out of your own shop!
Out of the two platforms, I prefer Wix.
Wix is great for beginners, and it's also great if you want to have total creative freedom because it's easy to customise. Wix has thousands of stock photos and design elements you can use on your website, plus a whole app market full of features and apps to make your website more professional.
Squarespace is slightly more challenging to get to grips with. But it has gorgeous templates, and you can still change the colours and fonts to match your brand. Although Squarespace doesn't have it's own library, it does integrate with Unsplash (so does Wix) where there are thousands of free images you can include on your site.
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 can take months to get right.
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 you 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 to something you don't really need or understand. And sadly I see a lot of women 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:
Step 8: Plan Your Content For Each Page
Outline what you need on each page. You don't need to go into much detail, it's just so you have a plan and can start getting the content together.
Here's an idea of what you can include on a simple service-based business website:
Keep your homepage simple. Don't overload it with too much text. Make sure you've included:
A headline telling people what you do and who it's for
An 'about you' section that tells people why you do what you do along with a smiling happy photo of you as the name behind the brand
A button that gets site visitors to take action (book a call, buy now etc.)
Social proof (testimonials, reviews, logos of businesses you've worked with)
Your services (keep it brief on the homepage, you can link to your services page from there)
Your contact info
This is the second most popular page on a website - don't leave it as an after-thought. Use this opportunity to share your brand story and build trust. You can include:
An image of you
Outline your services and encourage site visitors to take the next step in working with you. For example, ask them to book a free discovery call with you
Include testimonials to support each service
Make it easy for them to take the next step to work with you (e.g: add a 'book a call' button to the page)
Your contact info can be on its own page or in the footer so it appears on all your website pages. Either way you should have a link to this contact section in your navigation menu at the top of your website so it’s easy for people to find.
Grab your free copy of my 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.
For more website design tips for small business, sign up to my weekly newsletter here.
If you found this post helpful, please share it with your business besties and anyone you think it might help.