So, you are ready to create a website for your small business or non-profit organization – that’s great. But you may not be sure where to start. This article provides an introduction to the key activities involved with planning and developing a website.
A domain name is also called a URL or website address. It is the unique address of your website - just like a phone number. All domain names have an extension such as .com, .net, .org. Your domain name should reflect your business / organization and be easy to remember. As you brainstorm possible domain names, you can check to see if they are available on a domain registrar website. Which brings us to purchasing your domain name… There are many companies that are authorized to sell domain names, so you can shop around to compare prices. I am partial to Go Daddy because the prices are competitive and the company provides good customer service. Domain names are purchased on an annual basis, so you must plan to renew the name each year.
I prefer to purchase my domain name and hosting from the same company so it is easier to manage. I set my accounts to auto-renew and charge to my credit card so I don’t forget to renew.
Content is one of the most important parts of your website. Your visitors are likely to stay or go based on the quality and relevance of the content they see. Here are some topics to consider for your website.
Your website design should reflect your company / organization’s brand and appeal to your target market. If you are just getting started with creating your brand, think about what image and mood you wish to portray: professional, sophisticated, fun, funky, artistic, conservative, etc. Also consider which color palate will portray this: bright, bold, subtle, subdued, etc. A great way to get ideas is to visit other websites and write down things you like and don’t like.
Your website should have a good balance of content and images. The types of images you include will depend on your type of business. For example, if you are an artist, it is important to include a portfolio of your work. Some examples of possible images for your site are: business location, you, staff, products. If you don’t have original photos, there are many websites where you can find free or low-cost stock art (see Low Cost Website and Blog Images). If you have videos, you can include them as well - just upload them to YouTube and Vimeo and embed them on the site.
If it is important for your website to rank well on search engines, you must optimize it. Search engine optimization is a specialty and optimizing a website is an ongoing effort, but here are the basic elements that should be included when your website is developed.
When you talk to potential Website Developers, ensure you discuss including the basic SEO items above. If you are interested in developing a solid SEO strategy that includes keyword research, you may wish to find a SEO consultant.
It is very helpful to monitor your website’s activity to know if you are achieving your goals. Analytics will provide key information such as, number of visitors per day; which pages were viewed; where the visitors found you, e.g., search engine, link from other website; and average time spent on the site. Google provides an excellent, free analytics tool. You can create and monitor your account or ask your Web Developer to assist.
For more on analytics, see What is Google Analytics and How can it Help me?
After you launch the website, it is important to spread the word so people know you are there. Your website project should include a marketing launch plan. Here are some of the things you can do to publicize your new website.
You have launched your new website – hooray! But the work is not done. It is important to have an ongoing maintenance plan to ensure your website is current and useful to visitors. Here are some typical components of a maintenance plan.
For more information, see How to Maintain a Small Business Website