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December 15, 2016

The Basics of Building Your First Website

There are several reasons you may want or need to create a website. Maybe you’ve outgrown Etsy and want to sell your product directly. Maybe you’re a photographer or graphic designer and need to professionally showcase your work. Maybe you’re...

The Basics of Building Your First Website

There are several reasons you may want or need to create a website. Maybe you’ve outgrown Etsy and want to sell your product directly. Maybe you’re a photographer or graphic designer and need to professionally showcase your work. Maybe you’re a lawyer or real estate agent and know that most of your potential clients will search for you online. Whatever your business may be, just know that a website isn’t always necessary—and I don’t want you to let not having one hold you back from opening your business.

But if and when you’re ready, I’ve broken it down into five simple steps. Putting yourself out there on the internet can be intimidating, but I promise it’s not as scary as it seems. Here’s what to do:

  1. Secure your domain name.

A domain name is a web address and your identity on the internet. It’s the text that follows “www.” Choosing a domain name is the first step in the process and probably the most exciting!

In many cases, it makes the most sense to use the name of your company as your web address. Unless, of course, your name is “Tabitha’s Training and Tricks for Terriers” because that would be a pain for your customers to type out. Your web address should be short enough that it’s memorable and has minimal risk of misspellings.

If the exact name of your company is already taken, don’t be discouraged. Yes, you’ll need to get creative (but not too creative—straightforward is best) in finding a domain that works for your business. For inspiration, do a Google search of your business name so that you’re aware of what else someone will turn up when they search for you. If there are dozens of domain names similar to yours, perhaps your business name is too generic. If not, decide how you want to distinguish what your business does through the domain name. If you’re an event planner, consider adding “events” or “parties” after your business name. If you want to stay local, try adding the name of your city.

  1. Purchase hosting.

Your domain name is the face of your business, but your web host is the heartbeat that keeps it running. No one can access your website if you don’t have a hosting service. It’s your own little space in the big World Wide Web where your website and all of its information is stored.

There are many options for web hosting, and I recommend KartHost. They understand you don’t want to spend all your time in all the complicated world of web building. They specialize in secure, fast, dependable, flexible hosting for your blog and/or website. And they’re really a one-stop-shop for purchasing domain names, WordPress setups, professional email accounts, and more.

They offer a range of affordable options and 24/7 personal support, so even those of us who are technologically challenged can build an awesome website!

  1. Use your elevator pitch.

Deciding what you want your customers to see and read when they pull up your website can be overwhelming. Where do you even begin? Here’s a suggestion: use your elevator pitch as inspiration.

Your elevator pitch is how you’d explain your business in a couple sentences (the length of an elevator ride), and works as a great starting point for web copy. Every word in your elevator pitch should answer the customer’s question, “Why should I care?” Keep that in mind when putting information about your business up on your home page.

  1. Be mobile-friendly.

More than half of web traffic is now mobile—and that means most of your potential customers will access your website from their smart phone, not a desktop computer. This is important to keep in mind when you or someone else designs your web pages.

When a website is mobile friendly, it’s “responsive,” which means it will adapt to different screen sizes depending on what the customer is using (smartphone, iPad, etc.) There are many best practices when it comes to responsive design, font and button size, image resolution, and more, but if you’re hiring someone to design your site for you, they should know all of that. If you’re the one creating your site using a WordPress template, just be sure the theme you choose is mobile-friendly. These days, most of them are, and it will be noted in the features of that theme.

Google actually offers a free mobile-friendly test you can put your website through, and it just takes a couple minutes.

  1. Have a prominent call to action.

In marketing, a call to action is when you tell the customer to do something. Whether your business is service-based or product-based, you need a call to action and your customers will expect one.

If you’re a photographer (service-based), your call to action will be something like, “Book your free consultation today!” followed by your contact information: email address, phone number, maybe even a form they fill out right there on your website.

If you sell baby onesies (product-based), your call to action comes in the form of a shopping cart. You’ll need a way for people to be able to make purchases. Check out Shopify or WooCommerce as options.

If you follow these five steps, you’re well on your way to building a website you can be proud of. Congratulations! And if you want some more help, check out my friends at Karthost.

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