How to create a website for your business

If you're not familiar with the procedure, setting up your website can be a complex process involving various different companies and lots of confusing jargon. Your website is your business' shop window on the internet, though, so make sure you make the best impression possible to entice customers and encourage them to return.

Registering your website

  • Before you start building your website, you should register a domain name for your business. This is your business' address on the web, so make sure it's catchy and easy to remember.
  • Use Nominet to check whether your domain is available. If it's already taken, you may be able to buy it from the person who owns it. Use a service such as Whois to find the contact details of the person who owns it.
  • A note on domain extensions: Your domain name is made up of a word of your choice, followed by an extension. .com and .net are both worldwide, .co.uk, .org.uk or even .biz are more specific to your location or business. If you can register a .com domain, do - it will lend your business credibility and viability. Register additional domains as well to give your customers a better chance of finding your website - country-specific ones such as .co.uk will show your customers your business is based in the UK, while business-specific ones such as .biz or .tv will give an indication of your industry, but probably won't resonate for most of your customers. It's worth noting, though, that some domain extensions, such as .org.uk or .gov.uk, are reserved for certain businesses such as non-profit organisations or government.
  • To register your domain, you will need to use a domain name registrar. There are hundreds available, all of which offer different hosting packages. Choose one which offers email addresses as well as a domain name, and as much web space as possible - you will almost certainly want to increase the size of your website as time goes on.

Website design and development

  • The process of creating a website can be divided into two stages: design and development. At the design stage, you come up with a number of different looks for the website. During the development phase, the developer will translate these looks into code which can be read by internet browsers.
  • Most web design companies offer both design and development services but check with the company before you sign a contract. If you want a more bespoke website, you may want to consider employing two companies separately - but make sure they work together well or you will encounter problems further down the line.
  • When you're looking for a web design company, look for companies which have worked on similar projects to yours. Find the right company by looking at the bottom of websites you like, which often mention the designer, asking around or speaking to the owners of websites which have caught your eye.
  • Give the designer a clear brief by showing them websites you like and giving them an indication of what you want included on the website - whether that's an online store, a portfolio of previous work or even a contacts page.
  • The designer should provide you with a number of different designs based around your ideas. Make sure you give them clear, constructive feedback on your likes and dislikes, as well as ideas on how they could change it. Try to avoid out-and-out criticism - instead, put the emphasis on which aspects of the design you like.
  • When it comes to setting your site live, your web design company should be able to help. Make sure they show you how to make changes to the site so you don't have to call on them every time you want to add a new line of text.
  • It's worth noting that web design isn't something you should scrimp on. If it's designed properly, your website will form many of your customers' first impression of your business, so make sure it makes a good impact.
  • If you're on a limited budget, you may wish to create your own website. You can do this relatively easily and cheaply using a DIY package such as Mr Site, which will allow you to design and create a professional-looking website fast, although it will limit how much you can customise it.

Checklist

  • Register your domain name before you start
  • If the domain name you want is taken, use whois.com to contact the owner
  • Register more than one domain name for extra coverage
  • Hire a designer who has worked on similar projects
  • Provide the designer with a clear brief of your requirements

Jargon buster

HTML: Hyper-text markup language. The code used by web developers to tell internet browsers what they should be seeing.

Javascript: A type of web programming language which allows the designer to embed programmes into a web page.

Flash: Another programming language, often used to embed animations or videos into web pages.

DNS: 'Domain name system': the internet 'phone book' which translates what you type into your browser into binary IP addresses.

URL: 'Uniform resource locator': essentially another way of saying 'domain name', it's your website's unique 'address' on the internet.

IP address: Your site's Internet Protocol address is the binary equivalent to the domain name. The DNS server converts the words and slashes in your domain name to binary code, which your computer can read.

Resources

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