Websites have become the business cards, shop windows and yellow pages for our businesses. We do not even need to discuss if we need them. The question is how can you get started? I do not have a formal educational IT-background. Like you, I started my IT-journey because I needed a website for my business. From there, I taught myself, Youtube and Google became my best friends and I asked IT-experts for advice and learned from them. Let me share my advice on how to get started with a website. It is not as difficult as you may think!
1. Define the Need
Every project starts with a good concept. Before you jump into hosting providers, software and templates, you need to have a clear idea of your need. What is the reason for your website? Is it like a brochure – to offer information about your product/service and team, your address and opening times? Do you need an online store to sell your products? Or, is the website your main product – for example because you offer web-based services or data accessible through that website?
Take a piece of paper and write it down – it is a very simple method which will help you get a clear vision of your website.
2. Software Service
You do not need to be an HTML-pro to build a website. There are countless software options which make it easy to develop your online presence. These options span from those offering more freedom such as WordPress and Joomla to “pre-made” options by Squarespace, Wix and Shopify (for e-commerce solutions).
When I started building websites, I looked into the latter. It was very easy to get started. But soon I was unsatisfied with the rigid system – if I wanted to customise parts of the website, it was actually quite difficult. I know a lot of people who were overwhelmed with WordPress and Joomla and still run their websites via Squarespace, Wix and the like. Personally, I did not like the rigidness and switched to WordPress which allows more freedom and can be extended at low cost with thousands of so-called plugins.
I will write a separate article about the various software providers and my personal experience, so stay tuned!
If you decide that you do not want to build the website yourself or if it is a more complicated one, I recommend sourcing it out to professionals. There are many experts out there who offer joint services of web development and graphic design.
3. Choose a Domain Name and Hosting Provider
Choose a domain name which is directly related to your business and easy to remember. Do some research if your desired domain name is still available. You can search via websites such as whois.com. If your domain name is free, you can buy it for a certain period of time (most packages operate on a yearly basis). You can either buy the domain separately or opt for a package with a hosting provider.
A hosting provider is a service to make your website visible online. It is a company which offers server space to operate your website. Imagine a server as a big virtual storage space like lockers at the gym. You can rent a locker for a certain amount of time to store your clothes. On that server your website is not only stored but also operated.
There are two ways for hosting provider services: firstly, the above-mentioned software programmes offer packages with hosting providers or their own hosting space. They allow you to buy the website software, your domain and the host in one place. Alternatively, you can choose the hosting provider yourself and then also buy the domain via this provider and install the website software. Examples for hosting providers are Siteground or Bluehost or regional providers in your respective country.
Whichever option you chose, I recommend having everything in one place – it makes it easier to keep track and in case you need service support, you avoid involving multiple parties.
Once you have decided on the domain, host and website software, choose a template. Depending on the service, there are free and paid templates. Most of the time, there is no service support for free templates and they have fewer functionalities. There are thousands of options – it really depends on your personal taste and needs.
I opted for purchased templates not only because of the support but also because I liked I particular design or needed certain functionalities for the websites. In addition to the templates, I also work with plugins and, if necessary, change the code myself. But for simple websites, this is not necessary. So do not worry. 🙂
In general, most of the free templates have a disclaimer at the footer (ie the bottom) of the website such as “powered by XYZ” referring to the software provider. Apart from the support services and functionalities, I would recommend to get a paid template to remove the disclaimer from your footer if you need a business website – it looks more professional.
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All information as of the date of publishing/updating. All recommendations are based on the personal experience of Elisabeth Steiger, no fees were received.