My wife is starting a business creating and selling handcrafted artworks, mostly quilted and sewn works, to (hopefully) eager purchasers. This should not come as a surprise to anyone reading this; after all, I first brought up the subject several weeks ago. Being the helpful and supportive husband that I am, I've been doing what I can to help her get things up and running.
This weekend, that's meant starting a website for her business. Being the guy who's been blogging for over four and a half years now, I took the lead on creating her site, as well. As result, I've been learning, and in some cases, relearning, quite a bit about how to get a website up and running. I figured, given the popularity in doing so in the world in general, and particularly among those seeking to improve their financial situation, I should lay out some of the basics in creating a business website of your own. This is far from a comprehensive guide; it's merely designed to help you get going with the
5 Starting Steps to Creating a Business Website
1. Decide on a Business Name: Before you can start hunting for website names or doing just about anything towards creating a business website, you'll need to have a business name. This might not be a problem if you already have a business; it might be simply a matter of getting a website that matches your business's name (in which case, see step #2 below).
If you are building your online business at the same time as your offline business (or have no offline business), you might be creating your business and website at the same time. In that case, try to apply some of the tips to creating a good web name to your business name. Things like keeping the name short, memorable, and easy to type are good for your business, whether you get a webpage or not. Once you have a business name, you'll need to:
2. Check on the Domain Name Availability: One of the first options you're probably going to consider for your webpage is [businessname].com. Why not? Assuming your business's name is not completely insane to type, it'd likely make a decent name for a web page. The only question is whether it is available. If you're lucky (or your business name is fairly unique), the domain name should be free, and you can go to the next step.
The domain name might have been obtained already, though. In this case, there are several ways you can handle things: (1) buy the domain name from the person/business who has the domain name already (although, this may prove expensive), (2) use a different domain extension, if possible (.com, .org, .net, etc.); more on that in a moment, or (3) choose a different domain name, perhaps a variation on your desired name. Once you have a domain name that is free, you can:
3. Purchase the domain name (and at least some of its variations): Once you have a good domain name, you're best off purchasing it as soon as possible, as the last thing you want is for someone to sweep in while you're plotting how to set up your website. As to what domain extension you should use, you're best off getting ‘.com' for a business. It is THE extension that is most commonly used for commercial sites, and let's be honest, if someone tells you a business web address, you're going to assume that ends in ‘.com', unless told otherwise. (In fact, if the .com domain for the name you want is gone, I'd suggest you pick another domain name for your site.)
You shouldn't stop at the .com address, though. It's good policy to capture some of the other domain extensions, to ensure that nobody gets access to variations on your business website name. You don't want people to capture potential customers who are slightly off in the website they type. As for which ones to get, I'd shoot for .net, .org, .info, and your country's extension (.US for us United States' citizens) to start, although you could try to go beyond that if you are particularly diligent. (While we're on the subject, you'd be well advised to get the domain names related to your actual name, to help maintain your online presence.) You don't need to create a website for all these domain names; instead, you can redirect them to your main site so anyone who chooses the wrong domain name ends up in the right place.
4. Get a Web Host: Having your desired domain name is just the start, though. Other than keeping other people from having it, there's not much that simply having the domain name will do for you. To create a website and promote (or create) your business online, you need to have a web host for your site. There are plenty of hosts out there, and a complete list (to say nothing of complete details on each) is outside of my skills to provide.
A few short thoughts from my personal experience: Dreamweaver isn't very good at keeping your website up and running, HostGator (the current site I use) is pretty decent in terms of cost and ease, as well as fairly well recommended, and GoDaddy (the host I'm using for my wife's site) is quite inexpensive and easy to use (if you can put the commercials aside). Do your own research before choosing a host, though, and keep the important factors in mind while you make your comparisons.
5. Set Up Your Website: Alright, here I'm really oversimplifying things; there's so much that goes into website creation that it is covered by millions of websites (a Google search for ‘starting a website' generates over a billion results, just to start). How you need to approach this part of the process will depend on the type of business you are running, the type of site you are making (do you want an online store, a simple information source about your offline business, a forum to bring your customers together, or something else), and how often you want to change/add content. There's simply too many different possible needs for me to cover everything. If I can provide just one suggestion: consider WordPress. It's quick to install, versatile (allowing you to do more than simply make blogs), and the plugins allow it to do just about anything. It's not perfect, of course, but as a way to get your site started, it's quite impressive.