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How to Build a Website: A Beginner’s Guide for Small Business

How to build a website

How to build a website for small business owners

However, with a little guidance, it is easy to make the right decisions and take all the right steps to ensure you end up with a well-designed and built website that helps you be found by customers as well as converting them into paying customers.

This Guide will help you navigate through each decision in the website-building process so that you end up with a website that works.

What most resources say about ‘how to build a website’

Many articles that you find via Google on how to build a website are written by hosting companies or web development companies. They provide good information that is broken down into these key steps:

      1. Choosing your hosting plan
      2. Choosing a domain – choose now or choose later, you decide
      3. Choosing a theme
      4. Logging in
      5. Customizing Your Themes and Pages

We took these from good articles from the best most reputable website hosting companies, Blue Host and SiteGround. They are not wrong. They are just jumping the gun, and not really helping you, the digital novice to really understand some of the key decisions you need BEFORE you start building your website – and the decisions or work you need to have done to ensure you get a great outcome.

We designed this How to Build a Website Guide to help you avoid making costly mistakes, to work out if you should build it yourself or use a developer, which website platform is the best fit and other considerations that are needed when building a website.

The goal is to help you invest your money wisely, and create a great website from the get-go!

How to build a website –

The Steps

Step 1: Define Your Website's Purpose and Goals
Know what the website needs to do
Know what content needs to be included
Step 2: Choose a Website Builder
Matching functionality to website builder
Cost consideration
Step 3 Design your website
Know how you want the site to look
Step 4 Choose a website developer or DIY
Step 5 Build your website
Step 6 Go live.

BEFORE you start building your website – and the decisions or work you need to have done to ensure you get a great outcome.

We designed this How to build a website Guide to help you avoid making costly mistakes, to work out if you should build it yourself or use a developer, which website platform is the best fit and other considerations that are needed when building a website.

The goal is to help you invest your money wisely, and create a great website from the get go!

 

Step 1 How to build a website :
Define Your Website's Purpose and Goals

A website is an investment in your business. It is the thing that will help you be discovered. It should also effectively convince and convert your visitors to paying customers and clients.

So before starting to build your website you must be clear on what it's purpose and what it must do for your business. This means making a list of requirements.

With this list of website requirements, you can then use it to brief a web developer so they can accurately provide a quote or to help you pick the right website platform, as well as understand what elements a design must cater to.

Creating a list of requirements for your website will allow:

  • a web developer or designer to give you an accurate quote
  • help you decide which website will best fit your business builder (e.g. WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, Shopify).
  • avoid changes during the build which may end up costing you more as you didn’t budget for it up front.
  • ensure that the site is properly optimised for search so you can be found via search engines.
  • ensure that you have all the right content and call to actions in place to help convince and convert your audience.

Make a list of website requirements

To help you get the best possible result, use the following prompt list to identify what you need on your website.

Do you need to visitors to your website to:

  • buy your products or services online eg. check out the facility, abandon cart follow-up, order fulfilment management?
  • register for events?
  • encourage potential customers to schedule meetings or appointments?
  • drive traffic to your physical store or location?
  • provide after-sales support and answer customer questions?
  • allow sign up to membership-based educational content that is behind a paywall?
  • bring users to your blog?
  • build awareness, educate and nurture potential customers or clients?
  • easily connect to product Google merchant and Facebook catalogue?
  • sign up for your email or request information or a lead magnet?
  • start a chat via a Chat facility to answer questions about your product or service?

If you're using a web developer, this is the start of a good brief on what you need them to build.

If you're building it yourself, this is an excellent way to check whether your chosen website-building platform will be a good fit – and what subscription plan you will need to be on.

Write your website content

To help identify what you want the site to do, it's helpful to write the content for your website. Most people do this on the fly, but the act of writing clarifies:

  • what information do you need on the site eg. the call to action a contact form that connects to a CRM or spreadsheet, a booking tool for meetings with integration to your calendar, an email signup form, a lead magnet download, buy now for free shipping etc
  • any thoughts on how you want to present the content - Even if you are going to get the help of someone to write your content, preparing a content outline for a website can be helpful.

This might include creating a simple navigation diagram that shows what pages you want and how people with then be able to navigate to the website to find the content or information they need.

With content written, or at a minimum content outline prepared, you can add to your list of requirements.

It is a perfect way to ensure you are very clear on what the website needs to be.
Note: most website developers quote based on the number of pages they will need to build. If you are not clear on this, it may result in additional cost over what is quoted to you.

Example of website layout or architecture

Step 2 How to build a website :
Choose a Website Builder

Now you have a list of requirements for your new website, you can choose the website builder that best suits your needs. Below is a list of the different ‘functions’ and matching best fit of the most popular website platforms available.

Matching function to website building platform - a quick guide

Function: Selling Products Online (eCommerce businesses):
You will need:

  • a product catalogue that lets you showcase your products online
  • a secure checkout
  • payment methods, usually a merchant account to take payments from credit cards or paypal account
  • ensure your products are indexed on Google and other online marketplaces, such as your Facebook and Instagram shop
  • is mobile responsive as most online shoppers use mobile phones to shop.
  • abandon cart functionality to help minimise lost sales on site
  • ability to offer discounts and other incentives to shoppers.

The best platforms for the above are:

  • Shopify
  • WordPress with WooCommerce.

Function: Bringing Customers to Your Physical Store:
You will need:

  • a site that can be easily indexed by Google for your location and integrate a Google Map with your location.
  • mobile responsive

Promoting the location of your store can be achieved by any website platform.

  • WordPress
  • Squarespace
  • Wix
  • Shopify

Function: Blogging and Improving Search Visibility:
You will need:

  • website / templates that are optimised your content for search.
  • quick to load
  • mobile responsive
  • internal search

The following platforms are a good fit.

  • WordPress but plugins will be required
  • Squarespace (for niche search items with low competition)

Note: If search engine optimisation (SEO) is a crucial part of your marketing strategy, ensure that your website developer is a designer and a search specialist. You may also need to consider hiring a SEO specialist to assist with a keyword analysis and strategy for your business.

Function: Providing After-Sales Support and helping to educate and sell your product or service:
You need:

  • a site that is flexible in how you can present information in different engaging ways that makes it easy and quick for people to use and understand
  • different design and display capabilities to suit a range of different information requirements
  • internal search to help people find answers to questions
  • chat facility to allow people to ask questions
  • integration with your chosen booking or contact system.

The following platforms are suitable matches for all of the above.

  • WordPress (may need additional plugins)
  • Squarespace
  • Wix

Function: Offering Subscription or Membership-based Education:
You will need:

  • a website that makes it easy to publish content, particularly multimedia files such as video, audio, PDFs and Word documents.
  • provide a secure login at an individual level and integration with a database or email program if relevant.
  • secure check out if you want to charge for access to the information.

The following platforms all provide out-of-the-box platforms to achieve the above.

  • Teachable
  • Podia
  • Thinkific
  • Mighty Networks
  • Kajabi
  • WordPress – with additional plugins for membership

The cost of building a website

By now, you may be favouring a particular website building platform, and you may also have a strong opinion on whether you will build the website yourself or hire a developer.

But part of selecting a website-building platform needs to take in to account the impact on your budget. Answering this question of how much a website will cost is however a vexing question, usually because there are many options, and it will depend.

To help provide you with a guide, the following is a list of all the potential costs and options to consider across the different website-building platforms. You can used this to cross-reference against your list of requirements above to help you identify what will be a good fit for your business and use it to help you decide on the best website platform.

Building a Website with WordPress – Cost Considerations

  • Template cost – ranging from free to $300 (or more)
  • Plugins, if required – these will range in costs from monthly subscriptions to one off fees. Some plugins come with free versions which are often enough to get started with.
  • Web developer (if not doing it yourself)
  • Web designer (if you feel it's needed for the right look and feel)
  • Annual hosting costs
  • Ongoing maintenance, support and patch updates from a web developer if not managing yourself.

Overall, a good quality, well-designed site of approximately five pages, that is search-optimised will cost somewhere between $1500- $3000 and up, depending on the complexity and size of the website.

Note: If you are quoted less, then ensure you very clear on experience, and also whether you will sacrifice outcome for the ‘lost in translation’ fee.

Building a website with Squarespace – Cost Considerations

  • Subscription cost starts at AU$22 per month
  • Discount available for an annual subscription
  • Be sure to check which plan you will need to fulfil your requirements list

Building a website with Wix – Cost Considerations

  • Subscriptions start at AU$15 per month
  • Discount available for an annual subscription
  • Be sure to check which plan you will need to fulfil your requirements list

Building a website with Shopify – Cost Considerations

  • AU$56 per month
  • Be sure to check which plan you will need to fulfil your requirements list
  • Plus % is charged on sale for the Shopify merchant facility for payments (1.75% + 30¢ AUD online, 1.95% + 0¢ AUD in person)
  • Any additional plugins for the capability to help extend the look, functionality or market your business. These can be free but most have a monthly subscription free)
  • Does come with a lot of out-of-the-box capabilities, including easy hook-up to Google Merchant for your products, as well as all the social platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tiktok).

Step 3 How to build a website :
Design your website

With your website builder platform chosen, you can now move on to design.
All websites are based on a template. The template will provide you with a design framework for your website, for example, where the navigation menu will appear, how the pages will be laid out and fonts and colours.

The template will provide you with a starting point that you can use as is or tweak to match your brand.

Tips for choosing a website template

1. Consider your requirements
Understanding your requirements from step 1 can also help you pick the suitable template to ensure you can present your content as you want and easily incorporate any functionality or call to action.
Review the template with this list; for example, how are products presented in the template if you sell online? How will it allow you to showcase your portfolio or work samples, or does it allow you to incorporate leads generation forms or bookings etc.?

2. Pick a website layout
Review the templates with your content in mind. Can you present your information in the way that you want? A website layout can affect your website's usability, functionality, and aesthetics.

3. Flexibility to change elements
Investigate whether you can change all the elements within the template to achieve the look and feel of your new website. You may have to dive into the documentation or trial the template to understand this level of detail. It's a good idea to do this before you go too far into building your website to avoid having to redo a lot of work.

4. Is search important?
If search is important to your marketing strategy and you are using WordPress, template choice is important. Different third-party developers build WordPress templates; and not all templates are search friendly or fast. If one of your key goals is to rank on Google, then the template choice can impact how successful you will be.

Please note that if you are using a developer or designer, you may not need to choose a template, as this is what they will bring with their expertise. Which brings us to the next topic, if you are not going to build the website yourself, how do you choose a good website developer or designer?

Step 4 How to build a website : Choosing and briefing a website developer or Designer

Now you've understood what you need, and which platform will be a good fit, you will also have a good idea if you want to hire a developer or Designer to build your website.

You will need to navigate the process of firstly vetting the developer and then providing them with a good brief for them to quote (accurately) against.

The following is a summary of ‘how to’ assess a web developer or web designer, however, you may like to also download our detailed guide and briefing template to assist with this process.

How to assess a website developer or designer

  • Ask for a list of websites that they have built and are currently live
  • Review these websites and decide if the websites are relevant and of suitable quality for your goals.
  • If you want your developer to also optimise your site for search, test the example sites to see if they come up. Here, we have a list of handy tools to test a site for search.
  • Ask if they will be hosting your website, and if so, ask for website clients that are currently hosted with them and do a speed test using the above Google speed test.
  • Check for any reviews on either their Google Business page listing or
    Facebook. If there are none, then proceed with caution.
  • Ask them how they approach ongoing maintenance, updates and patches if relevant. Their approach will reveal if you will need to pay them ongoing for security and maintenance updates.
  • Ask what the hosting costs will be.
  • Ask what their process is for changes during the project. Some developers are generous and allow multiple changes; others will charge an hourly rate for changes after the first cycle.

If you are happy with all of the above, ask for a reference to one of  the websites you reviewed above.

How to get an accurate quote from a website developer or designer

Once you have chosen your website developer, you must get a quote from them. You will need to give them a brief to get a quote that is well-considered for all the work you need done.

We've developed a handy template that you download here:
Download Building a Website - Website Developer Briefing Template.

Step 5 How to build a website : Build your website.

Now that you are ready to build, you can get started building pages, completing the content, styling it. However, there are other key tasks that must be completed now that you are in ‘build mode.

Use the following a as a check list of things that also need to be completed:

  1. Purchase your website domain
  2. Decide on hosting (only relevant if you are going with WordPress)
  3. Install Google Analytics (it's free and takes a moment, and is worthwhile once you are life)
  4. Optimise images to be small without losing quality to keep your site loading quickly
  5. Ensure the SSL certificate is turned on to make your website secure
  6. Make sure mobile phones are clickable on a mobile
  7. Include links to your social media accounts on your site
  8. Ensure you have a Terms and conditions and privacy policy on your website
  9. Include a favicon so people can find your website in their browser tabs
  10. Have someone proof and check for grammar mistakes, bad links etc
  11. Test the site to ensure everything works, e.g. Contact forms are submitted correctly, and check out works as expected.
  12. Test all links and buttons to ensure they work correctly.
  13. Verify that your website displays properly on different devices and browsers.
  14. Prepare your site for indexing by the search engines by ensuring that all the pages have optimised titles, metadata and content that reflects the keywords you want to rank for (if you need more help on this, see this handy SEO for beginners – there is a lot that you can do yourself without hiring an expensive SEO consultant).

Step 6 How to build a website : Going live.

The final step is to publish your new site and replace your old site with it.

This is going to be a different set of steps depending on which platform you are using.

Generally the key thing will be to direct your domain name to your new website.

What this means is that the website URL eg. Abc.com is ‘pointed’ to where your website now lives. When building a new website, you will be given a URL that will be temporary until you redirect your chosen website URL to point to this instead.

A few extra steps

  1. If you have an existing website that you are moving from, then make sure you put 301 redirects in place to avoid losing existing Google search traffic to those pages.
  2. Register your site with Google Search Console to help you identify any issues from an indexing perspective. It's also handy for down the track when you want to see what search terms are driving traffic to your website.
  3. Promote your new site via your socials and email!
  4. Backup your old site: Before you make any changes to your website, it is always a good idea to back up your old site and its database. This way, you can restore your site if something goes wrong or if you change your mind.

You should refer to your website building platform for details on how to do this. Most are simple and straightforward eg. Wix and Squarespace.

Building a website for your small business is an exciting endeavour, and with some preparation and understanding, you can ensure it goes smoothly and achieves all your goals. Good luck!

Additional resources:

Understanding Search
How to create content for your website

The website dilemma - should you build yourself or use a web developer 
Reviews of website builder platforms (Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, WordPress)

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