Building a website for your new business used to be a luxury. These days it’s a necessity, and even so-called “bricks and mortar” establishments have abandoned the notion that their business can thrive without an online component. As a result, most have become “clicks and mortar” operations, allowing their customers to choose between the virtual or physical world
Getting started building a website
You can hire someone to create a website, or you can roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. If you’re starting out on a tight budget, and/or the website will serve primarily as a source of information for your customers - and provided you have at least a modicum of computer savvy - then creating an attractive and functional website from scratch is well within your abilities.
To get started building a website for your new business, you will need:
- A registered domain name
- A web hosting service
- A web authoring software or service to design the site
Purchasing a domain name
A domain is the name and address of your website, rolled into one. Choosing a domain name can be tricky, as a huge number of domains, particularly the .com versions, are already reserved. So you’ll need to check which of your preferred names are still available. If you choose a name that’s already taken, you can always offer to purchase it from the owner, but beware of “squatters” who look to cash in on a pool of unused domain names they’ve bought cheaply.
Think about domain names that are memorable and describe your business well - given the competition for domains and the premium on short or highly-trafficked domains, you may even want to let the availability of domains influence your choice of business name (if it’s not already decided).
There are a number of websites, such as MyDomain.com or GoDaddy.com, that will allow you to check the availability of domain names and register available names immediately - for a fee, of course. A one-year registration normally costs less than $10.
Hosting your new business’ website
While it’s possible to host your website yourself, it requires dedicating a powerful PC server to that purpose and making sure it’s running and accessible to the internet 24 hours a day. It’s usually a task best left to the experts.
With the way competition has reduced hosting costs, it’s relatively easy to find an inexpensive hosting option, particularly if you have no need for serious e-commerce or database functionality.
Costs will be based on the amount of storage and bandwidth (amount of traffic in and out of your site) you require, and add-on services such as e-mail accounts. You’ll need to budget anywhere from $5 to $50 a month, depending on your requirements.
Creating your website
If you can spend a little more, consider a hosted service that allows you to build your site online using drag-and-drop, fill-in-the-blank templates, which require little technical prowess. Some examples of this type of service include Yahoo! Small Business, StartLogic.com and ValueWeb, which offers affordable packages that include design, hosting and site maintenance. ValueWeb offers “do-it-yourself” and professionally-designed packages, depending on your needs. You can also select options that include e-commerce and shopping cart functionality if you intend to sell products online.
Microsoft (a StartupNation sponsor) offers a free web-authoring and hosting package (with free email) called Office Live Small Business.
If you want more control, autonomy, and design options, you’ll want to invest in a standalone software package specifically for website design. Popular authoring packages range from the basic, such as HomeSite and Amaya, to the complex, such as Dreamweaver. Typical costs range from $60 up to $200 or more (per installation), and most offer free trial downloads.
Putting your new business website together
Once you establish an account with a hosting service, they will provide you with instructions for uploading your website onto their server. This is usually accomplished with FTP utility software.
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. It’s a technical standard for allowing two computers to communicate, and it’s the most common means of uploading and publishing your website. Your hosting service may also have file upload options within the control panel you use to manage your site.
If you’d like to purchase an FTP package, popular ones include WS-FTP, Cute FTP, FileZilla and Fetch. They range from $25 to $60. Or you can try a free FTP utility like Core FTP.
Building a website from scratch for your new business represents an investment of time and money. There are a wide variety of options available to you, and it’s important to decide how much you can afford to invest in creating a fantastic website that will keep your customers coming back for more.
Steve Pick is a freelance writer for StartupNation.com