There are many free or low-cost options when it comes to building your own website, even with its own shop. You don’t even need to be a computer wiz. Building your own website allows you to design pages and a layout that reflects you, your products and your brand – something you can’t always do with a third party selling site (such as Etsy etc.) – but on the flipside you will need to think about running costs, monthly subscription fees and merchant charges.
Here are my key points to think about when developing a website:
- You need to buy and register your domain name (URL). Do you want to have a co.uk or a .com? Are both available? Search on 123reg or Namesco. A co.uk is normally around £6 for two years.
- There are plenty of user-friendly platforms available, enabling you to easily create and edit your site. Check out: Create.net, WordPress.org (you can add e-commerce functionality like Odds and Soxlets has), Zencart for an online shop, Webs.com and Moonfruit.com. These type of platforms have ready-made templates which as your web skills develop you will easily be able to tweak as required.
- You need an eye-catching home page that is free of clutter but also makes it clear exactly what you do.
- Ensure your site is easy to navigate and logically structured. Always get friends and family to test its usability before making anything live.
- We cannot buy what we cannot see so ensure your images are clear and look professional.
- Look at your competitors’ sites. What do you like about them? What don’t you like? Make a list and work through these points on your own website.
- Use the same colours on- and offline to keep your branding consistent.
- Target your content to your target audience and make it clear what you want your visitors to do next, i.e. buy from you, contact you, visit you at an event, etc.
- Keep your content relevant but don’t try to overuse keywords in an attempt to please search engines. This can actually get your site blacklisted. Also try to keep the content fresh so that search engines have new things to find.
- Make it easy for customers to purchase your products, e.g. ensure there aren’t too many clicks between them adding items to the basket and checking out. Analyse your site as if you were a customer and also review other sites’ shopping facilities.
- Ask for advice on forums and discussion boards. There is a wealth of free knowledge and advice amongst small business owners and there’s usually someone who’s experienced a similar problem and is happy to help.
This is an edited extract from my book “Crafting a Successful Small Business” currently the kindle version is £1! Grab a copy today!