Your first website: Stock vanilla or bells & whistles

How complex does your first business website need to be? Do you need to pay a designer a grand?

No, you or a staff member can build a website in a day using free software

Additional complications

As well as a site there are two more complications; you need a domain name and web hosting.

Domain name

Choose your domain name to appeal to your clients: If they are British, then a the newer .uk options. If your company is focused on Europe, then a .eu extension is worth considering, and if your customers are worldwide, then a .com domain name is a must.

Your domain name should relate to your services rather than just be Using your own name appeals less to Google users, and when it comes to retiring, it will appeal less to potential buyers of your business.

Domain “sitters” have bought many web addresses in the hope of selling them on for thousands of pounds’ profit, so you may need to be creative in choosing your website domain name.

Web hosting

Your web pages need to be stored on a computer that is connected to the Internet. The best way to achieve this is to find a good web hosting company. If you and your clients are in the UK, you should look for a UK web host with UK-based support staff.  Using a British company will mean your website loads faster when clients access your pages, and local support staff are essential because nobody wants to struggle with English problems when they have a technical problem to sort out.

A Shared hosting plan will suffice to start your online business expansion. These plans are the cheapest type, but they are not the fastest, and when your site starts to get many visitors, your hosting company will ask you to upgrade to a VPS. VPS hosting is quicker and more complicated as well as costing more.

Building your website

You have three realistic options:

  • Hire a designer
  • Use a free website builder
  • Use WordPress or another content management system (CMS)

Hiring a designer

Hiring a designer is not a good idea for your first site because you don’t know what will work for your company online, which means many frustrating discussions with the designer you hire where you keep changing your requirements. Keep that option for a couple of years’ time when you do a redesign.

Using a website builder

Every web hosting company offers a free site builder like the InstantSite builder from LCN.

Create your own website

If your top priority is simplicity, then a free website builder like the one above means you can have your site live, looking good and ready to sell in a few hours. Drag-and-drop simplicity, templates that grab the eye and simple pricing are very attractive features for any business looking to start building its online presence.

Hosting is built into the monthly cost with many site builders, so that’s one less thing to research.

Using WordPress

WordPress is just one of many CMS options, but it is the most widely used for a good reason; it is mature software and resources are plentiful.

Your web host will have a single-click option to install WordPress on your domain. Once installed, choose a theme, upload your images and content just as you do with a website builder and you are good to go.

But, no you aren’t.

You need to install plugins to handle backups, security and a contact form. There’s more. You need another plugin to get those pretty Facebook, Instagram and Twitter icons on your pages. And more. You must install caching and CDN (content delivery network) plugins to reduce your web page loading time.

WordPress is portrayed as a simple solution. It’s not.

The Short Version

Building your first business website can be simple or as complicated as you want it to be. A website builder from your hosting company can give you a stock vanilla site in a morning that is indistinguishable from a £1,000 designer-built site.

With a WordPress website, you have to install (and tune up) all the bells and whistles, so it takes a month or more to launch.

See also: What’s the best website builder for my small business?

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