For Part 2 of our series on launching your first website as a small business, we get to the brick and mortar part of the operation! Not really, this is still going to be bits and bytes, but we are moving into building mode! If you completed all the steps in phase 1 on how to launch for first small business website and have no idea how to implement your site or are afraid of the technical aspects, simply hand off what you developed to a professional. They should be able to execute phase 2 for you!
Decide on your website platform
This is probably the most difficult step in the process of launching a new website – picking your website platform. Think about your platform as the tool you will use to construct and build out all the functionality on your website. Taking your answers to the exercises in Phase 1, you should have a good list of requirements. If you are not sure where to start, take 2-3 of the leaders below and do some research the platform will support what you need to do.
Some of the most popular website platforms online today:
WordPress: A versatile and widely used content management system (CMS) that powers a significant portion of websites worldwide.
Wix: A user-friendly website builder with drag-and-drop functionality, suitable for both beginners and those with more advanced web design needs.
Shopify: An e-commerce platform designed for businesses to create online stores with ease, offering a range of customizable templates and features.
Squarespace: Known for its visually appealing templates, Squarespace is a website builder that caters to individuals and businesses looking to create a polished online presence.
Weebly: A user-friendly website builder offering drag-and-drop functionality, suitable for small businesses, bloggers, and e-commerce.
Joomla: A flexible and powerful CMS that caters to a variety of website types, from small personal blogs to large corporate sites.
Magento: An open-source e-commerce platform known for its flexibility and scalability, making it suitable for businesses of various sizes.
Drupal: A robust and highly customizable CMS that is popular for creating complex and feature-rich websites, particularly for larger enterprises.
WooCommerce: A WordPress plugin that transforms a WordPress site into a fully functional e-commerce store, offering a wide range of customization options.
BigCommerce: A scalable e-commerce platform that caters to businesses of all sizes, providing tools for building and managing online stores.
Another option you can investigate is industry specific platforms. For example, specialized platforms for restaurants give you all the functionality a restaurant website needs to succeed. Examples include:
OpenTable: OpenTable is not just a reservation platform but also offers restaurant website services. Restaurants can showcase menus, photos, and allow online reservations directly through their website.
Square Online: Square Online has a simple setup and integration with Square’s point-of-sale system. Restaurants can easily set up online ordering, display menus, and manage orders seamlessly.
Wix Restaurants: Wix offers a dedicated platform for restaurants, allowing them to create visually appealing websites with menu displays, online ordering, reservation features, and customizable templates.
WordPress with Restaurant Themes: Many restaurants opt for WordPress with restaurant-specific themes. This allows for flexibility and customization, and various plugins for online reservations, menus, and more.
Squarespace: Squarespace is a user-friendly website builder that restaurants can use to create visually stunning websites. It offers templates suitable for showcasing menus, integrating online ordering, and providing essential information.
Decide on your hosting solution
Once you know the platform you will use, you will need to purchase hosting. Hosting services act as a storage area for the files and content of your site, typically on the cloud. Some platforms in the above step have self-hosted options (i.e., sign up for Squarespace and you’re done). However, for most solutions, you will need a dedicated hosting provider.
Some of the most common options today include:
- Bluehost: https://www.bluehost.com/
- SiteGround: https://www.siteground.com/
- HostGator: https://www.hostgator.com/
- A2 Hosting: https://www.a2hosting.com/
- InMotion Hosting: https://www.inmotionhosting.com/
- DreamHost: https://www.dreamhost.com/
- Hostinger: https://www.hostinger.com/
- Kinsta: https://kinsta.com/
- GoDaddy: https://www.godaddy.com/
- WP Engine: https://wpengine.com/
Build your core content
Ok, the last step of Phase 2 is the exciting part – building your site! This step will take the longest, but it is also the most rewarding. We will have future articles about building websites on platforms such as WordPress and Squarespace. For now, the key is taking action!
In Phase 1 you developed a content outline. Aren’t you happy you have that at this point? Instead of splitting your brain between the creative and technical, its time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Here are a few tactical tips to keep in mind as you build your pages:
- Keep page names short.
- Utilize appropriate heading tags.
- Break content into short paragraphs.
- Use lists when applicable.
- Always have a call to action on each page.
- Link between pages both internally and externally.
- Optimize images for speed. (< 1MB is a good rule of thumb)
- Provide descriptive alt text.
- Embed multimedia responsively.
- Consider how images look on mobile devices.
Wrapping it up
Website development is an art form, and you might find you struggle with this step to make your site look as compelling as other industry leading sites in your field. Don’t worry! This is a process, and you should always refine and update your site after you launch. Don’t let great be the enemy of good.
If you find that your platform doesn’t support specific functions, or you are hitting a wall trying to make a specific change – it would be worth reaching out to an expert freelancer. For simple questions or quick changes, you need minimal budget and you can usually get an answer in 1-2 days. We recommend Upwork here at SBS, but there are many freelancer networks out there you can leverage.
Once you are done building your site – congratulations! Your almost there. Checkout the final part to this series to learn how you can launch your site to the public.