Setting Up a Business Website
The internet has changed the way business is done, and all companies need to consider what it can do for them. This guide examines the benefits of putting your business online and takes you through the first practical steps to establishing your web presence.
- Why set up a website?
- Is a website right for your business?
- Getting started on your site
- Planning your website content
- Designing and building your website
Why set up a website?
A website allows you to reach a global audience 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. It could allow your business to operate without a shop front. If you trade through your website, it can also help lower the cost of sales and customer acquisition. See our guide to Trading online
Having a website has several potential benefits:
- It can enhance your company PR and help build your brand.
- You can explain the benefits of your products/services to a wider audience.
- You can help build your company’s reputation.
- You can gain more immediate feedback from your customers and improve your product or service.
A website can increase the amount of business that you do, by enabling you to:
- Sell products to customers online (e-commerce).
- Reach international markets.
- Showcase your services and products to a wider customer base.
A website can save you time and money:
- Answers to common queries can be put on your site, cutting down on phone time.
- Product photos and descriptions can replace expensive print brochures – updating online is much cheaper too.
- Putting standardised forms on your site and communicating via email can reduce your administration costs.
- You can advertise for new recruits online.
Is a website right for your business?
It’s important to be clear about how a website can add to your business. How does a website fit into your overall company strategy? Do you have sufficient resources to maintain your internet presence – keeping the site updated, for example?
Evaluate what a site can realistically achieve for you. For example, if you intend to trade online, are you seeking to gain more customers, lower operating costs or establish a competitive edge? Don’t forget to calculate the value of automating your existing business processes – it could make the crucial difference to your decision.
Getting started on your site
The first task is to determine your objectives and set yourself some goals. Ask yourself:
- What are the short, medium and long-term benefits of a website for my business?
- How do I intend to define the success of my site – for example, how many new customers can I attract in the first year?
- How much time and money will I save by dealing with my customer queries online?
Next, you need to look at the practicalities of setting up your site. Ask yourself:
- Can I build the site in-house or do I need to buy in professional design and technical services? If so, who will manage the project in-house/brief external contractors? How will we monitor the service they give us? Bear in mind that websites have to be constantly updated.
- Which web addresses do I buy? Check what’s available. Your first choice of domain name might not be available, so consider some alternatives: would a “.co.uk” and/or “.net” address work if you can’t get the “.com”? Could you hyphenate your company’s name, using “my-company.com” instead of “mycompany.com”? Registering several domain names will help avoid confusion with other organisations who have set up websites with similar names, and help maximise traffic to your site from interested users.
- Who will host my site? Every website needs its own space on the World Wide Web. You will need a web hosting provider, which will host your site on their space and ensure that when a visitor types in your web address, they see your site. Decide what kind of website hosting service you’ll need – do you want technical help and back-up, for instance? – and shop around. Your internet service provider will probably offer web hosting.
Customer service is crucial to web success. If you are going to allow customers to order goods or make requests online, you must be able to respond quickly and to offer guaranteed security and delivery deadlines.
Planning your website content
Good site content is relevant, current, and written for easy consumption by scan readers. Compare other sites and see what information or services are available on the ones you like. Searching competitors’ sites can be a great help, but focus on how you could improve upon them rather than simply imitating them.
- A site map – people like to know where they are going and how they can get there.
- Offline contact details – include a page which can be reached from anywhere on the site, allowing people to reach you by phone, fax and post.
- A search facility – to help visitors pinpoint what they want to see on your website.
- Try adding some frequently asked questions (FAQs) – visitors love them and they can reduce the time you spend saying the same things over the phone.
You’ll also need to include certain information if you’re going to trade online. See our guide to Trading online
Designing and building your website
You need to decide who will design and build your site. A basic shop window with email facilities can be done on a DIY basis, but if you need or want a more sophisticated approach, particularly with different e-commerce functions, then you may well have to bring in the experts.
Doing the job in-house: pros and cons
- Cheaper (if you have the expertise).
- Familiarity with the business.
- The website builder can focus on this single task.
- You may lack the right skills in-house.
- You may have to divert your website builder from other work.
- Your in-house expert may well be not as good as a professional developer.
- You will need to keep your own staff trained and available for any ongoing maintenance and content updating work.
Using a web developer: pros and cons
- Commission work to a pre-agreed budget and timetable.
- Access to skilled people with a wide range of experience.
- Up-to-date expertise and ideas about what works best online.
- They will also be working for other clients.
- There may be a learning curve to understand your business goals and market.
- Changes outside of the agreed brief may cost extra.
A few design basics
Whether you decide to build your site in-house or use a web developer, an understanding of the basics of good site design and construction will be invaluable.
To encourage users to return to your site, it needs to be:
- Quick to download.
- Simple to navigate.
- Logical in its organisation and structure.
Some web developers talk about adhering to a three-click rule, which means that a visitor should be able to get anywhere they want on your site with just three clicks of their mouse.
- Read up on website usability to make sure that your site is easy for your customers to move around, understand and find what they are looking for.
- Be consistent within your website. Consistency communicates professionalism, especially online. Use the same typefaces, fonts, heading styles, colours and backgrounds throughout the site. Place your logo in the same place on every page.
- Use the same navigation devices across the website. This not only reinforces your site’s identity, but also makes it easy for someone new to your site (or to the internet) to familiarise themselves and get around.
- Use signposts – information that directs people around your site, such as page and section titles – on every page. Remember that if your visitor arrives via a search engine they may very well land on your site on a page other than the homepage.
- Remember that pictures will enhance your site’s look – but make pages slower to download. The larger an image file is, the longer it will take for the page to arrive.
- By law your website must comply with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA 1995), which requires you to ensure your site can be accessed by anyone with a disability.
Setting up a site: useful hints and tips
- Recognising customer needs is always more important than understanding technology.
- Make sure your online strategy is fully aligned with your overall business strategy.
- A website isn’t just about selling goods online – it can bring other benefits which may be just as valuable, such as saving you time and money and raising your brand profile.
- Structure your site according to the kind of information you are delivering or the process or journey that would make sense to your customers.
- Check you have correctly categorised your site content – instant clarity for users must always be the priority.
- Look to update and refresh your site content to encourage repeat visits.
- Give your website visitors the option to email their friends with your product details –user recommendations are very valuable.
- Make sure you can deliver on your promises.
- Start small and simple rather than feel you have to create a very technical and complicated website. Your key aim is to generate an interesting, compelling and worthwhile online experience for customers: they’re more likely to come back that way!
This Setting Up a Website business advice article published in association with Lloyds TSB.
Whether you are looking to start-up a business account or want to move your existing business account Lloyds TSB can offer you all the Business Banking support you need
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