How To Build Your Own Business Website
A Content Management System (CMS) Is The Answer
In this day and age you should have a website that is built on top of a well supported CMS – a piece of server based software that makes it easy for the site owner to edit the site. A good CMS will let you create navigation menus, add templates which define the style of the site, add pages and blog posts, upload images and embed video. Think about exactly what you want from your CMS before deciding on a solution, which you’ll find much easier if you understand the different styles and types of website. Below is a definition of the main types of websites.
- BlogA blog is a long list of articles usually formatted in reverse chronological order. Short for Weblog it is an easy way of publishing fresh relevant content to your website – and a tactic that works well for getting extra traffic
- Online ShopAn online shop is usually designed as a catalogue of products with a hierarchical navigation to browse the products and a single page per product. If you are primarily looking for an online shop then check out the article The Simplest Way To Create a Great Ecommerce Store.
- Business Card SiteA term coined for a very simple one page website often including a photo, description of what you do, contact details and perhaps recent twitter activity.
- Brochure SiteA brochure site is a small website which is usually used to explain what a company offers. It would typically consist of homepage, products/services, contact details and about us sections.
- Magazine SiteThis website is an example of a magazine style site with many articles published with both topic and chronological categorisation
- Portfolio SiteA portfolio site is a format used by designers and photographers putting their work at the centre of their site as this acts as the best marketing tool. These sites usually offer an easy way of browsing a large number of images which are grouped into different galleries
- Mobile SiteA mobile website is one optimised for viewing on a mobile device. This usually means its a much simpler layout with less graphics. You can get your website to automatically detect that the visitor is using a mobile device and show the simplified version.
What to look for
- Easy Setup Ideally a non technical person can click a few buttons and get a website ready for customising. No code, no headache and no costly support.
- Customisable You want to be able to customise your website’s design easily by changing color schemes and logo. You want the flexibility to change layout and overall design with the help of a web designer.
- Extendable Whether its adding shopping cart buttons, video, twitter feeds or mobile support you want the ability to extend your website overtime to make to add richer features that will help drive traffic and conversion for your business.
- Reliable You want it to work consistently with minimal downtown and cope well with high levels of traffic.
- Well Supported Ideally you want a large community of designers and developers who can help you at competitive rates if you need it. Also a large community usually means lots of useful free and paid plug-ins and themes to extend the functionality and design of your website.
- Value for Money There are some expensive bits of software, hosting and loads of design and digital agencies that will happily take a big chunk of money to build your site. You can do it for next to nothing yourself though following the instructions below
Option 1: Open Source Content Management System
There are several good open source CMS solutions including RadiantCMS, Joomla, CMS made simple and WordPress. Although WordPress started out life as a blogging platform it is now a rich, fully featured CMS. There are 2 options with WordPress. If you just want a blog then WordPress.com is a great free blogging platform and for just a few pounds you can use your own web address (domain name). If you want a fully featured, fully customisable and extendable website then the free open source software at WordPress.org is a very popular and reliable solution. We recommend you buy some web hosting that includes a one-click install of WordPress. We have recommendations for our favourite WordPress hosts based on location, simplicity, price and customer satisfaction below. The good news is that WordPress is completely free to use and some decent hosting solutions start from as little as a £2 or £3 per month. Once you have WordPress installed on your hosting you can buy and configure your domain name, buy a professional theme and have a professionally designed site up and running for under £50. Also with this solution you have a huge number of developers and designers who are familiar with the platform should you find you do need further customisation. There are many themes (design templates) to choose from some of them free and also lots of free add ons (plugins) that can be installed with a couple of clicks to add features such as social media integration, email subscription, photo galleries and shopping carts.
Option 2: Completely Online Hosted Content Management System
If the idea of buying hosting and installing and configuring WordPress sounds too scary for you, then a hosted solution may be the right choice for you. Simply signup online with your email address and within a few minutes you can be picking designs and adding content to your site. This is a great solution if you want a standard, simple website with a few pages, forms and a blog. If you just want to start blogging then WordPress.com and tumblr.com are 2 very elegant and popular solutions. Tumblr makes it very easy to add short posts including images, video, audio and quotes and is completely free even if you want to use your own domain name. WordPress.com is the most popular hosted blogging solution and you can set it up for free but if you want extra customisation and personalised domains then you have to pay. If however you want a good looking portfolio or business site then the most notable offerings are Weebly, Squarespace, Yola and for more sophisticated websites Business Catalyst.
In the UK right now there is an initiative called Get British Business Online. Its sponsored by the likes of Google and BT and offers a free website for 4 years and free domain for 2 years! Its even includes email. Its a good solution if you really don’t want to spend any money at all right now and want something really simple. Don’t expect much flexibilty with design or features here though. You may find once the free 4 year hosting period is over its not the most competitive option.
WordPress CMS & 3rd Party Hosting
A powerful free and well supported CMS with blogging, social media, simple editing, video. 1000′s of design templates and other add-ons to choose from. Plenty of competitive hosting options. All hosting options below offer free domain name with bi-annual dealsRequires 3rd party hosting, 3rd party design templates and add-ons to reach its full potential. Best WordPress hosting choices below.
Beautifully simple. Great templates. Easy to get going with 14 day free trial. Can upgrade as you need more featuresAll your content and hard work is locked into their system.
The easiest of all the options, anyone can fill in a form and start building their free site. Completely free hosting option even without advertising. Buy and configure your domain name all within Weebly.Free option does include a footer link to Weebly. Not as powerful or cutomizable as the other options here.