Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
When starting a small business, creating a website should be near the top of your checklist. Not only is creating a small business website an important step for your new venture, but it can also be a really fun and creative process.
Your website will play a crucial role in your initial and lasting business success, and these days, it’s easier than ever to use a DIY website builder to get the job done. These online tools can help you quickly build a website that shows off your brand, builds trust with potential customers and provides key contact information. Plus, a website will also help drive e-commerce sales if appropriate for your business. And while a site might seem most fitting for a retail shop or restaurant, businesses in any industry can truly benefit from having a website.
Using a DIY website builder is easy, affordable (if not free) and can be just as effective as hiring a web designer. You only need a bit of proper guidance (look no further!) and the right tools.
4 questions to ask before building a website
1. Who is my target audience?
To craft a website that appeals to your audience, you have to know who that audience is. Are you looking to reach retail customers in their 40s or 50s who are seeking professional attire? Or are you marketing to millennial consumers who are searching for the new bar you just opened downtown?
These are completely different audience profiles that will affect what you include on your website and how you present it. If you’re targeting an older audience, maybe you keep your design and layout more straightforward. If you’re targeting a more tech-savvy audience, you can get a little more creative with widgets and graphics. And of course, there are small business website essentials, like image galleries, testimonials and blogs, that any audience will appreciate.
2. What is the goal of my website?
Do you simply want to inform customers that your clothing brand exists and where to visit your brick-and-mortar locations? Do you want to collect information from people in the housing market to build your real estate email list? Or perhaps you’re a creative designer who has a purely digital presence and you want to showcase your portfolio or social media profiles?
You should also ask yourself what action you want site visitors to take. Are they here to make an online purchase, fill out a form or send an order inquiry? Whatever your goals, make sure to break them down into simple actions that visitors can easily take once on your site. You’ll want to feature a clear and concise pathway on the homepage and organize your additional site navigation to drive to the actions you identify — such as buying products, visiting your shop or requesting a quote.
3. How do I stand out from competitors?
It’s important to check out the successful websites of businesses in similar industries to you. Take a look at what they’re doing well…and what they’re not. What do their customers say about their experiences? How are competitor websites organized? What kind of photography do they use? You may want to incorporate certain elements on your website that you deem eye-catching or that customers commented on during your research, but you’ll also want to look for the white space: where you can fill a gap or do things differently based on your own strengths and brand personality
And make sure you play up those elements that make you different or better. For example, if you hold community events at your coffee house but no one else in your area does, feature this on your site. Or, say you offer complimentary styling consultations at your boutique — that’s a differentiator you should prominently display on your homepage.
4. What is my budget?
This should be outlined in your overall business plan, but if not, know that there are options available for all types of budgets. If you have the money, you can hire someone to handle more technical or time-intensive components of building a website, such as photographing your products in the best light to feature online or optimizing your logo for digital use. Otherwise, with the right website creation tools, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to do it yourself.
Whether you’re just starting to promote your new small business or looking to showcasing new work or products, Vista x Wix’s free website builder makes it simple.
4 questions to ask when building your website
1. How do I best represent my brand?
First, you’ll want to determine your domain name and host. Your domain is the main URL you use for your website, so make sure it aligns with either your company name, a major product or service you offer or a search phrase people often use to find what you offer. If your first-choice URL isn’t available, play around with adding a word to your business name (like ‘shop’ or ‘cafe’) or the name of your neighborhood or city.
Then, you can decide the brand elements — like your logo, brand colors, fonts or taglines — you want to include on your site. These pieces are a great way to showcase your brand’s vibe and bring a little bit of personality to your website. Your logo should ideally be found on every page of your site (typically in a static header or footer), and your color and font choices should be consistent, too.
2. How will I display my products or services?
When leveraging a website building tool or content management system (CMS) — the software that helps you create, edit and manage content on your website — you’ll typically have access to a range of pre-built themes and templates for showcasing your products or services. Take some time to browse through the options, and look to other small business websites for inspiration, to find the best layout for you. Many platforms feature integrations with an e-commerce plugin that can streamline your product displays and entice visitors to make purchases.
3. What types of pages, content and plugins do I need?
As you go through the DIY website building process, the additional pages you need beyond a homepage, product pages and contact pages will become more apparent. Elements like an About Us or Our Story page, a blog or customer testimonial can help build trust and personal connections and promote a positive customer experience.
Also consider built-in plugins or extensions that perform additional work, like providing greater site security at customer checkout or enabling you to optimize your content for search engines. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a series of activities involving keywords, headline formatting, site indexability and more that make it easier for search engines — and thus potential customers — to find you online.
4. How do I optimize for user experience?
Without a user-friendly website, your users may leave or become frustrated before taking any further action. We’ve all visited those websites that look like they were created in the early 2000s — it’s not an engaging experience. Avoid bland or nonfunctioning website layouts and instead take inspiration from sites that have made a strong positive impact on you. Make sure every button and link on your site works, leverage templates and themes that were pre-built by experiences designers and ensure your small business website appears correctly on mobile phones as well as full-size screens.
The Vista x Wix platform comes with an easy-to-use mobile device optimization tool so your customers can navigate your site on any device.
How do I launch and maintain my DIY website?
Once you’ve checked off all of the above and are ready to launch your website, recruit some trusted friends or loyal customers to test it. Ensure it works as expected, identify any issues and correct them before promoting your new site on social media and on printed materials like business cards or postcards.
Regarding maintenance, typically, the software running your site will need to be updated. Using a DIY website builder greatly simplifies the upgrade process through automatic or prompted updates, but it’s always good to check the back end from time to time. Staying updated ensures your site maintains proper security and functionality.
As your company grows, ensure your website reflects that growth, including recent news, changes to your contact information or locations and new products and services. Most popular website platforms should be able to handle such growth for years to come without needing to hire outside help.
Although building a website involves many steps, the actual process can be easy by following these guiding questions and leveraging the best website creation tools available.