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Website basics: Pitfalls to avoid when you are just starting out

When you are starting or running a business, a website is likely to be one of your most important investments.  There are a number of things that will be factors in the decisions that you make around creating a website, but here are a few things that you should definitely think about before you start.

Choose the right domain name: It can make a difference if you use a .com or a .co.uk domain.  In the UK a .co.uk domain will get a click 70% more often than a .com.  This is because we know that a .co.uk is likely to suit our needs a little more closely than a .com as it is definitely targeted towards a UK audience.  This is particularly important for online retailers

Choose the right host: Where your website is hosted does make a difference.  Apparently there are two factors that Google uses when it determines if something should rank in the UK.  The first is the domain name, the second is where your website is hosted.  If you are selling products or services in the UK and you are using a .com domain, I highly recommend that you choose a hosting company that is based here rather than the US or Asia.  While providers in these countries may be a little cheaper, the tiny savings are not worth it.

Do it yourself sites: For some small businesses the cost of a professionally designed site can be prohibitive.  But a web presence is necessary.  Here are a few options that are available that will potentially give you a decent web presence.Firstly my preferred option is WordPress.  WordPress is a free blogging platform that can also be used effectively for website design… Some people who have been on our workshop include: http://www.divinecommunicationstrust.org.uk/ , http://www.theconfidencehub.co.uk/ and http://www.karmicangels.org.uk/ . These sites work because someone else has already put the hard work into the design through creating a template and these companies have been able to take that design and make it work for their business.

There are lots of other options that you might want to look at; Moonfruit is an online content management software, Mr Site Professional is a low cost option and Great British Business Online is offering a free website and domain as part of their get 100,000 businesses online in 2010 campaign.

I would just like to add a caveat here… it has been my experience that home-made websites tend to look home-made because visually they lack cohesion; the images look skewed, the creator has used multiple fonts and selects garish colours that don’t go together.Be honest with yourself when you look at the fruits of your labour because if you think it looks home-made, then odds are other people will think it does too. There are no short cuts on this.  If you do go down the DIY route, make sure that you invest the time in getting your site right. First impressions count, so make sure yours is a good one.

Choosing a designer: For those that are looking for a web designer, or any kind of designer for that matter, have a good look at their portfolio.  If you like the style of sites that they build, odds are you will like the kind of site they build for you.  I know it sounds obvious, but I’ve lost count of the number of times people have said to me that they chose someone because of a recommendation, but didn’t really like their work.  Budget matters.   If you pay £500 for a website, you are not going to get the same amount of support, design, features as if you pay £4000 or £15,000.

Make sure YOU own your domain. Again, this is a problem that people come up against all the time.  Don’t let a web designer, partner or employee purchase your domain name for you.  Your domain name is one of the greatest assets that your business owns and you don’t want to give ANYONE else the ability to manage or control this.   It’s so easy to buy your own domain, that there is no excuse for not doing it.  My two preferred options, purely for cost reasons are www.ukreg.co.uk and www.reg123.co.uk .

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Julie Hall is the founder of Women Unlimited, a women’s networking organisation who are running the Stepping into Success conference on International Women’s Day.  She is holding a build your own website in WordPress workshop on March 31st at the British Library.

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4 Comments
  1. Mark Oborn says

    Great advice and one that business owners should take great notice of. I would also add that people need to think about to things:
    1. How will their website work? What will it DO? How will it drive phone calls, emails or contact details? A website MUST do something more than just be a static online advert. there should be specific ‘calls to action’ that TELL visitors what you want them to do next. NEVER leave it to chance!

    2. How will their website be found? Will they drive visitors to via adverts, offline or online? Are they relying on search engines? If they want search engine to find their site they need to ensure that it is well optimised and managed.

    In summary, don’t leave anything to chance… have a specific and explicit strategy for a) Getting the website performing and b) getting it found.

    Hope that helps a bit more,

    cheers,

    mark

  2. Julie Hall - Editor says

    Thanks Mark! Next week we’re going to do a piece on website basics covering off those exact things! Great advice indeed.

  3. Caroline Jones says

    Hi there – thank for this advice and information, Julie. I found your post on E Nation. I used Moonfruit because at the time I couldn’t find anyone who could tell me if I needed a website or a Blog – I couldn’t tell the difference between the two!
    As I’ve built it myself and am therefore quite close to it, it would be good to get some considered feedback on it. Do you have any thoughts on a way I could do this?

  4. Julie Hall - Editor says

    Hi Caroline, Moonfruit is a good do it yourself option and Wendy Tan White, one of the founders often talks about how connected people feel with their websites. Amy Harrison, one of our regular writers occassionally does a site review, I will ask her to have a look at yours for the next one.