How to Launch Your First Website: A Primer for Small Businesses

 If you’re ready to launch your first website, you may be wondering how to get started and what the most important considerations are in your overall design. You want a site that’s functional and visually appealing, and it also needs to work equally well in different browsers.

The following tips will help you get started on your new website – and, in turn, help you attract more customers.

Choosing a Name

Your first step in creating a website is choosing a domain name. Depending on your business name, or what you sell, you might find your ideal domain name has already been snatched up by another company. But your domain name is important, so think about whether you’d be better off renaming your business in order to get a great domain name. You may also be able to buy the name from its current owner, if you’re dead-set on a certain domain name.

You’ll also need to choose a provider for your domain registration. Pick a company that will alert you when your domain name is about to expire, or when someone else registers a name close to yours. In fact, a good strategy is to register domain names that are highly similar to the one you want, so you can redirect from those domains to your company website, making it easier for customers to find you.

Include Images

If you’re planning to sell products online, hire a photographer to get some good photographs of the items you sell. Online consumers expect to see what they’re buying, and if the images you use look unprofessional, people may assume your products are sub-par, too.

Anytime you include an image, make sure you describe it with text, so people searching online for the products you offer will find your website more easily.

Use color and graphics sparingly – too many elements can confuse and frustrate visitors.

Relate to People

Consumers appreciate a company that seems personable, so include a strong “about us” section that explains not only what you sell, but what drives you or inspires you. If you have a small staff, consider including photos and brief bios for your employees.

Make it easy for people to reach you – online or in person. On your homepage, include a link that allows customers to contact you along with your street address and phone number. Nearly 75 percent of small businesses neglect to include a contact email, and customers may interpret the lack of that information as resistance to interacting with the public.

Design for Everyone

Unless you have a web designer on staff, plan to hire someone to design your site. Because you may be able to cobble together a decent website in WordPress, but getting your site to look good across multiple browsers requires some specific technical know-how.

Your website should look professional no matter which browser or operating system your customers use. And increasingly, it’s important that your website be optimized for mobile use. In 2012, consumers spent $25 billion via smartphones and mobile devices, and you don’t want to lose mobile shoppers simply because your design isn’t user-friendly.

You may need to invest some capital in launching your new website, but as long as your site is designed well, those initial costs will be offset by an increase in sales.