How to Build a Website; A Step-by-Step Guide on Getting Your Business Online

By Erik on May 12, 2021

Since we cater to small business owners, many of our clients don't have a lot of time or money. That being said, the appeal of building their own website on the cheap, as opposed to hiring a professional, is a very attractive one. That's all well and good, but where do you start?

Building a website is a little like eating an elephant... just take it one bite at a time. If you're a small business owner looking to build a website, grab a drink because we are going to show you using step-by-step instructions on how to build a website for your business.

We are always here to help, whether it be to simply give advice or to take the reigns and do it for you. For this article, we are going to show you how to build your business website, bite-by-bite. 

You're welcome.

How to Build a Website: A Step-by-Step Guide

  • Step 1: Research your industry and competition
  • Step 2: Decide on a web platform
  • Step 3: Choose your web hosting
  • Step 4: Choose your domain name
  • Step 5: Outline your Website
  • Step 6: Start building
  • Step 7: Add your content
  • Step 8: Test, test, and test again.
  • Step 9: Launch

Step 1: Research

How to Build a Website; A Step-by-Step Guide on Getting Your Business Online

The first step in building a great business website is not to immediately start designing... it's actually to perform research... lots and lots of research. 

Yeah, boring, we know.

The positive to this step is that you should already be a pro in your industry, so this step should be easy. You will want to identify your immediate competition and see what they are doing. Be careful not to steal from them as when your website launches, they will inevitably browse your website to see how it measures up. Also, your (potential) customers will be able to see the similarities and may look elsewhere if the content is too similar. By finding out what your competition is doing will help you with Step 5, outlining your website structure.

  • Is their website a single-page scroller website or a multi-page website?
  • Do they offer online appointments?
  • Do they have live chat to answer questions immediately?
  • Is there a photo gallery to showcase their work?
  • Do they have a blogging platform where they create blog content about the industry?
  • Can take online credit card payments?

These options are all important factors to identify because if your website isn't at least on par and offers similar features as your competition, people will look elsewhere.

Step 2: Decide on a web platform

This one really isn't as scary as it sounds because there is a wide range of different types of web design software out there. You can choose to go with a DIY builder platform (like Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy Website Builder, etc...), WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Ghost, or an all-in-one website builder like Webflow or an eCommerce website builder like Shopify.

We DO NOT recommend DIY website builders like Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, etc. While these drag-and-drop tools are considered by many an "easy" option, they are actually very limiting in their capabilities. While they may be great for a personal website, they are not the best option for a business. Only the most basic functionality is included in their basic plan. In order to remove their branding and enable any decent extra features, you will need to upgrade to a premium plan to enable these additional features. So, this "free" website builder plan you sought out is now no longer free. Advanced features cost money They also use a proprietary web system, which means your new website is only able to work on their platform. This also means that you never actually own your website since you cannot transfer it to another, more powerful service. Your website is literally held hostage for the life of your website. If you ever want to leave, your only option is to simply walk away and start from scratch. 

We choose to exclusively build websites these days using WordPress. It is an extremely robust CMS (content management system) and currently claims almost 40% of all of the websites on the entire internet. Pretty impressive and that is why we focus on it. Installing WordPress on your server takes only a couple of clicks and then your off to the races. The power of WordPress comes from its plugins... and the fact that it's so popular means that there are almost limitless plugins available for your website. Some are free and some are paid, but if you can imagine it, it's probably already built. Simply install the plugins you need and your site can do whatever you want. 

The beautiful part of WordPress is that you own whatever you create. If you outgrow your cheap hosting and opt for a faster, more reliable one, you can simply pack up your site and migrate it to the new server. Most hosting companies even offer to do this for free!  

Step 3: Web Hosting

Next up on the list is to find reliable a reliable hosting plan. There are a million different options out there, but from experience, we find that you get what you pay for when it comes to a hosting provider. Opt to spend a few extra dollars a month in order to not run into issues down the road. 

Your website will be new, so traffic will be almost non-existent at first. However, you still want to make sure that you choose a hosting company that will allow your website to grow and scale seamlessly. There are many options for hosting and you will want to choose an affordable option. This is usually shared hosting which means that you are on a server with many other websites. Shared hosting means exactly that... you are sharing server resources with every other website on that machine. Think of it like living in a ginormous house with thousands of roommates. You each have your own room, but share resources like water, electricity, gas, etc. Some websites will use more which will allow less for you, but this model allows the hosting company to keep their prices down and pass those savings to you.

Find a host that has a backup feature. This is important because if your website ever goes down or gets hacked, you can restore a backup and be up and running in a matter of minutes. Also, check if they offer a free email address using your custom domain name.

There are lots of hosting solutions out there... they range from super cheap to insanely expensive. While big name providers like Bluehost, HostGator, 1and1, and GoDaddy sound attractive because of their price-point, they are known among the professional web community as terrible hosts.

We personally recommend Siteground [please use our affiliate link] or 20i for shared WordPress hosting and WPMU DEV for dedicated hosting. This is who we trust to host our clients because they specialize in WordPress hosting, have fantastic uptime, customer service, and prices. Both of these hosts also offer easy, automated WordPress installation... which is a plus.

Step 4: Choose Your Domain Name

One of the most exciting parts of building your online presence is deciding on your custom domain name. Ideally, you would seek to choose your business name with a .com domain extension. This is not only the most logical domain name for customers to remember you by, but it also helps with SEO (search engine optimization). 

You can purchase your custom domain at many places around the web. Our personal favorite is GoDaddy, which is a domain registrar, and also where we secure all of our domain names. Their standard domain registration fees should run you around $12 for the first year and then about $18/year going forward.

Depending on who you host with, you may be able to receive free custom domain registration for the first year. This will save you $12 for the first year, but then you will pay the standard renewal fee going forward. All domain name renewals carry similar price points, so try to find someone who has above-average customer service as they will be able to help you with any DNS changes you have in the future.

Step 5: Outline Your Website

Now that you have your website ready with a fresh installation of WordPress, it's time to start thinking of how you want your site to function. The easiest way to do this is to create a site outline, which lays out the various pages and sections of your website along with all of the navigation to get there. Think back to grade school when your teacher would ask you to outline your essays. You started with a subject, then an intro, then the body, etc. A website is no different. 

Every website has a home page. This is the page that people land on when they type in your domain name. A home page serves as your catch-all page, which features a navigation bar menu (or header), content that gives the user a brief overview of who you are and what you offer, and a footer. Don't go too in-depth about anything on this page (unless you want a single-page scroller) as you will have internal pages that serve this purpose. 

Then, you will want to add additional pages such as

  • About page
  • Services page
  • Products page
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page
  • Testimonials page
  • Photo Gallery page
  • Contact page with a contact form
  • and more

Only you will know what you should add to your website.

Step 6: Start Building

How to Build a Website; A Step-by-Step Guide on Getting Your Business Online

Now comes the time when we truly teach you how to build a website. This is by far the most exciting and the most frustrating part of a website build.

We are going to assume that you aren't a graphic designer and probably don't possess much in the way of design skills. If that's the case, you should probably ditch the default theme that comes with WordPress and use a professional design template. You can find thousands of premium themes for WordPress by typing "WordPress themes" into the search bar from Google. Some are free, but most cost a little bit of money. You should be able to purchase a decent website template for your industry at around the $40 - $65 price mark. Whatever template you purchase, just be sure it also includes any plugins needed to run the template properly.

You may not have all of your content planned yet, but you can still build your sections and pages even without it. Place text and image blocks with placeholders until you get real content. For text, we like to use Lorem Ipsum dummy text to fill the blocks until real content is added. For images, you can use just about anything, but like-subject royalty-free images from places like Pexels seem to work just fine.

Step 7: Add Your Content

Once you purchase the template for your site and it's installed, it's time to start tweaking it to your liking. Most templates come with explicit instructions as to how to customize the content of the template. You will want to start creating text content for each page as well as graphics and photos. Most templates come with royalty-free stock photos for hero images and an image gallery, which you can certainly use, but we recommend changing them to something that not only features you and your business but just something different in general.

The downfall to a template that you can purchase is that many businesses may have purchased the same template. You run the risk of seeing other websites that look like yours, so changing out graphics and photos to something created by you is definitely in your best interest.

Step 8: Testing

How to Build a Website; A Step-by-Step Guide on Getting Your Business Online

Now that you have your site finished, it's time to test everything to make sure that it's ready for launch. You will want to test every link to make sure it resolves to the correct page or section. Pay special attention to your navigation bar menu items since that's where most of your page links will be. You will also want to make sure that you test your website's speed using a benchmarking system like GT Metrix, Pingdom, or Google's PageSpeed tool. You'll want to shoot for the lowest speed possible, but ideally, you will want it to be under 3 seconds. Anything longer and you risk people leaving your site before it loads... especially on mobile devices.

If you see that your load times are longer than 3 seconds, you may need to look into caching plugins like WP Rocket along with a CDN (Content Delivery Network). Check with your hosting company as they may have an in-house solution (like Siteground) for an affordable price.

Also, make sure that you add an SSL certificate to your website. This will help protect any information collected by your site (from any forms you have) from being easily exposed to hackers. This protects you and your customers from trouble down the road, so make sure you add one to your site. 

Step 9: The Launch

Now that you have secured your domain, built your site, and tested it relentlessly... it's time to show the world your hard work and push the website live. 

Once your business website is live, you will want to start marketing your website so people can find it. Don't forget to update your print marketing materials by adding your new domain name to them. It's a good idea to also add your domain (as a link) to your email signature as well. 

There are many other things that you should consider after launch, such as setting up accounts for Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google My Business, Yelp Business, etc in order to boost your search engine ranking to be found on search engines as well as collect reviews from your customers.

But we will save that for another article.

Depending on your business, you may want to employ email marketing tools like Constant Contact, MailChimp, Active Campaign, etc. Blast your new business website on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn in order to let the world know who you are and what you do.

Wrapping It All Up

Learning how to build a website is not magic. Even though the steps we shared are only broad strokes of what needs to be done, as long as you follow them, you will have your new business website up and running in no time. Depending on your level of commitment, your website could be ready for launch within a couple of days, weeks, months, or even years. 

The Shameless Plug

Even though we provided this step-by-step guide on how to build your own business website, know that we are here for you if you get into trouble along the way or would like for us to take on the project for you. Your time is valuable and spending weeks or months building a website is something you may not want to tackle. 

We have been building websites for small business owners (just like you) since 1995. Depending on your website needs, your new business website could be up and making you money in under a week. With our standard business websites starting at only $349, it's kind of a 'no-brainer' to hire us to build your new business website! We handle everything for you so you don't have to. We provide website design, hosting services, fresh content updates, security, optimization, and support. Simply send us a message if you're ready to get started or you can learn more about our standard business websites by visiting 349websites.com.

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