Updated: Jan 16
In 2005, I built my first website using a UK hosted website builder template provider. It was Christmas and I didn't know what present to get my Dad, so I made a site for his business and he was delighted! I don't define myself as techie but I asked myself....
'If they give you a template, images, colour palettes and instructions, how difficult can it be?"
It wasn't hard. In fact, I really enjoyed the creative element and as I'm someone who learns by doing, I found the challenge of figuring it out myself very engaging. In the end, it was an example I used in my Google interviews of how I push myself outside my comfort zone to learn. I'm convinced it helped close the gap on the technical skills needed to clinch my job with them.
Fast forward fifteen years, and I got to build my own website for my own business. While the basics of domain names & hosting have remained relatively unchanged, the process of designing and creating a site is so much easier, more visually appealing and so much faster!
"If you've never built and published a website before, I challenge you to consider doing it."
If you've done the pre-work on shaping your business goals and are fairly clear on your audience, product or service offering and the purpose of your website, you're ready!
Follow the 11 steps below and you'll understand enough to consider investing and building your own simple website for your business!
STEP 1 - CONTENT: Plan your website menu, map & draft your page content
Write out your answers to 3 basic questions:
Who are you? What do you offer? How do people get it?
Decide how the pages connect to each other for a good browsing experience.
"Keep it simple to start, you can always add more later."
STEP 2 - MOCK-UP: Pick the site design template & brand colours for your business
Get inspired by exploring the designer-made templates hosting sites offer.
Use your draft content to create a mock up for free.
When it comes to picking your colour scheme, either keep it simple with a white background and maximum 3 other highlight colours. Or, read some articles on how to choose the perfect website palette scheme. Similar advice goes for fonts.
"Play around to see which templates you like best and which reflect your business most authentically."
STEP 3 - VISUALS: Source relevant images (or videos) to add to your mockup
With a high quality mobile phone camera, you can also easily take some photos of you, your team, your product to personalise the site.
"Aim to connect your visuals with your brand colour palette to bring harmony to the overall site."
STEP 4 - BUSINESS NAME: Get creative and brainstorm a unique name
Using your niches, audience, offering and brand as cornerstones, make a list of your business name ideas using word association, images, thesaurus etc.
When you have your first list, park it, take a break and then and start the process again, this time pushing your creative boundaries to the extremes.
Review both lists and narrow it down to your Top 10-15.
To further narrow your list to 3-5, use any domain name provider (e.g. Hosting Ireland), to check which names are available for sale.
If you plan to register your company name with the national company registry (www.cro.ie) it's a good idea to check the name isn't already being used.
"Your company name should accurately reflect your business, be available and be easy to remember."
STEP 5 - WEB ADDRESS: Define your website domain name(s)
A domain name is simply your website's unique online address. Depending on your target audience location, do you want .com, .ie, both, or others? (See list)
Research 2-3 domain providers for their annual prices & terms & conditions.
With prices from €6 per annum for the first year, this step is very affordable.
"Your domain name is your unique www.companyname.xx"
STEP 6 - HOSTING: Decide what website hosting package is right for you
Research 3-5 providers. Check their package prices (sign-up offers and annual price plans can differ a lot), templates, functionality, add-ons & user reviews.
A one-page package costs less than €100. A modern premium multi-page package may have an introductory offer e.g. 2 years for €300, increasing to maybe €300 per year thereafter. If you're saving money by doing the work yourself, my advice is to invest in a site that's easier to create and better for users to navigate & engage with.
If you want to sell and transact online or offer online bookings, check out the quality of that functionality in detail as not all widgets are made equal.
Personally, I chose WIX.com as they offer an easy click & drag-and-drop website builder, a great choice of modern templates, handy integrated widgets and a huge range of free professional images & brand options.
"The hosting package will be your biggest investment so choose one that has templates you love, the functionality you need, at the right price."
STEP 7 - BUSINESS EMAIL: Decide if you want a separate business email address
You can use your personal email to start but it's more professional and easier to manage a separate business one.
If you're used to Gmail, Google G Suite is linked up with lots of web providers for easy integration with your website. E.g my website is www.vickiharris.ie and my contact email is firstname.lastname@example.org
"Investing in a separate business email is a good idea."
STEP 8 - INVESTMENTS: Now commit and buy what you need to get started
Commit to your business name by purchasing your URL domain name
Decide your hosting provider and package and buy it (with or without add-ons)
"Now you're ready to commit and make your purchases."
STEP 9 - CREATE: Pull all your content together for desktop & mobile
Either using your mock up or starting from scratch, take the time to upload your content, visuals, brand colours, logo, links, contact info etc.
Go into review mode and keep editing it until it is appealing, authentic, consistent, functioning and clear. You need to do this for both desktop & mobile versions.
Research and add your privacy and cookies policies for your country.
"This step takes time and effort...but it's also fun to be hands on. Try strike the right balance between making progress and creating something you love!."
STEP 10 - QUALITY: Source feedback, refine and retest
It's helpful to get feedback from fresh eyes, preferably from your target market. Be specific about what you want their opinions on - offering? colours? usability? etc.
Check for spelling and grammar mistakes and that all your links work as intended, including your email. Keep tweaking until it is a high quality site you're proud of.
"Make sure that by the end, your website looks great, has harmony and works as intended."
STEP 11 - GO LIVE: Link, Publish & Submit
Before you publish your site to the worldwide web, ensure you link your site domain to your hosting provider (if they are different).
After launching it, in order for Google to be able to find your site, you have to follow a short process to submit your sitemap to them to let them know you exist.
Press the 'Publish' button.
"Congratulations! You've designed, created and invested in a key business component - your unique digital presence!"
Considering how much money you saved on web designers, stock photos, professional photographers, maintenance and upkeep fees - I think you deserve to pop the champagne and sit back and admire what you've created! Congratulations!:)
This article is by no means a comprehensive guide to building a website. You can find more detailed tutorials and 'how to' guides on website provider platforms. It's purpose is to demonstrate to entrepreneurs that it's not as complicated as it may seem. I'm not affiliated with any suppliers. I'm just sharing my personal opinions.
Today, more than ever, having an online presence is critical to a company's success. So, I hope you feel less daunted by the task, rise to the challenge and learn lots along the way!
I'd love to know if this article was helpful to you and to hear any suggestions you have from your experience to update or improve it for future entrepreneurs. Thanks!