If you are a small business without a website then you are without a digital "face" to the world. It is like having a brick and mortar store without any signage. And having an online presence is also about your bottom line. It helps you get found, increase customer traffic and ultimately boost your revenue.
But you have thought of a website before but then got intimidated by the tech complexity and costs. Well, things have changed and these days you could really create your website pretty easily - without writing a line of code, with no technical or design skills and most importantly for small businesses- all for free!
Step 1: Get a domain name
This is the address people type in to get to your website. To register a domain name you have to make sure no one else is using it by searching for its availability. Companies that let you do that are called "Registrars". Godaddy.com is one such registrar - there are hundreds. I would recommend that you first search and confirm availability of your ".com" address but don't buy just yet. (If you aren't having any luck in finding a .com domain name because the ones you want are taken, then read my earlier blog post "Free online resources for naming your small business for a viable online presence" for additional ideas.)
Step 2: Get a hosting service with a website builder tool
Think of a host as "the computer" your website will "live" on. So when a customer types in your website address, the host brings up or delivers the website. Again loads of options here and most of them come a "builder" of some sort. The builder helps you write/upload and populate your content or will let you use standard open source platforms (free software) like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal etc. Don't get overwhelmed by this as these are simply options for easy tools to manage your website and most times companies that provide you the tools will also help train you on how to use it.
Step 3: Populate your website content
Content aka. the imagery and text that goes on your website is the last hurdle. Most website builders offer a library of "templates" to choose from. The template defines the look, feel and layout of your website. After you select a template you will also have the ability to customize colors, images and logo to match your business. And lastly you create pages using the template. These are typically (a) Home Page where you give a high level overview of what your business is and what services / products you sell (b) Detailed products or services page which often lists pricing and specials (c) Contact Us page which includes your address, a map and info to contact your business. That's it to get started.
So what next? Check out Weebly.com, Webs.com, Web.com and Zoho.com. They all provide one stop shop options for a domain name, hosting, website builder, templates and images free for either a limited period of time or for limited number of pages. Some of them also let you create a free "mobile" version of your website that works on smart phones like iPhones and Android devices. And that's important as people are increasingly using their smart phones to Google for "stuff" on the go and you would want your business website to show up if they are in your neck of the woods and you sell the "stuff" they searched for. If you don't have the time (or the inclination) to research all those services then we suggest you start with Weebly.com which is non technical, easy to use and the free account gives you plenty of functionality, unlimited pages, bandwidth, and storage space (max 5MB per file though) - which is all you should need to begin with.
Good luck and happy website building.