How many times have you followed the link to a company’s website and, based on how it looks, you decided whether (or not) to give them your business? I know I have! When I see a dated website that expects me download Flash to get basic information, scroll through numerous pages to find a phone number or put up with broken links, spinning icons or, worst of all, music that plays automatically, I hightail it out of there!
(Confession: I’ve designed more than a few websites in my life, which explains my very strong feelings on this subject.)
When thinking about creating your business website, there’s a lot to consider. Should you make it yourself or hire out the creation to a designer? How do you pick a domain name and host it on the web? How do you keep your website fresh, secure and healthy? We’ve pulled together some simple tips with input from some of our QB Community members who know a thing or two about the importance of having a great business website.
To DIY or not to DIY?
First things first: Are you going to build a website yourself or hire someone to make it for you? With so many drag-and-drop website building tools available (Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, WordPress, to name a few) DIYing your site certainly is an option worth considering. Here are some of the pros and cons of DIY.
Pros of DIY
Cons of DIY
Pro tip: WebsiteToolTester.com is an up-to-date, comprehensive website builder review site which compares all the website builder tools and platforms available so you can decide which is right for your needs.
“I personally love squarespace.com. They have some really nice templates to start from and with a custom logo and some photography, you can really get a custom look, plus you have full control over the maintenance of your site!” -- @GoodnightFox
In some ways, outsourcing website design and creation is the easiest solution. But just as with DIY, you’ll need to weigh some pros and cons.
Pros of hiring a pro
Cons of hiring a pro
If you do hire a professional web designer, be sure to:
“For those that are really really determined I normally recommend: wix.com, a free website builder with drag and drop fx. If anyone have ever worked with MS Word, I am sure you can design your basic to complex website if you take the time to understand how things are drilled.” -- @msanzya, web developer
Design tips to make potential customers love your site
No matter who creates your site, you want it to look good (of course), but you also want it to be easy to navigate and to serve your customers’ needs. The following design tips are critically important:
Pro tip: The number one easy thing you can do to make your website discoverable by search engines (and therefore, potential customers) is to make sure each page of your site has a title and a description (ex. Title: “About Jesse’s Bookkeeping in Omaha, Nebraska” and description: “This page is all about the bookkeeping services Jesse Delgado can provide to individuals and businesses in the greater Omaha, Nebraska area, etc.”)
“I don't assume I will get new business from someone on my website. Instead I have it for the main purpose for branding and a sign of professionalism that someone will look at after the prospect becomes interested in reaching out to me.” -- @SteveChase
What about domain names and hosting plans? Do I need both?
Yes. You need both a domain name (www.abc123.com) and a hosting plan to get your website online and to share it with the world. Here’s a good way to think about domain names and site hosting: Your website is your apartment, your domain name is your home address and hosting is the rent you pay to live in the giant apartment complex that is the World Wide Web.
When choosing a domain name, keep in mind:
Pro-tip: Make sure you actually own your domain name (e.g. it’s registered to your name) in case you want to move it in the future.
“Self-hosted WordPress websites let you control the domain name and the content. It comes ready to use "out of the box" and is open source with a very local and international community of people who can answer any question in a heartbeat. It's not complicated! Search engines (Google, Bing, etc) will find a WP self-hosted website faster and push it higher in the results page than they do a wix page.” -- @mrmarklv
Website builder platforms like Squarespace, Weebly and Wix let you buy your domain name, host your site and create your website all in one place with one login to access everything. Some companies (like Wix) offer free domains and free hosting, but know that you won’t own your domain name and your site will feature ads (that you have no control over). If you want an ad-free site you can upgrade your hosting to a paid plan.
When choosing your hosting plan keep in mind:
Pro tip: If you intend to have a large online store and accept payments, you may need to purchase an ecommerce plan (like Shopify)
“MAKE SURE that [your website] passes Intuit risk management. You do not want to spend several thousand dollars on the website just to find out that Intuit does not feel comfortable with your business and declines to issue your the web payment connection ticket.” -- @jecalderon
Zen and the art of website maintenance
Your website is often the first encounter potential customers will have with you or their first stop after meeting you in person. As a window into your business, it’s important to keep your information up to date, your website secure and everything functioning well.
Pro-tip: QB Community member @ParkwayInc provides an excellent roundup of free, online tools that will perform functions like testing the speed of your website, discovering who links to your site, traffic reports, bounce rate and so forth.
Finally, a word about hackers. Even if you think your website is too small or insignificant for hackers to pay attention, you still need to take steps to protect it.
Remember, your website is an extension of your brand, so it should accurately reflect you and your business in how it looks and how it functions. When your site is easy to find and simple to use, and when it loads quickly, is aesthetically pleasing and is totally secure, it shows your customers you have their interests top of mind -- and that you’re a business worth supporting.
Before you go
QB Community members, did you build your own website or hire it out? How does your website work for you?
Want to weigh in but not yet a QB Community member? Click HERE to sign up in a flash!
Great topic, Sarah!
I tried to do it myself. I am not a web designer. I do bookkeeping. Found a wonderful guy in Canada. He knew his stuff. He is still part of my team and I brainstorm things with him. I wish I did not waste so much time doing it myself. He told me Word Press is the way to go. I cannot remember why, but I think it had to do with SEO.
@lynda so great that you found a web developer you really like!
In my experience Wordpress is great and relatively easy to use, but I wouldn't want to do the designing myself. Last year I hired a graphic designer to create a website for me in Wordpress and it's been very easy for me to update and maintain. It also has this groovy SEO tool that prompts you to make small changes in various fields to help each page rank - very useful, and I learned quite a bit about SEO in the process.
This topic came up in a recent interview for QB Community with Michelle Kagarmanov at Mystic Hills Hideaway RV Resort. Before I even spoke with her I noted what a great website she had for her business. Easy and intuitive to navigate, loaded quickly, clean design, contact info was easy to find...
During the interview I learned that she used Weebly and had no prior experience in web design -- you'd never know that looking at her site!
Michelle: "I also made a new website because the original one was full of animated gifs. I was like, “No, no, we have to get this changed fast!” I manage the content on the website -- it’s a Weebly template -- and it looks great. It’s not that hard to have a good website, and it’s really important to business."
Great post, as usual!
I run small business, and of course, it has a FB and Instagram pages, besides official website. But I understand I can't work with Internet audience effectively, I just outsource this type of job to others, including building links (I owe to https://linklifting.com/ ).