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I get lots of messages from people who’re thinking about starting a business and getting a website, but they don’t know where to begin. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
There are 3 steps to getting a website:
1 – Pick a name.
2 – Buy a domain and hosting (Here)
3 – Hire a web designer/developer
That’s literally all there is to it.
First thing to know is that your website doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. But if you spend too much on your hosting and domain, you’re going to be more reluctant to pay a good web designer. If you’re not willing to pay for a good web developer you’re not going to get a good a website.
But before you even hire your designer, or get hosting, you have to choose a name.
Your website’s name is the same as the domain name. This is the address: www.yourwebsite.com – where “yourwebsite” is the name.
Keep your website name simple. If your business name isn’t short, keep your website name to the point. People should be able to guess what your business does just by seeing the website name.
Try to avoid super long names like Tracysspecialdonutsareamzing.com. Something like specialtdonuts.com is unique, short, and establishes the brand.
“Nineke Publishing” is a lot of syllables, but it’s the business name and it more or less says what the business does. Nineke is my name and technically I publish websites.
(I also publish books sometimes, which is what the company started as.)
Next, you have to buy your domain name. Domains are the .com, .net, .co, .biz part of your website name. Buying a domain is the first part in actually having a website.
Hosting is the part that keeps a website online. You can buy a domain name and never host it – meaning there’s never a real website there. The company that sold you the domain will automatically make a page that says something like “this domain is parked.”
You don’t need lots of space or memory, or speed because you’re brand new. You’re not pulling the high volume traffic like cnn.com or amazon. As your business grows you can always upgrade your hosting package, so that servers can handle more visitors monthly.
The best practice is pay for your hosting upfront for the year ahead. This saves you money over time because most companies offer discounted rates for annual hosting. If you’re not sure you can always do monthly hosting, and change companies later. If you do this, your web designer/developer should know how to transfer your hosting for you. If they don’t then you hired the wrong one.
Monthly hosting should never cost more than $10 for a small business. Annual hosting should never be more than $200. A lot of companies offer discounted rates for the first year. After that annual hosting might go up by $50 – $70. But it’s important to remember you should never pay $30 for monthly hosting, or anything close to $200 for your first year of hosting on a new website.
That’s why I recommend DreamHost to all of my clients. Their first year hosting package is between $54 and $74 dollars, and they give you one free domain (the dotcom dot.net dot.biz part) DreamHost also provides free backup, and one free email address.
GoDaddy and other companies charge extra for basic hosting services that come standard at DreamHost. They take advantage of the fact that most small business owners don’t know what should and shouldn’t be included in hosting. They also take advantage of their google search rankings and name brand recognition.
DreamHost’s “Shared Unlimited” package is ideal for new small business websites. You can take the extra security options they offer if you want. But you don’t really need them. An experienced web developer can code security into your website on the backend.
At DreamHost you can pick your domain name when you sign up, or you can set it up later. If the name you want is taken, consider getting .net, or .co.
If you already have your domain from a different company, you can still host it on DreamHost. Your web designer/developer should be able to set the domain to your new hosting. If they don’t know how to transfer domain hosting, or how to set DNS, you hired the wrong one.
Finally when it comes to picking a web designer, naturally you should hire me. Seriously. And seriously.
You want a web designer who has a large body of work. You want your web designer to have experience, and real clients.
You’re paying for more than a website. You’re paying for skill. You’re paying someone for their ability to bring your vision to life. And in all honesty, you’re paying for someone to do something that you can’t do.
Sure, anyone can drag and drop and plop a website together. But do they actually know what a good layout looks like?
Do they know how to use color, contrast, white space, font pairings, and language to create emotional reactions in site visitors? Does your web designer understand the basic marketing principles that will make your website make money?
As a small business owner, when you hire a web designer you’re hiring your first employee. You’re paying them for their time. You’re paying them to put time into your business. The same as all of your previous jobs have paid you.
You pay your web designer for the time they’re going to take to work with you, to address your concerns and needs. You’re paying for the time they’re going to spend getting it absolutely just right.
You can pay by the hour, or you can pay a set fee. Either way, your website will take time – something around 20 – 30 combined hours. Between phone calls and emails and entering code, and designing, and adding text, and adding products, and making changes, your web designer is putting in time for you to make sure your website represents your business in a beautiful and professional way.
Your web designer’s job is to build a website that makes it easy for you to get paid. Your web designer’s job is create something that guides visitors into the buying process. There are basic rules of web design, and all design, that work to ensure emotional responses, and lead people to action. Your web designer should have some idea how to do this.
Don’t get caught up in bells and whistles, or extremely wild ideas. Your web designer should absolutely give you whatever you ask for. But as a small business owner, you also have to keep your eye on the prize – having a website that grows your business.
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