May 8, 2012
These days every business, no matter how big or small, needs to have some type of website. As a small business though, the idea of spending money to build a website may not be in the cards for you just yet. So today we’re going to take a look at how you – even if you’re afraid of technology – can create your very own business web presence for less than $100. Sound impossible…trust me…
Having some type of web presence is critical to businesses these days because the first place people now go to look for information is the internet. When was the last time you looked at the phone book to learn more about a new business you just heard about? Yep, that’s what I thought!
In the past, getting a website up and running meant hiring a tech-savvy web developer and paying them a pretty penny to design a site for your company. You’d then also have to rely on them to update the site as needed when you had changes. While hiring a web developer is still a smart decision for many businesses,* if you’re at the stage where you just want to get your company onto the internet so that people can find it and you don’t have a lot of cash to spend then read on…
Before you get started, you need to make sure the domain name you want is available. Technically this could be its own step but this really should be something you checked on when you started up your company and were playing with name ideas. Ideally, yourcompanyname.com should be available or some very close variation of it that will be easy for people to remember and find online. With that done and out of the way we can get going:
1. Go to www.wordpress.com. We’re going to use WordPress.com to create your easy yet beautiful website. Why wordpress? Because it is set up in a manner that even the biggest technophobe can get a website up and running. They also have a number of themes (we’ll talk about these in a minute) that will help you make your website look like it was designed by a professional. Best of all, you can not only design the site yourself today but you can also make changes down the road without having to go back to a web developer. Wordpress.com will also host your site for you so that’s one less step you have to worry about. Told you this would be easy!
“But I don’t want a blog!,” you say. While most people associate WordPress as one of the top blogging software platforms, the system is set up in a way that it’s possible to create a static website or simply a nicely designed landing page with your basic company information so you don’t necessarily need to be willing to devote a lot of time to creating and updating a blog.
It should be noted that wordpress.com does have some limitations in the software which, given that it’s free (or in our case, nearly free) is reasonable. The biggest limitation is that wordpress.com doesn’t allow you to have a shopping cart or other type of online retail store. For some of you that won’t matter at all as you’re not looking to sell anything online at this point, but if part of your business strategy is to sell your products via a web store then, sadly, wordpress.com will not work for you.
I keep saying wordpress.com because there is also a not-quite-as-free sister program called wordpress.org. WordPress.org has significantly more functionality than wordpress.com (such as the ability to add an online shopping cart) but it requires a higher level of technological proficiency and you have to host the site yourself. If you need some of the functionality and flexibility of wordpress.org but are lacking in the tech skills it is possible to hire web developers who specialize in wordpress.org (though this will obviously cost you more than $100). You also have the option to start your site as a wordpress.com site now and then upgrade it down the road to wordpress.org when the time comes that you need the added features.
2. Now that you’re looking at the wordpress.com page, click the orange “Get Started Here” button.
3. Choose your blog address. Right now you’re limited to the “yourcompanyname.wordpress.com” format but we’ll change that in a minute so don’t worry about it. Simply input the name you want associated with your company (and that you know is also available).
4. Input a username and password you’ll remember. This is what you’ll use to access your site and make changes.
5. Click the “Upgrade” bottom at the bottom of the page. For $99 this gives you the ability to have your own unique domain name (yourcompanyname.com instead of yourcompanyname.wordpress.com – it just looks more professional don’t you think?) and this keeps ads off your site. This last piece is also critical because otherwise you have no control over what type of ads are showing up on your site – not to mention that you also don’t receive any revenue from those ads so why bother having them interfering with your site? By upgrading you’ll also have more flexibility over some of the design features in your site and you can upload HD videos to your site which could be a great way to showcase some of your culinary skills or help share your marketing story. All in all, for $99 it’s money well spent.
6. After WordPress confirms your new account you’ll be sent an email with information on how to access the administrative section of your site. Follow these directions because now its time to get creative.
7. Get a look you love. Now that you’ve logged into your administrative panel we need to get your site looking good. Your first step should be to access your Dashboard and go to Appearance and then click on Themes. Here you can browse through a number of free and custom designed themes (custom designed themes range in price from $45 – $100). Take a look through the themes with an eye towards what you want your site to achieve. If you don’t want a blog component on your site you’ll want to stay away from themes that have home pages that consistently update with your latest information or web changes. You can preview how various themes will look to you. Keep in mind when looking at the themes that in most cases the design itself can’t be changed but the photos and text all can be customized.
8. Speaking of text and pictures….once you choose your theme it’s time to start filling out your site with what you want to say and your pictures.
9. Add Extras. If you want to add things to your site like Facebook sharing, RSS feeds (where people receive automatic email updates of your new posts) and sidebar images you do that through the Widgits tab in Appearance. Since more and more people are looking at websites through their iPad, if your theme has an iPad option you will want to make sure it’s activated.
10. Share your web address with the world! Once you feel your site is presentable it’s time to start sharing that name with everyone you come in contact with. Include your web address in marketing material, on your business card, share the site with Facebook fans, etc. You now own your own little piece of the internet. Don’t worry if you’re site isn’t totally polished, the beauty of WordPress is that you now have the capability to go in and make changes and updates as you see fit.
If you’re interested, this site is a wordpress.com site that is currently using “Linen” – a custom designed theme. If you want to learn more about the features available to wordpress.com users click here. As always, I’ve received no payment for recommending wordpress.
* Depending on the scope of what you’d like your website to do a web developer can be an asset to your company. On a personal note, because my own business website had a tremendous amount of back-end complexity, it was crucial that I had a good web developer I could count on and the money I paid him was well worth it to get the site to do what I needed. If you think you need a web developer to help you get the type of site you need but don’t want to bring someone in-house, look for a freelance web developer in your area who has experience working with small businesses. I would also recommend that when designing your site you ask the developer to make sure that critical parts of your site are developed in such a way so that you can make small changes yourself without having to go back to the developer over and over again with minor tweaks and text changes.