This blog is part of our ongoing series: If you’re starting a new business – here’s how NOT to fail. After reading about things you need to do before building a website for your company, be sure to check out the rest of our series, in which Rapid Formations CEO Graeme Donnelly spells out his top tips on how you can give your company the best possible start.
Like it or not, your company’s website is its window to the world – and unfortunately, it can be tricky getting web users to keep looking at your window, long enough to want to buy something or get in touch with you.
Researchers say, businesses have an average of just 50 milliseconds to capture someone’s attention before they pass judgement on a website. For reference, that’s half of a single second – and that half a second could ultimately decide whether people like your site, and choose to hang around or don’t like it and move onto the next site.
Why is your company’s website important?
If your business is to survive its first couple of years, you’d better make sure you have an effective and attractive website. According to the Welsh Government, a massive 93% of all business purchase decisions start with an online search and a visit to a company website.
That means you need to create a compelling, credible and professional site for your potential customers to land on – and you’ve got to impress them pretty quickly.
Fortunately, creating a great website is a lot faster, cheaper and simpler than many first-time business owners think. You should spare no expense when creating a website, and if your budget allows, it’s worth hiring a creative agency or web developer to build it for you.
If you cannot afford to hire a professional developer or agency, don’t worry, there are plenty of online tools you can use to create a very attractive website on a tight budget, and there is also heaps of useful and free advice available on the Internet.
Regardless if you decide to seek professional help or build it yourself, you will need a clear picture in your head of what you’d like your website to do and say, how it should look, and how it should make your would-be customers feel.
Here is our list of the top 10 things you should do before starting to build your company website.
1. Choose a suitable domain name
A key point to consider is the domain name or website name. You should do your best and register a domain name that is simple and memorable. Whether you are creating a new website using a web building tool, or you hire professionals to build it for you, one of the first tasks will be to choose a suitable domain name for your business.
The domain is the phrase or word that everybody will type into their web browser to visit your website, so you need to give it some serious thought. You will also need to select a domain suffix, e.g. ‘.com’, ‘.co.uk’ or ‘.net’. This is the end of your website’s domain name, and the option you choose will normally depend upon your geographical location or the type of audience you’re attempting to entice.
Generally speaking, the vast majority of businesses choose to use their company name as their domain name. A key point to consider, is that you won’t be able to register a domain name if somebody else is already using it (just like a limited company name), and so you will need to conduct a search online before setting your heart on a particular name. You can conduct this search and register your domain, using an online domain registrar such as GoDaddy or 123-Reg.
2. Select a website building platform
Many business owners think the process of creating a website might somehow be difficult, so they often perceive this to be a daunting prospect. But the truth is, there are a variety of easy-to-use web hosting platforms that enable any business owner to create a sleek and effective company website.
So, assuming you’ve decided to build your own website, where should you go to get started?
Wix is a popular first port of call for many small business owners. Wix is a website building tool with an incredibly simple interface, which lets you choose from hundreds of free design templates, you can use to create pages for your company’s new website. You’ll notice a lot of these designs are specific to particular industries, which means you’ll be able to track down a style for your website that suits your business perfectly.
Like many freemium web platforms, Wix has an intuitive drag-and-drop feature that makes personalising your company’s new website super simple.
Similarly, it might be worth checking out Squarespace to build your company website. Squarespace is ideal for businesses that deal in creativity, as it has a wide range of templates that are designed specifically for photographers, designers, writers and other types of artists.
Squarespace is a super visual platform, so it’s excellent if you’ve lots of amazing product images you’d like to show the web.
You may also want to consider using WordPress to build and host your company website. WordPress is perfect for web beginners, and it offers plenty of free page templates. More importantly, WordPress is accompanied by a comprehensive built-in analytics suite that will tell you exactly who is visiting your company website and how they’re using it.
Another reason you may want to consider building your company site with WordPress is because the platform has plugins and integrations with big names in e-commerce like Shopify – which makes it very easy to create online shops, for people to purchase your goods and services using any device.
3. Think about the structure of your website
Most businesses will divide all the pages on their website into a few parent categories. For example, after their home page, a business may opt to create an ‘About us’ page, a ‘Contact Us’ page and a ‘Store’ page. Under the ‘About us’ section, you might then find one page about company history, one about current staff and one about job opportunities. Then, under the ‘Store’ section, you might find a dozen or so product pages, with one product featuring on each page.
The way you choose to organise and build your webpages is totally up to you, but just remember: when in doubt, less is typically more.
4. Consider the key information your website needs to display
No two businesses are alike, and so it’s fair to say that no two company websites should be the same, either. On the other hand, when you’re building your first company website, there are several key items every business must include.
So, what do you need to put on your company website when you’re building your first pages?
First and foremost, you need to write a clear description of who your company is, what it does for a living and what sort of goods or services it offers. Because we know web users have short attention spans and high attrition rates, you have to be concise and direct, to grab their attention as quickly as you possibly can.
That means your homepage needs to clearly state your company’s name, and display a selection of your headline products or main services.
5. Decide what you want people to do on your website – calls to action
Above all else, you need to think hard about calls to action when creating your company website. What is a call to action? It is an invitation to users of your website to take a desired action which will lead them to become customers or clients. Calls to action will ultimately dictate the level of conversions your website will make, and are the key to generating revenue.
Do you want users to visit your website and buy something? Do you want them to send you an email, or download an e-book? If you’re unsure what your website’s primary call to action is, you’d better figure it out, and quickly! Without a strong call to action, users won’t know what to do with your website and will end up going somewhere else instead. So, decide what you want your customers to do, and then display that call to action prominently on your homepage and throughout your website in strategic locations.
6. Gather customer testimonials
You should also consider adding customer testimonials to your new company website. When your company is first starting out, it can be very difficult to get your company’s name out there. That being said, one of the best ways to promote your brand is through word-of-mouth.
Client testimonials or case studies are incredibly valuable, and so if your business has any satisfied customers, you should make a point of asking them to help you, by writing a short testimonial pointing out what they liked about your company, your goods and services.
A good idea is to sign up with an online review platform such as Feefo, Trustpilot or FreeIndex. These review platforms offer a fabulous resource in making it easy for your customers to provide reviews of your products or services, by using automated invitation software. It is a great way of connecting with your customers, generating a stellar online reputation, and establishing credibility based on your customers’ purchasing or service experiences.
7. Start writing blog posts
A thought-provoking and engaging company blog is a fantastic way to tell people what your site is all about and establish brand loyalty, so there is no time like the present to start writing content for your blog, in readiness for the launch of your website.
A company blog will provide you with an excellent platform to discuss products in depth, comment on industry news or explain industry jargon to your users. This is often a great way to make a soft sell, because it establishes your company as an online thought leader (or informed opinion leader), without trying to shove products down people’s throats.
It is also of great importance to keep your website’s content fresh. Your company website will often be the first point of contact people will have with your business, and if they reference it again, they will want to see new material. Bearing that in mind, you should constantly be working to create new and engaging content that will excite users and keep them glued to your site.
8. Write your terms and conditions
Your website will need a comprehensive set of terms and conditions (T&C’s). They essentially tell web users what they should expect when using your website, such as their legal rights and obligations. A lot of your terms and conditions will heavily reference the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and you will need to make a point of telling everyone how you use and collect data or cookies, any rules you have in place and how you will protect customers and their data.
Writing terms and conditions for a website can be a time consuming and often tedious task, and you may also need to seek professional advice to make sure you are on safe ground from a legal point of view. The T&C’s may also have a bearing on the content of your website and how you present and sell certain products and services. That’s why we recommend you get the terms and conditions sorted out, before building your website.
9. Make sure you know the legal requirements for business websites
The internet may be awash with fake news and dodgy websites – but believe it or not, there are laws about company websites that you will need to comply with.
In basic terms, there is a requirement for you to display certain information about your company on your website, and a failure to do so can result in fines and damage to your reputation. The UK Government has a straightforward set of laws in place that your company will need to follow, and things become more complicated when you are also selling online. Check out this useful resource from Hallam on website legal requirements which offers advice on complying with current legislation.
Here are some examples of legal requirements for ecommerce websites in the UK:
- You must make it clear to users that they need to pay when they place an order
- You must include your company’s contact details
- You must include your company’s registered office address details
- You must include your company’s VAT number, if you have one
- You need to make sure your customers are aware of your terms and conditions and can easily access them
- You need to clearly state conditions for entering into or ending a contract
- You need to clearly display how users can pay for what they order
- You must list all steps customers need to take when placing an order
- You need to take reasonable steps to let customers amend mistakes they make when ordering something from your website
- You must make clear on your website what languages are available for users
There are also different rules if you plan on offering digital services to customers, for example, if you offer downloadable games, music or video content. You can find these on the UK Government website if you’d like to check out your options.
10. Remember to create a Sitemap
As part of your company website, you must be sure to include a sitemap that is easy to navigate for users. If you’re unfamiliar with a sitemap, it’s basically a list of the pages on your website and what order they’re presented in. You don’t want anybody getting lost on your website and abandoning a purchase, so you need to think strategically about how you arrange your website – preferably before starting the build.
Sitemaps are also incredibly useful to search engines such as Google, as they assist the Googlebot (web crawler) in ascertaining the exact size and structure of your website when it is deciding how to index your site pages on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
The bottom line
At the end of the day, no two websites will be the same. But there are items you absolutely must include when building your company website, such as legal obligations, an intuitive sitemap, engaging content and clear calls to action.
In truth, this process is often a case of trial and error. You won’t normally get everything about your company website right on the first try, and that’s why you need to test on a regular basis. Take a look at built-in analytics tools that are included with your web hosting package, or register your site with Google Analytics so that you will be able to reference how people are using your site, and find out what’s working – and more importantly – what’s not working.
No matter what type of business you’re running, your website is your window to the world, and so you’ve got to do everything within your power to ensure it’s as good as it possibly can be. That’s why you should devote a lot of thought, time and as much money as you can afford, towards creating your website. When in doubt, it can’t hurt to get in touch with professionals for a little bit of friendly web advice.
Want to learn more about marketing and web design? Check out the Rapid Formations Blog for all sorts of tips and tricks about how you can develop your company. Also, don’t forget to check out the rest of the blogs in this series explaining my top tips on how to make sure your company doesn’t fail.