Getting your business online

getting online

Does my business need a website? How do I sell products online? How do I get a business email address?

In this article we’ll answer some of the most common questions & concerns about getting your business online.

First question – Do you really need a dedicated website?

Building, running and maintaining a website is a big commitments and can be time consuming & costly. Depending on the type of service you offer, you might be better off with a Facebook business page.

Many of your contacts and customers will already be using the platform and will be familiar with how it works.

  • Setting up a business page is free and only takes a few minutes
  • You can sell products on Facebook (for a fee)
  • You can advertise on Facebook and target very specific demographics (for a fee)

Find out more about setting up a Facebook Business page here.

If you provide a service to a particular area, you could list your business on Google Maps. You can list your address, email & phone number, gather reviews and show up in local Google searches. Find out how to get on Google Maps here.

If you’d still prefer to have a ‘proper’ website, there are 2 main ways of doing it – using a hosted platform or going self hosted. Read on to find out how both of these options work.

1. Building a website on a hosted platform

There are many services that let you quickly put together a professional-looking web presence with no technical skills or coding needed. There is a trade-off involved here – although building a site is easy & straightforward, you don’t have complete control over layout & functionality, and the monthly fees can be expensive. There are free versions, but again they have their limitations.

Below are a few popular hosted services.

For blogging:

Wordpress.com hosted blog

WordPress.com

(Not to be confused with a hosted WordPress website, which we will discuss further down).

  • Free for a basic blog with a .wordpress.com address
  • £2.25 – £36 per month for a custom domain and extra features
  • Several free and premium themes available

Blogger.com

Blogger.com

  • Free with a .blogspot.com address
  • Can be connected to a custom domain (purchased separately)
  • Integrates well with other Google services
  • Several free and premium themes available

For general purpose websites:

Wix.com

Wix.com

Wix is one of the world’s most popular website builders. You pay a flat monthly hosting fee – how much depends on the amount of traffic you expect to receive, how much storage you need and what other features you require.

  • Design your site with a drag & drop editor
  • Several themes & templates available
  • Free version available with a .wix.com domain
  • Prices range from £3 – £22 per month (not including the cost of purchasing a domain)

Squarespace

Squarespace

Squarespace also lets you design your own website with minimal technical skills. It’s not quite as beginner friendly as Wix, but has a slightly better selection of templates and features.

  • Design your site with a drag & drop editor
  • Several themes & templates available
  • Prices range from £10 – £30 per month
  • 1 free domain included
  • 14 day free trial

For e-commerce websites

Shopify

Shopify

Shopify is an an e-commerce platform that lets you build & run an online store. As with all e-commerce platforms, you will need to set up at least one payment system, such as PayPal or Sagepay.

  • Build a store with minimal coding and technical knowledge
  • Several themes & templates available
  • Prices range from $29 – $299 per month (not including the cost of purchasing a domain)
  • 14 day free trial

2. Building a hosted website

If you have the technical ability (or you’re eager to learn), a hosted website gives you complete control, with none of the limitations of a hosted platform. Hosting your own site is often cheaper as well.

With a hosted site, you are responsible for designing and coding your website yourself, along with uploading files to the the server.

To get started, you will need to purchase a domain and a hosting package.

What is a domain?

A domain is the address of you website – such as example.com. You pay a fee to register your domain, and you will need to renew it (usually every year).

What is hosting?

Hosting is a bit like paying rent for your website. You are paying for the space on a server where your website ‘lives’. Hosting costs can range from as little as £3 per month all the way into the hundreds, depending on the features you need.

A domain name and hosting can often be purchased together from the same company, although they don’t have to be. Some popular hosting companies include GoDaddy, HostGator, Ionos, SiteGround and Dreamhost.

Wordpress hosted site

If you are coding your own website, we recommend creating a self-hosted WordPress site (which is completely different to a WordPress.com site). WordPress is a php framework that lets you develop powerful, complex websites in a short space of time. WordPress is fully open source (meaning you can take it apart and customise it as much as you like) and there are thousands of readily-available plugins for adding extra functionality.

You can find out more and download the core WordPress files here. If you are building an e-commerce site, we also recommend using the Woocommerce plugin. You can find out more about Woocommerce here.

How to get a business email address

No matter how you choose to build your site, you will need a business email address.

If you have a self-hosted website – Log in to your hosting control panel, find the ’email’ section and follow the instructions for setting up a new email address. Your hosting company will be able to help you set up your emails on your computer and smartphone.

If you use a hosted platform – You may find it easier to use G Suite, a service provided by Google that allows you to create a professional email address. Prices range from £4.60 to £20 per month.

 

Prices mentioned in this article are correct at the tie of publishing.