How to create a business website
Creating a website for your business is easier and cheaper than ever. Here’s how to build a business website that’ll have them coming back for more
Thanks to the array of website builders with affordable plans, you can get online in minutes with a professional looking website for your business.
But where do you start? Which website builder is best for your business? Should you hire a search engine optimisation (SEO) executive, or use an agency? And how much is it going to cost you anyway?
Read on to find out how to start an online business. Alternatively, click the links below to jump to the relevant sections.
Follow these steps to create a killer business website:
Buy a business domain name
Your domain name is the online address for your business. It consists of a word, or sequence of words, in the URL between www. and the extension (.com, .co.uk, .org etc.).
With an estimated 333 million domain names registered, it’s crucial that you choose a unique and highly relevant name to help people discover your website online. Many website builders will include domain name registration as part of their packages.
You should follow these rules when making a domain name:
- Make it short – the best URLs are short and simple. This makes them memorable and less prone to being mistyped
- Use keywords – these are valuable search terms that describe your business and make you more discoverable online
- Make it memorable – after all, your registered domain name is just one of millions
- Use an appropriate extension – dotcom is the internationally-recognised standard, but it can be difficult to get the one you want because the extension has been around for so long
If you’re not using a website builder, it shouldn’t cost more than a few quid a year to register your chosen domain name with the likes of 123 Reg, GoDaddy, or Nominet.
Quick! Valuable URLs get snatched up quickly. Act now to see if your preferred URL is available, and buy it here.
Choosing a domain extension
Dotcom is the internationally recognised standard for web addresses, but it’s by no means the only one. .co.uk also offers good recognition to a UK audience
According to Christine Telyan, CEO and co-founder of London-based tech company UENI, the future of web domains is not dotcom.
“For many businesses and entrepreneurs, having a dotcom is a status symbol – it's far more than a mere web address. Some business leaders simply can't stand the idea of someone else owning a top level domain (TLD) that sounds like their address, and so they tend to scoop up all the ones they need plus a few extras just in case.
“The good news is, there’s a whole range of new domain names coming onto the market – and I’d predict there will be many more to come.
“While we all might like to be able to buy a .co.uk or .com, many businesses are now choosing sites with a different prefix – .io , .club, .tech, or even .me. The question for business owners is: do such prefixes have the right amount of credibility?
“As the internet expands and expands, there is going to be heavy demand for new domain names. As a result of this demand, I think we should expect more creativity in the space. The web bundles that businesses buy will include an exciting mixture of web and email addresses, plus other properties connected by a strong brand.
“The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit company which maintains internet domain names, has been altering its rules and paving the way for the creation of many new TLDs.
“The next generation of TLDs will be a big departure from the dotcom age. Brands are already registering their names as TLDs; .google, .bmw, and .barclaycard are already in existence.”
Click here to buy a new domain name now, or read our comprehensive guide on how to buy a domain name.
Get a business email address
Now you have a domain name, the next step in creating a credible digital presence for your business is getting a business email address.
While you could use a personal email for business purposes, customers will have a lot more trust in a business with a tailored email address. For example: email@example.com conveys more professionalism than firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can then create a portfolio of different email addresses to channel incoming emails directly to the relevant department. So you could have: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org etc.
The web builder you used to set up your website should have email tools which allow you to marry your domain to your email.
Read our guide on how to set up a business email for a more in-depth look.
Choose a business website builder
There are numerous business website builders available online, offering varying degrees of functionality and creative freedom.
They’re a lot more affordable than building a website from scratch, and are an excellent option if you don’t have any coding knowledge or technical skills.
Using templates, themes, or drag-and-drop, website builders enable you to get a professional website up and running quickly and affordably.
Which builder you choose will depend on your budget and what tools you require. Some offer a free trial so you can give them a test run before you commit, but they often limit what features you can access.
If you want a website that’s going to give you the best chance for success, then we recommend opting for a paid version straight away.
Read more: How much does a business website cost
That said, don’t be tempted to invest in overcomplicated builders with a multitude of superfluous features. Keep things simple, and think about what you might actually use.
Below is an overview of some of the best website builders on the market. Click on the link to get a more in-depth analysis of each one.
|Wix||Vast range of features|
More than 500 different templates
Easy to use
Great for SEO (visibility in Google search)
Mobile editor included
Connect domain: £3/month (displays Wix brand ads)
Business basic: £13/ month
Business unlimited: £16/month
Business VIP: £22/month
|Try Wix here|
Migration to WordPress
Artificial design intelligence
Fast website builder
Best for smaller budgets
Great for small and new businesses
Business plus: £10.99/month
Online store: £19.99/month
|Try GoDaddy here|
Great design flexibility
Free 14 day trial
24/7 email support
Basic (commerce): £20/month
Advanced (commerce): £30/month
|Try Squarespace here|
Check out our review of the UK’s best website builders for small businesses here.
Or if you’re ready to start comparing website builders, start the form at the top of this page to receive tailored quotes.
Choose a business website plan
As you can see above, there are a range of plans available to suit business customers with different needs.
We would always advise starting with a plan on the lower end of the spectrum, and then opting for a more comprehensive (and pricier) one as you grow. Many builders offer a free trial, so you can get an idea of whether it will be suitable for your needs before committing to a full subscription.
They also offer free domain names you can use called ‘sub-domains’. A sub-domain includes the name of the website builder in your address (Startups.wix.com, for example). However, you don’t own this sub-domain name, and it inhibits your chance of building a long-term, credible business with unique branding.
If you really want to hit the ground running, we would advise opting for a paid plan from the off. This will ensure you have access to the range of features you need to really grow your online presence.
John Ellmore, director at KnowYourMoney.co.uk, explains: “While some website builders, including Weebly, Wix and WordPress.com, offer free accounts, it’s worth noting that those packages will make your site look less professional. They will prevent you from having a custom domain name, and often require you to run advertising from the provider on your site.
“Paid options start from as low as £3/month, however, and some website builders include a free custom domain name as part of their yearly packages.”
Choose a template - small business website design
You have your domain name, you have your business email, you’ve decided on a website builder, and you’ve chosen a plan.
Now, it’s time to choose a design and set up your business website.
Website templates are pre-made designs offered by website builders, allowing you to create a professional looking website instantly.
Some website builders (such as Wix) offer hundreds of designs, while others (like Squarespace) have a more limited range.
It can be easy to get overwhelmed when choosing between these myriad templates, but don’t get bogged down. Have several key criteria in mind, and a solid understanding of your brand and your customer.
Ensure the look and feel of your website reflects the nature of your business – don’t just choose the most flashy and exciting designs.
The three key aspects of your website are:
Content width design
This is whether the content stretches to fit the width of a screen (full-width), or is constrained by a frame (boxed-width).
- Full-width – more contemporary; better for graphic-heavy websites and menu bars with lots of tabs. Layout may shift on different screens
- Boxed-width – more traditional, and keeps content layout consistent across different screens
Home page header
The header contains the images or video content that represent your brand. There are a number of different options:
- Static image with/without text – if one strong image can explain your brand and business
- Slideshow – to highlight different aspects of your business
- Video – to tell a complex brand story; make sure you use high quality video that is meaningful to your business
Menu bar design
Your menu bar should be easy to find and easy to read using a plain colour and font.
- Along the top/bottom – this is the most common, and is best for menu bars with limited links
- Sidebar – for graphic-intensive designs with lots of links in the menu bar
Where should the logo go?
This depends on how prominent you want the logo to be on the page. It could be:
- The same level as the menu bar – less prominent, and allows more space for other content
- Above or below menu bar – more prominent, but less space for content
Narrow down your choices using the above criteria to select the most suitable template for your brand.
Paul Ferry, co-founder and director of London-based design studio ShopTalk, explains the importance of choosing a powerful template:
“There are so many generic templates available, many for free, that are simply OK and fulfil the basic requirements. But your website is the bridge between you and the people you want to do business with. OK templates just won’t cut it – the only way to stand out is with stellar design.
“It’s easy to get caught up in pure functionality – e-commerce capabilities, fluid navigation, multi-platform performance, graphics, product and service descriptions, check-out and booking processes – and, of course, all of that is hugely important. But if the design doesn’t communicate the heart of the business at every stage, you’ll struggle to stand out from your peers.
“Your business messaging needs to flow through every aspect of your website and be evident at every touchpoint along the journey, always reinforcing, building, celebrating. It’s not enough to upload a few facts onto an ‘about’ page and say, ‘job done’.
“To make an impact, the design should leave no questions unanswered, and tell the story from start to finish.”
Marc Woodhead, founder and CEO of digital solutions company Holograph, says you should factor your target market into your website design.
“The difference between making a website for a millennial compared to a child or retiree is stark. All age groups approach websites with vastly different skills, with the eldest and youngest tending to be the least advanced.
“Most age specific-websites are aware of their users, and create a website which reflects their skills. For example, children’s websites are full of colour, with clean and simple interfaces. Children need to be guided around a website. If your brand has a recognisable mascot, it can be used to help the user.
“When creating a website that is primarily used by retirees, there are some similarities to kids’ websites. Both these groups are generally learning how to use the internet, and this lack of experience makes them very similar. Both need very easy to follow interfaces, making it clear to the user where they need to go.”
Set up an ecommerce website
Ecommerce functionality is usually available with the more advanced plans offered by website builders.
The advantage of using a website builder to set up your online store is that everything is basically done for you.
Rather than setting up separate shopping cart software and online payments functionality, this functionality is built in. An ecommerce plan may also include other useful features such as:
- Inventory and order tracking
- Checkout and payments
- Sales promotion
- Customised shipping and taxes
Find out everything you need to know about creating an ecommerce website here.
Preview and test your website
Exciting, isn’t it? Your website – essentially the shopfront for your business – is ready to go live.
But before you publish, are you absolutely sure it is ready?
If you want to avoid embarrassing and potentially brand-damaging mistakes, you should carry out thorough testing on performance and content.
- Are all the navigation buttons working?
- How is the load speed?
- Have you checked spelling and grammar?
- Have you run through your SEO checks? (more on this below)
Most website builders offer a preview function, so you can see what your site will look like when it’s live before you hit publish.
Business website SEO
A well-thought out Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy will make sure your business website is easily discoverable online by new and existing customers.
On-page SEO involves optimising your webpages to drive organic traffic through relevant keywords, the meta description, and H1 tags.
Many website builders come with SEO tools to help you analyse and optimise your pages.
Here’s a basic SEO checklist:
Set up tracking and analytics tools
Using tools such as Google Analytics is a great way to monitor and measure the performance of your business website. This way you can discover what isn’t working and improve it.
There are countless metrics you could measure, but it’s wise to avoid getting bogged down. Focus instead on a few essentials, such as:
- Organic traffic
- Other traffic
- Bounce rate
- Conversion rate
- Click-through rate
Keywords are words and phrases related to your business. Use tools like SEMRush and Moz to find keywords with high search volume, which you can use on your website to help potential customers find you.
Technical SEO audit
A technical SEO audit can check the back-end factors that may influence your website’s performance in search engine results.
Technical errors could include:
- Slow site speed
- Crawl errors
- Faulty links
- Duplicate content
Learn more about SEO here. Your website builder will probably include some useful SEO tools.
Nick Boyle, SEO and Strategy Director at The Audit Lab, explains how to build a comprehensive SEO strategy into your website from the beginning.
“The most valuable piece of advice I can give in the build stage is to build with your user in mind – don't craft something just to please a search engine. Google provides very specific webmaster guidelines for site owners to follow – they've been provided for a reason, so it's not a great idea to ignore them.
“A common mistake a lot of business owners will make is to have an ‘if I build it, they will come’ mentality; assuming they'll receive swathes of traffic once they hit the go live button. Unless you've got customers queuing out of your door now, this isn't going to happen. Trust takes time to build face-to-face, and the same applies online.
“A well-researched and methodical approach towards SEO in your industry will set you off on the right path. Without this, you can kiss goodbye to sustainable organic growth. Make sure the SEO agency you choose provides a detailed strategy, justifying where every penny of your investment with them will be going.
“Given the complexities of website development and SEO, the industry is flooded with cowboys. No doubt you've received emails promising you number one rankings overnight. If it sounds too good to be true, it definitely is.
“Google realises the industry is full of people making false promises and taking advantage of smaller businesses, so much so that they published their own guide on hiring an SEO – a must read for any business.
“One final point to note is that SEOs and Developers are two very different people; they require two vastly different skill sets. So be cautious if someone tells you they can do both themselves, without providing you with proof of their previous work or results.”
Should you hire an SEO or outsource to a third party or SEO agency?
This will probably be resource dependent. If you can’t afford to take on a full time SEO, then an agency will be able to audit and optimise your website.
However, SEO is likely to be an ever-present issue for your business website. Google updates its rules/algorithm regularly, and if your website relies on producing new content all the time, then it may be worthwhile to hire a full-time SEO for your business.
If you do use a third party, Boyle urges caution:
“When building your website, there are a lot of things to be cautious about. First of all, if you're engaging a third party, make sure you ask to see examples of their work and seek active testimonials.
“It's a big investment to make, so if someone says they can build your site and provide SEO services for £500, then they probably aren't doing it properly. That being said, if your budget isn't huge, a respectable SEO will be able to tailor a strategy to suit your wallet.
Moving on from a Website Builder
Mike Blackburn, director at brand marketing agency I-COM, explains when and why you might want to move on from a website builder – and what you should bear in mind if you do.
“Website builders like Squarespace are a great option for start-up businesses helping them get online quickly and cost-effectively. There are, however, some drawbacks which can be experienced by businesses as they grow and want to achieve more from the web.
“These are fairly well documented but include things like difficulties in getting support in times of need, lack of design flexibility, limitations in what can be done to generate more search traffic to the site other than through paid search and the lack of third party integrations from services that can help a business be more efficient online.
“If these things have got too much for you and you decide you want to invest in your own website make sure what you do doesn’t simply continue the problems your facing.
“When you commission a new website, don’t just go for the cheapest option. Check that:
- You’re getting your own design and not simply a template based solution that will look cheap and not give users confidence in your business.
- You have a contact who can help you if you have issues, or, even better, give you advice on how you might make your website work more effectively for you.
- You have the ability to undertake basic SEO activities on your website, including creating metatags and editing the content your visitors will see.
- You can add widgets to your site for third party services that can help website performance.
- Lastly, that the site is mobile-friendly. You’d think that all websites would be designed to look good on any device but you’d be surprised how many still-new sites still have really poor mobile implementations.
“If you’re going to invest more in a website make sure you get one that works for you.”
Redesigning your website
A website is constantly growing and evolving. New pages and sections can be added, as can new functionalities. You should be aware of user experience (UX), whether through analysis or customer feedback.
How easy it is for users to navigate around your site and click through to relevant pages can have a major impact on bounce and conversion rate. They’re likely to go elsewhere if they can’t find what they’re looking for.
Because of this, UX should be at the heart of website redesign.
You can find a more comprehensive guide to website redesign here.
These days, the burden of choice is a business owner’s greatest challenge when designing a website.
With so many options for templates, plans, and features it can be easy to agonise over every step. Just remember to let the customer inform your decision-making and you won’t go far wrong.
To recap, here are our top tips for building a website:
- Start with a low-cost plan, and scale up when you understand your website needs
- Choose a unique and memorable domain name
- Focus on key criteria and eliminate unsuitable designs to find the best template
- Test and preview your website before publishing to avoid embarrassing errors
- Develop a comprehensive SEO strategy to ensure your website ranks
- Keep redesigning
A fully-functioning website is an exciting step in bringing your entrepreneurial ambitions to life. Enjoy it! And if you’re ready to start comparing website builders, simply fill in the form at the top of this page.