So you are interested in starting a new website for your business. Where do you start?
Website technology has evolved into a jungle of options and your first priority should be to keep it as simple as possible. Let’s start with the basic necessities:

1. You will need a Domain Name.

We recommend using GoDaddy as your domain name registrar. However, when selecting and paying for your domain name, watch out for the up-sell. Most people wind up buying a domain name PLUS a web hosting account. DO NOT purchase GoDaddy web hosting as it is shared hosting on crowded servers. You should pay around $10 per year for you basic .com domain name. Other extensions are cheaper (.net, .org) and some are more expensive (.tv or other vanity extensions).

If you already have your domain name and you want a web designers to do work on your site, you will need to grant access to your domain account. GoDaddy is particularly friendly for this task as they feature a Pro account that most developers can use to safely access your account management features. Microlinx is a GoDaddy Pro access developer.

2. Your will need a Web Hosting Account.

Your domain name needs a place to live. Your web hosting account consists of a physical web server computer and a specific web hosting operating system (OS). The majority of site use UNIX or LINUX OS and a user interface or control panel to access hosting functions like setting up email accounts, databases or third party software like WordPress, Drupal or a myriad of other packages.  Usually the OS can be either LINUX or Windows Server. We personally recommend LINUX for all web hosting. Hosting account run in price from a budget shared account (multiple site on one server) which can start as low as $9.95 / month to dedicated web servers that start around $100 / month and can go as high as thousands of dollars per month. For new sites, we recommend starting small and scaling up as your needs increase.

3. Now you need Content.

Once your web server is up and running, you site is a blank slate. It’s then up to you to provide images, text and the story you’d like to convey to your potential customers.  If you provide this content, it will save you thousands of dollars. If you have to hire a professional photographer, videographer or copywriter to write your page content, you will pay between $50 and $100 per hour for their services. The best way to proceed is to storyboard your site (keeping it as simple as possible) and then sending the page content and images to your developer who will format it properly for your site and optimum web delivery using minimum bandwidth.

4. Secure Shopping

If you intend to sell a product or service, the jungle thickens as you must consider many more technical issues related to security. The first suggestion would be to find a stand alone solution that encompasses all the security requirements. Shopify is a great eCommerce solution especially for a company that is already selling product offline. They handle PCI compliance and can produce a secure website for a monthly fee. They also manage the upgrades that come along the way.

If you decide to use a developer, you will require a SSL certificate to be installed on your server, then you will need to go through the PCI compliance checklist. PCI compliance is not just a suggestion, it’s a requirement.
There are ways to simplify the process buy using third parties like Pay Pal and Stripe who do most of the heavy lifting on their end. While this whole process sounds complicated, we can make it simple and cost effective, especially for start ups. Contact us if you have any questions about PCI compliance and web site security.

5. Include the Legal Terms

Look at the bottom of any successful established eCommerce website. You should find several links to important business related pages. These pages include Terms of Service, Warranty, Return Policy, Privacy Policy. These are thing you should be thinking about when you develop your initial business plan and they must be conveyed to your customer.  There are several online source to free boilerplate legal forms that you can use.  Having this information readily available to your customers covers your liability and provides them instant access to your business terms. It completes the scope of your business website.

6. Driving Traffic

Once your new shiny website site is up and running, the real work begins. Have realistic expectations. If you have a new business or product with no name recognition and no previous web presence, then it’s time to start advertising.  Traffic does not just flow instantly to your site. It’s a very competitive jungle out there.

You can improve your changes of obtaining free organic traffic if you do the proper page optimizations known in the industry as SEO or Search Engine Optimization. Basically this involves focusing individual pages on specific key phrases that customers will find when they search Google, Bing or other search engines.  SEO services are not cheap. It requires a professional who understands the science of SEO and has studied the evolution of SEO since the beginning. We can do just that for your business at a more affordable cost.

7. Social Network Traffic

Other avenues you must explore are social networks. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest all attract huge numbers of visitors. Including interesting and compelling content to those users through your own social network accounts can drive free social network traffic to your website. Occasionally social network activity is not enough. You should be posting to social network on a daily or at the very least weekly basis. You might even try Facebook Ads, but they can be hit or miss.

8. Pay Per Click Advertising

If you have an advertising budget, PPC advertising is also another avenue. PPC – Pay Per Click advertising can run from 10 cents per click (not very effective) to over $5 per click or more.  On average and depending upon your market vertical, most PPC campaigns will cost around 40 cents per click. It’s best to consult with a professional PPC management consultant (we do that) before you get yourself into the PPC quagmire.

9. Website Maintenance

Just because you have completed your website does not mean the work is over. Today’s CMS (Content Management System) platforms require regular updates to stay ahead of developing security threats.
For example: The core software for WordPress is updated almost every month. WordPress plugin are updated along with the core and sometimes more frequently to add new functionality or security. These can be made to update automatically but occasionally new plugins will cause new issues with other plugins that require an experience eye to troubleshoot. Web servers also require occasional maintenance updates to PHP and SQL modules.  A managed hosting account with take care of these issues without your intervention.

10. Making a Name

Your brand is important. As mentioned in step 6, your goal is brand recognition or simple appeal. You can have no brand recognition, but a catchy name or tag line is what gets the bit. Your compelling company or product story then just needs to set the hook. Keeping that good name will require great ongoing customer service.

As you can see, building a website is no simple matter. This checklist should get you pointed into the right direction and create a better understanding for the overall requirements and expenses you can expect.
As mentioned in the beginning, it is always best to start simple then scale up as your business grows.

Feel free to Contact Us with any questions.