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A beginner step-by-step guide on how to build a website for your small business

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Some reasons your business needs an online identity:

Materialise your brand vision

A professional website will allow you to turn your business idea into a reality or take your enterprise to the next level. To truly compete in South Africa today, you need a strong presence on the internet. When consumers spend much of their time on the internet, you should be there waiting for them, ready to sell your products.

It’s obvious that you should start with a Facebook business page as you test the waters of taking your small business online, but once you’re serious about competing online, you’ll want to expand your digital footprint to include a website with a custom domain.

You need to be accessible at all times

If you don’t have a website, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Your website is just one of the many tools that can help your business grow and allows customers to view your products and services anytime they want. It also provides contact information, hours of operation, and other important details.

Growing your brand and online identity

Most businesses have long forgotten that the brand is the most important aspect of a business and not the product. A brand with a strong identity can help you achieve your business goals. It should be based on three key principles: it should be unique in your market, memorable, and desirable.

Brands are the key to success in today's environment — so build yours! Make your brand visually appealing and make it stand out from the competition. You can do this by creating an interesting logo, using bold colours and text, and making sure your logo is always recognizable across different platforms.

If you are a small business or entrepreneur, don't let the size of your company hold you back from using the internet to make your business more visible and credible. You probably can't afford a huge advertising campaign, but you can afford to set up a website and social media accounts that will help you attract customers.

Establish credibility with your customer base

The Internet is a vast sea of information. How do you make your business stand out from the crowd? It's all about establishing credibility. When it comes to establishing credibility online, it is important that your website represent your brand accurately. A well-designed site with quality content gives users the information they need and reinforces your company's image. This helps establish your company as a leader, an expert in its field of business, and a reputable resource for customers.

A good way to engage with your customers

The internet is a great place for brands to engage with their customers. It's also a great place for customers to get the solutions they need. You could engage with your customers with real-time messaging tools, even while in the comfort of your Pj's. This can help you build truly meaningful relationships with your audience.

Generating leads and sales

Effective marketing is the key to a successful business. You can market your product on a lot of different platforms: websites, social media profiles, contact forms, and email marketing campaigns.

Getting customers to your site is an important first stage in the sales process. But it's not enough. You must convert them into leads so they can be nurtured through the sales funnel and eventually into paying customers. These days, it's easier than ever to capture leads online using a large number of popular marketing tools available.

Establishing a winning strategy

Building a web presence can be really hard for small businesses. A domain name that represents who you are and what you do is one of the first steps to success.
If you want to build an online presence, plan your strategy. Have a domain name that represents who you are and what you do. Put together a plan for your website. Launch a site dedicated to telling your story and creating valuable content.

This guide will show you how to select a great domain, choose a web host, and set up your website. Plus, it will teach you how to create valuable content that makes customers want to return.

Our Step-by-step guide to creating your first website online

1. Buy your domain

Your domain is the name of your business website. It is the part of your website address that comes after the www. It is your business’s business card on the web. It should be easy to remember and represent you well. A domain name can also work as a “brand anchor” for your online presence.

What makes a good domain name

Keep it short. Would you remember a domain name like “www.verylongdomainname.com”? It's best to keep your domain name short and memorable, or it will be hard to find on the web.

Make it easy to type. Avoid typing hyphens or unusual spellings. This will help your website rank higher in Google.

When writing your text, include keywords from your business plan. Use key words that people might type when searching for your type of business.

Make sure that your domain has a relevant extension. Domains ending in industry- or region-specific extensions might be a better fit for your business than a generic .com. By using it, you can make your business appear more specific and local.

Let's get registered

Time to visit your preferred domain registrar. If you want the domain name, you’ll have to register it for a specific period of time. As long as it’s registered to you, no one can take it from you. Privacy? The WHOIS database is open to the public, so everyone can see all the domains that are currently registered. Every single domain is registered, and you can find out who is the owner of each one on the WHOIS database.

2. Blueprints

In business, just like in life, success is the result of proper planning. A good website should be able to do many things for companies, such as inform, inspire, and generate sales leads. Without a plan, it would be impossible to get all the benefits from a site. To ensure your website will do all the things you want it to do for your business, a little planning goes a long way. Do you want your website to inform? To inspire? To generate sales leads?

How much do you want your website to sell? Do you want to be able to buy directly from the site? If this is true, you will require an e-commerce website. After you figure out what your website should do for your business, you can begin building it.

Start selling online

You’ve heard it before, but I’ll repeat it again: if you want to sell products or services online, you need an e-commerce website. Here’s what you’ll need

A shopping cart. This tool lets you display product images and descriptions. A must-have feature is shipping options, which allow customers to buy products online and have them shipped to their house. Also important is inventory tracking — the ability to tell how many of a certain product you have in stock at any time.

Although third-party payment processing is an option, ultimately you should build your own merchant account to accept credit card payments to ensure credibility. Merchant accounts let you accept payments from major credit, debit and gift cards on your site – so your customers don’t have to leave your online store to pay for their goods.

DomainBot Online Store includes built-in payment processing

3. Hire a web designer

If you are not a web design expert, you have some options. You can build your own website with the help of a template or with the popular content management system WordPress. Or you can hire a professional to help you build your site. Let’s take a closer look:

Site builder

If you want a website that’s quick to build and easy to update, consider a site builder. Choose a template, replace the text and images, and you’re good to go. This type of website is a great option for DIY-ers who want an affordable, attractive, basic website in the short amount of time. Most popular site builder plans include website hosting.

WordPress

WordPress is a powerful tool that businesses can use to create and manage websites. It can be used to create a blog, give customers a behind-the-scenes look at the business, or simply promote a brand.

4. Create content

Every business has a story. A story is what drives an effective small business website. How did you get started? What do you tell customers about your business? What problem can you solve for them, as only you can? Think about your mission, your passion, and what makes you stand apart from competitors. Then, think of how to convey this in a way that’s going to grab people’s attention and speak to them on an emotional level.

Core pages

You’re going to tell your story throughout 3-5 pages on your website. Five core pages – Home, About Us, Products/Services, Testimonials, and Contact Us – makes for a solid small business website, but you really can do it in as few as three pages.

Writing a website requires storytelling with words that count (content) and images (photos, videos, your logo), presented in a way that appeals to visitors. Design is an important factor. It’s important to make your website easy for visitors to travel through it, or navigate. A click here, a link there, and they’ll get a clear idea of who you are and what you can offer to them.

Design fundamentals

Here are a few design elements to consider when building a website:  Your logo should be seen, but not too often.  You need to remember that your logo is the face of your company.  However, you don’t want it to overpower the rest of your site.

How do you choose the right color scheme for your website? You have to think about the feelings that users get when they come to your site. For example, if you want them to feel relaxed and happy, you could use calming shades like blues and greens. If you want them to feel excited and energized, you might use vivid reds and oranges. You can also use a mixture of both to convey a general sense of happiness.

Fonts are a subtle part of the text you use on your website. Even though they're small, they make a big impact. They can speak to your customers and help them understand who you are. For example, if you're running a bakery, the font you choose should be cheerful and bright, but it should also look like it came from a bakery.

Don’t just consider how your layout looks. You also have to consider the amount of whitespace (space between elements) and other design elements such as background color, gradients, and texture. A lot of whitespace can convey clarity or simplicity while having very little or no whitespace at all can make your site look active or intense.

Mobile-friendly is the new standard.

Mobile-friendly sites are incredibly important to businesses today. Consumers want to be able to access the Internet on the go, and not just through their desktop computers. Mobile compatibility is a must if businesses want to stay in touch with their customers.

Design a website for your small business. Make sure it is mobile-friendly and avoid the common pitfalls that destroy user experience.

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