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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How to Start a Website for Your Small Business


These days, a business just isn't a business without a website. Customers have grown to expect the convenience of online access, even in industries where a web presence doesn't immediately seem necessary. Hair cutters, farmers, electricians - even mom-and-pop institutions need websites!
The good news is that, as websites have become more necessary, they have also become easier to create. This year, hundreds of thousands of websites will be created, many of them by the entrepreneurs themselves. In the past, web developers were a necessity in a world of HTML and PHP (web coding languages), but these days anybody can create a website. And you can too!
The first step is probably the most difficult, but you don't need a computer to do it! The first thing you need to do is to think about what your website should look like. Before you spend a lot of time constructing the face of your business, you should probably decide what your website's function will be.

Once you've determined what your website does, it's time to try to figure out a simple way to design your site to meet those requirements.
Let's think of a concrete example. Let's say we run a business that delivers fresh baked cookies to people all across Ottawa. What would you like our website to do? Well, a good function for a website like that might be to have a place where people can order our cookies from their computers or phones. That's a great purpose for our website, and I think people would appreciate not having to call to secure some of our delicious white chocolate macadamia treats.

Once you have the primary function (in our case, it's cookie ordering), you can structure the rest of the pages around it. In our example, let's make the main page the cookie order page, and make it so that other pages are accessible through the menu. We could have an "about" page where we talk about why we started the business. We could have a "location" page where people can find out where our store is. We could even have an "apply" page where people can try their hand at becoming cookie deliverers like us!

Now that we've figured out the basic operation of our website, it's time to start building! Don't worry! It's easier than it sounds, and if you make a mistake, no one will notice. Don't worry about buying a domain name for now (we'll cover that in a second). Instead, go straight to a website like WordPress or Blogger.

Once places for teenagers to create emotional personal blogs where they talked about how angry they were about their parents, blog creation websites have recently become one of the easiest and most powerful website creation avenues. WordPress is generally regarded to be the better of the two mentioned above, so try that one if you're just starting out.

WordPress lets you pick from a range of free themes, many of which are of a very high quality. If you don't find anything that works for your website for free, you have a couple options: pay for a premium theme, or modify a theme to better suit your needs.
Premium themes are available from places like Templatic. In some cases, you can even get a team of specialists to work on your design for you.

But if you want to go the free route, you're going to be in for a bit of a hard time. Modifying themes means learning a bit of coding (ew!). Think of it like renovating your kitchen. If you want to do it yourself, you're going to have to study some electrical charts (and probably take out life insurance). Remember, if you can find a free theme that works for you, just go with that!

You can learn some basic HTML at places like, or you can just plunge right in, stripping things out of the code behind the website until things work the way you want.
You might want to have a code-familiar friend on hand to help you. You know... just in case things get a little tense around the house.

Once you're done all of that, it's time to make it official. Start shopping for a host! My favourite is Servage, but other options, like Canada's Netfirms are also quite good. Find a pricing structure that works for you. For a small business, you're probably looking at an investment of about 50 bucks a year. That's nothing huge in the grand scheme of running a business. You'll probably spend more on cookie trays in a month!

Plus, we can help! We offer security and peace of mind, as well as content for your new website venture. Check out our Wordpress page for more info.
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