Building a website for your business is not as complex as it once was. Today anyone who can fill in a form can build a sophisticated website, without knowing any HTML code, or learning expensive and complicated website design software.

Before you begin to build your website you should think about what your site will be designed to do. Today when consumers are looking for goods and services, their first port of call is the Internet, and at the very least you need your name and contact details on the site.

For many businesses, a single one page site is more than adequate to give them an online contact point for potential customers.

You have a number of choices when constructing a website:

  • A one page website that includes your business' basic contact information can be set-up in seconds thanks to services like About Me
  • Website hosting services such as those from 1&1 Internet have simple website building wizards that allow any business to build a site in just a few minutes
  • If you need an e-commerce enabled website there are many platforms and types of solution to choose, from simple ecommerce packages through to sophisticated epos solutions examples include SellerDeck, Actinic, Volusion, Cybertill and Shopify
  • When more control is needed over the website's design, professional applications like Adobe Dreamweaver can be used. However, you can make the design of your site easier to set up by using a ready-made template from suppliers like Template Monster that you then simply customise.
  • Many business that also want to speak directly to their customers start a blog that can also act as their website. The leading blogging platform is Wordpress that now has thousands of themes that you can choose from
  • Third party website construction services are also available from companies including Moonfruit, Weebly and Yola

With so many options available to businesses that want to develop their presence online, choosing the right method for your company is important to get right.

How to choose your construction method

Your business has a number of decisions to make about how it will construct its website. Ask yourself these questions to help you decide whether building a website from scratch or using one of the many website construction services is more appropriate:

  • Does your business already contain the skills and knowledge needed to build a website from scratch?
  • Will your website need specific and bespoke features built into the design?
  • Do you want your website to be updated regularly by a number of different people?
  • Will you need to move your website to another hosting service?

Pros and cons

The pros and cons of using DIY approach to website design, or handing the construction to a third-party designer include:

Pros:

  • Using website design applications like Dreamweaver gives you total control over the design of your website
  • Template and hosted systems are easier to set-up and don't require any technical knowledge of website design
  • Hosted services often have website construction services built into their hosting packages for no extra cost
  • Many of the DIY sites also offer payment mechanisms, promotional platforms and social media support already built in

Cons:

  • Building your site from scratch can be time consuming and expensive
  • Template-based website design can be limiting
  • Possible copyright issues over the design and pictures used with a template-based service
  • If you need to move your site to another host, this can sometimes be difficult
  • Bespoke components are often not available for template-based websites

Whether you build your site from scratch, or using a hosted service, your site still needs to offer good usability and be search engine friendly.

Usability and design

No matter how you construct your website it must ultimately be attractive, engaging and intuitive to use. If you confuse your visitors or frustrate them with over the top design, they will simply click away to another site.

There are a number of fundamental principles that have been developed over the last decade that you can use when designing a website for your business:

  1. Don't overly complicate your design. Never confuse or frustrate your visitors with unnecessary design elements
  2. Use flashing banners and other animations minimally eg to draw attention to short-lived special offers, or a one-off sale
  3. Always have the same navigation on each page, and ensure there is a 'home' button on each page
  4. Ensure that pages download quickly. Research has shown that 8 seconds is the maximum that users will wait, but you should aim for even faster downloads as that figure is reducing every year
  5. Use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and not tables to layout your web pages, as CSS will ensure your pages load faster
  6. Text should be written so it can be scanned. Most users will look for headlines and subheadings before reading the rest of the text on a page
  7. Make any shopping cart and checkout system you use easy to navigate. Irritated users will simply abandon their baskets, which is a lost sale.

Search engine optimisation

As over 80 per cent of websites are found via a search engine it is vital that all businesses understand how to apply SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to their websites. The key elements of good SEO include:

  • Good SEO begins with choosing the right keywords to use on your web pages. Use the Google Keyword Tool or Good Keywords to choose popular search words to use on your site and use tools like Keyword Tracker to then analyse their effectiveness.
  • Keywords should be included in strategic places across your site including page titles, headings and subheadings and within the first 25 words of each page's text, as search engines will look at this text first
  • Search engines like to reward websites that have a large number of links back to them. This shows that the site is popular. Make strategic alliances with other sites to link back to yours
  • Content is king when it comes to search engines. The more relevant and engaging you can make the content on your business' web pages the higher its ranking on search engine results pages
  • Optimise your website's code by ensuring your site has a map – create on using the XML Sitemap Creator application and submit it to Google Webmasters and Bing Webmaster, and always include Alt tags on all images as search engines use these as part of your page's ranking

No matter what techniques you use to construct a website for your business remember every page is for your audience. Think about what they want to see on your website and deliver this with engaging content.