Web design can seem very confusing, especially when there's so much being dumped on you -- Google Analytics, SEO, shopping carts, should you start a blog, social media, payment gateways, and about a hundred other issues -- it's easy to get overwhelmed. So in this post, what I've done is clearly laid out a sequential set of steps to help you get started in web design, and get your online venture live on the web. So by the end of this tutorial, you’ll have a clear set of actions that you can take to get your business online and earning revenue. Let's jump into it!
The steps outlined below are as follows: Get clear on what kind of business website you want, Register your business's domain name, Set up your web hosting, Set up your business's email, and lastly, Start building your website. If you've already completed some of these steps, feel free to skip to other steps.
Does all that sound good? Alright then, let’s get started!
First thing's first: You need to get clear on exactly what kind of business website you want.
Did you know that there are actually five different kinds of online business websites you can build? Yeah, it really all boils down to just five possible types of websites you can build. Below, I've embedded a video where I outline each one of these website types. Be sure to give it a watch.
If video isn't your thing, below I've listed the five website types you can build with a brief explanation of each.
The first kind of website you can build is what I would call an informative or brochure-style website. This would be a website that has no e-commerce capabilities. You wouldn't be able to accept credit card payment information or anything like that. This is just a small, simple website, say for a local deli or a local martial arts school. So that's the first kind of business website you can build. Small and simple.
Next, you could build a website for some kind of service-oriented business. With this kind of website, you'd want to be able to accept appointments and bookings, and perhaps also be able to accept payments or deposits on your site.
The third kind of website you can build is the sort of site that most people think of when they think of online business: A full-blown online retail e-commerce site. So, a website that sells many products, maintains many product categories, a shopping cart, and a method for accepting customer's credit card information, and so on.
The fourth kind of online business website you can build is what we could call a digital downloads site. So if you're selling music, ebooks, or any other kind of digital media, this is the kind of online business website you'd want to build.
Finally, the last kind of business website you can build is a membership website, where users sign up for a recurring monthly or annual membership to gain access.
So, that's the gist on the five different kinds of business websites you can build. Your business will fit into one of these, or more likely it'll combine a few of these types together.
So, first and foremost, you'll need to decide what kind of business website you want to build -- and I'm sure you already have a very good idea of what it is you want to build, which is great.
That brings us to the next step...
Once you've determined what kind of online business website you want to build, the next step is to register your business's domain name. If you don't know, your website domain name is simply the URL or the web address that visitors will type into their web browser to navigate to your website.
Your website's domain name is important, because it becomes one of your business's most valuable assets. Your business's domain name becomes the name, or the label, of your business online. So it ties into your company's branding. So if you haven't registered your domain name yet, choose carefully and thoughtfully...because whatever you choose becomes locked in your customer's mind.
Now, you probably already have a domain name in mind that you'd like to use -- probably your company name or the name of one of your products. Great! Once you've settled on a domain name that you'd like to use, you'll have to use what's called a domain name registrar to register it. I always recommend using NameCheap.com.
In fact, I have a tutorial that walks you step-by-step through the domain name registration process called, Easy Steps To Set Up Your Business Website Address Using NameCheap. Be sure to check it out!
Now that you have your business's domain name registered, the next step in the process is to set up web hosting for your business. This is simply where your website will be stored so that people can come to visit you online.
Now, web hosting can get confusing and complicated. For instance, there are actually six different kinds of web hosting that you can choose from, and there are a lot of features and options that web hosts pack into their plans. This makes it confusing to distinguish between what's most important, and what isn't.
But let me cover some basics here to at least get you started. First off, web hosting for most small and medium-sized businesses isn't all that expensive. Expect to pay somewhere between $10 and $30 a month, depending on what you need.
In terms of recommendations, there are a lot of companies offering web hosting. The three that I use for my projects and online businesses, that I can confidently recommend are Web Hosting Hub, SiteGround, and WP Engine. Web Hosting Hub is great if you're just getting started, and want to keep costs low. SiteGround is also a great starting point, and is a great choice for small and medium-sized businesses that may grow over time. Finally, WP Engine is what's referred to as managed hosting, which is best suited for business owners who want to take a more hands-off approach with the more technical aspects of their website.
It can be hard to know what to look for and which host will be a good fit for you. So below, I've embedded a video where I compare Web Hosting Hub, SiteGround, and WP Engine. This comparison will hopefully help you determine which one is right for you.
If one of these options sounds like it might be a good fit for you, I have tutorials that walk you through the set up process for Web Hosting Hub, signing up for SiteGround, and how to set up hosting with WP Engine. Be sure to give them a look.
Alright now, next you'll need to set up your business's email. Email is going to be your business's primary form of communication with customers, so this is an important step.
Many web hosting companies offer free email bundled into their hosting services, but I always recommend that you separate your business's essential services. Why? One big reason is this: What if your website goes down for a period of time? What if there's some kind of technical problem or glitch? Well, if your business's email and website are bundled together, guess what happens to your email? Yup, it goes down too!
But, if your web hosting and email services are separate, then one isn't dependent on the other to function. There are a few other reasons why I think it's important to separate out your business's most valuable assets, but that's the biggest reason. Check out this post, which goes into more detail on this issue.
Now, a specialized, stand-alone email service for your business isn't very expensive. And, it's easy to set up and use. Expect to pay about $5 per email account per month. As for specific recommendations, I always suggest either Microsoft Office 365 or Google G Suite.
If you'd like to see how to set up Google G Suite for your business, take a look at my post, How To Set Up Google G Suite Email For Your Small Business. It'll walk you through the steps. Also note that there are some other options for handling your business's email, which you can learn more about in my post, 3 Options For Setting Up Your Business Email.
Finally, we reach the most exciting part of the entire web design process -- designing and building your website! Without those previous steps though, this step wouldn't be possible. And as you might guess, there are lots and lots of ways to build a website these days. Some web design tools are free, some are expensive, some are overly restrictive and complicated, some are simple. I'm sure you've even heard of some of them: Wix, Squarespace, Etsy, Dreamweaver...heck, even Photoshop let's you build websites!
So which tool or web design application is the best to use? Well, I've been building websites for a long, long time, and have used a lot of different tools, software, and platforms. And in that time, I've been able to narrow it all down to the single most powerful and flexible web design tool available, which I'm going to tell you about in a moment.
First and foremost though, whatever tools or methods you use to build your website with must allow you to fully control your website. That means that you should be able to download your website to your computer, move it to a new hosting company if necessary, and so on. This is critical, because you must be in full control and ownership of your website, and not dependent on another company or their business model in order for you to stay in business. This ties into one of my fundamental business concepts, and in turn, this instantly eliminates a lot of options, like Etsy, Wix, Squarespace, and others. For our purposes, they're all non-options.
That leaves us with website builders and web design software. Some of these are online tools, while others are more like traditional applications you'd install on your computer. And we can now further narrow down the criteria. For instance, the software that we use to build your website with must be easy to use and intuitive for non-technical users, but at the same time it must be powerful enough to "grow with you" as you gain more web design skill and experience. In other words, it has to be dead simple to use -- as simple as a word processor -- but also powerful enough so that if you decide to go further and further into web design, you can at some point "flip the hood" and get at the underlying code and work directly on the site.
So in a nutshell, it must be simple enough for beginners, but powerful enough for professional web designers and developers who run large, complex websites.
And of course, it must be capable of handling all five of our previously mentioned business website types -- so it can handle anything we throw at it, from a small service website to a full e-commerce retail site or membership website. It must be flexible, fully customizable, and extendable. Oh, and it can't cost too much either because we want to keep our expenses under control, too.
Does such a web design tool exist? It sure does. That tool is WordPress. It is hands-down the best platform for building websites of any kind, including online business websites. Years and years ago when I first learned about it, I was skeptical. But as soon as I started working with it, I was blown away. I immediately dropped Dreamweaver, which I'd been using for years and years prior, and moved everything over to WordPress.
These days, I don't build websites without WordPress. It's that good!
And, I'd love to show you what WordPress is all about, and how you can begin using it to build your online business.
But what about learning web design code -- HTML and CSS? This is a question I get asked all the time. For now, don't worry about it. just focus on learning WordPress and getting a handle on the basics. If, later on, you want to go further with web design, then you can learn HTML and CSS.
Okay so I've given you lots and lots to go on to help you get started with your online venture. Remember those five steps: Get clear on what kind of business website you want, Register your business's domain name, Set up your web hosting, Set up your business's email, and finally, Start building your website.
So you now have a clearly laid out set of steps to follow to get started.
Notice too that I didn't mention anything about social media, Google analytics, SEO, or the hundreds of other things that we business owners get bombarded with. I know you were wondering about this stuff. I didn't bring them up because truthfully, you don't need to worry about them just yet. These are what I call second-tier tasks, or things to get to once the important stuff is out of the way. And what's the most important thing you can do right now? Get your website live on the web, featuring your products, and potentially with the ability to accept online payments, of course! That's the priority. No matter how glitzy and exciting that other stuff might seem, frankly, it's just not important yet. Besides, you already have enough on your plate as it is!
Now, in order to continue along, I have lots and lots of other resources, guides, videos, and posts to help you in this process of getting your business online. Be sure to check out Ten Ton's resource page, where I list out lots of services and tools that you can make use of. And, be sure to check the blog frequently, where I'm regularly posting new content to help you out.
I hope these steps have been helpful. I know that web design can seem daunting and overwhelming, so hopefully now you have a little more clarity.
See you soon!