I love technology, I always have. I dreamed of the internet years before I finally typed my first search request into Google. I have an intuitive sense with IT. I never read manuals but prefer to launch myself into a new tool, app or programme and work it out as I go.
I know, however, that technology can seem like a black art to many people. The options and possibilities can be overwhelming. A constantly evolving landscape can appear difficult to navigate.
When it comes to creating a website or, as I like to call it, an online presence, it can feel like a mammoth task. Yet, with some support and guidance, it's quite feasible for someone already able to surf the internet to develop, manage and maintain their own site.
1. Keep things simple
The trick is to start gradually and create a firm foundation, and to prioritise what's important. Having a website with compelling content is much more critical than having an all singing, all dancing design. You can always revisit the design later. The key factor when you launch is to have a website that is pleasing to the eye but provides good information to encourage visitors to return.
2. Don't skimp on hosting
The first decision you'll need to make is around hosting. Building a website is very much like building a house. You need a plot of land on which to lay your foundations. The hosting is the space that your website will occupy.
It's tempting to skimp on hosting but I would recommend choosing a host that offers a good Control Panel and also functions such as a one click WordPress install. Hosting tends to prove its value in the unfortunate event that something goes wrong and then the hosting company is worth its weight in gold. A reasonable rate for a good host is between £65 and £70 per annum.
3. Be memorable
Some hosts also include a free domain name. If not, you can purchase a domain name quite easily for around £10 a year. One interesting fact to note is that your hosting and domain name don't have to be bought from the same company.
When choosing a domain name it needs to reflect you and your business but it also needs to be memorable. You don't want to have to spell out the domain name each time you refer a visitor to your website so avoid hyphens or very long names. If you're a sole trader it's worth contemplating using your own name - this is instantly easy to remember and also provides an umbrella for new projects as your business grows.
4. Create a business email address
Once you have a domain name you can then create an email address to match. Always a good marketing tool and keeps you branding consistent.
5. Use WordPress
My tool of choice for designing websites is WordPress. With a one click install it's easy to create a WordPress site and the dashboard gives you an interface that you can use to manage and maintain your site. To create a look and feel for your web pages, you can install a WordPress theme. This is an upload that can be customised to make your website unique. There are many sites where you can download themes - again, it's worth investing in a good theme as you're also paying for additional functionality, security and automatic updates.
6. Plan first
The next step is to plan! I'm a passionate advocate of planning. I recommend creating a mindmap to outline the site navigation and give you a one page summary of all the content you will need for your site. You can see how everything links together and can streamline the detail you want to include. A plan also gives you an overview that you can continue to use to grow your site organically. Whether you're working with a designer or planning to build the site yourself, it's definitely best not to over complicate things. Some of my favourite sites are very minimalist and I deliberately keep my own site simple too.
7. Do the work
The work really begins once your website goes live. Certainly in the early stages, you'll want to invest some time developing content, writing blog posts, networking online, perhaps creating an email newsletter with a sign up incentive, and starting to engage on Social Media. A plan comes in handy again. There are no hard and fast rules that you need to adhere to but a key principle is being consistent. Writing one really good and regular blog post each month is much better than none at all. Whatever schedule you choose, visitors will soon anticipate your content.
8. Doing it your way
Growing your website has to work for you. The style that you choose, the tone, the frequency of updates, whether you engage on Twitter or Facebook or both. The idea of writing blog posts may not appeal to you but if you're great on video or audio, this could be a different medium to use.
Your website is a reflection of you. By aligning your online presence with who you are offline, you're more likely to attract your ideal clients. Just be who you are. Not only will this make the process of updating your website more pleasurable for you but it will also create greater resonance with your prospective customers.
9. Constantly evolve
Be ready for your site to change. A website, once built, is not static. It constantly evolves. WordPress is an ideal framework as it makes it easy for you to change your site as your business grows.
Find out more
If you would like to find out more about creating an online presence, you can download my Get Started Online eKit here.
More info: http://nicolawarwick.com/