Why you need a website
If you get it right, your website will be the best tool you have for promoting your business.Your website will essentially become an online shop-window, accessible to customers all over the world, which means the better it looks and more and up-to-date it is, the better impression it will make on consumers.
Whether it's three o'clock in the morning or Christmas day, the internet never closes - which means your business is open all the times , without any extra effort from you. If you choose to have an online store, your customers will be able to dictate when they want to buy, rather than limiting themselves to your opening times.
If you are locally based, having a web presence will open your business up to new markets outside your local area, giving people from across the world the chance to browse your products or services.
A well-designed website will make your business appear more professional . In fact, a well-considered website can fool customers into thinking your business is larger than it is and could even level the playing-field between your business and its more established competitors.
If you're starting a business on a shoestring, the costs of putting together a website will be cheaper than buying or renting premises, and could attract business from further afield than a high-street based business would.
Feedback is often a difficult thing to attain and more often than not, feedback on your business will be limited to the negative. The internet allows you to enter into a dialogue with your customer, though: use surveys, questionnaires and feedback forms on your website to do market research and find out exactly what your customers' expectations are.
What your website needs to do
Your website needs to give an idea of exactly what what your business does. The look and feel of the website, the images you choose and the text will all contribute to this - but avoid baffling language or words such as 'solution' which don't really mean anything : if customers can't work out what you do, it's unlikely they'll stick around to find out.
It might sound obvious, but many business owners forget to include information about the business, such as contact details or opening hours, on their websites. For many customers, your website will be their first port of call to find out where your business is located - so make sure you include detailed information, including a map.
If you find you're being asked the same questions over and over again,include a 'frequently asked questions' (FAQ) section on your website. Giving your customers quick access to the answers will improve your customer service, as well as saving you time answering the same question again and again.
Including an online shop on your website is a cheap and easy way to target new markets without the hassle - or cost - of opening a store in a new location. As long as you're happy to send the items, customers from across the world can purchase items without being limited to your opening times or physical location.
It's important to keep your website's content fresh. One easy way of keeping your site up-to-date is by including a blog. Write short articles every few days on news and announcements from your industry to show your customers the site is current and to help you get to the top of Google rankings.
Use your website to promote your business
A website does away with geographical and time constraints
A professional website can level the playing-field between your business and its competitors
It's cheaper to set up a website than buying or renting premises
The internet allows you to enter into a dialogue with your customers
Include an FAQ to improve your customer service
Include a blog to show your website is up-to-date
How important is the design of my website?
Very. For many of your customers, your website will be their first impression of your business. Your website gives your customers an idea of what the business is about, who it is for and who runs it. You wouldn't go to a business meeting without looking your best - and your website should be exactly the same.
How much should I be looking to spend on a website?
There's no simple answer to this - the functionality of websites can vary enormously. You can get packages such as Mr Site which allow you to design and produce your own website for around £100, while a well-designed, basic site could cost you up to £5,000. See our guide on how to build a website for more information.
Hosting: When you create a website, it needs to be 'hosted' on a web server so people can access it. Hosting packages usually come as part of the bundle when you buy your web space.
Domain Name: A website's domain name is its address - anything which comes after the 'www'. This can be any combination or letters, numbers, hyphens and underscores, and usually ends with something like '.com' or '.co.uk'.
Blog:A blog, or 'weblog', is a sort of online journal with entries chronicling the user's experiences or opinions on news or current affairs. Blogs are easy to create and maintain - because of this, many businesses opt to make the blog the main component of their website.