When I talk to people who are just starting a small business one of their biggest hangups is around how to design and build a web site, and how much they should spend to do so.
In fact just last week I had this question from one of my newsletter readers:
I’ve been selling products by word of mouth for a while and I’m thinking of going online. How do I get started building a web site to help me do this?
It’s a big question – but whether you simply need a splash page to describe your services, or you want to start a blog, or you want to sell products directly from your page, I think most people would agree that a web site is an absolute necessity these days to develop a scalable, sustainable business and market it well.
So I’ve prepared a short guide to determining what type of web site you need, what it needs to do and how much you need to spend on it.
The One Question You MUST Answer before Building a Web Site
Do not spend one penny on your web site before you have answered this question:
What is the PRIMARY PURPOSE of having a web site for your business?
In other words, when people land on your site, what action do you MOST want them to take?
Here’s an example: the primary purpose of my web site is to invite people to join my email list. That’s why I have opt-in boxes at the top of the page, in the right sidebar, at the bottom of this blog post, and even in a pop-up window that I created with PopupAlly. Why? Because most of my paying clients are people who joined my email list first; that’s how my sales funnel works. So before I redesigned it last year I made sure my incredible web developer Lisa knew what I wanted people to do when they reached my site.
Your site might be different – if you have an online store, for example, you want people to buy something off of your site. So the whole design of your site needs to make it as easy as possible for people to make a purchase. So you need to consider integrating an e-commerce platform like Shopify to help with that.
Next Steps to Building a Web Site for Your Small Business
- Set a budget. You can spend $300 or $30,000 on a web site. Set a budget that you’re comfortable spending, with the knowledge that the less you spend, the more of your own time you will likely have to dedicate to creating it. Yes, WordPress is free and yes, it has a lot of free templates, but most of them won’t serve the primary purpose of your web site – so while they won’t waste your money, they will most certainly waste your time.
- Set a timeline. When do you want your site to launch? This decision can affect the outcome of Step 3 below, so consider this carefully. The faster you need your site launched, the better off you are to hire someone to build it for you.
- Decide whether to DIY it or outsource the design. What’s worth more: your time or your money? If you lack the skills to design a web site but you’re willing to learn them, there are lots of resources online that will teach you the basics. But you have a lot to do when you’re setting up a new business – is it a good use of your time to take on this responsibility, too? One important point, though: if you outsource your web design, you should still learn as much about the back end functionality as you can. This will make it easier for you to make your own small updates, and easier to train someone to do that for you when your business can afford it.
- Don’t put price pressure on your designer. You’re hiring a designer because they have skills you lack. Don’t disrespect your designer by trying to negotiate a lower price than they’ve quoted. Instead, make sure you do understand exactly what scope of service they’re providing, so you know exactly what you’re paying for. It’s perfectly okay to negotiate scope, though – if the designer is offering something that you don’t really need or that doesn’t serve the primary purpose of your web site, you might be able to remove that option and get a lower price.
Remember, if you want to make money from your web site, then you probably need to spend a little to get it going in the most fruitful way. Whether your goal is to make money blogging, or launch a lucrative online store, your web site says a lot about your business and it’s where most of your potential customers will go to learn about you. It’s worth a small investment.
What’s your biggest question about building a web site for your small business? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer it!