An online presence can be an effective way to grow your start-up. Setting up a website for your business can open the door to more customers while staying updated with consumer demands and trends.
While the pandemic accelerated a move to digital, Lloyds Banking Group opens in new window found that only one in ten small businesses shifted online due to the pandemic.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of businesses reported a lack of digital skills opens in new window and confidence as the biggest barriers to moving online.
There are some misconceptions about how challenging it can be to create a website, but there are ways to help get you started with creating a simple website that can help boost brand awareness opens in new window and bring new customers opens in new window to your business.
Creating a website, even if it’s just a few simple pages with your business name, contact information, and some basic information about your products or services, may help make a big difference in finding new customers.
Read our guide to getting your business online opens in new window.
What type of website do you need?
It’s a good idea to start by deciding your website’s purpose.
A website can have different uses depending on your business.
For example, a website for a local business, such as an accountancy firm opens in new window, might need to provide information about the company and allow customers to make appointments.
A website for an office supplies opens in new window start-up might need to focus on generating leads, providing content, and selling products or services.
Once you know what you want your website to do, you can start planning your design and content.
Websites typically fall into the following types:
- e-commerce store – to sell products/services, such as a florist
- portfolio – to display work and attract clients to work with you, such as a wedding photographer opens in new window
- magazine/blog – to inform/educate visitors, such as a local events directory
- services/business site – a brand site that explains your business to potential customers, such as a health and training business.
Choose a domain name
A domain name is the online address of your website, sometimes referred to as the uniform resource locator (URL).
It’s what people use to search for your business and is usually in the form of www.yourbusinessname.co.uk.
It’s a good idea to choose one that best represents your business, and keep it short and memorable to help avoid customer confusion.
A short and relevant domain can also help with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), increasing your visibility on the internet and bringing you more potential customers.
Discover how SEO can help your business with our guide on optimising your small business website to maximise traffic opens in new window.
Choose web hosting
All websites need a host.
A host is a server that stores all website files and content, such as web pages and images, so that the public can access it at any time from anywhere in the world.
A good host can ensure your website loads quickly, making it a good customer experience.
It can also provide security for your site opens in new window, reducing the risk of cyber-attacks and hacks.
There are two main types of hosting:
- shared hosting − where the server is shared with other sites and is often a cheaper option
- private or dedicated hosting – where your site has its dedicated server exclusively used by your company.
Shared hosting can start from around £2 a month opens in new window, increasing with additional benefits and add-ons.
Private or dedicated hosting can start from a relatively low amount but can rise with more benefits or other business requirements.
Free hosting options may be available, but the host may place adverts on your website to compensate for the free hosting.
Building your webpages
A website should look good, be easy to navigate, and be organised into relevant sections and areas opens in new window.
To build your website, you have a few options, which include:
- using a web designer to create it for you – this can be more expensive but involves less work for you
- building it yourself − may be suitable for those who have some technical skill
- using a web builder – can be quick and easy to use and requires limited skills (examples include WordPress opens in new window, WIX opens in new window and Shopify opens in new window).
The option you choose will depend on your skills, budget, or how much time you want to spend on it.
If you want to create an e-Commerce site, learn more with our guide to low-cost E-commerce platforms opens in new window for your start-up.
Pages and functionality you may need
Websites should include pages that help and attract customers.
Some pages and functionality you may consider adding to your site include:
- call to action (CTA) − call to actions such as ‘buy now’ or ‘sign up here’ buttons may help drive customers to contact you, make an enquiry, or purchase a product or service
- payment systems – if your site is an e-Commerce site, add payment systems to enable customers to make purchases
- contact page − contact pages (or forms) can allow customers to make enquiries, especially if your site sells services
- portfolio – a portfolio of your work can help drive customers to get in contact
- product catalogue − pages tailored to the products you sell, including categories and sub-categories for a user-friendly experience
- services page − similar to a product catalogue, a services page will show the services you offer
- shopping basket – for customers to add products to their basket and checkout with multiple items, with the ability to add more or remove items.
Add your content
Content will help you create a good-looking and easy-to-navigate website opens in new window.
Take care to use fonts that are easy to read and add colour contrast to make sure your site is as accessible as possible opens in new window.
Use clear and high-quality images, shrinking their file size to avoid slowing down the site’s loading speed.
Optimise content to help your website rank highly on search engines.
Read our guide on six ways to boost your website’s SEO opens in new window.
Write product descriptions (and for your services) to give customers more information and use CTAs to encourage them to get in touch or make purchases.
Test and publish your site
Before making your website live, it can be a good idea to test it across several different devices to replicate how a customer may access it.
Use laptops, PCs, and mobile phones to see how your website functions.
Open the site in different web browsers to check for errors.
You could ask friends or family to test the site for user experience and use their feedback to improve your site.
Once you’re happy with how your site is running, you can publish it.
Consider promoting your site on social channels opens in new window or in your physical premises if you have one.
Take the time to invest in SEO to bring new customers to your site.
Check out our free SEO toolkit for start up businesses opens in new window for a range of simple and advanced tips and techniques to get your site noticed online.
Want to market your start-up business? Check our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on effective marketing techniques.
Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses opens in new window include:
- Marketing in the 21st Century opens in new window
- First steps in innovation and entrepreneurship opens in new window
- Entrepreneurial behaviour opens in new window
Plus free courses on finance and accounting, project management, and leadership.
Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.