Every few months I get a similar question from former students and local small business owners – how can you create a website fast and easy with a limited budget for [pick your business]?
Commonly, they want a site that’s super easy to administer (no coding) but looks good and contains specific features.
For this to occur, they need three things – a domain name, a web hosting service, and a web development tool. Here is my condensed guide for creating a small business website quickly.
- Check out whois.com to see if a domain name you want is reserved or not. Try to pick a domain name that matches as closely as possible to your company’s name.
- For web hosting, I recommend Bluehost.com. I use Bluehost for this website, for a personal development website Reason for Success, and for my kids’ school website at Greenville Montessori School. Go to Bluehost.com and sign up for an account. They can help you sign up for a domain name directly (easy way) or you can register for a domain name through another service like GoDaddy.com. Bluehost charges a slight premium if you use them for domain name signup.
- Once you create your account with your domain name, setup a WordPress site. Again, the three sites listed above all use WordPress. WordPress can function as your web development tool. It is a free, open-source content management system with lots of different themes and plugins that is easy to use – especially for administrators of the website… a huge plus.
- Once WordPress is installed, pick a theme that you like and install plugins that make WordPress do what you want. Add your content and you’re done!
If you follow this advice you can have a website setup over a weekend, perhaps faster if your requirements are simpler.
Why Bluehost? There are lots of good web hosting options out there, some even free. But the free options often are very limited, like with no FTP access or giving you a sub-domain for your website (professordrake.weebly.com) but not letting you use your own domain name (professordrake.com). The latter is more professional and shows more permanence. The former is only acceptable for short term or for individual vanity sites. I tried Bluehost after seeing it recommended on several other websites. I have not once been disappointed with that choice after using them for 2 years. And they are only $5/month. Easy for me and many other people to afford.
Why WordPress? Content Management Systems (CMS) allow you to create a website quick and easy. Certainly you could create the code yourself, but often that is expensive and time-consuming. CMS’s also save on the need for a web development tool, unless you plan on developing your own plugins or themes. But that generally is not the case for most small businesses. The three opens-source CMS’s are WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal (all free). Of these three, WordPress is the easiest to use, but not nearly as fast. It started as a blogging platform but does so much more now. And you can easily disable the blogging as I did on greenvillemontessori.com. You can also add plugins for photo galleries, e-commerce, search engine optimization, and more.
Joomla is a bit more mid powered and originally designed for more community based websites. It’s a good option, but unless your business is interested in developing an active community, would not be my first choice. Drupal is also a good option. It’s known to be more higher powered with an efficient architecture. But it sacrifices ease of use to get it. That’s not saying that a good Drupal developer couldn’t make it easier to use for administrators, but out of the box, it’s not for the newbie. WordPress is by far the most popular of the three, in both terms of websites built using it and by the number of themes and plugins it supports. As a small business owner that wants easy development, good flexibility, and easy administration, WordPress offers the best set of capabilities. While some high visitor websites are built on WordPress, they struggle a bit with speed unless optimized. When your website starts to get that much traffic, hopefully you’ll have the resources by that point to either pay for the optimization or switch to a more high powered platform.
What if you want more? Beyond the basics, I cannot make a recommendation without knowing the specific requirements. You are welcome to contact me for one-on-one consulting and I’ll help guide you.