Internet 101: How to build a great website

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Inspired by some popular discussions on our sister community UK Business Forums (UKBF), Lucie Mitchell outlines the key points to consider when building your own website.

This is the third article in a series focusing on internet marketing and ecommerce, brought to you in association with .co.uk, the number one domain for British business.

Domain name
As soon as you have decided on your company name, it's important to choose your domain name and register it through a registrar. Domain names are addresses you can use on the internet for both websites and emails, and each domain name is unique.
 According to research by Insight Engineers, .co.uk is the most popular choice of domain for business and enterprise in the UK, with four in five people preferring .co.uk websites when searching online in the UK.
As well as .co.uk, there are other domains available in the UK, including org.uk, the main non-commercial domain for championing causes and raising support, and .me.uk, a personal domain for individuals wanting to build a unique, online presence.
Costs for registering a domain can vary. UKBF member 'astutiumRob' said: "Price depends on domain type, length, whether it's an 'existing' registered domain or a generally available one etc; not every domain type is 'open' - a great number have restrictions."
Hosting
To get your website online, you'll need a web hosting service, which will provide you with web space as well as allow people to access your website. They may also provide you with additional services such as domain name registration, email provision and technical support.
You can get a site up and running, using web hosts, either yourself (if you are confident in your technical abilities) or with the help of a web developer (if you are not so confident).
There are many different kinds of web hosting, at various costs, and the type you choose will depend on various factors such as your business, what kind of website you will need and how big you think it is likely to get.
UKBF member 'webhostuk' says: "The definition for best web hosting provider will differ from customer to customer. Some might compare it with price, while others might like support. It completely depends on what's your requirement and what you are looking for.
"Try contacting the web hosting providers, look how they respond to your questions, shortlist them and then decide."
Posting in UKBF, 'Nuno' says that there are many content management systems (CMS), but the three most common are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.
"For a non-expert user they differ in ease of use and versatility in that same order: WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. WordPress is most often used for smaller scale enterprises and at the other end Drupal is usually used for very large and complex sites.
"WordPress will supply the biggest source of online learning materials and community support and is the best starting point for someone setting out on making their first website."
UKBF member 'monghan' adds: "You will get a lot of conflicting advice as various people chip in and say'‘use WordPress', 'use Joomla', 'use this host', 'use this package'. However, the best thing to do is to install a local web server (unless you are on a Mac or Linux PC, look for WAMP to get a simple Windows web server environment) and install Drupal and any other desired platform and give them a test in your own time and see what works best for you."
It’s also worth thinking about using a host that is UK based and to avoid those that are too cheap, says UKBF user 'Faevilangel': "I recommend Vidahost, they are UK based with UK support and start at only £17+vat per year."
SEO
As explained in an earlier article in this series, search engine optimisation (SEO) is "the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's ‘natural’ or un-paid ('organic') search results".
When building your website, it's important to keep SEO in mind from the start, to ensure your site appears high in search results. Try and create 'search-engine friendly' content that incorporates all the relevant keywords.
In terms of content, include things like blogs, articles and Q&As that are of a good quality, relevant and useful - and not at all spammy – and incorporate your relevant keywords.
UKBF member ‘davek17’ states: “You have to blog, write articles, find ways of writing ebooks, give generously to forums, do a little bit of guest blogging, tweet and anything that you find that could help boost your SEO ratings.
"The side effects of all this are you are also positioning yourself as an expert in your market, networking with others and you're also learning and keeping in touch too. You need to be genuine and you can only do this by doing it yourself."
Ensuring the right people find your site is an ongoing, continuous task, so it is worth spending a great deal of time researching and getting to grips with SEO. UKBF member 'Experienced IT guy’'recommends using this guide to free SEO tools.
Blogging
If you’ve got something to say in your specialism, then it’s worth having a blog. You can do this by either including a blog on your own site or by creating your own blogging website.
If you want your own blog site, you can use one of the many blogging platforms, such as Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, and Weebly. Most are either free or inexpensive.
Next, you will need to find a host that supports your chosen software, in terms of technical support, themes etc, so it's worth hunting around to find the best host for your needs.
You may also want to think about setting up some categories for your blog, to ensure the site maintains some kind of order, as well as installing some plugins.
Then, all you have to do is post some content. When writing blog posts, it is important to be honest, says UKBF member 'Rated Geek': "The biggest challenge will be to remain neutral and 'honest' in the eyes of the reader. Like most geeks, I view some sites with scepticism i.e. are they reviewing or plugging?"
UKBF user 'iArtist' recommends some dos and don’ts when blogging. The dos include posting at least three blog posts per week on your niche topic, linking to related websites, joining blogging communities, and ensuring all titles are related to content and are very specific and 'search' friendly. The don’ts include drowning your blog in Google ads or others, and publishing too much duplicate content.
Health check
If it's been a while since you've paid any serious attention to the look, feel and usability of your website, it's definitely worth giving it a health check, to ensure you don’t lose any valuable visitors to your site.
There are many services out there that can give your website a health check, both free and paid for, or if you want to perform the check yourself, these top tips from PayPal could help.
In this this article on BusinessZone, the author recommends looking at areas such as layout, design, content and navigation, as well as issues such as SEO, meta data, accessibility for users, and technology trends, ie whether your website works on different devices.
Mobile responsive
As mentioned above, as many people now access the internet from a range of devices, such as smartphones and tablets, it’s a good idea to ensure your website is mobile responsive.
A responsive website will automatically adapt to fit the size of the screen on the user's device. So if a user is looking at your website on their smartphone, they will be able to navigate your site seamlessly, just as they would if they were viewing it on a desktop.
This will help to ensure that people visiting your site will be given the best experience possible, on whatever device they are using, and won’t navigate away from it.
"Responsive design is not just about creating sites that work on all devices", says UKBF member 'fisicx'. “It's about improving the user experience. Give them the same functionality they will get on the desktop version but with as small a footprint as possible so it will still load on a dodgy 3G connection."
If you are about to build a website, then it’s definitely worth building it in a responsive design. If your site is already up and running, then you need to think about re-designing it to become responsive, and including this in your business costs.
This article on why responsive design is essential for small businesses is definitely worth a read.
UKBF user 'OlegLola' believes that it's essential to make your site responsive.
 
"A lot of users search the net via mobile devices. So you should make a decision about the most convenient way of its implementation. There are three to choose from: mobile URL, responsive design and dynamic webpage. You'll select one, which allows your users to reach target pages and perform actions with minimum efforts. The choice depends on general website structure, types of content and your audience."
Also in this series:

About Lucie Mitchell

Lucie

I'm a contributing editor of BusinessZone.co.uk, published by Sift Media. I worked for Sift for years in a number of roles including editor of HRzone.co.uk and health & education editor of PublicTechnology.net and am now working as a freelance.

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