Building your own website can be a daunting undertaking but today there are so many ways to get started creating your online presence, below are 11 tips and things to think about. Many years ago I opened an online business on EBay and eventually I needed a website, too. I am now on my 3rd website, and through the years have learned a little bit about creating and maintaining a website for selling merchandise online.
1. Should you hire a Web designer? While you need someone to help with all the technical mumbo jumbo and programming, many times you are better off doing it yourself. My experience with Web Designers has not been good and I ended up doing a lot myself. Today there are many companies that offer websites with templates built right in, including shopping cart software, and ways to accept payment. While these seem OK and a quick way to get started, be cautious about building your website on a platform where you might not have control or be able to move it should you need to change hosting companies. Make sure you can add “plugins” for different functions such as blogs, social media, etc.
2. Domain names and hosting: Match your domain name with your company brand name, if possible. Most hosting companies can help with your domain name registration, but be sure to have a hosting company that has real people available so you can call and talk to someone if you need help. When choosing a hosting company for your website, make sure they are knowledgeable about the software you are using. This is essential if something goes wrong or you mess something up on your website.
3. Branding: Everyone has something to say about branding these days, but to keep it simple just use the same colors, logos, and design in all other areas like social media, marketing materials, correspondence, etc. This way customers are used to seeing the same designs and will know it’s YOU!
4. Website design: Decide what image you want to portray to the world, what kind of customers do you want, what do you want the customer to feel when they see your website? Do you want them to read or buy? Designs can be changed but it is a good idea to think of this ahead of time.
5. HTML & CSS: A lot of websites today come with built in templates and text editors but it’s useful to know and be familiar with a little basic information like how to make bold type, how to make something italic, etc. Many times those editors get all jumbled up with different things and it is helpful if you know enough about the code to clean it up.
Basic html examples:
- <p> causes a line break and adds a trailing blank line for paragraphs, to end a paragraph use this at the end </p>
- <br> causes a line break with no trailing blank line if you just want to bring something down one line
- This is a <b>boldface</b> tag, this is how boldface appears
- This is an <i>italic</i> tag, this is how italic appears
6. Photos: Invest in a good camera and photo editing program, it really makes a difference to have good quality photos to draw in your customers and keep them clicking. Read up on how to take good pictures, there are tons of good articles available online about photography. DO NOT right click and steal photos from Google images or other websites! If you sell products and use manufacturer photos, make sure you have permission to use their images.
7. Image names: If you are selling products and you have a LOT, be sure to start using a good image naming system so that you can find the pictures both on your computer and in your website back end. I use the product SKU and a short keyword or two since many people can find your items through image ALT tag attributes.
8. Organize products: Do an outline or spreadsheet to help you organize products and use that as a guide when setting up categories on a website. Well organized categories will make it easy for customers to find the products they are looking for.
9. Product descriptions: This is kind of tricky because most online shoppers don’t want to read a lot of text, but Google and search engines are looking for good content, so descriptions should be short and concise but have enough information for search engines.
10. Security: Make sure your site is secure from hackers and that your customers information is secure, check with your hosting company to see what they suggest.
11. Marketing: This is a huge subject, but briefly here are some ways to market your products and website.
- Upload products to Google Shopping, and set up a budget
- Have a presence in Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.
- Collect customer emails for newsletters and special sales
- Network in online groups in your industry
Every topic I listed could be an entire blog post in itself, but hopefully this overview will help anyone who is considering starting to build their own website. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!