In our opinion, every business should reflect their true identity and true values. Bespoke solutions do exactly that. Do-it-yourself tools, on the other hand, mostly make the website blend into the crowd by using similar looking design template. We believe that the only reason not to get a bespoke website is either the price tag or the strength of the actual business/idea. However, we do understand that some want to test the waters with a less expensive solution, until it gets too expensive - which they do, in the long run.
1) The first thing about starting a website on your own is choosing what platform to use. We will not be covering Wordpress, Magento or similar solutions because to use them you have to be a developer. There are a few platforms you might want to look at. For e-commerce, we recommend either Shopify or Squarespace, and for a portfolio website, we suggest Squarespace, Jimdo, Wix.
2) Try out the platform's design tools and templates. If they are too difficult to use - check YouTube for help or switch to a different platform.
3) Find the right plugins/extensions. Skip the ones which have ads. Skip the ones that are paid - the are always free ones which do the same thing.
4) Find the right providers for shipping and payments. The first page of our website shows what shipping and payment providers are popular in the United Kingdom. Check if they have plugins/extensions for your platform.
5) Buy a domain name. Ideally, you should buy a local domain name like .co.uk, .com is a generic one. Either way, domain names technically do not make a difference, but some people trust the local domains more.
6) Find an e-mail provider. Gmail is relatively easy to set up - just use that. If you want a bit more security, use protonmail.com. If you are already building your website with DIY tools, e-mail on a hosting provider is out of the picture.
7) Get an SSL certificate. It is not required for a portfolio website, but it is required for an e-shop. They start at ~5 GBP per year on ssls.com. There is almost no difference between them. There are free ones, like Let's Encrypt, but they are too hard to set up.
8) Add some content to your website. Try to minimize the load time - it makes a huge difference. You would ideally host your website in the country where your user base is. Hosted solutions are located mostly in the United States and intercontinental connections add some latency, it is much slower than connecting to a local data center.
9) Get some design inspiration from dribbble.com, awwwards.com, behance.net. Add some quality, royalty free photography from pexels.com, pixabay.com. Find some popular color combinations on color.adobe.com.
10) Optimize your website for mobile and desktops. Use these tools: gtmetrix.com, tools.pingdom.com, testmysite.withgoogle.com. Additionally, you could integrate cloudflare.com anti-DDOS protection and CDN (content delivery network) to add more speed and reachability to your e-commerce project.
11) Set up a marketing campaign. People will not discover your website out of the blue, it either requires a huge amount of time to get the content right or it requires some financial resources to enable paid marketing. We highly recommend Google Adwords, Facebook Ads - but it all depends on your industry and idea.
12) Enable visitor statistics tracking like Google Analytics, Mouseflow. Add a chat to your website from chaport.com, tawk.to, olar.com.
13) Create a logo, business card, e-mail signature. You can find logo and business card templates by searching Google for "business card mockups", "logo creator", "logo mockups".
14) Download professional software. Each business is different, but most will probably need a PDF reader (any web browser), office document reader and writer (OpenOffice/LibreOffice), photo editor (Adobe Photoshop - this costs a tremendous amount of money, you should probably download it from thepiratebay, 1337x, torrentz2, or somewhere similar), accounting software (HomeBank , Money Manager Ex), archiving software (7Zip, PeaZip).
Some friendly advice:
- Do not hire someone to manage your ad campaigns, get a professional training instead. Or check videos on YouTube.
- Do not get a Magento website for a small business shop, Wordpress with Woocommerce would be a lot cheaper
- Do not use a non-PHP programming language for your website - PHP is the most demanded web development language, there are a lot of developers which can maintain and extend your web app.
Some useful links
- Tools to check your grammar: grammarly.com, hemingwayapp.com
- Online storage services: mega.nz, wetransfer.com
- Free icons: iconfinder.com, flaticon.com
- Website to find alternative software and services: alternativeto.net
- Website uptime monitors: uptimerobot.com, statuscake.com
- Computer internet speed test: speedtest.net