Small business guide to web design and hosting

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Small business guide to web design and hosting
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Need a new or revamped website? We look at the many options so you can make the best choice for your business.

What's the first thing to consider when starting a digital transformation? A decent website is a good place to begin. After all, the web is the first place most of us turn when looking for information about products, services and businesses, yet a surprisingly large number of small companies still do not have web sites.

According to the 2018 Telstra Small Business Intelligence Report, 62 percent of customers will stop considering a business if they can't find information about it online, but only 50 percent of small businesses have web sites.

A survey by YouGov Galaxy for GoDaddy puts that latter figure at 60 percent, but either way it’s a lot of small businesses that don’t have web sites.

“If we're serious about being recognised globally as the ‘innovation nation’, we need to get more of the 60 percent of small businesses that currently do not have a digital presence, online too,” said GoDaddy ANZ vice president and managing director Tara Commerford.

The YouGov Galaxy survey found 59 percent of small businesses ascribe the lack of a site to inadequate technical skills, and 42 percent to not having enough time.

Fortunately, it doesn't have to be difficult or expensive to create a web site. The days of having to learn HTML unless you were prepared to make do with the often clunky code produced by WYSIWYG page editors are long gone. Instead, hosted site builders, modern content management systems (CMSes) and high-quality page templates make it relatively easy to get professional-looking results.

And if you do need expert assistance, increased competition means it is available at far more reasonable prices than those charged in the early days of the commercial web.

In this, the first instalment in our series on building and improving your business’s online presence, we explain the basics of what you need know about web design and hosting. 

What you need

Starting with the basics, you’ll need three things for a website:

  1. A domain name – e.g. – from a domain registrar
  2. Web hosting – and while it’s possible to run your own physical web server for hosting your site’s files, few businesses do that anymore because using a web hosting provider is far easier and more cost effective
  3. Software for creating the website – or outsourcing to a web designer.

Many providers offer all three services, although there’s a good case for using different providers for greater flexibility, allowing you to more easily shift your website to another hosting provider for better service or pricing, for example.

Easy, all-in-one providers

However, there’s no denying it’s much easier, and possibly cheaper, to use one provider for everything – and, in particular, all-in-one packages that include web hosting and an online application for creating a site, along with a domain name (or an option to buy one).

Wix offers a good selection of useful apps

These packages not only make it relatively quick and easy to build a site, but they also take care of all the technical matters such as updating and patching the software needed to run the site.

Services such as Shopify and Wix can be good for small sites, or for crystallising your ideas before bringing in expert help, according to Web frontend designer and developer Hope Stewart. Another example of this type of platform is the highly capable Adobe Business Catalyst, although Stewart warned that it is relatively expensive.

Web hosting providers also often offer this type of package as an option – and with GoDaddy’s Website Builder, for example, “anyone can build a professional website in under an hour,” the company claims.

Just watch out for those services that put ads on your site (they could be for your competitors, or for products or services that are incompatible with your brand or values), or that do not allow you to use your own domain name.

Using a domain name that includes your brand or business name is vital to make it easy for customers and potential customers to find your site – and it allows you to move to another provider in the future without having to change the web address. The latter is an important consideration, because moving your site to a different address basically erases the credibility you’ve built up with Google and other search engines.

Next: domain names, email, CMSes and other options

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