According to the U.S. Small Business Administration and SCORE, many small businesses don’t have a website, yet most consumers research a business online before they decide to try out their products or services. Having a website for your business is beneficial in many ways: it can help you increase awareness for your brand and offerings, gives you control over your online presence, and allows you to reach and engage with more potential customers.
When you run a small business, you need to get creative with limited resources. There are many ways to create an affordable website—they range from writing the code yourself to using website builders, like WordPress.com, where you choose the plan level and theme design that fit your needs. An advantage of using a website builder is that it’s easy to customize and change the look and feel of your website without working with code or rewriting your content every time. With WordPress.com, you can sign up with a free plan and stay with it forever, or upgrade to higher-level plans that offer more features as your needs change.
Compared with having a page on a major social media network, having your own website gives you total control over your web presence. Think of it like your official home on the web—what you display on your website and communicate to your customers is entirely up to you. Your website can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. You can have a minimalist “business card” type of website with little more than basic information about your business, or a more full-featured website where you can manage online sales of your products or services.
There is no right or wrong way to create a website for your business. Your needs will vary depending on the industry you are in, the type of customers you serve, your product or service offering, and your own personal preferences.
At the very minimum, your website should communicate the following to your visitors:
- Who you are.
- What you are offering.
- How customers can reach you.
In this three-part tutorial, I’ll walk you through the creation of a simple website for your business. I’ll be creating a website for a hypothetical business (here, a juice bar), complete with a menu of products, an About page, hours of operation, location and contact information, and connected social feeds (Instagram and Twitter).
The first part of this tutorial will cover the steps from planning your website through setting up your WordPress.com account. The second part will cover website structure and content. The third part will cover styling and customization, including how to add your social media feeds.
PART 1: PLANNING AND SETTING UP YOUR WEBSITE.
Step 1: Planning
First, gather and organize all the information and content you want to share on your website. Consider what your business is about, who your target audience is (what kinds of customers are you seeking to attract), and what your goals are for creating your website. If you have a logo and a brand identity system (also known as your brand’s styles—certain fonts, colors, and graphics that you use in representing your business), gather those assets for use later on.
For my hypothetical small business, which I will call “Made Fresh Juice Bar”, I primarily want basic information about my business on my website: my business name, a section describing what my business is about, information about my juice bar’s physical location with map, hours of operation, contact information (address and phone number), a product menu of my juices, and the latest posts from my two social media feeds, Instagram and Twitter. With this information, potential customers can decide if they want to come visit in person and try out a juice. I’ll aim to engage my customers by offering special deals on my social media feeds, which I’ll embed somewhere on my site.
Now that I’ve gathered the information I want to have on my site, I can sign up for a WordPress.com plan.
Step 2: Sign up
Since I have experience using WordPress.com, I know that I want to start my business website on a Premium level plan, so that I can customize the CSS to have more control over the visual styling of my site. You can view the various plans on our pricing page and see which plan makes the most sense for your needs. Some businesses do just fine with a free website, while others need the customization and advanced functionality found in our top-tier WordPress.com Business plan.
To create a new website, go to WordPress.com and click on the Get Started link in the upper-right corner. You’ll be taken to our signup screen, where you’ll start customizing your website by answering a few questions.
On this first screen of the signup process, I’ll choose to Start with a website. I can always change this later if my needs evolve.
Next, I’ll think of a good website address for my site. Your website’s address is also called your domain name. A domain name is the name that people type into their browser to visit your website, so it should be a memorable one that is relevant to your business.
Since my website is a Juice Bar demo, I’ll type in “juicebardemo” and see what my options are. If the name you are looking for isn’t available, there will also be a handy list of suggested site-name options listed below that you can choose from:
By default, all websites can have free site names on WordPress.com—that means that my site name of “juicebardemo.wordpress.com” is totally free, under all plan levels. If I wanted a domain name such as the third option in the above image, “juicebardemo.com”, I could select that and it would be included for free under the Premium plan. Since this tutorial is for setting up a sample Juice Bar demo website on WordPress.com, I’ll just select the first option.
The last step is selecting the plan level that fits my needs. Since I know that I want to be able to edit the CSS of my website, I’ll be choosing the Premium plan. You can always upgrade or downgrade your plan even after you sign up, so you’re never stuck with an option that’s not right for you.
Next, I’ll progress through the secure payment screen and make my payment for the Premium plan. Then, my website will be ready to start filling in the content and customizing.
Congratulations on making it through Part One of this tutorial series! You’re well on your way to creating a new website for your small business. Continue on to Part Two: Website Structure and Content, where we’ll talk about how to organize your website content and how to navigate the WordPress.com interface.