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Get the secrets to professional websites, from start to finish

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Who needs a website?

You do. As a business owner, you know the importance of making an excellent first impression on your customers.

Yet the same meticulous care entrepreneurs put into their shops and offices is often missing from the online experiences they give customers. Believe it or not, nearly half of all U.S. businesses still lacked a website in 2016. Of the businesses that do maintain websites, many of those designs are too outdated or too user-unfriendly to generate and maintain customer engagement.

A website allows you to be found online, builds credibility for your business and creates a connection between you and your target audience. Don’t let a subpar website — or worse, no website at all — hinder your efforts at building a robust business.

How does good website design benefit my business?

A website allows you to be found online

82% of customers search online before making a purchase. And more than half of those searches are from a mobile device.

A website builds credibility

When you don’t have a website, you give potential customers — especially those who’ve heard about you from friends or relatives — cause to doubt you.

A website creates real-world connections

A website lets customers learn about products and services, subscribe to a newsletter, request a quote, follow your business on social media, download a coupon and much more. That leads to increased sales.

How do I know it’s time for a website refresh?

12 warning signs

  1. The information on your website is outdated
  2. Your website doesn’t work properly
  3. Your brand has evolved since the website launched
  4. Your website lacks a social media component
  5. The design is obsolete
  6. The website is not mobile-friendly
  7. You’re slipping in search engine rankings
  8. Traffic from new and returning visitors has declined
  9. Visitors can’t navigate the website
  10. Visitors move on from your website (“bounce”) very quickly
  11. Making updates is painful and costly
  12. Your competitor’s website is doing better than yours


Domains and hosting

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What’s a domain?

A domain is the unique part of the website address you type into a browser, such as www.mybusiness.com. It may be your company’s name or, if that name is already taken, a relevant phrase or product offering. It can also be your name and your location, such as www.mybusinessnyc.com. Your domain name can also be used in email addresses, such as name@mybusiness.com.

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How do I choose the right domain name?

A domain name should be: An exact or close match to your company name Memorable (fewer than 15 characters is best) Unique to your business Free of hyphens, periods or other punctuation Something visitors can type in easily without making errors

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How do I choose the right hosting service?

The hosting of your website requires a third party. Fortunately, there are many web hosting services to choose from, such as Aplus.net. If you haven’t already acquired a domain name on your own, you can likely purchase one through your hosting service. Here’s what to look for in any hosting service: Security and stability Cloud-hosting and reliability Rapid account activation On-demand client support and account management

Want to learn even more? Get the complete guide!

How much should my website cost?

Website designs and redesigns vary in cost, depending on the complexity of your project.

Basic website design starts at under $200

For a simple website with the core pages every business needs, your initial setup fee may be approximately $100 to $200. After the site has been built, you can expect to pay around $40 per month, which covers ongoing maintenance. For this price, you’ll be able to establish your online presence with a simple, efficient website.

Greater customization and functionality increase the price tag

Websites with more pages and personalized features start at around $200. This may bring functionality such as appointment schedulers, menus or other tools specifically tailored to your business type. You may have more design flexibility and be able to connect your website to apps such as Yelp and Pinterest.

Web design prices continue to increase with the complexity and customization of the project. Features such as e-commerce, search engine optimization (SEO), a mobile app or advertising integration will raise the cost. Some fully customized websites can cost thousands of dollars.

Should I build my website myself or hire a designer?

Many online tools enable businesses to build their own websites. But how do you decide if you should create your own site with a website builder, or hire a professional web designer?

The benefits of a website builder

  • Reduced costs up front
  • Quick turnaround
  • Easy-to-use templates
  • Access to stock photos and graphics
  • Drag-and-drop design
  • In-house support

The benefits of a professionally designed website

  • Original design customized to your brand and needs
  • Increased efficiency and greater ability to generate revenue with less money on patches and fixes
  • Professional design experience and expertise
  • Compatibility across browsers and devices
  • Easy navigation and readability
  • Security against malware and hacking
  • Reliability, quick loading speed and a smooth website launch
  • Mobile compatibility
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Social media integration
  • Detailed, high-quality images
  • Robust functionality that allows purchases, prompts email subscriptions, books appointments, reserves tables and more
  • Less stress for you

Content strategy

What is a website content strategy, and why do I need one?

Content strategy is the practice of understanding your audience’s needs, and then making sure the words, images and structure of your website meet those needs. An effective content strategy determines the substance of your website.

How should I create my content strategy? Start by answering these questions:

1. What’s the first impression your website should have on readers?

This is the gut reaction you want visitors to take away with them.

2. What’s your value statement?

What value do you provide customers, or what problem do you solve? Boil it down to the basics, so visitors can grasp it quickly. This is your unique selling proposition; it’s what sets you apart from competitors.

3. Where’s the proof?

Skeptical customers like to see testimonials, statistics, satisfaction ratings, awards, certifications or images demonstrating how effective your service has been.

4. What are your your brand attributes?

These are the associations consumers have with your brand. Are you a friendly advisor? A no-nonsense problem solver? A cost-efficient alternative to competitors? This guides your messaging.

5. What types of content are most useful to your customers and to you?

Would visitors find white papers or videos more useful in their quests for information and solutions? When you provide those solutions, what should your business get out of it? How will you measure the results?

How do I make sure my website is mobile-friendly?

The importance of mobile can’t be emphasized enough. Here are three ways to make sure your website performs well on mobile devices:


Test your website using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test


Check your website’s mobile usability over time using Google’s Mobile Usability Tool


Test and compare how your webpages load on desktops and mobile devices using Google’s PageSpeed Insights