These days, it seems that even a lemonade stand needs to create a website to effectively enter the market. If you’re not online, you’re not in the game. Even more, your website that was last updated in 1999 is not doing you much good today either. Companies need to constantly incorporate new technologies and functionality into their site if they want to stay competitive.
I have put together a crash course to help you understand how to create a website without breaking the bank. This process can be streamlined with the help of a developer, but the tools are there for everyone to take advantage of.
WordPress – Lay Down the Foundation
WordPress was developed as an intuitive blogging platform, but has since expanded into one of the top website creation tools around. Installation doesn’t cost a penny and you can even host your website on their servers for free. As a business, I would suggest that you put down the money for your own domain. For around $15-20 per year, you will receive better support, faster performance, and have a custom URL. From my experience, HostGator is a great domain registry company that offers stable performance and excellent technical support. You can also refer to our Top Online Planning Resources to tackle obstacles like finding an available domain name.
Themes – Throw on a Coat of Paint
Once you have registered your domain and installed WordPress, it’s time to have some fun. One of the great parts about WordPress is its enormous active community of developers who are constantly extending its functionality and usability. Theming sites, such as Themeforest and Woo Themes, offer free and cheap (~$35) skins for your website. These themes will take care of all the formatting and design of your site, and have useful functionalities built-in, such as social media integration, slideshows, blog rolls – the list goes on and on. After downloading the theme, you can easily integrate it into your WordPress site by using the WordPress Theme Installation Feature.
Plugins – Add the Bells and Whistles
WordPress’ community takes the platform to new levels of functionality; providing new features and solutions to just about any problem. Use WordPress’ built in Plugin Search feature to add new extensions to your site with one-click installation. A few plugins that I would recommend you install for launch are:
- All-in-One SEO Pack: Provides tools to help you improve your search engine rankings.
- AddThis Social Bookmarking: Integrates powerful sharing features into your site with support for pretty much any social media platform.
- Broken Link Checker: Scans your site for broken links and provides tools to repair them.
- CMS Tree Page View: Creates a more visual representation of your site’s structure with an easy drag-and-drop page-moving feature.
- Contact Form 7: Form creation tool with heavy customization features.
- Google XML Sitemap: Creates a map of your site to help search engine index your content. It will also inform popular search engines of any changes to your site.
Google Analytics – Keep it Tuned
Your new site is ready to go…almost. To ensure current and future success of your site, you will want to link it to Google Analytics. This tool provides intensive analytical and management features, allowing you to track traffic, inbound links, and set goals for your site. For those not familiar with Google Analytics, it may seem a bit overwhelming. I would suggest you contact a company called gShift Labs, who will work closely with you to determine how to best optimize your site for your particular target market. They will also provide you with more intuitive tools to optimize and track your site’s performance over time and against your competition. They charge a monthly fee and provide very valuable statistics and recommendations to help you maximize your site’s effectiveness.