In this post I’m going to give you 5 important tips which you should consider when building your first website.
The reason I’ve written this post is because I get a fair few questions from customers and friends alike about advice on setting up a new website.
- What’s the best domain – a .co.uk domain or a .com? – Confused? Compare extensions
- Should I include SEO keywords in my domain name?
- Should I build my own website or get a designer to do it?
- What’s the best web design tool?
- How do I choose a web designer?
So here’s some basic advice which will save you a ton of time (and cash) as well as making sure that you head off in the right direction and using the right tools for the job.
Let’s look at each in turn.
1. Which Domain Name Should I Choose – a .co.uk or a .com?
I always get asked this one and choosing the right domain is a really important point.
Basically, whichever domain you choose I would recommend getting the .co.uk & the .com as a minimum. You can go bonkers buying loads of extensions but let’s face it, these are the main ones.
By getting the .com you are just protecting yourself from domain squatters who will buy a domain name and try to sell it to you at an inflated price.
Let’s face it, domain name pricing is cheap so it’s a low cost way to protect your interests.
Whichever domain you eventually choose as the main one for your site you can set up domain parking for the other one.
Domain Parking is a really neat feature. It allows you to ‘park’ domains on your main domain & it will automatically redirect it if someone types in the wrong extension (like .com instead of .co.uk) by mistake.
For example, if you get the main domain as mynewcompany.co.uk & you buy mynewcompany.com to take it off the market you can just login to your web hosting control panel (cPanel) & set the .com as a ‘parked’ domain on the main .co.uk one.
We’ve prepared a domain parking tutorial to explain how to do this.
Now let’s have a look at the actual choice of domain name.
2. Should I Include My Keywords In My Domain Name?
Keywords, whoah, hang on a minute – what are they? That sounds a bit complicated.
Well if you’re asking about keywords you’re thinking ahead because keywords are important for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
If you’re not familiar with SEO it’s basically a fancy way of describing the techniques that you can use to get Google to give you a better position in its search rankings. Essentially, the higher you are the more traffic you get.
So let’s say you’re an electrician based in Exeter in Devon then people are probably going to be searching on terms like ‘Electrician Exeter’ or something similar. These are keywords and you need to use a variety of these in your website.
So this is a really sensible question and basically people are thinking should they choose a domain name that has these keywords or something similar included.
In the case above they could choose maybe bobtheelectricianexeter.co.uk or something similar.
Now first things first.
First there are no restrictions on the domain you buy except that you can’t infringe other companies’ copyright.
So you could register any domain you want – it can be different from your registered company name. So if your company is called Bob Smith Electrical Contractors Limited you don’t have to register the exact same domain name. You can register bobtheelectrician.com, bobtheelectricianexeter.co.uk, etc. whatever you want.
OK, so you have plenty of options now to register a domain and going back to the main question, you can decide to include the keyword or part of it in your domain name.
Now currently there is evidence to suggest that Google does take the use of keywords in the URL into account.
However, it comes with a bit of a health warning.
First, don’t go crazy. Sure putting ‘electrician’ in the domain is one thing but trying to squeeze in loads of keywords like ‘lowcostprofessionalregisteredelectricianinexeteranddevonandcornwall.co.uk’ is just taking it too far.
Bottom line – sure, include the main keyword, but don’t try to game the system by stuffing in keywords.
Secondly, Google updates its algorithm quite frequently. So basically, this approach might work now but maybe you wake up and they’ve changed their ranking algorithm and your websites drops down the rankings and the traffic dries up.
Basically, you don’t want your domain name to be held hostage to (Google algorithm) fortune.
Thirdly, if your company name includes keywords and also geography then sure, go for it. For example if you’re called South West England Electrical Services Ltd then you can register a domain that includes all that.
So my advice? Sure, include your industry in your domain at most and also your area if that is what your company is called.
Just don’t contort yourself trying to squeeze keywords in purely to game the system in your favour.
We’ve prepared a complete guide to choosing a domain name for you.
3. Should I Build My Own Website Or Hire A Web Designer?
OK, the big question – should I build my own website or get someone else to build a website for me?
First it does depend on your budget. If you are absolutely strapped for cash and you are not very technical then you should look at using a Website Builder Tool.
The beauty of a website building tool is that it’s cheap and easy to use.
There are no downloads or anything like that. You access it through your hosting cpanel.
It’s template based so you just choose the design you like and then add pages, logo, text, images, etc..
It has loads of features so you can do things like create contact forms, add a map and link up to your favourite social media platforms.
It also has SEO features so you can add your keywords to your metatags, Headings, URLs, etc. as well as having mobile friendly templates.
So overall it’s a good option to get you up and running and you can update your site as much as you want.
But if the thought of building your own site fills you with dread then you probably should consider getting a web designer to build it for you.
In a moment we’ll look at the best tools to use and how to choose a web designer, but the main advantage of using a designer is that you’re letting them focus on what they’re good at whilst you focus on what you’re good at – growing your business.
4. What’s The Best Web Design Tool To Build My First Website?
OK so we’ve established that Website Builder is the right option for you if you’re just starting out and you are on a low budget and you want to build your own website and you’re not very technical.
But over the course of time I would urge you to move onto a more professional tool as soon as you can.
In most cases I would recommend WordPress.
The only exception would be for Ecommerce sites where you’re selling online in which case you can use a specialised Ecommerce software like PrestaShop or Magento. Magento really is the top Ecommerce tool and it has a free option but it is a more complex tool.
Incidentally, WordPress does have Ecommerce capabilities such as WooCommerce.
But back to WordPress and there are quite a few compelling reasons for choosing it.
First up you’ll be in good company. WordPress is the web design tool of choice for over 25% of all websites on the web. Believe me – that’s a LOT of websites.
I could go on for hours about why it’s such a great tool but the bottom line is that it performs well for SEO, it has tons of extra functionality called WordPress plugins – many are free, there are loads of pre-made templates called themes, it’s free and it’s well supported.
You can also setup WordPress in a couple of clicks.
What’s not to like?
Well first up, if you’re a novice user you may find that there is a learning curve with WordPress.
It’s called a Content Management System which basically means there is a user interface that shields you from any actual code, but it does still take a bit of effort to familiarise yourself with it.
And that raises two really important questions: Do you have the time to commit to mastering it? Or is that time that could be better spent growing your business?
Basically you need to ask yourself: How much is your time worth?
You see one of the great things about WordPress is that it is not an exotic tool. There are literally thousands of skilled web designers (make that tens of thousands) who can help you. It’s a competitive space so you can probably find a skilled designer to help you (more on that in a moment).
But back to the question here, overall I would strongly urge you to look at WordPress for building your first website. It offers the best balance of ease of use, scalability, SEO friendliness, security and it’s extremely extendible when compared to other CMS like Joomla or Drupal.
Also it is well supported and has a huge ecosystem of developers around it so if you need to hire one the pricing will be much more competitive than if you choose a less popular tool.
In short to paraphrase an old saying about IBM ‘nobody ever got sacked’ for choosing WordPress.
Even if you don’t choose it now you can switch to it later. It’s easy to install WordPress and get started.
5. How Do I Choose A Web Designer?
So for those of you who’ve decided to get someone else to build your website, where do you start and how do you choose a web designer?
Of course, first up you may have someone who can recommend a skilled designer to you.
If that’s the case then maybe they’re local and you can meet them face to face, discuss your project and build a relationship.
Be sure to ask for examples of their work and where possible speak to their previous customers. Any reputable designer will be keen to show you examples of their work. Failure to do this or to provide examples of past clients should set off some alarm bells ringing.
Check which software they use too. The last thing you want is to be tied into a software that nobody else is familiar with and which only the designer can access and use.
If they recommend WordPress then that should count in their favour.
Make sure that any design they do is mobile friendly. The most common type of mobile friendly design is called Responsive Web Design. Mobile is really, really important and the last thing you want is to have a website that is not fit for purpose.
Also, where possible ask for transparent pricing and get it documented to avoid pricing ‘creep’ down the line.
Another option is to use a ready made WordPress template (called a Theme) and get a freelance designer to adapt it to your needs.
You can get a decent Responsive WordPress Theme for between £50 to £100 (around $75 to $130).
The beauty of this approach is you can see what you’re going to get in advance.
You can find loads of WordPress designers on reputable Freelance sites like Upwork.
Now of course they’re all bidding against other designers and they’re going to tell you they’re the best, etc.. They get graded based on previous work, but how can you be sure you’re hiring the ‘A graders’ to work on your website?
The best way is to get them to take an online test like the one at https://tests4geeks.com before you hire them. It’s a paid service but it’s well worth it because now you have access to a top grade designer when you need them.
Get them to do a timed test and if they get a 30% to 50% score – sorry, you’re fired. Only go for them if they get a score of 80% plus. These are the A Grade Designers.
There’s no need to tell them upfront that you will test them. Just put the project up, see who replies, have a chat with them & then ask them to do the test. If they refuse then that’s all you need to hear – just move on to the next candidate and forget them.
Getting a high score will help you make an informed decision and save you a ton of time & money. Also make it a condition of the contract that they are available to chat on Skype to speed up communication.
Hopefully now you have a much better idea of what you need to do to get your first website built.
Start with the correct choice of domain. Get the co.uk and .com as a minimum and don’t go crazy trying to stuff in keywords unnecessarily.
In terms of building your site, if you are on a shoestring budget then use a DIY Website Builder but at some point consider WordPress which is a really powerful web design option.
Using a premade WordPress Theme is a smart choice, especially a mobile friendly one. In that case you can keep a lid on costs by finding a Freelance Web Designer but be sure to test them first to make sure they can deliver a quality product.
Take these 5 points onboard when you build your first website and you’ll be just fine.