Post by Kimberly Johnson
This is one post that will get a different opinion from each and every single person in ACF! Just remember, we all have different goals, needs and available time. Websites can be simple or complicated…they can take weeks or just a few hours to setup. And as a former Web Developer I can tell you that you can really go down the rabbit hole and waste a lot of time on things that won't help make your website successful.
There are so many questions when setting up a website that it can be
overwhelming, start with these 4:
- What Domain Name do you want? Shorter is usually better but typically it should be your full business name (or something close to it)
- What kind of website do you want? Storefront (where you actually sell your items) or More of a Bio/Contact site.
- Who, if anyone, is going to help you and what do they recommend? If they are willing to help and are more familiar with one over another it may be best to let them lead you rather than them having to learn a new platform unless you feel strongly about your choices.
- What is your advertising budget? You don’t need thousands of dollars for a website…you really don’t. Domain names are usually $20-30/year and hosting can vary greatly (but remember you get what you pay for).
So first lets just talk a little about the basics in just 3 steps: Domain, Hosting and Platform!
What is a domain (or domain name)? That is the www.____________________.com that will most likely be closely related to your business name. It doesn’t have to be exactly your business name so don’t get hung up on that. Perhaps your business name is already taken but someone in Ohio for example. You can find out if a domain is available or not by choosing any of these resources (yes there are a ton of resources but I’m trying to keep it simple here)
- www.TheDomainNameRegistry.com just use the big box in the middle of the screen, you can also get hosting here as well. (Transparency: This is one I setup for when I used to do web design, it’s technically a Godaddy reseller page which made it easier for me to walk people through the entire website process and know exactly what they were seeing, but I do get a commission)
- www.WhoIs.com (this can be confusing but use the box at the very top to see who owns a domain or if it’s available)
- GoDaddy.com This can be a good source for searching for your domain and buying hosting at the same time.
Once you find a domain you need what’s called hosting (and your choice of platform may determine where you go for this), this is space on a computer with a company that is there to make sure that computer is up and running, updated and running correctly. There are just as many hosting companies out there as there are stars in the sky! Many Domain Registries can sell you hosting as well. Here are some we have used over the years.
- BlueHost.com - More expensive but I swear by their tech support! Never had an issue that couldn’t be fixed same day and I love being able to text them with my questions. And I’ve never been treated like a wet noodle! I like their level of security and up-time (time that their services are online and running without major issues) compared to many others.
- www.TheDomainNameRegistry.com - This is one of the options on where to lookup your domain and they do hosting as well.
- GoDaddy.com - Vey popular but I have to say the tech support is very lacking, I’m not dumb but boy they like to make you feel that way if you get the wrong person on the other end of the chat! Pro is that they are typically less expensive but you get what you pay for.
- HostGator.com, google.com and others are also available but I’ve never had a great experience with them.
OK, so you know what domain you want and you’ve taken a look at your hosting options…now comes the confusing/frustrating/intimidating part! Choosing your “Platform”, this is what program you use to create your website. They each have strengths and weaknesses so please choose carefully.
- Wordpress: I use this because there are so many resources out there and if I need help it’s more likely I’ll find it. It’s simple but can be as complex as I choose to make it. Everything is done with plugins (like WooCommerce for selling) and it can work seamlessly with Square for cc processing.
- Wix: These are ok for a smaller non-storefront site but when I was working with it they didn’t offer any way to have products really listed the way I wanted them to.
- Squarespace: They say it’s easy but it’s easy to get lost as well, I’ve had sites over the last few years that people started here and had to completely redesign because it didn’t work for their needs
- Square: I know literally nothing about this one except that it will connect to your reader to process cards, it looks like an all-in-one place for everything but I’d love to hear if you’ve had experience with this one. I am pretty sure that if you ever changed cc processors you’d have to start over with the website as well though.
- Shopify: This platform is great and has a lot of features like Wordpress does, I’ve only seen the back end of it a few times but there are a lot of others in the group who may have more input and opinions to give you here.
Here is the combination I chose (and why):
Domain: Godaddy (was less expensive when I first started but will be moving it to Bluehost at some point for simplicity)
Hosting: BlueHost.com (I felt it had better reliability and tech support)
Platform: Wordpress with WooCommerce (I feel like it has so much to
offer for an online storefront)
Credit Card Processor: Square (I liked the affordability of the hardware,
the sync ability between the woo commerce and square, the rates were
good and it was the simplest option out there at the time)
Things to keep in mind:
One thing I can tell you for sure is that having the mindset of “If I build it they will come” is going to cause failure and heartbreak from day 1. Having a website is great and an essential part of my business…but thinking that people will come and buy things just because the site exists is crazy. Think of it this way, if you
build a restaurant in the middle of a corn field with no roads and no signs you are very unlikely to be successful…so please just know that you still have to do other things as well…but that’s for another time!
Need more help?
Do you still have questions about how to get started? No worries. As a group we have lots of people who can help so feel free to reach out to any of us either through the Facebook page (ACF Members) or email me directly and I’ll see if I can help clear things up for you.