Your website is at the center of all marketing activities and it’s the main place where you will drive your clients to. It’s your home base and it’s the place where you have all the control. It’s also the most important branding tool for your business, which means you need to make sure that your website is in absolute top shape. If you’re just joining, make sure to check out the other parts of the series (links will be updated as the articles come out):
- Graphic Design
- Social Media Marketing
- E-Mail Marketing
- SMS Marketing
- Web Design
- Using CRMs (coming soon)
- Google Analytics (coming soon)
Web Design & Web Development
Nowadays, there is a common misconception for smaller businesses that a website is optional, it’s not on the priority list and that websites are a thing of the past. Why invest so much effort into designing, developing and maintaining a website when you can just have an Instagram or Facebook page, and just do all of your business there. That’s where the audience is anyways, right?
While it may be true that people will find out about your business, product, or service through social media, they will also want to visit your website to read more information and actually purchase your product or service. Apart from that, you are not the owner of the data on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and any other platform. As unlikely as it seems that Facebook will close its business any time soon, it wouldn’t be that unusual that it continues to limit your access to the data on their platform, your exposure to their audience, or that your audience switches platforms completely. Do you remember when your Facebook Fan Page posts used to get 100 likes, and your page only had 500-600 followers? Nowadays, you’d be happy if you got 5-10 likes.
Your website, on the other hand, is completely in your ownership and control. Your e-mail subscribers, your visitors’ and customers’ data is in your hands. If that’s not enough, don’t forget that you have full control of the look and feel of your website, as well as the features it has, while the rest of the platforms require you to conform to their limitations (which seem to be changing regularly).
What you need to know
When learning how to design and develop websites, the first thing you need to consider is the platform you will build your website on.
There are many ways to create a website today. You can go with a free, open-source, but slightly more difficult option by using WordPress.org or you can use easy, but more limited and slightly more expensive options like Squarespace, Wix, and Shopify.
WordPress.org gives you a framework on which you can design and build your own website, but it requires a lot more hands-on work and some tech-savviness. There are a lot of ready-made themes or so-called “page builders” that will help you build your website without writing a single line of code, but they still require a good amount of time. This is a recommended option if you want something super specific, custom-built, and with fewer limitations. You also have to set up your own hosting, which might be a bit daunting for some people.
Your other option is to use online services like Squarespace, Wix, and Shopify which give you a platform where you can easily design a website, but you will not be free to do whatever you like. You will instead be limited to design a website with whichever options they provide you. Don’t get me wrong, for some businesses, this is more than enough because these services are building more options by the day. They also provide their own hosting and domain name service, which can make it easy (and sometimes cheaper) to build your first website. You can literally be up and running in a few days, or less, depending on the complexity of your website.
If you decided to go with the first option, the hosting part can get a bit confusing for some people, so I’ll try to explain the basics of how websites work. The internet is just a bunch of computers all linked together, sharing files with each other. As crazy as that might sound, that’s true even if in reality is *slightly* more complex than that. Essentially, when you open a website you are requesting to access a set of files from a special computer (the website’s host server) which in turn serves you those files in the form of a website. What does all of this have to do with you? Well, if you want to build a website, you need to host that website somewhere. Some computer that will be accessible 24/7 around the world and will serve your website fast. These days, thankfully, this is a pretty easy process with hosting companies like Siteground, Godaddy, and many others. If you’re planning on building a complex and heavy website, or a website that will have many visitors at the same time, you might have to go for a more expensive and complex solution, but this is a topic for another article.
Once you’ve bought your hosting, you now need to connect the domain and hosting. This is done by manipulating the “DNS” zones. These are instructions for servers and internet providers to understand which files you are trying to access when typing in emiralkafadji.com. Usually, it involves changing the IP address of the domain to point to the hosting and telling the hosting and your website which domain they will use. Most hosting companies today have simple guides on how to accomplish this and it varies from company to company, so I will not go into too many details here. Feel free to contact your domain and/or hosting company to help you out, if you’re not able to do it yourself.
Where to learn
Thankfully, there are many, many… MANY resources for web design and development. I will put a few of the more important ones here, but feel free to just type in “How to build a website” on Google and go wild:
- YouTube has always been my first choice when it comes to learning a new skill and web development is one of those skills. (Free)
- WordPress is the leading website platform. Apart from being very flexible, it’s open source and they have quite a lot of documentation. (Free)
- Wix is a very easy drag ‘n drop website builder. They have some good resources on website design. (Free)
- WPBeginner is an amazing website that I’ve used many times in the past. A really great resource. (Free)
- W3Schools has a vast library of tutorials and playgrounds for many programing languages. (Free)
- Codecademy is another great place to learn web development (Free)
- Freecodecamp – ^ ditto (Free)
- HubSpot has some great resources for web development (Free)
- So. Many. More… (Free and Paid)