What’s the best website for my business?

Your question

I need a web presence for my new business but there seems to be so many options. What do you suggest?

Our answer

It all depends on what type of business you have. If your business is going to rely on people finding you online, using a creative web designer is a better option than trying to go it alone. This is one of those situations where investing a bit of money will usually pay off by bringing you more business in the end.

When you start a business and need to build a web presence there are so many things you need to take into account – search engine optimisation (SEO), compatibility with different browsers etc. A designer can often help advise you on these and will help build a professional-looking site which will inspire confidence in your business and attract more customers.

The right choice for your depends on what type of business you are starting.

Selling handmade, creative or vintage items

The benefit of selling items through sites like Etsy, Folksy, or any other shopping site, is that they already have a huge amount of traffic and their site looks professional and clean. The downside is they will charge you to list items and/or take a percentage of your profits. If you set up a Facebook business page, you can promote new items to your contacts using the relevant shop app (most have one). You won’t really need your own website to start with if you use social media to promote your news, upcoming sales, fairs and exhibitions. Combining your online shop with other sites like Instagram and Twitter can help broaden your web audience as long as you post updates strategically.

Creative freelancer or blogger

Behance is great for creative types who need an online portfolio, and Tumblr is another great option for image-led sites. WordPress is probably the most used blogging software but it can be complicated for the absolute beginner to customise. You can buy readymade professional themes for a broad range of sectors at sites like Themeforest but it’s worth getting a developer to set up your website and teach you to use the content management system (CMS).

Commissioning a bespoke website

When looking for a website designer, always ask for references, a list of sites they’ve designed, and what they will give you exactly for your money. A great place to start is to ask around for referrals, or look at other sites you like and find out who designed them.

A good designer will ask you lots of questions about your business’ needs in order to give you the best and most appropriate website. Be clear to yourself and them about what you want from the beginning. If you keep changing your mind, or don’t make yourself clear they may charge extra for time spent redesigning it.

Some common online mistakes

When planning a web presence, many people these days automatically think that they need a blog or forum. But unless you can do it well and update regularly, it may be wiser to leave it. A dead forum or blog that was last updated a year ago will make people wonder if you are still in business.

If you pack your website with too much information, or use sentences and paragraphs that are too long people won’t read it. Our attention span online is short, and you may have just seconds to let someone know the most important things about your business. A good copywriter can help you to create effective, powerful copy that will make you look good, increase sales and boost your SEO ranking. If you’re writing it yourself, present your information in bite-size chunks and use stand-out headers. A good tip is to write what you think you need to say and then halve it!

So many websites are let down by the use of bog standard stock photos. To stand out try to be a bit more creative. Don’t be too literal and play with different crops to make things interesting. If you can afford to, commission a good photographer to make your product or service look professional. If you can’t and you need several images, invest in a good quality camera and learn how to use it. If the photos you need to use are dull, increase the contrast and saturation, or turn them all into black and white – which is one way to get around a set of inconsistent photos taken in different situations.

Our last piece of advice to working mums is to never underestimate what a good website can do for your business. It’s often the first port of call for your clients, so make sure it reflects your values and professionalism.

Answered by Kary Fisher.

Do you have a question you’d like us to answer? Maybe you need advice on a problem at work? Guidance on establishing a freelance business? Help with a tricky business issue? Or just need some style tips? Send us a message with your question and we’ll find the right person to answer.