For years, people have been saying your small business needs a website. You know it’s true, but you’ve been busy, you know, running a small business.
Who has time to drop everything and throw a website together, especially when you know nothing about building or designing a website?
Nearly a third of small businesses still don’t have a website.
That makes sense if you think about how busy small business owners are and how overwhelming the skills required to build a website seem. But it makes no sense when you think about how much of our lives — and shopping habits — have moved online.
5 Reasons Your Small Business Needs a Website…Fast
Maybe you’ve had good, understandable reasons for dragging your feet so far, but having a business website is no longer optional. Every day your business goes without one, you’re leaving money on the table.
Still not convinced? Here are five important points that may sway you.
1. The majority of people in the U.S. shop online.
And we don’t just mean a few over 50%, a full 96% of people do some of their shopping online. You probably do it yourself. It’s easy and it saves time. Shopping online means avoiding crowds, traffic, and parking. And if you’re not giving consumers that option, your competitors are winning that business.
2. Even when they shop in store, consumers like to use online tools.
That doesn’t mean people are done with heading to a store to shop. In fact 79% of people still do at least as much of their shopping in person as they do online. But even for the customers willing to come to you, the internet plays a role.
When they’re trying to figure out where to go to buy the item they need, where do you think they turn? They go online. If they want to compare the prices of similar items at a few different stores or check if the store has an item they need in stock, same thing.
A lot of people now take some time to do online research before heading out to do their shopping. Without a website, you’re at a disadvantage during the research stage.
3. A website makes you more discoverable.
Right now, the people who can find your business are those who already know about you, those that they tell, and the people who happen to drive by. Maybe that’s been enough for you to stay afloat, but think about how many people those three categories don’t cover. How many potential customers never become actual ones because they simply never learn your business exists?
If you don’t show up when they search online for businesses in the area, you might as well be invisible to them.
4. A website gives you a way to alert customers to your hours and specials.
Have you ever showed up at a business ready to spend money, only to find they were closed? It’s a frustrating feeling, especially if the drive to get there was at all long. You can save your customers from that frustration when you have a website that lists your hours. Even better, you can entice them to come in at times they wouldn’t have otherwise by using your site to advertise all your specials and sales.
You get more business, your customers get a better experience.
5. A business website makes you look more legitimate.
People expect legitimate businesses to have websites. In a world where scams abound, the first place people turn to make sure a business can be trusted is Google. If they don’t find a website, it makes you look suspicious at worst, behind the times at best. Either way, it doesn’t help your case.
Obviously, you need to get your website up fast. But how?
That’s easy: you need a website builder.
What Is a Website Builder?
A website builder is web design tool that makes it easy for anyone — even if you have no coding knowledge — to create your own website. Website builders typically come with a number of templates you can choose from so you don’t have to start from scratch and an intuitive website editor that makes it easy to make changes to the template.
You can change out colors, add original text and images, and move elements of the page around, all without having to mess with html or learn complicated web design skills.
How to Get Your Website Up Fast With a Website Builder
Here are the steps to take when creating your business website using a website builder.
1. Choose your website builder.
You’ve got options here. A number of different companies offer easy-to-use website builders. A few are free, but most use a subscription model where you pay every month or year for as long as you have your website.
One way to save money and time on choosing your website builder is to go with one that includes something else you need to run a website, such as web hosting. HostGator’s web builder plans come with our website hosting included, so you can launch your website as soon as you’ve built it.
2. Establish your priorities.
If your goal is to get a website up as fast as possible, then you don’t need your website to do everything right away. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to throw together a sloppy website — it’s still needs to look and be professional — but you can create a good website quickly by figuring out the most important things you need it to do right away.
Ask yourself: what are the most important things your customers need to know? That’s what your website needs to communicate on day one. This likely includes:
- Your unique positioning – what your business does and why customers should choose you over your competitors
- Your contact information
- Your address
- Your hours
You can work on adding more valuable information and marketing elements to your website later, if you want. For now, make sure you have a website that looks good and covers the basics.
3. Decide on your color scheme.
You want every page of your website to visually communicate a cohesive brand identity. One of the best ways to do that is to use the same color scheme throughout the whole site. If your Home page is yellow and blue and your About page is black and green, confused visitors will wonder if they’ve navigated away from your website.
Does your store or logo already have a clear color scheme? If so, go ahead and stick with those colors when building your website. If not, decide now what colors you want to represent your brand. Make sure they go well together and are pleasing to the eye.
4. Choose your theme.
Go through the templates your website builder offers to find one that’s a good fit for your website. Remember that you can make as many changes to the details of the theme as you want. It’s only a starting point for you to work from.
Don’t worry if the example website in the theme is for a business in a different industry or they use different colors than you want — you’ll be changing all that.
Pay attention instead to the structure of the pages and the visual style of the theme, if those come close to what you want, you won’t have to make as many changes to get your website ready to go.
5. Decide what pages to include.
Let the priorities you decided on guide you here. It’s standard for business websites to include a Home page, an About page, and a Contact page. Beyond that, you may want to create pages for all of the main categories of products or services you sell.
Over time, you may want to add in product pages for each specific product you offer or even convert your website to an eCommerce store, but since the goal right now is to get your website up fast, those plans can be on the backburner.
But do consider now what your long-term hopes are for the website. It will help you create a solid plan for how to organize your website so it stays intuitive as it grows.
6. Edit the theme with your chosen colors and style.
With a good website editor, this should be pretty easy. You can select the colors you picked for your color scheme and fill in different parts of the page with a few clicks. Once you do this on one page, you can make a copy of the page when you’re ready to start on the next so you don’t have to re-do your color changes.
7. Load and position original images.
Your theme probably includes some stock images. Replace those with original images that are relevant to your store. Add your logo to the top right corner of the page. Add photos of your store or products, or illustrations that communicate something about your brand.
8. Add original copy.
Take time to make the words on your website purposeful. Use them to explain what your business does and make a case for why visitors should buy from you. Make your copy customer-focused. When describing what you do, make it less about how that work looks on your end and more about how it makes your customers’ lives better or easier.
With time, you may want to hire a professional copywriter to improve upon what you write now. Good copy can be powerful in getting your visitors to choose you. But today the most important thing is that it’s clear, it tells your visitors what they need to know, and it’s free from embarrassing typos and errors.
To achieve that last part, make sure you proofread every page twice and see if you can get a friend to read over it as well to confirm that it’s all clear and looks good.
9. Create a website plan for moving forward.
All of the steps here are focused on getting your website out there to begin with. That’s a really important step to take and one that already makes a big difference in how visible and accessible your business will be to people. But to get the most out of a website once you have it, there’s more work to do.
Make a plan now for how to improve your website over time. That could be as simple as doing regular website maintenance, updating your hours for holidays, and adding information on the website each time you have a sale. Or you could create a full plan to launch an eCommerce store and start doing online marketing.
Either way, don’t publish your website once and forget about it. Your website will need some care to stay up to date and do its job for you in the months and years to come.
What Are You Waiting For?
Sounds easy enough, right? So no more excuses. Choose a website builder and get your website up and running fast.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.