How to get a Professional Web Presence – For FREE
As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, establishing a professional online presence is an absolute MUST for any business, whether operating online or not. A business’ website is usually the FIRST PLACE a potential customer will visit before deciding whether or not to purchase from you, so you need to make sure you’re making a good impression!
The good news is that professional web design doesn’t have to cost the Earth. In fact, I’m going to show you an option that will cost you ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to get your business up and running with a slick, well presented website. Sound too good to be true? Well, I’ll also include some links to sites that have used this technique and you can see for yourself! Let’s get started…..
Step 1 – Hosting
Any website that you use for your business is going to need to be hosted somewhere. For those who don’t know what this is, hosting is basically a service that stores the files needed for your site on a server which is turned on 24/7 and can handle the massive amounts of traffic you will (hopefully) get to your site. Without hosting, your website won’t show up on the internet.
There are hundreds of paid hosting services available, but we want to look at FREE alternatives. Once of the most popular free hosting platforms out there can be found at http://www.wordpress.com which can provide you with everything you need to get started absolutely free of charge – forever. WordPress was originally designed as a platform for blogging, but it works just as well as a sales page for your business with the added bonus that they throw in all the software you need to design your site without having to install anything on your computer.
To get started, simply visit http://www.wordpress.com and sign up for a free account. During the process you will choose a user-name, which will also form part of your site’s web address – eg, http://www.username.wordpress.com. So make sure your username is the same as your business name or your customers will get confused! Once you’ve signed up, you can move on to designing the look and content of your site.
Step 2 – Content
You may have heard the quote “Content is King” – this basically means that if you’re not providing content that your visitors are looking for, they will simply leave your site without giving it second thought. Any online presence for your business is going to need the following content as an asolute MINIMUM:
Home Page – this page is often the first part of your site that your visitors will see, so make sure there is enough information on here to give people a good idea of what your business is all about. Don’t go into too much detail, as you will want to entice people to explore your site a little, but make sure you make it clear what services or products your business provides. It is also a good idea to put basic contact details on here as well, just to make sure everyone knows how to get hold of you.
About Page – here you can go into a little bit more detail about your business. Potential customers will usually want to know as much as possible about the businesses they buy from, so this page is your opportunity to tell everyone about your business’ history, your mission statement and any big plans you’ve got coming up.
Contact Page – even though you should include some contact info on your home page, this page is where you can list all your mailing addresses, departmental phone numbers and emails – as well as some FAQs to try and answer as many questions as possible without people having to contact you directly.
The above information is the minimum that you need on your site. Using the WordPress platform you can easily add further pages with extra information, pictures, videos and music if needed. Once you’ve got all the content you want, you will need to think about how your site looks – which is why we now move on to the design stage.
Step 3 – Design
Even though “Content is King” you are going to need to present it in a professional manner if you want people to really listen to what you’ve got to say. You do NOT want your website featured in this list! Fortunately, WordPress includes dozens of free templates for you to use to customise the look of your site. Simply log in to your WordPress account and go to the Appearance -> Themes tab on the left hand side of the control panel. Here you can choose from all the available themes and click “preview” to test out what they will look like. Once you’ve found your perfect theme, simply click “activate” to install the template to your site. Simple!
You can further customise your site by adding “Widgets” (little picture or text boxes that appear in your sidebar) which will add extra functionality and style to your web pages. Commonly used widgets are the “search” widget, “subscribe” widget and “image” widget – the latter of which allows you to add graphical links to your site for that extra oomph. There are quite a few other widgets on offer, so make sure you try some out!
To see an example of a free WordPress site designed for a business, check out http://www.insight-guides.com which is one of the sites I use for my online business. This site was designed entirely using the free WordPress platform and I only paid to attach a unique domain name to get rid of the “.wordpress.com” suffix and add an extra layer of professionalism. This only costs around $9 / £6 and I think is worth the small investment! You can opt to use this too by logging in to your WordPress account and going to the “extras” tab on the left hand column in your control panel.
As you can see, it can cost absolutely nothing to get your business up and running online with a slick, professional feel. All the above steps can be completed in a few hours and it’s a great alternative to the expense of hiring a professional to do the work. The only downside is that the WordPress hosted platform doesn’t allow the customisation of a paid-for hosting service, but it works just fine for simple sales pages and is perfect for those just starting out.
If anyone has some other examples of professional-looking websites that were designed and hosted for free, leave a comment and include the URL. Any questions please feel free to get in touch.