Whether you’re a sole trader or run a small business, a clear, enticing, mobile-friendly website that lets customers know what you do and how to get in touch is essential. In fact, research shows that 51 per cent of small businesses increased their interactions with clients online in 2020 – so if you don’t have a strong web presence, you could be missing out on customers and revenue. Here’s how to create your own website without breaking the bank.

Choose a Website-Building Platform

The first step to create your own website is to choose a hosting platform.

There are dozens of DIY platforms that guide you through the step-by-step of building your own website. Each platform has different features and some are easier to use than others. “If you aren’t familiar with designing a website and are looking for an easy option, some of the best platforms include WIX, Shopify and Squarespace,” says digital designer Joanne Anson. “They are great as they have existing templates that you can choose from and simply change the colour, images and content to reflect your brand.” Each of these options have free plans and themes which are great for when you’re starting out, with scaling prices as you choose more complex themes or add extra elements such as apps or hosting. There are even websites where you can source free images if you don’t have your own, such as Unsplash.

Jemma Haythorne, a certified nutrition and health coach who designed her own website, Inspire Wellness, agrees that using these platforms will make the process as easy as possible. “If you’re not confident in design, you don’t need to go out and create something from scratch,” she says. “You can make minor changes like colours and fonts to something that already exists and you can always go back and make changes later if what you want changes.”

Hot Tip: At a minimum, your site should have an ‘About’ page that tells the reader who you are and what you do; a ‘Portfolio’ or ‘Work’ page that shows examples of your work; and a ‘Contact’ page that lets people know how to get in touch.

Select a Theme and Design

Choosing the right theme and design for your small business website is key for a good user experience.

“A theme is basically a package of code which tells your website how to look and behave,” says Elle-May Michael, director of Melbourne handmade goods stores in.cube8r gallery, who designed her own website using Wordpress and now teaches other people how to create their own. “My favourite theme [on Wordpress] is ‘Total’, which you can buy on Theme Forest for under $100. It’s super robust, giving you lots of lovely features and templates to make your site look awesome,” she says. Your site is unique to you, so it’s worth investigating lots of themes to find the one that works for whatever you’re trying to achieve.

Hot Tip: “Always design your website for your user. If someone is looking for a ‘landscaper in Sydney,’ don’t show them endless pictures of lush green trees, though that may look nice,” says Silvia Borges, co-owner of Mum’s Delivery. “Show evidence of your work, a bit about who you are and how to contact you. Get straight to the point.”

Register a Domain Name and Choose a Domain Host

The domain name is your website’s URL. “Your URL should reflect your brand and your business name,” says Borges, who also designs niche websites for others. “For an Australian brand, I highly recommend [using] a ‘dot com dot au’ domain as it gives a sense of credibility.”

The easiest way to find out if the URL you want is available is to head to a domain registration service – such as GoDaddy or NetRegistry – and type in your choice. If yours isn’t available, it will usually suggest a few similar options. Domain names pricing can vary wildly depending on how popular and generic your topic or name is. For example, at the time of writing, you’d have to pay GoDaddy more than $1.3 million to secure www.johnsmith.com, though you could snap up www.johnsmith.net.au for $15.95 for the first year (you renew your ownership year-on-year).

In addition to a domain registration, you’ll need a domain host: a service that manages your domain name and connects it to the rest of the internet. GoDaddy or NetRegistry both offer this, although you can also host your domain directly on your platform such as Squarespace or Shopify. “I recommend using an Australian-based service provider such as VentraIP,” says Michael. “Having local customer service is so important, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing when making your own website.”

SEE ALSO: How to Make Your Business Marketing Materials Even Better

Optimise Your Site for Mobile Phones

When you create your own website, make sure that it is optimised to be viewed on mobile.

More than half of all web traffic worldwide comes from mobiles and in Australia the number of mobile connections is the equivalent of 130% of the population – which means there are more mobile phones than there are people. It’s crucial that your website is as functional on mobile as it is on desktop. Fortunately, all of the main website-building platforms include automatic mobile-optimisation, which means that they look and operate as well on mobiles as they do on desktop, without you having to make any deliberate adjustments.

Improve Your Site’s SEO

There are many ways to increase the numbers of eyeballs that hit your site, from paid advertising to search engine optimisation (SEO). An easy way to improve your SEO is to write regular blog posts that answer questions that your customers may be searching for – this will help drive your site to the top of Google’s rankings. The easiest way to do this is to type a keyword or words that relate to your business (for example, “vintage clothing”) into Google and see what suggested queries come up. This will give you a good indication of what your customers might be searching for. Another way is to use the free tools on a keyword search platform such as Semrush or Moz – though these only give you limited searches before you’ll be asked to pay for a plan. And don’t forget about changing up your site’s photos regularly. “Updating images and content is a great way of showing search engines that you’re still active,” adds Anson. “This makes them constantly index your site so you have more of an opportunity to show up when searched.”

SEE ALSO: How Your Small Business Can Reap the Benefits of Outsourcing

Know When to Bring in an Expert

There are many design and HTML experts that can help you create your own website.

If you can’t quite get your site to look the way you want it, then outsource the design and build of your website. “First you can contact the hosting platform and see if they can help you,” says Anson. “But if the design still isn’t working or it’s too hard, there are freelancers and agencies that can both design the site and develop it for you, on the platform of your choosing. This is also helpful if you want the site to go live quickly and you don’t have time to learn how the platform works and gather all the content required.”