Anyone with a side business or hobby which generates pin money, and every sole trader, from plumbers to financial advisors, can benefit from a proper site rather than just a presence on Facebook – but few people have any idea how to go about creating one.
It’s actually less difficult than it was, with a raft of “all-in-one” services that require little or no specialist knowledge. You can create a small site by yourself, if you’re so inclined – even one than can process financial transactions – or you can pay a specialist to do it.
Either way, there will be a cost involved for anything that looks remotely professional. But as business expenses go, it need not amount to much more than a few boxes of stationery.
A website involves three, disconnected elements: its name, the web pages themselves, and a server on which to make them available to the world.
The first of these is the domain name by which it will be known to visitors – www.topfirm.co.uk, for instance. Provided no-one else has registered it first, a name of your choice can be bought off the peg from a registrar site like 123-reg.co.uk. Those with .co.uk suffixes are considerably cheaper than the international .com variant.
But it is becoming increasingly common for companies to bundle the name, the server and the web pages into a single package. Wix and Squarespace are currently the two leading combined solutions, with Wordpress a heavyweight alternative for more ambitious sites. Around £7 a month – less if you pay for a year upfront – buys you a basic site with your own domain name thrown in for the first year. After that, the name will be up to £20 a year extra. If you want an online shopping trolley and enough bandwidth for unlimited users, the charge goes up to around £13 a month.
The process of building the site itself is quits easy; just a case of putting your own words, pictures and other elements into a pre-built template and then adapting it by dragging blocks on to the page. The behind-the-scenes code that lets the internet know your site is there, is taken care of for you.
But a DIY site is not always the best option; certainly not if you’re setting up a business of your own, or you want to upgrade the company site you’re already got. In these cases, Wordpress,which is reckoned to be the driving force behind one in seven of all the world’s websites, is the obvious choice.
Like Wix and Squarespace, Wordpress.com offers all-in one hosted packages, but it’s more flexible than that. The system itself is free and can be installed on any server, then enhanced with themes and add-ons – some free, some not. The server space costs between £7 and £10 a month, but if you don’t want to arrange it yourself, for upwards of £400 you can hire a freelance Wordpress developer to build everything for you.
The learning curve in creating a site in Wordpress is steeper than that of its rivals, but once you’ve mastered it, it’s astonishingly powerful – and with a little practice, you might find you can embarrass your company by creating a better one than theirs in a couple of hours flat.