Building a Cake Website 101: 5 Key Steps for Success
By Cydni N. Mitchell
Despite the many options—the bells and whistles being offered on social media apps these days—nothing beats having your own website. Think about all the apps that were here yesterday and gone today. When it comes to your online presence, you should not get too dependent on any one company to keep you relevant and in front of your customers. That is why I’m such an advocate of having your own website. Yes, you should totally use social media to engage with your customers and help you find potential customers. However, you should also have your own place on the internet that you own and can control.
In this article, I’m going to discuss the basics of getting started with a website. This is a high-level overview of a website builder class that you can also find on sugarcoins.com. We’ll touch on the key five steps you’ll want to take when launching a website. I understand that everyone may not be able to afford hiring a designer to create their website; however, thanks to a few easy-to-use online tools and resources, DIYing your own website has never been so easy
1. Purchase a Domain
Did you know that you can own a domain even if you don’t have a website? One common misunderstanding when it comes to websites is that you should wait to buy a domain name until you are ready to build your website and this couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you know the name you’d like to use for your website, you should purchase it right away. Using a company such as GoDaddy or Bluehost, you can purchase a domain name that you can later use as the address for your business’ website. If you know that you won’t be ready to launch a site on that domain for a while, you can also set up a “domain forward” on your account. This domain forward will allow you to still use your custom domain name, but when a customer visits your web address, they will be directed to another place on the internet. For instance, if you have a really strong presence on Instagram, you can forward your domain to your Instagram page. This means that you can use your new domain on business cards and other promotional material and your potential customer will be automatically directed to your account on Instagram. This technique is a great way for you to start building your brand online even before you’re ready to launch your website.
2. Select a Platform
Back in the day, if you were a business owner, you would have to connect with a web developer and pay them several thousands to bring your website vision to light. Thankfully, today it takes less than $100 to create and launch a website all on your own. Website builders such as Sugarwebspace, Wix, and Shopify can all help you design a very lovely website to help you promote your business. If you want to create a basic website that serves as a portfolio to showcase your work, Sugarwebspace is a great place to start. If you want to launch an online store, Shopify is an excellent platform. Picking the right platform to host your company’s website is all going to boil down to cost and purpose.
Most of the popular website builders are membership programs, which means that you’ll pay a fee monthly or annually to maintain your account. The fees could range from free to $50-plus per month. Typically, the account fees increase as you add on extra benefits such as being able to use your custom domain or adding an online checkout. Make sure to read through the benefits that come with each price point and select a website builder that best fits your budget and purpose for creating a website (i.e., informational versus selling products).
3. Select a Template
Web builder platforms are the easiest route to designing your own website because of the templates. Each web builder platform will have its own set of unique templates that you can use to create a website that matches your brand and style. If you have a ton of really great pictures of your work, I recommend selecting a template that showcases images. If you have customer reviews on your Facebook or Yelp pages, select a template that has an area for quotes. If you have a physical location, select a template that includes a map. There are so many methods for picking a template, and you should also keep in mind that there is no one right template for any business. Most platforms will allow you to select a template and change it later if it doesn’t fit your needs. Also, some templates are flexible, which means that you can start with a base template and add components to that template that may not have originally been included.
As you are deciding on a template, I recommend that you make a list of elements that you’d like to see on your website. Do you want to include an order form? Do you want an image gallery? Do you want to sell products? If you know what you want to include on your site, you’ll have an easier time selecting a template.
4. Update the Content
Now that you’ve chosen a platform and template, you’ll want to update the content. If you’re creative and have a hard time writing, I recommend that you focus on the design layout and imagery first. Update the colors. Select the pictures you’d like to highlight. Add in special icons if they’re needed. Basically, make all of the design decisions that will have an impact on the website first. Then, create a list of information that you’d like to share on the site, including your location, services, hours, menu, etc. Again, if writing isn’t your thing, start with these bullet points of topics that you want on the site and then break those topics into smaller points. Also, don’t forget to include your policies, social media information, and answers to your frequently asked questions. Your website is meant to be a resource for your customers and potential customers—and a good website will communicate the correct information on your behalf when you’re not available.
5. Launch Your Site
I’ve been designing websites for more than ten years and without a doubt the launch phase is the hardest hump for new website owners to get over. Most folks focus on launching the “perfect website,” but I can tell you that there’s no such thing. Your website is a living, breathing platform where you will share all kinds of content over the lifetime of your business. The website that you launch today won’t (and shouldn’t) look the same six months to a year from now.
Want more website advice from Cyd? Check out the September/October 2021 issue of ACD today!