Create a professional looking site in under 30 minutes: Easy things to install on your web hosting
If you need to create a presence on the Internet and you already have web hosting, then there are a few things that you can do to create a professional looking site in under 30 minutes.
Blogging - WordPress
Using a blog is one of the most effective ways to build a following and create a professional web presence with little fuss. The results won’t be immediate, but with continued blogging, you’ll soon start dominating your key search terms. Blog frequently, with no less than 300 words on topics related to the words that you’ve discovered people use when searching for your products or services.
WordPress is software that is completely customisable and can be used for practically anything you need. There is both a downloadable version, suitable for parking at your web host (e.g. www.myblog.com), as well as more limited online version (e.g. myblog.wordpress.com).
Due to the flexibility of Wordpress, you can tailor the look of your blog accordingly by downloading hundreds of free WordPress themes, or by purchasing one that better suits your needs. You can also engage WordPress designers to create bespoke themes at a later stage if you wish to add to the unique nature of your blog.
These days, it’s possible to use specially designed software to convert or transform your WordPress blog into a Joomla Site so that if you want to give your blog greater functionality and potential later, then it’s possible.
CMS - Joomla
Joomla is a powerful Content Management System, or CMS, which easily allows you to build your own website. Many successful businesses that do not want to spend a fortune on designers fees and wish to retain complete control of their website choose Joomla software. Joomla is easy to use, flexible and can be tailored to your precise needs. It’s completely free to download and there’s a great deal of help and support both on Joomla’s website and across the Internet.
A content management system will help you to get found on the Internet. The CMS organises and maintains all of the content on your website and presents it to you in a way that makes it very easy for you to create, edit and publish your content to the website. With Joomla you can add music, text, photos, video - whatever you need, it’s all very simple. The main advantage of using Joomla is that CMS systems like this do not require you to have any programming skills, so once you’ve mastered the basics of Joomla, you can quickly create great looking pages without the need for technical expertise or experience.
Forums/Community Site - SimpleMachines
A great way to create interest in your site, build online credibility and drive traffic towards your products or services is to create a forum or community site. You can add an online community to your website using Simple Machines Forum. They offer a professional software that’s completely free and only takes a few minutes to setup and get running. It has a completely customisable layout and unique technology allowing your website and the forum software to work together seamlessly.
A forum is the perfect tool for bringing people to your site. There they can express their opinions on a range of subjects, all under your watchful eye, and every comment or question they add helps you to attract more people to your site.
So what are you waiting for?
Peter Gradwell, Gradwell
“Small firms should increase their website presence,” urges BBC entrepreneur expert Howard Graham in a new piece on the BBC website.
He cites the well-established business wisdom that growing your firm depends on creating a unique selling proposition (USP) and communicating it to your target market. “The web is simply the best way of doing that,” he argues.
In many cases, he’s right. For example, an independent bookshop selling rare first editions could make invaluable use of a website to make its unique publications known to a wider audience, and of course sell them via an online shop.
But I’m surprised that Graham should believe it’s “extraordinary” that fewer than half of all small businesses have a web presence. Is it really that astounding when, as the Federation of Small Businesses says, “the vast majority of small businesses serve their local markets”?
I spoke to my greengrocer this week. I suggested the very thing Graham is advocating, that he should consider investing in a website. I expected a negative reaction based on likely cost, but I was wrong. He simply replied: “I’m based in Bristol, why do I want someone in Leeds to know who I am? He won’t want to buy from me, and even if he does, by the time he gets to me, the carrots will have rotted!”
My local grocer was more concerned with making sure families down the street know he was open for business. Graham’s firm carried out a survey that backs this claim up: “A recent survey we carried out at Made Simple Group clearly showed that… specifically improving visibility to generate new business was a key concern for many.”
But is a website always the best way to achieve this? How vital is a web presence to a plumber, mobile hairdresser or local newsagent? Surely good old fashioned word-of-mouth, attention-grabbing signage and business cards do the job just as well – if not better – than an expensive website?
This is not to say small businesses should ignore other avenues of online marketing - social networks such as Twitter, Ecademy and Facebook, as well as blogging. All can provide excellent, low-cost exposure for your business. The Start Up Donut has some great videos that provide an introduction to online social networking.
But a purely web-based approach to publicising a small business can be ineffective if not suicidal. Small firms should increase their website presence – but only if there is true value in doing so.
Mark Hook, BHP Information Solutions
Whether it is spring, summer, autumn or winter, when did you last take a look at your website and see it from your customer/clients’ point of view? I’m just as guilty as the next person when it comes to neglecting my website, but with the search engines lurving new content you can’t afford to ignore it. Sit down, make yourself a cuppa, then spend just five minutes with my top tips and spring clean your website:
A bad online impression of your company could mean more business for your competitors – don’t hand them your (potential) customers.