Creating a Custom Website Without An Agency

We live in a Google, Yelp and Facebook world, which means your business needs a website to survive. Yet research has found that less than two-thirds of small businesses have websites. Thankfully, over half of those small business owners without websites say building a site is on their to-do list for the coming year.

For business owners looking to launch a new site, the ideal might seem hiring an agency to tackle the project. After all they are likely experts at web design and customization, as well as know how to work well with business owners. But, even the simplest of websites can cost $15,000 because of all the subject matter experts agencies will leverage, as well as the overhead they need to cover for their own business.

Fortunately, you can create your own business website, and do it well! For a fraction of the price a website agency will charge, you can use openly-available solutions to develop and customize a website that ensures your business gets found online.

1. Leverage An Off-The-Shelf Website Builder

There is no reason for anyone to build a website from scratch these days. With so many DIY website builders currently available, the challenge isn’t building a website. It’s finding a solution with a look and feel you like. Companies like Weebly, Wix and Squarespace all offer many of the same benefits including ready-made templates that let you create attractive websites and drag-and-drop designs that let you feature information and content relevant to your business. Oftentimes, the factor impacting which company you choose has more to do with the templates they offer, and if they work well for your business, more than anything else.

Of course, you can always use a WordPress-supported site, and get popular, ready-made templates from companies like ThemeForest. As one of the earliest website builder options, WordPress is one of the most robust solutions out there. However, that robustness can also make working with it an overwhelming experience.

2. Customize The Template Look & Searchability

With so many people using website builders, you run the risk of having a website that looks like everyone else’s. This won’t be an issue if you take time to customize it.

First off you’ll want to update some of the HTML tags on your site, which refers to the code on your site that lets search engines like Google and Bing find you. Each template builder will have available documentation, like this one from Squarespace, that will take you through how to do this correctly on their platform.

Once you’ve updated your site so it can actually be found online, the next project to tackle is making it look unique to your business. Website builders have a place to update the CSS code, which controls everything from your site’s fonts and layout to headline sizes. Most templates will have a default setting in place to make sure the template looks good as soon as you push it live. Taking some time to update that code so that it matches your company’s fonts, colors and other visual elements will help make it feel truly unique.

3. Add Additional Functionality & Tracking Capabilities

While having a beautiful website is important, so is having the functionality that lets you leverage your site to its fullest. This is where JavaScript code comes in. It can help you add valuable functionality to your site like pop ups and email capture or let you capture website metrics with tools like Google Analytics. Just like with CSS and HTML customizations, most website builders have a place where you can enter in the JavaScript code so you can insert these capabilities. And, they have easily searchable documentation, like this one by Wix for Google Analytics, so you can do it all on your own.

4. Enable Transactions

Sometimes you’ll need a bit more capabilities than a website builder will offer, especially if you’re looking to enable transactions on your site. If that’s the case, there are a few additional tools you’ll want to consider. The first is Square, a credit card processing platform that lets you add point-of-sale solutions to your website. This solution is great for traditional businesses that want to charge customers for one-off purchases. The other solution to consider is Stripe. This is a more advanced option compared to Square, but it offers more flexible charging which is ideal for businesses dealing with subscriptions or other recurring payments.

5. Further Customize Your Site On Your Own

Taking some quick, flexible courses on web development can often be the difference between building an adaptable, functional website and settling for a site that only covers the business basics. You could survey some of the free courses offered on Coursera or edX, or put in a little more time with a community coding bootcamp, to help hone in on your particular needs. You often don’t know what you don’t know, which makes taking these seminars useful for identifying ways that you can further customize and improve your website experience.

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