Do you even need a website?
This might seem like a no-brainer, but not everyone needs a website. Only business owners who like customers should have websites.
But what sort of website should you have? Not everyone needs a custom domain. You might be happy with a listing on somewhere like LinkedIn, or Facebook. e.g. https://www.facebook.com/coldtaplimited
Or, you might just sell products and find that eBay/Trademe fills your need there.
That said, there's often a lot of benefits to having your own piece of real-estate on the web and it doesn't neccessarily have to cost you very much. It can help find you new customers, inform them, involve them and retain them as valuable customers in future.
Types of websites
One page/multi-page brochure
Also called a static website, this sort of website has all the essentials your customers are looking for when they view your site.
The key sections are:
- Your name
- What you do
- Where you are (or what areas you cover/service)
- How to contact you
That's it in its simplest form. You don't need a lot more unless you really want to. This is probably the simplest thing you could do to tick all or most of the boxes that need ticking. Depending on what sort of business you're operating, an indications of the pricing of your products or services would also be pretty valuable for customers who are shopping around.
The blog engine
One approach to building a loyal customer base, is by regularly posting content on a blog platform. The regular posts help establish authority and deifnitely help with you google ranking, assuming they're of a decent quality.
Wordpress is fairly effective and not too expensive to set up for this sort of site. It's almost as easy as pick a domain, a host, a theme and then start publishing.
If your service is of a visual nature, or your products really benefit from being shown rather than described, then some sort of portfolio type site might appeal.
Wix, Squarepace, Wordpress, Zenfolio and Format all look really good. But I'd probably look at 500px if I was a photographer. They've a great community. They've actually partnered with Format to do the portfolio hosting now.
The online shop
You've got products and want to sell. There are some incredible options around these days and two I'd recommend are:
Both require you to sign up for a monthly subscription. But with Shopify starting at $29/month, it's hard to justify the expense of getting something custom-built when you can start selling at such a low risk and outlay. There are some great case studies of both United Kingdom and New Zealand shopify sites.
A full-blown web-application
Some companies definitely need a more bespoke approach. For most kiwi businesses this might be overkill, but if your site needs users to log in and do some sort of activity, then you need some form of web-application. There are a ton of ready-made examples that might fit your particular use-case, the trick is finding out what is out there, and which one would suit you best.
If there's nothing that already exists, or what's currently on offer isn't good enough, then bespoke might be the way to go. However, this is definitely not the cheapest route, so you'd want to make sure your business case is solid. We've worked on a ton of different web-applications, from booking systems for the Olympics to Customer Loyalty sites for a couple of major Airlines. But this is where some custom advice would be needed around costs and who would be best suited to help you acheive your goals.
The domain name is your address on the interwebs. It's something nice and rememberable (we hope) that means people don't have to remember an IP address like 126.96.36.199. Instead they can type in something like example.com and be taken straight to your website.
Why you should own your own domain name
Because this is your address, I strongly believe you should own it. Ideally, you should purchase it yourself from a registrar. Because it's technical, I've seen a lot of business owners get their developer or IT supplier to purchase it for them, but it's not always been a smooth process if you outgrow them, or need to part ways in future. If you own your domain name, then that's one less future problem.
It doesn't have to be technical either. When you register a domain, you can nominate a technical contact and that contact can handle the tricky things like setting up your email and making sure the domain name is pointed to the right webserver. You can also nominate a separate billing contact if that's appropriate, but typically the owner and billing contact might be the same individual in small companies.
But what domain name should I get?
There's a school of thought that it should be something close to the search term you want to rank highly for. e.g. Putarurupainters.co.nz (if you're a painter in Putaruru)
Another option would be whatever version of your company name that is available in either a .co.uk/nz, or a .com domain.
There are a ton of domain-name suffixes, but I'd recommend you stick with one of the following: .co.uk/nz or .com for most companies, .org.uk/nz or .org for organisations and .net or .net.uk/nz if you're vaguely technology-related.
You could go for something like .online or .io, but I'd stay away from anything too weird. They're also pricier, and I think accepted for the vast majority of consumers.
In the UK, a .co.uk domain name is a reasonable amount cheaper than a .com, and there's more chance to get a better name. For Kiwis, there's not a lot of difference in price between a .co.nz or a .com, so it really comes down to what name is available that suits. As far as searchability, either can be 'targetted' at a British/New Zealand audience (or overseas if that's where your customers are), so I wouldn't be too hung up on one or the other. You could even get both if possible and redirect them so they both point at the same site. (try visiting coldtap.co.uk for an example)
Your domain name is going to set you back around £12 (NZD$25) per year.
Unless you're in IT, you probably don't care much about hosting. And for the most part, hosting is kind of specific to what sort of website you're after. A full-blown web application will have drastically more complicated hosting requirements than a simple static site would.
For a typical SME business in New Zealand though, I would normally expect hosting to cost between $5 and $50 per month.
You could use your Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo address as your main corporate email address. But why not look a bit professional and use something like firstname.lastname@example.org?
Your domain registrar often throws in a couple of free email addresses with a domain purchase, so it's a good idea. There can be a little bit of effort involved setting it up so you can access your emails on your phone as well as from a web-browser.
With most of the major webmail providers, you can set them up so they can also retrieve your company emails (you can send and receive emails as email@example.com in this case). Although I'd probably recommend Gmail over the rest as their spam filtering is excellent!
At the more corporate end of the scale, an Office 365 subscription might make sense where you pay a subscription (between $7-18) per user per month. But with that you can get email, Office applications, Cloud file storage and other services.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
At it's essence, SEO is the art of getting your site in front of the eyeballs of your customers. Or, at least, potential customers.
Google Maps Listing
This is also another essential listing which helps your customers find you.