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This article has been written by Kath Hewitt who runs the vintage inspired online fabric store Sew La La Fabrics.  Kath designed and built her own website, learning a lot along the way!

So You Want Your Own Website? Part 2

Now you have read Part 1 of this series so are aware of the harsh reality of being an online business, what should you do next when you want your own website?

How to design a craft website

What kind of site do you want?


There are varying complexities of website; you need to decide which will best suit your needs.

 

An information only site

You may only need a site that provides information, if this is the case I would advise you to try and build it yourself either in HTML and CSS coding or using a simple webhost with templates. You should still try to gain an understanding of what your site should contain to be listed and how to rank in Google.

 

A small shop where customers can buy your products

You may want to have a small shop; again this is probably something you can do yourself with the addition of PayPal buttons to enable people to buy from you. You will have limited control over stock control and postage prices though. As with the above option you can code the site in HTML and CSS or use templates and again you must gain knowledge of what your site needs to be listed and begin to rank in the search engines.

 

A fully functioning e Commerce site

If you want a shop with quite a few products, full stock control and full control over postage you will require an e Commerce website.  An e Commerce website uses PHP coding sending arrays to a database where stock is altered when purchases are made and postage is allocated to the correct country then feeding the results back to your website visitor instantly.

Sew La La Fabrics website
 The Sew La La Fabrics website a fully functioning e-commerce website designed by the business owner Kath Hewitt using html and CSS.

 

So once you have figure out what type of site you want how do you go about getting one?   Well, you have several options:


Build a site with templates and no knowledge 

Not always a good choice as your site may be ignored by Google and never become listed.  But if you only want an information only site and you will be handing the web address out to your customers (rather than looking for traffic through search engines) this could be the simplest option.

This does mean your site may be very standard and not particularly unique; there may be hundreds or thousands of sites using the same template as you.  You will also probably find yourself frustrated at the limitations of the template.

However, that said if you are just looking for an information only site this can be a quick and simple option. Do make sure the template will optimise your site for the search engines – letting you add meta tags, site description etc. 


Take a course

That’s fine IF you can find an exceptional course ~ courses will state that they are excellent but the reality is that many will be of very little help. I know of a lady who took a 3 day course for several hundred pounds and built a single information page, she cannot sell from the page nor update it as she does not have software and doesn’t know how to use it without help leaving her with a site of very little value on the web. Do your research and ask around for recommendations.

If you do decide to take a course you really do need to find the very best available that will teach you how to fully build and manage a site, handle images and artwork too. You will then need a good computer with an excellent processor along with software, neither of which comes cheap. Once you have taken a good course though and got the software you can, if you are willing to work hard, and continue learning make a great site at no cost other than your hosting then update it whenever you please giving you full control!

 

Pay for a website from an e Commerce provider each month 

This can be a good option but you need to research this area well before committing. E commerce providers’ are well aware that many people know very little about websites’ and certainly seem to do well off the back of this. There are plenty of e commerce providers’ who have good interfaces enabling you to make your own shop online but will gladly charge you £100 plus per month if your not careful. Considering there are other e commerce providers’ who charge as little as £9.99 per month it really pays to shop around.

You need to look for easy to use interfaces, a provider who has other sites that rank well in Google and who are confident that you will stay with them because of their services rather than tying you into lengthy contracts. I think the best way forward here is to ask other small business who they use and if they would recommend them. You can find other small business who use e commerce providers’ by looking at the footer of their website to see if it has a comment such as Powered by “….” or similar. Have a click around their site, does it load quickly, does it have the features you are looking for?


Pay a Web designer to build you a site 

Again another good option but this could cost you £500 to £800 for one page that is like on online leaflet with no shopping functionality and easily be thousands of pounds for a site with several pages and the ability for customers to shop. You will still need to have a good idea of what you want from a site to give a clear brief to the web designer. You will also need to write all of the content, do not underestimate how much time this takes and you will need to provide your images. Then there is the artwork required for the site such as your logo and any backgrounds for the header, footer as well as any page background.

You will then need to pay when your want your site updating and this can become very expensive for small changes.  You can ask the web designers to give you a CMS (content management system) so you can update the site yourself.

CMS system used for updating a website

The CMS system we use to update The Sewing Directory designed by Spindogs

 

However, if you choose a good web designer you should end up with a quality site that will be suitable for your target customers and rank well.  Again research is key, there are some amazing web designers out there but there are also those who take advantage of people who don’t know much about the internet.  Most web designers have an online profile so you can see what sites they have designed in the past; also ask around locally for recommendations or Google the web designers you are considering to see what people are saying about them. Once you’ve started with one web designer it can be very difficult and costly to transfer to another so it’s important to pick the right one.

 

Useful resources to help get you started

Image editing & artwork

Paint, this is free image software where you can edit images, create artwork then compress them for use on the internet to help your images load quickly.

http://www.getpaint.net/

 

A free website

If you just want to start out simply you could have a completely free site with no hosting fee’s and for use with your own domain name or a free domain name at Weebly.

http://www.weebly.com/

 

Low cost e Commerce

A low cost e commerce provider that will enable you to build an online shop is Create. Their prices start at £4.99 for a basic functioning site to £9.99 per month for an all singing, all dancing system.

http://www.create.net/

 

Domain names

Unless you are using a free domain name from the likes of Weebly then you will need to buy a domain name. Personally I think buying your domain from an independent domain name provider is the best way forward. This can make using your domain a little more complicated to set up though so you can buy a domain from your web host or e commerce provider if you have either. 

Make sure you register the domain yourself in your name/company name because some web designers register them into their name which can cause a problem if you want to sell your site on in the future, or to part way with your web designers. Also many designers will charge an admin fee for registering the domain for you, and another for transferring it over to you in the future. It is quick and simple to do and only takes a few minutes; you don’t need to pay someone to do it for you.

 

Web hosting space

If you use a web designer they may provide web hosting, e Commerce providers’ provide hosting as part of the package. If you are building your own site you will need web site hosting, this is the space where your website lives on the World Wide Web!

Again, research online for reliability. Run a search on Facebook or Twitter and look at the feedback your host is getting. Do the same but in a Google search to help weed out any poor hosts. If you intend you have e Commerce functionality and require your own hosting your host will need to provide PHP so it is important you check this.

Which ever way you choose to make your website be prepared to work hard finding facts, getting recommendations’, thinking about content, making content and most of all research, research, research as this will save you time, money and heartache later on.

Once you've decided on the type of website you want you might want to take a look at our introductory guide to SEO to pick up some tips.