Make a Website for Your Business
If you haven't already done so, you really need to make a website for your business. While having one is virtually a requirement for most businesses, there are ways you can leverage your website to stand out from the competition, interact with customers, sell goods, and promote your brand. The extent of how you use your web property will depend on your market, business model, target demographics, available budget, and other considerations. This article outlines your options as you begin to make a website for your business. See FindLaw's Internet and E-Commerce section for related resources.
Making a Website for Your Business: Inform
If you don't plan on using your website as an e-commerce store, you will probably be using it instead to provide information to your customers and clients. Such websites are normally easier and faster to launch. You can build it from scratch or use an online website-development service, such as Squarespace, to make a website without having any prior training. A third option is to hire a website developer, which can be expensive but allows more control over the look and functionality of your site.
You will need to obtain the following components in order to make a website:
- Domain Name: You should be able to get your domain name (your website's address) registered and hosted through a domain company.
- Website Developing Software: Unless you hire a website developer, you will probably need to purchase and learn how to use a web developing program. But there are online "plug-and-play" services that make this much easier for the novice.
- Host: You will need to purchase space from a web hosting company to connect to the Internet. Typically, you will pay a monthly "rent" for your website to be hosted; this varies depending on the package and the host that you choose.
Connecting with Customers and Peers: The Blog
A blog (short for web log) is commonly used by small businesses to convey information to their customers and clients. There are a number of websites that will enable you to create a blog (such as blogger.com or typepad.com) simply by creating an account. The main advantage of a blog is that it is very quick to establish and will normally take less than an hour to get up and running. However, in order for your blog to be successful, you will have to regularly update it with interesting content.
Making a Website for Your Business: For E-Commerce
Selling goods online is more complicated than simply conveying information or hosting a blog. There are generally two ways to enter into the world of e-commerce: either get into a community site where you will sell through someone else's website (such as eBay.com) or build a business website that features its own online store. Many online services that allow you to build a website also offer "plug-and-play" e-commerce services as well.
Building Your Own E-Commerce Store
There are more steps involved in creating an e-commerce store than there are in creating a simple information website. You will need to incorporate a shopping cart feature and also have the means of accepting credit card payments. Collecting credit card payments over the internet is not the same as in person. In general, you have two options for collecting credit card payments over the internet:
- Shopping Cart and Gateway: In order to collect credit card payments from a customer, you will most likely have to deal with a transaction processor, or a transaction clearinghouse. They facilitate the entire credit card transaction, even checking the validity of the charge. For the purposes of your website, the gateway is the means of connecting your website to this intermediary. You will either pay for a gateway service or install your own software that acts as a credit card machine.
- Paypal: You can alternatively use Paypal.com, an online payment system that is owned by eBay, to act as your intermediary. One advantage of Paypal is that it gives your customers a choice between using a credit card or paying directly from their own bank accounts to your Paypal account. If you are only selling a few items from your website, you may be able to avoid the hassles associated with shopping carts and gateways by using an order form linked to Paypal.
Keep it Fresh
Remember that if you build a business website and ignore it, it will probably go stagnant. Just like updating the look of your brick and mortar store, you should always think about how to update and improve the look and functionality of your website. Adding new features, such as a regular blog or product videos, is a great way to keep customers engaged.
Need Legal Help? Call a Business Attorney
Making a website for your business doesn't typically involve legal matters, but it could. For instance, you may have have to deal with a so-called "cybersquatter" who owns the URL for your company's name or perhaps you need help searching trademarks before choosing your website address. In any event, contact a business and commercial law attorney if you need help with your small business.