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Tips for starting a business: building an online presence

Story added 24th Nov 2017

Building websites for business and web design/development tips from Build

A guide to web development from Itai Bercovier, Build’s Web Development and UX tutor

In today’s world it is no longer considered optional to interact with the online world. Many of the basic services we rely on have moved to the computer/mobile screen, from banking, shopping, and entertainment through to government services.  

Certainly, if one were intending to start a small business today, the most efficient way to start would be to create an online presence, even if the business itself is not virtual. Building an online presence will help to promote the product, brand or service offered and can be a fantastic way to engage with potential customers/clients.

Creating an online presence for your business

Some of the advantages of having an online presence as a small business is the wide range of customers that can access your business. A physical store or office requires a location that is easily accessible to potential local customers and of course incurs the cost of renting and maintenance. However, a properly constructed online store or site can be accessed by any individual who has access to the web. The online site also has the advantage of being accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, giving the option for clients to use the services you provide at their convenience. 

One should keep in mind that, most likely, the competition for most small businesses will also have an online presence. This only increases the need for any small business to do the same.

An online business with social media accounts (such as Facebook and Twitter) empowers users by allowing them to communicate with a business directly and enable reviews and comments about your products. If managed correctly, utilising social media can add to your marketing strategy at a very little cost.

Online sites can provide also useful insight and analysis of your business through built-in tools such as Google Analytics. These tools can provide information on sale conversion, number of visits, keywords and search terms used by customers to reach your website and more.

How do you set up a website for your business?

Setting up your online business has never been easier. You can now use solutions that are available online to build your business or to increase your online presence through publishing blogs or articles. These solutions use a content management system (CMS) that can be customised to suit the needs of most business or online presence requirements. 

There are numerous content management system available to use, each with different learning curves. Some require a small fee and some are entirely free. By far the most popular CMS is WordPress. WordPress is a free content management system and according to some surveys* WordPress powers more than a quarter of all websites on the internet.

It is a powerful system that allows the creation of a simple blog through to setting up a fully functioning e-shop. WordPress is also built with search engine optimisation in mind, meaning improved chances of discovery through search engines. 

Setting-up and using WordPress doesn’t require you to be able to code or to be a ‘tech wizard’. It is a rather straight forward affair and although there is a small learning curve it is easily negotiated and surmounted. Programming is not a requirement to set up a WordPress site, however the ability is still a useful even in a simple CMS such as WordPress as this ability allows administrators to fully customise their site to preference.

Learning to code could help you reap rewards

However, learning to code, and specifically learning to code using design languages such as  HTML, CSS and JavaScript can provide an advantage over market competitors in an online environment. Firstly, it will allow business owners to market themselves independently and will remove the need to rely on a web developer for each small change one may wish to make to their site. This in turn reduces the running costs of the business, freeing up funds to be spent on improving other areas where needed. It also helps to have prior coding knowledge for discussions with the web development team who would be maintaining the site. Think of it as the equivalent of a car owner understanding the structure and component of their engine, when speaking to a mechanic. Learning to code may also provide a market advantage over competitors as it will allow a business owner to more specifically tailor the design and user experience to both their vision and target market demographic. 

Learning to code can also open-up other career opportunities. The web development sector is set to continue to grow well into the next decade and the job market will continue to require individuals with the skills to programme in the languages the web uses. Coding is not restricted to the web development world alone; it is actually rather versatile and learning to code can open other job opportunities as the world becomes more and more computer reliant. 

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