There are many things to consider before launching a small business, starting with the business plan and up to hiring professional and competent workers that will help you grow your company and earn your place in a specific market.
Not all stories are deemed to be successful from the start but if you are committed to what you want to achieve, chances are, that you will make things work for you and for your employees as well.
In simple words, you need:
- a good plan
- and a website.
I am sure you have already planned ahead so I will not say anything about this part.
However, when it comes to websites, things tend to get complicated if you don’t know exactly what to do or, if you rely on bad advice from unskilled individuals.
Let’s see what you need to know before setting up your business’ website:
Tips for a more secure and fast small business website
Let’s say you’ve just started a small business and you need a platform to advertise your products or your company, to communicate with your customers, and of course, to present yourself. You can do all these things from a social media account but if you want to really pass as a professional business, you will need your own website.
I would give the same advice to individuals who want to better present themselves and built their own personal brand (this is however a topic that should be discussed in another separate article).
The website is like a mirror in which your business or you, as a person, are reflecting.
If you are interested in reading more on this topic or if you have questions about the need for a website, Peter Visser makes a good point in his article, by listing some of the most important reasons a small business needs a website.
For now, let’s consider you’ve already set your mind and need some advice on how to make this website fast and secure. Let’s start with the basics:
A. Things that you need to consider from the beginning:
- A budget. You need a business website, a platform from which to be available to communicate with customers and at the same time, to market your business and, if applicable, show your products. Many people will say that you can do it without spending money, without a specific budget. They are wrong. Yes, there are free CMS’ like WordPress – which I recommend with all my heart – but a website is more than its engine. You need a theme, specific plugins, and you need premium, professional, and reliable shopping modules if you want to create an online store for example. Moreover, you need professional advice when you choose these things and of course, a reliable company to build this website for you, in line with everything that you need and everything we’ve discussed so far.
- A vision. The chosen budget will not serve you if you didn’t set up your marketing strategy. You don’t need to plan everything from the start, but at least, you should know what your website should look like and what your expectations are regarding it. Think about the theme of your website, your main categories, whether you want or not to attach a blog to it, what your customers are looking for, and so on.
- An adequate/ appropriate/ specific content management system. I’ve mentioned before that I would recommend WordPress as a good reliable and secure content management system. WordPress is a free platform on which to build your website but it is not the only one available. You might want to consider whether to build your own engine or not. At the same time, if you want to start with an online store, you should consider all other content management systems available, the free ones and the commercial options as well.
- A domain name and reliable, professional web hosting. When you are starting a website, 50% of its success depends on the domain name you choose. This means that you should choose a domain name that is closely related to your brand or your business. At the same time, make sure you choose a domain name that is easy to remember and of course, easy to write without making spelling errors. You don’t want your users to misplace a letter and get to other websites and especially not, to other websites that are offering similar services or products.
B. Make your website more secure
One of the fundamental ways you can secure your website is by enabling a secure sockets layer or SSL. SSL is a protocol that encrypts the communication between your user’s browser and your website.
This creates a secure way for your visitors to interact with your website especially if you want to enable functions such as subscriptions and online shopping carts. Incapsula has an extensive discussion of how SSL can prevent attackers from intercepting unencrypted data sent to your website over public connections like coffee shops or airport hotspots. You can head over to their site for a more detailed read on how the SSL handshake works.
Let’s talk about the basic steps in enabling SSL for your website:
- Understand how SSL works. A secure Sockets Layer protocol is similar to an ID card. However, this ID card is specifically for a website and not for an individual. A certificate like this is basically a password that is checked every time a visitor accesses your website. If the password matches, it automatically verifies that your website is who you say it is and who it is supposed to be, and it will encrypt everything that gets to and from it.
- Choose a dedicated IP address. If you want a secure website, then you will want to consider buying dedicated hosting. While there are several hosting providers, such as Pikaweb or Cloudways, that can offer you great deals on shared servers, if you want to set up an SSL protocol, you need to have your own IP address. In other words, people who visit your website will access a specific IP address on which your website is hosted, but they will get on this IP only when accessing your website and no other website whatsoever.
- Buy a certificate, activate, and install it. This is the tricky part. However, some web hosting companies will offer to do these steps for you, at a price of course, but it will save you the time spent in doing it yourself. On the other hand, if you hire a professional company to set up your website, they will most probably take care of this task as well.
You need an SSL certificate for your website because…
There are two main reasons for setting up an SSL certificate: First, if you want to sell products on your website, you need to securely store all the information related to your customers: names, addresses, credit card numbers, and so on. SSL will allow you to encrypt sensitive data and protect your customers and of course, your business. Secondly, a website with an SSL certificate will always pass as a trustworthy website. Some say it’s only psychological, but we know for sure that users tend to trust better a secured website and this is everything we need to know.
C. Make your website faster
We’ve talked about choosing the best domain name for your small business and choosing the best web hosting service that will be able to deliver the best results. However, this is not enough when you want to create a website that is not only secured but also fast loading.
Speed is important because many users and clients will walk away in case the website is not loading fast. Moreover, the search engines will also penalize you if your website does not load fast enough. What are your choices?
Regardless of the content management system that you have chosen, you have to take into account that even though an engine might be fast, the plugins and the modules might make it slower. For instance, WordPress is the best CMS you can use these days. It is fast, reliable and most of all, free. Also, WordPress is easy to set up and perfect for small businesses because it is also SEO friendly.
In terms of a website’s speed, these are the things you should know and look for:
- The content management system. If you want to set up an online shop, choose a premium CMS. However, if you are only setting up a business or a personal website, you can choose a free platform such as WordPress which will suit all your needs. Why is it important to choose carefully? Well, the load speed of the website depends mostly on the engine it is built on. A premium engine will give you what you need. Also, free CMS’ like WordPress, which relies on a strong community that is able to support and develop it, will also be a good choice due to its powerful community and constant development.
- The theme. The simpler the website theme is, the easier it will load when a user accesses it. If you need a simple business website with basic information about your company and maybe a blog section, then you can choose a basic theme with basic features. However, if you need some extra features, it would be best to hire a professional to choose the theme and adapt it to your website. However, don’t try to save money on this issue. The theme that runs on top of the website engine is one of the most important things you should consider investing in.
- The plugins you choose. Even the most basic website, needs some extra plugins for security, SEO, or just for speed. If you choose WordPress, blogginwizard.com has a great article on the plugins that are best for speeding up your website. You don’t need all of them, just the ones that seem appropriate for your small business website. Take into consideration however that too many plugins will slow down the site, even though they are initially designed to speed it up.
- Other modules. Let’s say you want to add a shopping section to your website. You can choose a shopping platform from the start but you can also add it as an additional module to an already launched website. Should you choose an extra module to add store features to your website, but be careful to select an officially supported plugin. For instance, if you want a free option for WordPress, WooCommerce will suffice. If you want something more, you can choose a commercial professional shopping platform, such as Shopify.
- The web hosting service. This step is as important as any other steps we’ve discussed before. Why? Well, whether you choose a custom content management system or a commercial one, you need to discuss with the company you’ve hired to set up your website, which web hosting service is best for your website. For instance, if you choose WordPress, there are a couple of hosting providers that can offer you specific services for this CMS. You can get a comprehensive list of reliable services in this article by PCMag.
Whether you are a successful entrepreneur or you are just starting with your small business, you need a website.
This will be your company’s ID card, a mirror on which everything you do will be reflected.
A website is also the best platform to advertise and present your services and/or products and this is why you need to do everything in order to ensure your customers will be accessing it and of course, returning for new information. Analytic data shows that loading speed is one of the most important features for a website.
Every second counts, and if your website is slow, the visitors will abandon your page and they will seldom get back for a new visit. Moreover, if you care about your customers and your business, you need to be able to set up a secure website.
You can do it by choosing a secure CMS and reliable hosting service but at the same time, an SSL protocol may help you get better results and gain a few extra points regarding the level of trust among your users and/or customers.
Photo by Liudmyla Novykova | Dreamstime.com