So you want to start a website? Before I will take you on a journey through website creation, let me take a few seconds to congratulate you on taking this bold step. Why is it so important? During the past 20 years, we had seen the Internet evolving very fast to the point when it became the first source of information for many people. We no longer go to buy a newspaper to see the latest news, find local services or look for a job. We just “google it”. In the UAE during summer, the temperature reaches 50C and trust me, no one is walking down the street to visit local shops. We search for new products and services on the Internet first. If you are not there ready to meet new customers, the chances are – you are losing your business.
Having your own website is the best way to meet new customers and grow your business. So why so many businesses still don’t have websites? Without basic information, the process seems to be long and complicated. Web development companies also don’t share too much information about that. This is why we decided to show you step by step – how to start your own website.
Why did we prepare this guide?
As a web development company, we get a lot of questions every day. How to start my own website? What is website hosting? What is a domain name? Can I have a free website? The Internet has a lot of answers, but, quite often, it is difficult to understand them. Also, they lack simple steps to follow. Today we are going to show you how to start your own website step by step. We will also explain all the terms that you may have heard by now like domain, hosting, cpanel, vps, WordPress and many many more.
Are you ready? Let’s start!
How to start my own website
Let’s imagine for a minute that you just came to us to take your company to the next level and build a website, or perhaps an online shop. At this point, you are still not sure how is it going to look like when your website is ready, and you will start meeting your new customers. This is why you are looking for our guidance. The first set of easy questions that I would ask you would be about the…
Yes, it couldn’t be any easier than this. Before we can even think about building a website, we have to work with you on the website concept. Do you need a blog? Or you need a company website? Or maybe you need an e-commerce shop? How many products or services do you want to offer? Do you need additional tools on the website to provide them like video conference, affiliate marketing, calendar to schedule appointments, or maybe you want to create videos for your audience? Those will help us to find a solution suitable for your business. As soon as we both understand how you are going to impress your customers, we can move to the next point.
What is a domain name? It is the address that customers should type in the browser to see your website. You probably know “google.com“. Yes, it is a domain name. When choosing a domain name, you have to take many factors into account. Will it be easy to remember? Easy to type in? Do you want a local domain like “your-business-name.ae” to give customers a feeling that you are a local company or you prefer to have a “.com” address?
Once you decide on this, you have to check if the domain name you have chosen is available, or if someone has already purchased it. Another thing to consider is whether to get a domain name related to your services or come up with something completely new. Google could have reserved “bestsearchengine.com”, but instead, they decided to name themselves “Google”. Domains can be purchased from different companies called “registrars”, and those should be renewed every year. Don’t worry if you don’t have an idea about your website address. It is perfectly normal. We will help you find the right domain name later on, and, in the meantime, we will focus on the most important part that is…
Here I have more good news for you – you don’t have to know what the best technology for your website will be, we will tell you. Programming languages are evolving so quickly that even developers have difficulties in catching up with things. This is why they started dividing into different groups, frontend developers (people working with the “look” of the page) and backend developers (people working on functionality). Each group specializes in different programming languages, and these people will be best to choose the right mix of technologies for you.
If you need a standard company website, then the choice will not be too difficult. There is a lot of people who have tested the best set up already. However, if your website or application is more complex, then a company needs to discuss it with the entire team and decide on the best way to approach it. This is the most difficult and at the same time, the most important step for us. Once we decide on a certain technology and start the development process, there is no turning back. In case the project is innovative and complex here is an interesting thing – we would usually contact other companies who also specialize in the development and ask about their opinion. We value the opinion of other experts in the industry, and if this can help us build a better platform for you, then it is definitely worth it!
So how to start my own website? So far, we have the requirements, we have the technology, at this stage we can initially decide about:
The first question which could come to your mind – why do I need a website hosting?
Your website needs to be accessible to your customers 24/7, and while it is possible to keep it even on your home laptop, it is very unlikely you will keep it up and running all the time. Also, in case of hardware errors, you will not be able to bring it back up quickly, and you may lose your data. Keep in mind that your internet connection and electricity at home will also cost you money, and this is why it is much more cost-effective to use a company that specializes in it. Initially, we would advise you to take a shared hosting from us. Why? Because we give it for free for the first year as we don’t want you to incur any additional costs during the development time. After the website is ready, you can still keep it, or you can go for VPS. I am almost certain that at this point you are wondering what it is shared hosting? What is VPS hosting? What is the difference between shared hosting and VPS? This article will shed some light on it.
Website Development Process
Now it’s time to develop your website and answer the key question which even if not asked directly, is always somewhere there lurking:
Can I have a free website?
Nowadays, you don’t need to be a programmer to develop a website. On our hosting, we have a “free” website builder, but also you can install WordPress with just a few clicks and then spend some time building your own website using graphical tools. It still requires some technical knowledge, but it is doable without programming skills. Does it mean it is free? No, it is 100% not possible to have a free website. However, in this article, we will tell you how to get as close to “free” as possible 🙂
How much does it cost to develop a website?
There is no good answer to that because every website is different, and the development process consists of many elements like:
- Market Research. This initial part of the website development process in some cases can help you to save a lot of money. Not only does it help you to prepare a very good brief for your website, but in many cases, it will help to avoid errors that other companies made in the past and failed because of them.
- Logo, design. You can have a ready-made template or designs made from scratch, this has a big impact on both time and cost. If you want someone to make a new design for you, it may be adding 30 days for the graphic design with a couple of revisions from your side.
- Content for pages (about us, terms and conditions, blog articles, etc.), descriptions, other articles. You may have them or not. If you don’t have them then someone needs to do the research for your industry and prepare the content which will be positioning your website high in search results for desired keywords and phrases.
- Pictures. Your website must not only have attractive content, but it should also have good quality pictures that cannot be downloaded from the Internet. You can buy them from stock pages but then you are risking that your website will look like many other websites. Therefore, it may not have this “personal” touch. You have to remember that people deal with people and showing your premises, your team or your own products has a much better effect than some random picture from the Internet.
- Functionality. Marketing tools, analytics tools, users tracking, various integrations, e-commerce functionality, newsletter, payment gateway, social media sharing and many many more.
Choose the right company!
You are lucky if everything is handled by one company. Arranging those from different sources is usually time-consuming. It may also lead to miscommunication and project delays. Designers make graphic designs. The content writer prepares content which doesn’t match those designs. While photographer delivers pictures which are not matching the designed boxes. I didn’t even mention developers, who are so consumed with coding that they have absolutely no idea what is happening on the other side of the firewall.
The first advice on website development – if possible, avoid developing your website in another country.
Unless you live on a small island and there are no web development companies around, you should look for a company that is close to your location. It may be tempting to outsource your website development to some other country where the cost will be a little bit lower, but pretty much always you will overpay at the end of the day. Why is that? We know this directly from the clients, who came to us to have their project finalized after they started development in other countries. Here is what they told us about the experience:
We know we live in the 21st century and with all that technology and video calls, you may think that distance doesn’t matter. It matters. The time difference is the first issue that you will find is delaying your website.
Most likely you will not be in touch with developers directly, which is good because they don’t speak the same language as you are, but instead you will be in touch with the project manager who will be translating whatever he understood from your video call or picture to a group of developers who then will develop whatever they understood from him…We cannot describe it any better than that:
Lack of control
As much as you can trust the reports that will be sent out to you, you have no control over how really things are going. You cannot just come to the office and check the results of work.
Lack of responsibility by the company
No matter what your contract guarantees, you know and the other side knows that any dispute will be very difficult to handle. In some cases, you may have difficulties with receiving the source code that you paid for partially until you settle the full amount. Going to the court will only add more cost to your project and delay it even further, sometimes may even put your business at risk.
It also happened in a few cases that the technology chosen for the project was not suitable for it. Thus, in order to get things right we would have to re-develop it which is doubling the cost and time. All of the above will lead to project delay, and project delay incurs an additional cost on your side, sometimes also charged back to you by the company. At the end of the day, you will pay more than for the website created by your local company.
The second advice on website development – make sure that the website will be fully delivered by a company, don’t leave some parts to be done “later” as quite often later means never.
In many cases, if a company cannot fully deliver the website and you rely on different contractors to deliver subparts, you will end up not getting them done properly at all. Make sure that everything you agree on needed to create your website will be delivered and guaranteed 100% by the company who is building it for you.
How much does a company website cost?
As you can see, we cannot tell you exactly how much your website will cost you but…we created some websites in the past (actually a lot :D) and we know a few things about website features required to run a successful online business so let’s talk about the costs for a moment.
A standard company website, with a contact form, a gallery and content mostly provided by the company costs around 5000 AED. That is with all set of tools required to run successful online business so you would get Facebook Pixel Integrated, Google Analytics, Yandex Metrica (to watch users sessions), and a few other cool things 🙂 We are talking about non-e-commerce website so no buying and selling functionality, no online payments. We can also write the content for you, design a logo, take beautiful pictures and even translate your website into the Arabic language. In this case, the total cost for the website would be around 8000-10000 AED.
How much does an e-commerce website cost?
E-commerce is a little bit different, and on top of the features mentioned above you also need a payment gateway integration, setting up your categories and product catalog. Quite often, you also need assistance with the products upload, product pictures, products descriptions, affiliate marketing tool to give you access to cheaper marketing, enhanced Google Analytics integration (with purchase tracking), Google Optimise, products feed for Facebook and Google Merchant center, sales reporting tools, and at the end of the day – a training, so you can fully utilize the potential of your new website.
How much should you pay for all of these, then?
The third advice on website development – start small and build as you grow.
It is usually best to outline the MVP (Minimal Viable Product) which is an e-commerce shop. It gives your customers the ability to buy online but doesn’t have all of the features mentioned above from the first day. The website should be fully functional with all of the marketing and tracking tools, but other features should be added as your company grows and as your customers demand. That way, you can keep the initial cost reasonable, saving money for any additional expenses related to online business.
For an e-commerce website with a minimum set of features, the average cost ranges between 8000 AED to 15000 AED. It doesn’t include product pictures and descriptions (as we have no idea how many you can have). If you are launching with just a few products we are always happy to help you with pictures and content for them. But if we are talking about a few thousand, then taking pictures alone is a long process, and it comes with additional cost.
Website Development Timeframe
The standard time to develop a website ranges between 30 days to sometimes even 6 months. It depends on how complex your website will be and is divided into a few stages.
- Project specification. At this stage we would establish what features exactly are needed to run a successful online business.
- Gathering content. Before we start development, we should make sure that we have all content ready.
- Initial development. After this stage, you will see your website ready but not perfect.
- The first round of testing and fixing. This will help us to spot any problems with our initial project specification and address them quickly.
- Final development. When we are done here, your website should be fully functional and match your project specification. No features should be missing.
- Final testing. Our team will carefully test your website from an administrator and customer perspectives to make sure that everything is working fine.
All of this in case of a simple website should be performed within 30 days. If the project is more complex, it can require more steps.
So you know the cost, you know the timeframe, but before you proceed with signing the website development contract here are some other things to keep in mind. So, how to start my own website – we are almost there.
CONGRATULATIONS! Finally, your website is ready; what should you do now?
The fourth advice on website development – start with the end in mind.
You cannot assume that by just having a website, clients will start coming to you every day, although, we would all love to have a problem like that. Reality is that nowadays there is a lot of companies like yours and on top of that you are new on the market. Therefore, you need to answer 2 questions:
- How will your customers find you?
- How will you attract them and convince that your product or service is better than your competition
In other words, you need to have a… marketing plan.
Ahhhh the marketing plan! Who would have thought about it in the first place? And yet not caring about that is a big mistake that a lot of entrepreneurs make before they even start their own business. Nowadays a business without a marketing strategy is like a plane without wings. It is a beautiful machine, but it will never fly. If you are one of the people who didn’t think about it, then this is the right time to add it to your TODO list. Here at NatWeb Solutions, we like to say “We don’t just build websites, we build your online business”. This is why as a part of our website development process, we also develop a marketing plan for you, and we give it to you together with your new project. We also created a separate article about the best marketing strategies for you! This is the least we can do to help you start your new journey in the online world.
We hope that answers your questions about the website development process. If not, please feel free to ask us a question directly or leave a comment below.
So, how to start my own website? The best thing to do is to… start 🙂