To create a small business website you have a variety of inexpensive or even free tools at your disposal. But you also have several decisions to make. Some of the first steps include choosing a domain name, deciding on a host, mapping out your site pages, creating content, choosing calls to action, and deciding on what you will offer customers through your site. Rather than just giving some general advice about how to create a small business website, this guide is going to show you the exact resources we use and recommend to our clients.
1. Domain Name Registration
Though I don’t like calling anything of quality “cheap”, NameCheap is an excellent domain registration platform and it’s very inexpensive. You can purchase a top level domain (.com, .net, .org) for less than $10 a year and that includes private registration (a feature for which many registrars charge). They also provide good entry level email, their DNS configuration is very simple to use, and they make domain transfers easier than any registrar we’ve used. Visit NameCheap.com to take a look at what they offer.
2. Content Management System
Designed originally as a blogging platform, WordPress is the king of content management systems. It is open source (free) software that can be downloaded at WordPress.org. With access to thousands of free and paid plugins you can make WordPress do pretty much anything you want. Because it’s built with user registration capability, it’s also easy to use an e-commerce store or membership site.
3. WordPress Hosting
Pressable’s hosting environment was built specifically for WordPress. It’s a managed hosting service, which means you get premium level support from WordPress experts. Pressable includes the Premium version of the amazing site management plugin “JetPack” for free. JetPack brings a ton of value to your site including real-time backups, one-click restore points, daily malware scans (and advice if a threat is found), activity monitoring, BruteForce protection, site speed modifications, and many other options. You also get Akismet to block comment and form SPAM for free. SSL certificates are included and installed automatically. Plus you get access to the same content delivery network used by WordPress.com as well as server side caching. The value is simply unbeatable in the world of managed WordPress hosting. Visit Pressable.com to learn more.
4. WordPress Theme & Page Builder
Every WordPress install needs a theme to control the look and many of the functions of the site. There may be millions of themes on the market but the Divi theme is quite possibly the best. With hundreds of prebuilt layouts and stock images available, getting started with your site design is as easy as clicking a button. Seriously. But the Divi theme also includes the most amazing and full featured page builder in existence. It has so many features that when we convert sites to Divi, we can often eliminate half a dozen plugins, which is much better for a WordPress site. Controlling WordPress templates is as easy as editing page content. Blog options and configurations are nearly unlimited too. We’ve built dozens of sites on the Divi theme (including this one). Don’t waste your time looking through countless themes, head over to elegantthemes.com, buy Divi and start creating.
5. Forms Plugin
Created by RocketGenius, GravityForms is the best forms system for WordPress. Creating forms manually in HTML is a laborious task but GravityForms provides a drag and drop interface that makes it painless. With a variety of options from simple to complex, creating a simple contact form or a full-blown multipage, save-and-finish later job application is fairly easy with Gravity Forms. There isn’t a free version but you get what you pay for and at $99 a year, Gravity Forms is well worth the money. For that price, you get a few dozen add-ons that will allow you to take this system even further – from email platform integrations to taking credit cards payments and even creating quizzes.
6. Backup Solution
As there are several WordPress backup solutions that all do a good job of doing what they were designed to do (Backup Buddy, UpdraftPlus, etc), we like BackWPUp for some very specific reasons related to how the plugin interacts with other software we use. BackWPUp has a free and a paid version (BackupBuddy only has a paid version). BackWPUp also works really well with Pressable (our host of choice) where other WordPress backup solutions have difficulties (BackUpBuddy again). We also like how BackWPUp compresses files into one nice installable package. UpdraftPlus creates multiple compressed files which causes issues when you have a file limits on your offsite storage. Speaking of offsite storage, we used to use Amazon S3 but BackWPUp had some issues sending larger file sizes (over 1GB) to Amazon S3 so we switched to Dropbox and have been very happy. We also use JetPack to backup the sites we support but JetPack only stores 30 days worth of backups. We use BackWPUp to create redundant archives each month that we store on DropBox. We have a few reasons for this redundancy which we’ll cover in another post.
7. WordPress Security
The bad thing about using open source software is that the “bad guys” can examine all the code and find weaknesses. Such is the case with WordPress BUT fortunately with a little tweaking and the use of a security plugin like WordFence, you can greatly improve the security of your WordPress site. The JetPack plugin mentioned in #3 above (and below in #8) provides malware scanning and Bruteforce protection but WordFence takes security up several notches by providing a firewall, captcha, 2 factor authentication, and letting you tweak a variety of other WordPress settings. The free version is amazingly full featured but the paid version offers country blocking and some more advanced granular control. For most sites the free version is more than enough.
8. Site Monitoring and Management
I’ve already mentioned JetPack twice so far. It’s probably the best plugin for your WordPress site, especially if you plan to do some blogging. JetPack has a free version but it doesn’t provide too much. You’re better off buying a paid plan. The Daily Security plan includes daily Backups for 30 days, daily security scans, anti-spam protection, downtime monitoring, brute force attack protection, secure authentication, auto plugin updates, and much more for only $20/month. The value here is truly unbeatable BUT, and this is amazing, JetPack Daily is included with Pressable hosting.
Domain Registration with Namecheap: $10
Pressable Hosting: $25/mo ($250/yr)
Divi Theme and Page Builder: $89/yr
Gravity Forms: $59/yr
JetPack: $20/mo but FREE with Pressable Hosting
All in all you’re looking at about $400 a year total to host, backup, secure, scan, and manage a WordPress site configured like this. There are other free plugins I often use that can be helpful as well like Yoast SEO, WP File Manager, and Duplicate Post. Here and there you’ll find other other needs for your site and there’s probably a plugin to address those needs but these will get you started and on your way to creating a stable and successful small business website.