Like Chicago’s software development industry, entrepreneurship in Chicago has grown exponentially. Regardless of your industry, you need a website to grow your business and showcase your work. While nothing compares to having custom web design, creating a professional website is easier than ever.
If you are an entrepreneur or freelancer who is just getting started, or are a recent graduate looking for a way to showcase your work, you will likely not be able to afford to hire a web developer. The next best thing to hiring a web development agency is website building platforms that offer affordable website design with professional templates like WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix to name a few.
Check out this guide to learn how to create a professional website on your own.
Select a website platform to design your website on.
There is no shortage of website builders because companies know that not everyone has the budget to hire a web development company. The trick to choosing the right website builder for you to build a professional website has everything to do with what it is you want to do.
Wix and Squarespace are the top, all around website builders, consistently in experts top 2 or 3 “best website builders” lists. They are especially popular with photographers, because their templates are clean, their builders are easy to use drag-and-drop models, have responsive design and has the most professional-looking portfolio setups.
The best website builder for e-commerce is Shopify.
Choose your domain.
Most website builders will allow add you own domain or purchase one from a third party through their integration. Wix and a few other website builders offer a free website option, but it comes without the option to purchase a domain. Do yourself a favor and purchase a domain. You don’t want to use a website with yourusername.wixsite.com/yourbusinessname for professional purposes. Don’t do that to yourself.
Design your website.
Once you have selected your website and applied your very own domain to it, it’s time to start designing your website. Choose a theme that best represents what you want your website to reflect. Select a color scheme that is visually appealing.
Check out Unsplash and Pixabay for millions of stunning, good-quality, royalty free photos that are free to use. If you decide to build your website with Squarespace, you will be able to search for royalty free photos as you insert photo blocks or gallery blocks. If you use Adobe Creative Cloud, you can invest in some top-notch photography as well.
Make sure your site has basic navigation.
You don’t want to overthink your navigation menu. Stick to the basics: Home, About, Work, Services (if you offer services), Blog, and Contact. These basic navigation pages do more than just inform visitors where to go. It goes toward generating trust of your business and brand.
Apply basic SEO strategies.
If you don’t already know, SEO stands for search engine optimization. SEO is how search engines decide your content is relevant to someone’s search. Here are a few basic SEO steps to help you out. Moz has a more in-depth SEO guide for beginners.
- Make sure your website is optimized for mobile devices. Many website builders’s templates are responsive. Hopefully, you’ve chosen one of them.
- Make sure your website loads fast (loads in less than 7 seconds).
- Ensure your website has secure hosting (https).
- Use meta tags.
- Use keyword optimization.
Write compelling website copy.
You want to write compelling content that tells visitors why they should hire you or why they should support your cause. This is called a value proposition. Your message must be clear and easy to understand in under 5 seconds.
When you write, use short sentences and paragraphs while also addressing their needs. You see there is a need. Convince them why your product or service is the solution to their problem.
Build your brand with blogging.
Blogging is a multi-purpose tool. Blogging is great for:
- SEO optimization. Use of keywords as well as acting as an alert system to tell Google that you have new content on your website that needs to be crawled.
- Establishing credibility and authority. Having a professional blog is essential to sharing your expertise with visitors to your site.
Building a website can be a lot of fun. It can also be a tad bit intimidating if you consider yourself among the technologically challenged. Still, website builders make creating a professional-looking website easy with drag-and-drop tools. So don’t worry. You got this.