Thinking of building your first business website?
Or maybe even your second or third?
Then today’s post is a perfect place to start.
You’ll discover the main elements that every business website needs to get up and running, from web hosting and design, to accepting sales and building an audience.
We’ll share the top 3 options for each, as well as our advice on how to avoid getting lost among the technobabble and distractions. And at the end, you’ll find even more free resources to help you build and launch your business website in just a weekend!
Let’s get started...
A Website Platform
Before you jump into building your website, you’ll need to choose the technology you want to use.
Your choice of website platform makes a HUGE difference in the tools, support and complexity of almost everything that follows.
If you’ve been a Thrive Themes reader for any length of time, you’ll know we’re all about building your website using our favourite platform, WordPress, so the rest of this post will be heavily weighted to this choice. That’s not because the other choices are ‘wrong’, but we help people to build a successful online business using WordPress, so that’s where our expertise lies.
Here are the big 3 options for your website platform:
Option 1: Fully Hosted Platform
Services like Squarespace, WordPress.com (not to be confused with the self-hosted version, WordPress.org!), Wix and Weebly let you quickly create a website within their hosted ecosystems.
Just sign up for an account, choose a pre-designed template, and get started.
These options can be suitable for very small and simple websites, but they break one of our most important rules of building an online business – never build your business on someone else’s platform... if you don’t own it, it can be taken away from you without any warning.
These fully hosted platforms are also limited in what features you can add. For example, they don’t support any of the great tools within Thrive Suite, so your options for collecting email addresses, launching online courses, or customizing your landing pages will be severely limited.
Option 2: WordPress
It’s a powerful, well-documented, and free platform that we consider the best way for anyone to get started building a business website.
Seriously, unless you have a need for super complex functionality, then there’s no reason to use anything other than WordPress in 2023.
Option 3: Anything Else Not WordPress
Once upon a time, Joomla and Drupal were considered alternatives for WordPress. Unfortunately, they fell far behind in terms of support and features, so my advice is to simply avoid them entirely at this point.
So you know which platform to use, now you need somewhere to host your website.
Don’t skimp on web hosting: it impacts security, uptime, website speed, and support when things go wrong!
Here’s your main options...
Option 1: Fully Hosted Service
Didn’t we just cover this?
We sure did.
Squarespace, Wix and the rest let you host your website with them, providing you’re happy with their (limited) tools, support and design options.
Free hosting might sound appealing at first, but it’s a false economy. Most of these services use a freemium model that switches to a paid subscription if your website needs anything more than the most basic features.
And if your web hosting is completely free, you’ll probably find your web host can feature advertising on your website whenever they want. Irrelevant ads tank your conversion rate, annoy your customers, and look straight up unprofessional.
Option 2: Generic Shared Hosting
This is where you share your hosting with lots of other websites. It’s cheap, cheerful, and works just fine for the most part.
Until it doesn’t.
The main drawback of generic shared web hosting is not the shared aspect. It's that it’s entirely your responsibility to get your website working.
If it gets hacked, it’s up to you to fix it.
If it loads too slowly, it’s up to you to diagnose the problem.
Option 3: Customized WordPress Hosting
It won’t be any surprise to learn that this is the option we recommend for your online business website.
Customized WordPress hosting is specifically configured to get the best performance for websites running WordPress.
You’ll also find helpful tools such as:
- Backup functionality
- Web caching, so visitors don’t have to load everything on each visit
- Fast WordPress installations
- Secure SSL options
We tried and tested many choices, and these are the two we currently recommend:
If you purchase these services, we may make a small commission at no additional charge to you.
A Website Design
Finally, it’s time to build and design your website... this is the fun part!
But website design means so much more than just making it look good (although that’s also important).
It also means making sure your business looks professional on desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile devices.
It means making sure it loads blazingly fast so it’s not punished by Google’s algorithms.
It means giving you the control to make changes and customizations quickly in the future.
Option 1: Pre-designed Professional Theme
WordPress is probably most well known for its themes – skins that completely change the visual design of a website while keeping the actual content unchanged.
There are thousands of themes available to choose from:
- Free or premium themes
- Purely design themes or those with advanced features and functionality
- Themes ideal for magazines, personal branding, online courses, local business
- Well supported... or abandoned themes full of security risks!
Right now, there are 4,008 themes available on WordPress.org, and that doesn’t include thousands more premium themes only available on 3rd party sites.
Now pre-designed WordPress themes have their place for sure, but only if you’re aware of their limitations. Where they really fall down is customization... if you want complete control over your website’s design and functionality, then you’ll quickly hit a wall with most WordPress themes.
Option 2: DIY Frameworks
Some ‘themes’ are actually bare bones frameworks that provide a completely blank canvas with which to build your own WordPress design.
But let’s put this one to bed right now... if you want to build your first business website fast, and get to selling your product quickly, then these frameworks are not for you.
WordPress theme frameworks are better suited to design agencies who create many websites, not for online entrepreneurs.
Option 3: Customizable WordPress Theme Builders
Of course, we’re going to recommend this option. We truly believe that WordPress theme builders are the future of WordPress design.
Anyone can make their website look exactly like they want, without hiring a designer or developer.
Whichever you choose – and we all know which one you should! – just be sure it comes with professionally designed templates for all aspects of your website, so you can quickly launch your online business knowing it will look gorgeous out of the box.
It’s tempting to get too wrapped up in creating a logo, after all, it’s the visual representation of your business, your brand, and to some degree, your personality as the business owner.
But a logo won’t build your website, grow your audience or sell your products.
And here are the 3 main options available:
Option 1: Design It Yourself
If you’re handy with image editing software like Photoshop (or a free Photoshop alternative), you might consider designing your own logo.
Normally, I’d recommend against trying to DIY most business assets, as your time as an entrepreneur is often better invested in creating content and growing your audience. However, designing your own business website logo can be a viable option, providing you don’t obsess over it. As long as you’re working with rapid implementation in mind, then it can actually save you time to design your own logo.
To get started, all you really need is a nice font, some complementary colors, and perhaps an icon.
But if you’re the kind of creative personality who gets sucked deep into the design and branding process, then I strongly recommend the next option...
Option 2: Logo ‘Marketplaces’
Successful brands change their logos all the time, so don’t let finding the perfect logo hold you back from launching your business website.
Instead, find a simple, acceptable logo that fits your brand, and run with it.
Logo marketplace services offer well-designed logos for a fraction of the price and time of a dedicated professional designer.
The rub is that it’ll cost you some dollars, and your logo won’t be unique, so you’ll need to make a few tweaks to really put your brand spin on it.
If you want a logo that’s exclusive to you, and you have a few more of those dollars spare, you can find unique design services at popular sites like 99designs.
Option 3: Professional Designer
Probably the polar opposite of rapid implementation – the most expensive and complex logo option is to hire a professional designer.
We don’t recommend this for new business websites, simply because that’s money that could go into other areas that will have a greater impact on generating sales... like the Thrive Suite toolset for example.
Without a sellable product or service, your business website is really just... well, a website.
For a new website, launching your first product is more than just a way to generate revenue – although that’s great too – it’s also a way to confirm there’s an active audience in your chosen niche with a compelling need for your services.
Don’t get too attached to the first product you decide to sell. It will almost certainly evolve into something very different soon.
Here’s the big options you have available:
Option 1: Sell a Service
One of the quickest ways to generate income and test a market, is to exchange your time and knowledge for money.
Services are a great first product to add to your business website, because they’re a direct way of gauging the needs of your audience. You get immediate feedback on the needs and desires of your audience, and you can quickly improve your business to meet these needs better.
This is important because if you can’t even get a few people to pay for a specific outcome, then you most certainly shouldn’t invest time into creating a more complex solution like an online course or membership.
Option 2: Sell a Physical Product
Selling and shipping physical products is no longer exclusively available to professional retail and eCommerce websites.
This is a great option if you sell from a limited range of products, like custom art or project commissions. Seriously, I once knew a woodworker who built a successful business website based on a single custom lamp design.
Option 3: Sell an Online ‘Info’ Product
Selling non-physical info products is an option that’s immediately accessible to everyone.
All you need is an audience with a problem, a solution to that problem, and a way to package up the solution in a helpful way.
- Online courses
- Membership sites
- Video workshops
- Downloadable tools and resources
Providing you’re confident that people are willing to pay for your solution, then these are a great way to add a product to your business website.
They don’t require stock, you can sell them forever, and they can be delivered immediately via email, membership login, or download.
Why are we not recommending affiliate commission or ad revenue?
These online business models can work great, but they both require something most new websites don’t have...
We recommend leaving these revenue options for later, when you have a larger audience that can convert into higher volumes of referrals.
A Way to Collect Sales
Following on from having a product to sell, your business website also needs a way to collect payment and deliver your product.
Again, if you have no way to actually close the sale, are you really running a business website?
There are a few options available, but here are the big ones:
Option 1: Offline Sales
As cumbersome as it sounds, there’s still a place for issuing invoices, or collecting checks and bank transfers, especially for services like consulting, and freelancing.
If you run a local business website, either at a physical location or as a local tradesperson, there’s even a valid case for accepting cash payments.
Embrace whatever sales methods work for your audience and industry. Again, remember that rapid implementation means not getting too distracted trying to reinvent the wheel just for the sake of keeping everything digital or contained on your website.
Option 2: An Online Payment Gateway Integration
Both of these services allow you to create simple payment buttons, but where they really shine is how they integrate behind the scenes with customizable checkout services like ThriveCart or SendOwl. These services handle both accepting payment AND delivering the product, giving you complete control over your customers’ sales experience.
If you’re building your first business website, this is the option we generally recommend for making your products available to buy.
Option 3: Through a 3rd Party Service
Some people choose to sell their products using another website or platform.
Examples include Teachable, Udemy, Envato Marketplace, and even Etsy.
These websites usually take a hefty cut of your revenue, and access to your customers’ data is severely limited.
Again, rapid implementation can justify using 3rd party platforms to initially sell your product, but we always recommend owning your entire sales funnel whenever possible.
So if you’re selling an online course, consider Thrive Apprentice with ThriveCart integration.
If you’re selling access to an online membership area, consider using a direct integration of your membership plugin with a payment gateway, like Stripe or PayPal.
If you’re selling a simple eBook or download, consider embedding a PayPal button directly into your website.
There’s usually a better solution than giving up control of your income and audience data to a 3rd party platform.
A Way to Connect with Your Audience
What separates a successful business website from a lifeless online brochure is the ability to connect with your audience about the topics that matter to them.
Connecting with your audience is a vital part of running a business website, whether that’s sharing content or engaging in real conversations with them.
So what are your main tools to achieve this?
Option 1: An Email List
Your business needs a way to grow a list of email subscribers, so you can continue speaking with your audience even after they’ve left your website.
That means adding compelling opt-in forms to your pages, and integrating with an email service provider.
Think about it this way: if you’re not engaging with your audience through email, then your competitors most certainly are!
Option 2: A Facebook Page or Group
Depending on your audience, you might find that a Facebook page or group is a great place to start conversations before bringing them over to your website.
While not strictly part of building your business website, we’ve included it here because it’s just too big to ignore.
However, the next one is definitely part of building your website...
Option 3: A Blog
You’ll need a way to add new content to your website, both to connect with your audience, and to encourage more visitors through SEO.
A static, unchanging website will quickly become stale and lose out to your more agile competitors.
Adding a blog is the perfect way to regularly add new content, whether that’s written articles, videos, audio, or some other format that resonates with your audience. Luckily WordPress offers this right out of the box, and there are plenty of resources here on the Thrive Themes website to help you get started.
Want to Launch Your Business Website in Just a Weekend?
We’ve just launched a FREE video course on Thrive University that will help you do exactly that!
Already a Thrive University Member?
First Time with Thrive Univesity?
In just a few days, your business website could be ready for its first visitors!
In this course, you'll learn how to build a business website from scratch, from signing up for a web host to setting up an email opt-in form ― and everything in between! We'll cover what tech to use, how to create a quick logo, customizing your website, and more.
Launching your business website doesn’t get easier than this.