How do I get a domain name and set up my website?
One of the first tasks in setting up your business is creating a website and this starts with your domain name.
A domain name is a web address people will use to find out about your business via the internet, for example, http://www.yourbusinessname.com.au.
The most common domain types (or top level domain extensions) in Australia are:
- com.au – recommended for organisations doing business in Australia. You will need an Australian Business Number (ABN) or Australian Company Number (ACN) to secure this type of domain.
- net.au – another popular option in Australia for businesses, especially those with an information technology (IT) focus.
- org.au – for charities and non-profit organisations.
- asn.au – for non-commercial Australian associations such as incorporated associations, sporting clubs and political parties.
- com – this domain type is world-wide so it can be harder to secure your unique business name, but it may be important if you intend on doing business outside of Australia.
So what next?
Here are our 5 steps for registering your domain name and setting up your small business website.
1. Register your domain name
First you need to check the availability of your preferred domain name.
Choose a domain name aligned with your business name. It should say enough about what you do, unless you’re creating a whole new brand eg. Apple, Twitter, Fiverr. It should also be short as possible.
You will need to see if the domain name is available. A Google search can be used for getting a general idea of whether similar domain names are in use on ‘live’ websites, but it won’t give you a conclusive answer to whether the domain name is actually available.
Many people register domain names that aren’t in use on a live website – they may want to use them in the future, protect their brand or even to onsell domains to other people. The best way to check domain availability is to use services such as the public WHOIS service. If your domain name is not available, think about a variant such as an abbreviation, acronym, location specific or product related name.
Now you need to register your domain name via an accredited registrar. You can use the list of auDA-accredited registrars for Australia. Check the charges, terms and conditions before securing your domain and also consider if you would like a full service registrar, for example one that also provides hosting.
You may also like to register variants of your domain name to protect your brand and prevent others from using it, such as registering .com, .com.au. .net. You can just hold onto the domains or put redirects on them so people can use the different variants – at InJust5 we chose to secure InJust5 and InJustFive to avoid any confusion.
At this point you don’t even have to worry about setting up your website if you’re not ready. That can be done later. All you are doing at this stage is securing your website address (domain name).
Please note: Securing a domain name doesn’t automatically give you a trade mark or intellectual property protection. Find out more about IP here.
2. Finding a website host
When you’re ready to set your website, you need someone to host it for you (unless you’re using a free hosting option, see Step 5).
A website host will usually charge a monthly or annual fee. Charges can vary widely and can depend on level of service provided, and the size of your website as well as website traffic.
Compare your options carefully, checking pricing, support offered and testimonials. I prefer hosts with telephone and email support.
Don’t lock in your website host until you have considered the remainder of the steps outlined here.
3. Plan your website
Consider now what you’re looking for in your website.
- Do you need a checkout facility?
- Email subscription form?
- Photo gallery?
- Ability to update the site yourself (often called a content management system)?
- Do you need to be able to create and update your site without any knowledge of web coding or html?
- Do you want email addresses with your domain name?
- Do you want your site to also be optimised for mobile and tablet devices?
- How many pages do you need?
Look at competitors sites for inspiration or what not to do.
Consider all these things and whether you have the skills you need to go down the DIY route or do you need a professional web developer?
You will need to know the answer to these questions before you start developing your website.
It will influence the host you choose, whether you engage a professional as well as what system or software is used to build your website.
4. Prepare your content
Start developing the content you want to use on your site. Remember the content should always be aimed at your target market.
It needs to be clear and concise. The site needs to be simple to use and make sense to the customer.
You may consider hiring a professional to write and structure your content.
You should also consider what images and/or video you can use on your site. As a word of warning though, don’t just grab any images of Google and assume they are okay to use. You will need to use content, images, video that you own the copyright to, or your have purchased the right to use via a stock image site or are stated as free to use for commercial purposes and royalty free. Do your research before using any image or content found on the internet.
5. Develop your website
There are a number of options available to you. They include:
Engage a web developer and/or designer to build your website.
This is the most costly option but should yield the most professional results, as long as you engage the right person. Do check though that after they have designed it, that you can access the content management system yourself (if you want to) and do your own updates easily without using html coding. Also ask whether you have to host with them and if you do, what would happen if you wanted to move your site to another provider in the future
Use a free site builder program already offered by your website host.
Check what is included/excluded, and what add-ons you may have to pay for. A lot of hosts will offer you a free trial, so it is worth asking.
DIY Website software
You can install free easy-to-use website software such WordPress (www.wordpress.org) via your existing website host.
Before your lock in your website host you may want to ask what the process is for installing WordPress. Once you have it installed you will find WordPress offers a wide range of free templates and ‘plug-ins’ that are very easy-to-use. Plug-ins are mini programs already written that give extra functionality to your website, such as ‘Book Now’ buttons, image sliders, booking systems, paypal checkouts.
Other platforms that are sometimes considered easier to use than WordPress include rainmakerplatform.com and squarespace.com.
This way you don’t have to pay for hosting and you have access to ready made and easy-to-use templates. Please note the free WordPress blogging platform is different from the WordPress software described above. The WordPress blogging platform doesn’t have the extra functionality of being able to add plug-ins, but it will allow you to customise your domain with them (for a small annual fee). If you don’t customise your domain you will have to use http://www.yournameofchoice.wordpress.com or http://www.yournameofchoice.blogspot.com, which is not as professional looking.
There are also lots of other options such as http://www.wix.com, which are also popular.
All options have their pros and cons. You need to consider what’s best for your business, based on your technical ability, security, administrative access, addons, functionality, cost and professionalism.
The most important thing about a website is that it should be easy to update and fix if needed.