By Hiren Parekh, head of OVHcloud in the UK
With the forced closure of all non-essential shops in the UK, fashion indies without an online presence are scrambling to stay connected with their hard-earned customers. For many, the race is on to create a sparkling website and effective social media channel. But if you’re not technically minded and have never fully harnessed the digital world before, building an online presence can be extremely intimidating. Yes, there are many decisions to make – from choosing a website provider to weighing up your options on social media. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow these four simple steps to get your boutique online fast…
Step 1: Register a domain name
A domain name is the address an internet user types into their browser to visit a website. Before selecting a domain name, you’ll need to choose a registrar. Cost is usually the key driver here. Often, registrars offer domain names for a very low upfront cost. But look a little closer and you might find that the cost from year two onwards is higher than it would be with another registrar. Another consideration is the experience and reputation of the registrar.
If your domain name is already taken you can contact the owner via WHOIS checking tools to see if you can buy it. Alternatively, you can check if the domain “label” you’d like to register is available with a different TLD (the Top-Level Domain, which are the letters at the end of website address such as .com).
Step 2: Set up a business email address
Once you have registered your business domain, getting a business email address will be much easier. Most domain registrars also offer email solutions, ranging from basic packages for individuals and solo entrepreneurs to all-inclusive packages for small-medium sized businesses.
Email options range from simple webmail solutions to advanced packages that can include secure backup, dedicated hosting, and collaborative functionality like shared contacts and calendars. To help make the best choice, try asking yourself what you need from an email solution.
Step 3: Use social media
Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are a great tool to connect with customers and enhance their online presence. Setting up a Facebook page for your business is easier than setting up a website, making it a natural first step.
Do you need to join every social media site? No. Different businesses have different needs and it’s best to pick one social media channel and get really good at it, initially at least.
If you don’t have a website, a redirect service allows you to connect your domain name directly to your social media page. This makes it easy for customers to find you and presents a professional social media page. Redirect services are typically provided by domain registrars.
Step 4: Build a website
Choose a website provider. There are hundreds of website providers. I recommend choosing an experienced, reputable provider to keep your site up and running 24/7/365, provide essential functionality (such as account management tools, remote back-up and security features) while charging fairly.
Choose a hosting plan. Hosting plans vary in price based on the amount of server space offered, availability and regularity of automated backups and website platforms and technologies provided. Other factors include expected monthly traffic and, importantly, availability and quality of security features and services. Most reputable website providers offer guidance to help customers choose the right plan.
Choose a content management system (CMS). A CMS is the software that powers websites. Popular platforms include WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal. They are free and offer pre-made website templates to make it easier for first-time entrepreneurs. With WordPress, you can take advantage of its one-click set-up facility to complete the installation automatically. You’ll need to install a template and add content, but that’s most technical part of building your website.
You can maximise the success of your website by installing a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) plugin or by doing some basic keyword research to find out what customers are searching for.
Finally, once you have your website up and running, you want to keep it that way – and this means keeping it secure. You can read about basic security precautions to help keep your website safe here.