How to Build a Website for Your Small Business

It’s the rare modern business that can escape the need for a website. A solid business website simply serves too many important functions, such as lead generation, eCommerce, and brand building. Yet, for new business owners or startups outside the tech sector, building a website isn’t a natural process.

Where do you start? What services do you need? What can or should you do in-house and what should you outsource?

If you’re wondering how to build a website, keep reading. We’ll walk you through some of the essential services you need, as well as your options for creating a small business website.


Before you even worry about designing a website or building a website, you’ll need some basics in place. The two most essential basics are a domain name and a hosting service.

A domain name is the address people type into their web browser to get to your site. A famous example is This address lets your browser find and display your website.

You get your domain name through a registrar service.

Hosting services essentially give you somewhere to put the files for your website. In essence, they rent you space on servers. Once your files are on the server and attached to your domain name, people can find and view your site.

In many cases, you can get both your domain name and hosting through one company.

Content Management Systems

Content management systems are an extremely popular method of building a website. In essence, a content management system is a bunch of software that forms the core of your site. The CMS handles a huge range of basic tasks with the same code on every site that uses the CMS.

You typically get a basic set of options, such as creating pages, a blog, and even some basic analytics as part of the package. You can make your site more versatile with add-ons that give you extra functions, such as shopping carts, web stores, and payment processing.

You typically change the look of your site using themes, which act as a visual overlay on the basic site structure. These determine things like how many columns display on your site and the positioning of key site elements. In essence, theme selection substitutes in for designing the visual elements of your website.

Template Sites

Template sites offer another popular option for making a small business website. Companies that offer these sites bundle together things like providing a domain name, offering hosting, and “design.”

In most cases, you get a set of options for the arrangement of your site. Within these templates, you get some drag-and-drop options for visual elements like the header image or logo. For example, you might pick between rectangular and oval-shaped header image options.

The templates and limited range of drag-and-drop options also stand in for the more detailed design process you normally see with professional web development companies.

This option is often appealing for business owners who prefer a more hands-on approach. The downside is that the templates often prove a compromise in terms of look and feel.

Custom Sites

The other main option for a website is a custom site. Most people see this is as the right path for you to get the best website for your business. At the very least, you get the maximum control over the end product.

Instead of picking from templates or themes, you sit down with a web designer and/or a web developer. If you work with a good one, they’ll ask you an exhaustive list of questions about your ideal site.

Some of the questions will touch on the look of the site, such as colors. Some of the questions will focus on your goal for the site.

For example, let’s say your main goal for the site is selling products. That will take you down a whole set of questions about what you’ll sell, how many categories and subcategories you want, and product page structure.

If you want a site the focuses on lead generation, you’ll get different questions about the visitor’s path through the site and probably the customer journey. The answers to those questions will help define the site structure and navigation.

You will also get technical questions about exactly what functions the site needs.


Every dollar counts when you’re running a business, so it’s natural to wonder about things like service costs and web development costs. The costs for the basics tend toward the fairly reasonable.

Basic hosting costs run around $20 a month, while extremely high-end hosting can cost several hundred a month. A standard domain will run you around $20 a year.

The most variance in price happens with the site itself. You can use a content management system like WordPress for free, using nothing but free themes and plugins.

The more realistic option is that you’ll end up paying for a custom theme and using subscription plugins. With this option, you can expect an overall cost that ranges from a few hundred to a thousand dollars a year or more.

A custom website will range from $2000 for a simple site to tens of thousands of dollars for a high-end eCommerce site.

A template site will typically come with subscription costs for the site itself and costs for extras, like eCommerce and payment processing. The total costs will vary depending on your needs, traffic, and sales.

How to Build a Website? Step by Step

Answering the question of how to build a website can take several forms. Your needs, expectations, and finances will define the right answer for your business.

Assuming money isn’t too much of a problem, a custom site will get you a very clean and sophisticated site. Yet, the cost must justify itself. If your business won’t recoup the cost of the site within a year, you’re likely better off with a less expensive option until the ROI makes sense.

Looking for more website-building tips? Check out the articles in our Web Design section.