Being keen to support local business, I'm really pleased to annouce the launch of our local pub's web site (the Dolphin Inn, Kenton).
The site, www.dolphinkenton.co.uk has social promotion at it's heart, featuring Facebook and Twitter integration, and a photo gallery, as well as providing a simple way for the pub to promote it's latest events and promotions.
The site launch is also being re-enforced with a new design for the pub's menus, and Google places integration.
See the 'My Work' section of the site for further information on this project.
Being a small business myself, I’m keen to support other small businesses in their route to getting online. Whilst I take pride in my approach to offering simple and affordable solutions to my clients, I appreciate that taking the plunge into online presence and marketing can sometimes seem like a big commitment.
If you just want to give your business a gentle introduction to the web, or have your heart set on going it alone, I hope that you find the following resources and advice valuable.
Free Basic Web Sites for UK Businesses
'Getting British Business Online' or GBBO (www.gbbo.co.uk) is an initiative run by the UK Government in partnership with Google and BT, to provide UK businesses with a basic web presence and simple online marketing advice.
The initiative offers any UK business a free domain name (courtesy of BT) and a basic web site which the user creates via an online site editor (powered by Google Sites). The registration process all happens online, and you could be up and running within an hour.
After 2 years, you'll need to pay a nominal renewal charge for your domain name, but other than that, it's completely free.
Google Sites won't enable you to create stunning looking sites and the functionality is somewhat limited, but it is simple, offers a number of template choices and will let you create a basic presence sites very quickly.
It's worth reading the small print: your details may be used by BT and Google for marketing purposes, there are certain types of content that you're not allowed to publish on your site and if you register a domain name through GBBO, you won't be allowed to transfer that domain name anywhere else until 60 days have passed (so be careful to ensure that the GBBO service is definitely going to meet the needs of your business).
If you're not sure whether the GBBO service is right for you, or you want to use the service but need some guidance, give me a call and we can talk through the options.
Registering a Domain Name
In the online world, your choice of domain name (or web address, e.g. www.yourcompany.co.uk) is arguably as important as the name of your business itself - good domain names are simple, memorable and relevant to your business.
However, choosing a domain name can be a long winded process. In an ideal world, you'd be able to use your business name, but more often than not, that's not possible because there will be numerous other businesses out there with the same name. Likewise, domains that describe your products or service (e.g. hair.co.uk, mechanic.co.uk, bank.co.uk etc.) tend to have been snapped up years ago.
If your preferred choice of domain name isn't available, it's time to get creative:
- Combine your business name with the product or service (or derivations) that you offer, for example, if your business is called 'Smith Brothers' and you're a Butcher, try smithbrothersbutchers.co.uk, sbbutchers.co.uk, sbmeat.co.uk etc.;
- If your business is locally or regionally focussed and you do not plan to expand outside of your area, try combining your business name or product service with the name of your local area: e.g. sbdevon.co.uk, exeterbutcher.co.uk etc.;
- Think of a memorable phrase that describes your product or service (you could also use this as a marketing device), e.g. thejuiciestmeatindevon.co.uk, plymouthsbestbeef.co.uk etc.;
- Try different 'Top Level Domain' (TLD) combinations. The TLD is the bit that comes after the dot (e.g. .co.uk, .com, .net, .org etc.). If smithbros.co.uk isn't available, smithbros.com might be. Do be mindful however that certain domains have more sway in certain geogrpahic areas (e.g. a .co.uk domain may be a more effective marketing device for smaller, locally focussed businesses in the UK than a .com);
- If all else fails, make it up! Whilst it can be a risky strategy, many online brands have simply invented their domain names; sometimes a phonetic equivalent of a real word that describes the business' product/service (e.g. flickr.com), and sometimes completely fabricated (e.g. gowalla.com). Running with our butchers' example, how about meetee.co.uk?
If you don't want to use GBBO, you can use a service such as 1&1's domain checker
to check the availablilty of your chosen domain; if it's available, you can then proceed to order it with 1&1, or indeed any other 'Registrar'
(I'd also recommend www.domainmonster.com
). Domain names aren't expensive; generally between £3 - £10 per year. Once you've bought your domain, your registrar will generally provide tools to allow you to point that URL to your chosen host.
Domain name registry can be daunting at first (particularly the more technical parts of the process such as linking your domain name to your chosen host); so if you find that you need some guidance in this area, please do get in touch
Buidling and Hosting Your Site
If you're not keen on using the GBBO service to host your site, there are a number of alternative options for creating simple web sites, with little or no technical knowledge. Two of the more popular routes are:
Whilst technically a 'blog engine'
, Wordpress can be used to achieve sites of similar complexity and structure to Google Sites. It's free to register for a Wordpress account, and there's a large user community that you can approach for help and support. There are also hundreds of custom themes that you can apply to your Wordpress site to customise the wa that it looks.
Some of the more advanced features such as linking your domain name to your Wordpress site are only available with a paid subscription, and the free version may insert ads onto your site.
: A service specifically designed for template-driven site creation, Moonfruit offers some neat, easy to use site building tools. There are a range of packages on offer, with a free (if somewhat limited) option available too.
Want to get more Adventurous?
Building a site from scratch, and the technicalties of hosting are somewhat out of the scope of this guide; however, there are some fantastic resources available on the web to kickstart your journey on the road to developing your own web sites; following are just a few recommendations:
- w3schools (www.w3schools.com) offer 100's of free tutorials in everything from basic web design to advanced web development;
- WebMonkey from wired.com (www.webmonkey.com) offers loads of fantastic web design and development articles, cheat sheets and design ideas;
- Daily (www.daily.co.uk) is my host of choice, offering an excellent range of hosting packages at a really competitive price.
Of course, if all that seems a bit too much like hard work ...I'm always on the end of the phone!
My poor iPhone gave up the ghost at some point last week, and upon taking it back to the mothership (Apple Store in Exeter) I was a tad put out to be told that nothing could be done about it until I'd made an appointment with a 'Genius' ... some 3 days away.
I never thought I'd last 3 days without my iPhone, but somehow managed and was kind of pleased I did hold out to deal with Apple directly, rather than sending the handset back to O2.
Put simply, the customer service was excellent. My Genius (Orania) was really friendly, knowledgable and really couldn't have been more helpful. And to top it all off, I walked out 20 minutes later with a brand spanking new handset.
Nice one, Apple!