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B&E Design Firm

B&E Design Firm

How to create a website for free for your local business in South Africa? Step-by-step guide

We live in a fast-paced world where every business is trying to find something that will give it the competitive edge it needs to get its customer’s attention. With the internet, there are now a lot of tools at a business’s disposal that can help it achieve this objective. One of the best tools a business can use to reach this goal is a website. In this article, we will be discussing how to create a website for free. We at B&E Design Firm have compiled a list of what you will need.

A website is a set of web pages that exist under one domain and allow the publisher to distribute information geared towards attracting customers’ attention.

1. Set your goal

How to create a website for free. Set Your Goals

When creating a website, you need to understand what your objective is. Whether you want to purchase a domain or whether you want to first try things out before you purchase the domain.

You have two options at hand:

Create a website for free and host it locally

Creating a website locally means that you host the website’s files on your computer as opposed to hosting them on a web host’s servers.

You do not need to be technically proficient to do this. It is very simple to set up. There is no waiting for a hosting provider and no need to configure your own unique domain name. This is one of the best benefits for those who are either freelancers or those who are just looking to get into web design.  This option is perfect, as it allows you to create a website for free.

Benefits of hosting your website locally:

  • Cheap: Hosting and getting a domain name can be expensive.  Local web design is free.
  • There’s no need for a domain name: If you don’t want a domain name, you can still design your website locally and not have to move your WordPress website.
  • Ability to test: designing locally gives you greater flexibility, allowing you to experiment with things like themes, colours, plugins, and custom development. You don’t have any pressure on you since you are the only person who can view the website, so experiment away!

Create a website online

All you need is a reliable and fast web hosting service and you’re good to go. Bluehost is one of our top picks for beginners. They offer plans starting at just R50 per month; it all depends on the exchange rate of the Dollar ($) and the South African Rand (ZAR).

Every Bluehost plan comes with one-click WordPress installation, automatic updates, and a free domain name for the first year. You get everything that you would need for your website.

With the different types of websites available for you out there, you need to first decide which one meets your goals:

  • An online store to sell your products
  • A portfolio website to showcase your art
  • A business website to manage and grow your business  
  • A resume (CV) website to grab the attention of potential employers
  • A blog to share your knowledge with the world
  • An event website for weddings, parties, and company events
  • A photography website to display and sell photos
  • A personal trainer website to book new clients
  • A restaurant website to help with online orders, delivery, and payment

Once you decide which type of website you need, it’s time to start the best part of this entire process: the website design.

No matter how far down the rabbit hole you find yourself when designing your website, always remember your main goal. Keep it in mind and use it as part of your motivation when designing your website. Think about how the website will help you achieve said goal.

As you continue with the design process, you will find yourself having to incorporate different elements depending on what it is that you wish to accomplish.  For example, if you want to sell things online (E-commerce) then you have to include an online shop that has an online payment system in place to help accomplish your goal of selling your products or services.  If your goal is to make a website to educate people, then a simple blog will suffice.

If you need help envisioning a design that meets your goal, browse through these outstanding website examples for inspiration.

2. Choose a Website Builder

How to create a website for free. Choose Your Website Builder

As mentioned before, when you’re creating a website, always keep in mind what it is that you need. For all your small business needs, one of the best website builders out there is WordPress. WordPress is one of the best website builders out there because of the following reasons:

It’s the world’s most popular CMS

Content Management System (CMS) is, in essence, a platform that allows you to create and store digital content. With the millions of websites that exist out there, it’s interesting to note that WordPress powers around 30% of them. Their massive user base ensures that the developers of WordPress are always working to constantly improve their service. That’s why choosing this CMS is the best option for you since you will have access to the constant updates that they do.

Learning how to use it is simple

Whether you are a novice or a pro at web design, WordPress is easy to use. All you need to do is pick the right theme for what you want to do, select a template from the massive amount of templates that they offer, add a few plugins, and then you can jump straight into creating your website.

Once you are used to it, you can make improvements to your site as you go along, adding more plugins and improving the user experience of your website.

WordPress gives you the ability to scale your website

One of the greatest challenges that you will run into is scaling. The more content on your site, and the more web traffic it generates, the bigger the strain becomes on it. As mentioned before, choosing a quality CMS is essential when developing your website, and WordPress allows you to get around the issue of scaling thanks to their experience in powering some of the most popular websites out there.

WordPress websites are easy to maintain

Something that everyone needs to be aware of when it comes to web design is the heavy need to constantly perform maintenance on your website. WordPress sites are no different, with a need to focus on the following in particular:

  1. Updating the CMS as new versions come out
  2. Updating your plugins and themes whenever you have the option to
  3. Managing your site’s comments (if you choose to enable them)
  4. Ensure that your website is fully optimised and secure
  5. Always run backups of your website

You can easily optimise your website for search engines

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is one of the best tools at your disposal for directing traffic to your website. Depending on the CMS that you use, SEO could be very difficult. Thankfully, WordPress is not one of them. With their powerful SEO plugins such as Yoast SEO, All in One SEO Pack, The SEO Framework, you can optimise search results a lot easier.

WordPress takes security seriously

Security is a huge issue for everyone online, as no website or CMS is 100% safe. With all of the threats that exist out there, it’s best to use a platform that takes safety very seriously, and thankfully, WordPress is one such platform. They are always running security updates to ensure the best and safest user experience for those who choose to use their services.

3. Set up your WordPress website

How to create a website for free. Set up WordPress

Carefully comb through every section so that you can become familiar with the WordPress UX. Most of these are easy to understand—things like Posts, Media, Comments, and Settings.

The following things are the ones you should focus on first:

Finalise Your Website Title and Tagline

Click on the Settings tab on the WordPress black menu bar on the left of the screen, followed by General. Type in your Site Title and Tagline in the respective fields.

Set Your Website Permalinks

Permalinks define what the individual web page addresses or URLs of your website will look like. Choose the most optimised URL structure for SEO purposes.

To do this, go to Settings, followed by Permalinks, from the main WordPress sidebar. You see a list of options on your screen. Check the Post name field.

Set Your Home Page and Allow Search Engine To Discover Your Pages

Establish your home page and enable search engines to uncover your web pages. Ensure optimal visibility and accessibility for your online content through strategic homepage settings, allowing search engines to efficiently index and present your pages to a broader audience.

Take control of your website’s performance by setting a designated home page and facilitating search engine discovery of your pages. Optimise your site for search engines by configuring your homepage settings, enhancing the chances of efficient indexing.

This approach ensures that your valuable content is easily accessible to a wider online audience, contributing to improved visibility and increased web presence.

4. Select and install a WordPress theme

How to create a website for free. Install WordPress Theme

WordPress themes define how your website looks and feels. That is why it is important to make sure that you put a lot of thought into which theme you want to select for your website. Once your website is up and running, it is difficult to change themes at will since this can interfere with how the content on the website is copied and consumed.

The site has thousands of free and premium themes for you to look over. If you don’t like these themes, then you can check out ThemeIsle and aThemes for more options.

If the theme you like is available in the official WordPress directory, you can install it directly by following the instructions below:

On the main WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance, followed by Theme. Select Add New at the top.

After the installation process is complete, click on Activate to enable it fully on your website. This button will automatically pop up in place of the Install button after installation is done.

The process will be slightly different if you want to download and install a premium theme. Follow the instructions to download your theme. Generally, the files are downloaded in a .zip file format. Save it to your desktop. Return to your WordPress dashboard and click on Appearance, then Themes. Select Upload on the Themes page.

Click Upload Theme. This will open a file input selection dropdown. Click Browse… and choose the .zip file you just downloaded. Click Install Now.

5. Define your content

Define Your Content

Once you have the proper designs laid out for your website, the next thing to do is focus on the content that has to be uploaded. This includes things like images, text, logos, videos, and much more.

Try sticking to using your own material as much as possible in order to ensure a level of authenticity that only your brand can offer. If you can’t use your own material and instead use things like stock images and stock videos, just make sure that you acquire them legally. There are many websites out there that offer free stock footage for you to use legally.

While it’s nice and easy to get these stock images and videos from the web, just ensure that you emphasise quality over quantity. As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, everyone is trying to get someone’s attention, so it is best to make sure that you use only the best content on your website.

Most importantly make sure that your content is fully branded. Your website is an extension of your brand, so make sure that everything, from the colours to the text font to the written content and images, matches up with your brand.

6. Add the right pages on your website

How to create a website for free. Create All The Relevant Pages

Like every business that is out there, every website is unique. However, even with this unique nature on full display, there are still some things that everyone that comes across your website will expect to see. If your website will be multi-page, then here are some things that should be on it:

Homepage

Besides your landing pages, a homepage is your only shot at making a good impression with your website visitors since it is the first thing they will come across most of the time. Try to build a homepage that has a clean design that is organised and eye-catching. It should serve as a means of telling people about who you are and what it is that you do. It should serve as the starting point for your visitors to look through your website.

You need to ensure that it is easy to navigate. Things to consider having on your homepage are:

  • A brief introduction about your business
  • The services/products you offer
  • Your core values
  • Your contact details

Once you have these basic things sorted out, try to think of things like:

  • Images
  • Text and written content
  • Any call-to-action that you can feature

About Us Page

An About Us page is necessary to let your website visitors know about who you are, what your core values are, and any other information that is a necessity to help define you in your customer’s eyes.

For a personal website, you may refer to yourself in the first person, using prefixes like “I” and “We,” since it comes off as friendly and warm.

For a business website, we recommend using your business name and “We” prefix since it comes off as professional and assuring.

Don’t forget to include a picture of either yourself or your team members, since visitors and clients like to see the face(s) behind a business.

Services Page

A services page is probably the most straightforward page of all, as it is where you list all of the products and/or services that you offer. You have to ensure, though, that you don’t just make it a huge wall of text. It has to be something that is fun and engaging for your visitor. Include pictures and videos of whatever service you offer whenever possible, as this helps to illustrate exactly how good you are at whatever it is that you do.

Blog Page

A blog increases your reputation as an expert in whatever field you are in, helps you create and nurture a loyal community, and is effective in driving traffic to your site. Even if you are not a natural-born writer, you can still write quite a bit. Write about your clients, their success stories, case studies, or even interviews.

You can write about yourself as well, mentioning things like events that you have attended, your employees, and a whole lot more that you think you can write about. Your readers will love getting whatever tips and tricks can help them get around whatever issues they come across.

Contact Us Page

Including a Contact page is important because it allows site visitors who want to reach out to you to do so with ease. Make sure to include your phone number, postal address, business email address, and social media accounts. You can also add a live chat widget that gives people that visit your site the opportunity to get an immediate response from you. A contact is also something else that you can include where people can write a message directly on your website.

FAQ Page

An FAQ page is a page on your website that provides visitors with answers to some of the more common questions out there in an organised and structured way. It is a great time-saver as it provides automated answers right away for your users.

Landing Page

A landing page is a standalone page created to fulfil a conversion goal. A landing page will usually display directed sales copy that is a logical extension of the advertisement, search result, or link. The general goal of a landing page is to convert site visitors into sales or leads (the initiation of consumer interest or inquiry into the products or services of a business).

7. Improve your website’s navigation

How to create a website for free. User Friendly Navigation and Optimization

When designing your website, always remember that most people will visit it on mobile. Even though it is a smaller screen that they see your website through, it doesn’t mean that the impact of their experience is any less than that of the PC user. You need to make sure that your website has a seamless browsing experience across all devices, so you must ensure that it is optimised for mobile design.

Conclusion

In conclusion, establishing a website for your local business in South Africa need not be a costly endeavor. By exploring free website-building platforms and utilising cost-effective resources, you can create an online presence that effectively promotes your services. Leverage user-friendly tools and templates, and tailor your site to reflect the unique character of your business. With strategic planning and a commitment to showcasing your offerings, a free website can serve as a valuable asset, helping you connect with the local community, enhance brand visibility, and drive business growth. Embrace the digital landscape with confidence, and embark on the journey of building a cost-efficient and impactful website for your South African business.

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Kenji Suwanthong
Kenji Suwanthong
Kenji Suwanthong stands out as a dedicated digital marketing professional, with a deep-seated commitment to reshaping the business environment for local enterprises. He is on a mission to dismantle preconceived notions about digital marketing, earning himself a spot as a reliable and innovative figure in the sector. Kenji’s extensive research background and varied skill set enable him to devise customized digital marketing plans that help small businesses not only stay competitive but also excel in their market. His unique and impactful approach to digital marketing stems from a combination of his expertise and a steadfast dedication to uplifting local businesses. As a forward-thinking leader in this domain, Kenji constantly seeks out new ways to apply technology and harness data to advance small businesses. His enthusiasm for continuous learning and development ensures his clients are always at the forefront, maximizing advanced tools and methodologies. Kenji’s commitment to client success, coupled with his authentic drive to support local businesses in their growth, establishes him as an invaluable contributor to the digital marketing sphere.

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