Building a Business Website the Right Way


This guide explains what a business website is and what’s involved in getting and making a website for your business.

It’s for anyone that needs to launch a website for their small, medium or large business as it prepares them for the journey ahead.

It gives you an overview of

  • The different types of business websites
  • The different ways you can make a website
  • Who to get to help you make it
  • The costs of making and running a website
  • The technologies involved
  • How to make a website


What is a business website?

Business websites are there to represent a business and help with its promotion.

There are many different types of business website, each with their own

  • Methods of construction
  • Technical platforms
  • Content features
  • Pricing
  • Purpose

What are business websites for?

Business websites can be very useful for a business and serve many purposes. Generally, they need to reflect well on the business, be helpful to the user so that they can carry on with their mission – whatever that may be.

To reflect well on a business a website needs to be built to a certain standard:

General qualities that all business websites should have

Quite often, a business website is built without clear purpose other than to represent the company online. When this happens, a website can make a business seem boastful, disorganized and unprofessional.

When you look at any website, you can judge it on the following qualities:


Websites need to fulfil a use to the user as well as the business. Without both, the website won’t be visited or won’t be built.


A website must make the business seem reliable and professional. There has to be an air of confidence and matter-of-fact to it. It cannot be boastful or ugly if it needs to gain people’s trust.


The information presented needs to be easy to understand. It should bear in mind that different users will need different levels of explanation, some more expert, some more introductory.

It should not leave any doubt what the business is about – and what the business has to offer.

Ability to differentiate

There are lots of similar businesses in every sector. To an industry outsider, all businesses within that industry do the same thing. To anyone within the industry, the differences are huge. The job of the website is allow the outsider to see as clearly as the insider.


Uses of a business website

What is the point of having a website? Having a clearer idea of why you need a website will help you put a monetary value on it and how much you should be willing to pay for one.

Websites are tools to bring in business, educate clients, save money on advertising, and improve brand loyalty. Let’s go through some of these points.

Bringing in new business

Your websites over the years will bring in business directly or indirectly. Year in, year out it can be the heart of sales operation. Will this be the case for your business? Most likely, but not necessarily.

There are lots of business websites out there that don’t give a return on investment since they are not found due to lack of investment in promoting the website.

A basis for online marketing

Having a website can be the foundation of online marketing. Not in all cases, but particularly for some businesses having a website goes hand-in-hand with digital marketing and SEO. Don’t just think about the cost of getting a website built – think about the total cost of marketing. Get more details on promoting your business online.

Saving money

Particularly for larger clients that already spend money on public relations and communication. Putting information online, using the website as a modern IT and communication tool brings in tangible savings.

For smaller businesses, it may not be so apparent, especially if there isn’t any formal budget for marketing and promotions but compared to the time and energy required to reach potential clients by other means, it can be seen as a saving.

Explaining difficult things

Lots of businesses aren’t simple – and that’s why they are difficult to copy. For most businesses that are below the radar, branding only goes so far to build trust and loyalty. What builds trust and loyalty is bringing understanding and worth to the potential client. What is it about what you are doing that is better than what the business down the road is doing?

Increasing Brand Value

The value of a brand is calculable. It aids business and brings in the money due to the trust and loyalty it brings. This is as much true for Coca Cola as it is for a local electrician. Businesses that look branded are more trustworthy on first look, than business that look generic.

9 types of business websites

Here is a brief overview of the differences between business websites. Each website needs to be built differently using different techniques.

The small business website

A small business is any business that is small, meaning anything from a butcher to a 3 man law firm. The hallmarks of a small business website is that it is affordable, easy to update and has clear and useful information.

The consumer oriented websites

Consumer oriented businesses target end buyers (as opposed to other businesses). They tend to be bright, happy and visual.

The industrial website

Industrial websites need to make the complex seem simple. They need to provide the correct level of detail and consider many types of customer needs.

The local business website

Local businesses have to consider how to use their geographic vicinity to their advantage, how attract local clients, how to appeal to a wider audience.

The product-oriented website

Websites which display products need special software, have different SEO. Products have lots of competition and are available everywhere; what are the winning tactics?

The e-commerce business website

E-commerce websites deal with online transactions for the sale of products or services. E-commerce websites have specific technical issues such as sales promotion and user psychology.

The professional services website

Professional websites sell intangibles. It takes know-how to construct the professional’s website  when often what is sold is hard to understand and compare with other professional services.

The corporate website

The corporate website has to promote the corporation yet not be too proud nor talk too cleverly. It has to be useful to a wide range of users who seek a multitude of information.

The B2B website

A B2B website targets business users. They are more rational in their purchasing decision. The website has to account for a longer purchasing cycle and clients that are geographically dispersed.

Who are you building the website for?

Knowing specifically who will be using your website and why, will help you understand the content to put in it and who you are building the website for.

It isn’t always obvious that the website isn’t being built for the business alone but for the people visiting the website – and they will have a different perspective on what they want to know.

It’s worth mentioning because a lot of badly made business websites talk about the wrong things.

Things that people aren’t interested in. Like the history of the company or the latest advertising campaigns or the favorite weekend activity of the development team.

Most of the time, you’re building for different needs. A quick run through:

  • A person applying for a job interview at your company
  • A person that’s looking for a product or service right now.
  • Staff within a company that want to learn more about the company.
  • A person who doesn’t know what they need but may need you in the future, if you help them now.
  • A person who wants to recommend your business, if you only had a nice website.
  • A researcher, a person collecting quotes for his boss, the CEO or a large company.
  • Your competition trying to gain one up on you.
  • A person wanting to know the cost of something.
  • Google will use your website to help its users find valuable information.


Build a website with all these people and you’re on your way to having a successful business website.


Who should build your website?

Choosing who to make your website can be hit and miss because there are lots of choices and there’s no easy way to choose – they all seem to do more or less the same thing.

Here are the options we’ll be discussing

  • Do it Yourself
  • Freelancers
  • In-house staff
  • Local agency
  • Offshore agency
  • Starfish


Some criteria to evaluate them:

  • Price
  • Know-how
  • Cost of communication
  • The website of the person making it
  • Portfolio
  • Long term value
  • Customer service


General advice on building a website

Building a website isn’t easy unless you’re cutting corners. The cost of the website is based on the amount of effort put in. The more effort, the better the results. Try not to cut corners.

Companies with higher turnover should put in more effort (time and money), as they will get more back in return.

Smaller companies can start small and improve the website after launch.

Making a good website requires plenty of communication, lots of different skills in the areas of business, design, marketing and technology.

For the most part, don’t focus on the design, focus on the message. Knowing how to make your business look special is the art. The development part is easy in comparison.

Making a website for your business takes time: your time as well as everyone else’s. The less time it takes, the less thought has gone into it, the more chances that the website won’t be fit for purpose.

How to select a partner

Due diligence is required when choosing a provider. There are thousands of providers out there, so it’s important to narrow down the choices into broad categories.

The most important fact for Starfish is communication, long term value, guidance and know-how.


Doing it Yourself

There are many online platforms that make it easy to build a website – Squarespace, Wix, Weebly to name a few.

Their slick portfolios look amazing but it’s a trick because most sites are photogenic sites whereas most businesses aren’t naturally photogenic.

The sites are designed by professional designers so what you build is unlikely to be anything like that.

Design and development makes up only a small portion of the job – and these online platforms only solve that portion.

The cost of your time and the cost of missed opportunity for doing it wrong should be enough to stop you from trying.

Making a website yourself should only be an option if you have an eye for design, your business is small, simple, photogenic and you’ve got time to invest.


Using a freelancer

Making a website on your own is difficult, so for a freelancer to do all the jobs of communication, guidance, design and development and promotion – is asking a lot.

A freelancer will be strong on some skills and weak on others. They are a good option for small simple websites.  The biggest complaint we hear is that they aren’t reliable – probably because they undercharge.

The downside of working with a freelancer is the long term support, the lost opportunity for making something that doesn’t maximize your online business potential and the increased chance of project failure due to lack of management skills and experience.

Ultimately, a business website isn’t about the design, it’s about meeting strategic business objectives.

Freelance web designer

Freelancers are a great option if you find one with a good reputation and portfolio. They work well for local and small businesses that require a basic but tasteful design.

Freelance designers are generally better at communicating then developers, have more all-round skills and get around technicalities through the use of modern online platforms like Wix, Squarespace.

Freelance web developer

Freelance web developers are great if you can guide them and provide very clear instructions. Most  developers have weak design skills, so work with a designer beforehand. There are developers that can design, so look at the portfolio and judge for yourself.

Web developers may be weak in some areas like site speed and basic SEO – so look out for these things in their portfolio.

Web developers make up for their lack of design skills by using templates. This can be fine and dandy but other times – the end result is a badly fitted website with content and design looking off balance.


Doing it in-house

The benefits of having an in-house team is the dedication they can give to a project. It can be worth investing in your own staff if you are building something custom and complicated.

Like all staff, they need good management and direction for the visions to succeed. Left to their own devices they may choose the wrong technology or build something technically complex  – one based on their personal preference (or what will look good on their resume) rather than something that takes into account the total cost of ownership.

Business websites need a rounded team that have communication, marketing, design skills – all managed by experienced managers in the field of website development.

Even if you are large enough to afford the staff, it is worth letting others with more experience and detachment from the project do it for you.


Working with a local agency

There are web agencies to suit all types of business. There are cheaper agencies for small business and expensive agencies for big companies.

Most larger local agencies have a need to find larger clients in order to survive, so if you’re not a big fish, you are unlikely to find value in this arrangement.

A lot of “affordable” local agencies either outsource (to India or the Philippines) and keep the sales and customer service team local. Another tactic is to hire a slim or inexperienced team to keep costs down.

Things can feel rushed as the clock is always ticking. There is not much time for support or service, so once the website is made, you’re on your own or paying over the odds for minor fixes

When evaluating local agencies evaluate them on how professional and informative their website is. Look at their portfolio. Do you get a personal service? Are you able to talk to the team involved or is that off limits. Ask to see the terms of the contract early on.

Don’t just look at the cost of the website, see much they charge for maintenance and other services.

Working with a foreign agency

The primary reason to work with a foreign agency is usually price. Given the cost of labor in western countries, outsourcing is soon becoming the only option for a lot of businesses.


Starfish excluded, foreign web design agencies either compete on price and are cheap for the foreign market or local SMEs or expensive for local big fish.

There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground, as it’s always a race to the bottom or a race to the top.

Indian companies are bad on design and rush things and Philippine companies tend to be “yes people” – for good or for bad. Both suffer from cultural communication issues.

Starfish picks up a lot of work from people that have been burnt from their experiences and are often quite relieved that we are open communicators and our “alternative” approach.


Working with Starfish

Starfish is rare in that is has plenty of experience working with reputable clients from all over the world.

Our aim is the middle market, so we tend to work with people that are after good work and good value rather than bottom price.

We excel in communication, know-how, design and support. Our aim is to be affordable, reliable and good. Learn more about us.

Use Starfish if you want an affordable, long-term business solution. Don’t use us if you want something quick and cheap. Expect to participate.

How to choose your website designer or developer


To a large extent, price determines quality of service since the cost of labor is what makes up 80% of the actual cost. The market for web development talent is global and extremely fluid. You get what you pay for.

The larger your business, the more you should be willing to pay – as the more you pay, the better return on investment.

For smaller businesses, there comes a point when lowering the price further means cutting corners. The only option you have is to simplify your requirements and work with a company that can help you increase your investment as you gain experience and confidence in the digital environment.


People tend to think making a website is easy – maybe because good websites look simple. The truth is that it involves many different skills, years of experience and lots of know-how.

How do you tell which website agencies know their stuff – because they demonstrate their expertise, just like any other professional would.

To a large degree, knowledge is what is on offer. Making websites is about know-how – it’s very much a professional service rather than a product or commodity.

Cost of communication

This refers to the cost of your time in communicating to the people making the website. Making a website is about melding of design, technical and business minds. There is a certain overhead in the melding. The cost is worth it because there isn’t anyone who knows everything about making websites – and if they did they wouldn’t be able to focus on everything – so you need a good team structure – one that you can talk to without tearing your hair out.

Are you able to talk to the people making the website? Or is all forms or are the team hiding behind account managers? Is the level of English good enough?

If communication is bad and ideas can’t go back and forth, the website won’t come together well.

The website of the designer/developer

It would unfair to judge an agency on its portfolio alone since the websites are built with clients who have a very heavy influence on the outcome.

One website that is totally under the control of the web agency is their own website.

The portfolio

The portfolio will give some clues as to the standard of work. However, it’s important to be able to judge a website professionally without getting caught up in the aesthetics or content alone.


Do the websites serve its intended purpose?


Is the website pretty? Is there good use of photography.  Are the designs simple without feeling sparse. Is the layout interesting without being complex.

Ease of use

Is the website easy to navigate or is the website just simple?


Are the websites optimized? Do they load quickly? Does it get a high score in GTMetrix? Note, this isn’t always in the control of the agency, especially if they are no longer maintaining it.

Long Term Value

A website should last you for 5 years or hopefully longer. You don’t want to be going through the process of making a website every year as that would be costly on your time. It’s better to spend a little more and get it right, than pay double.

To make a website last longer than a year, you need to keep updating it . A lot of web agencies don’t like doing this because it’s doesn’t bring in much revenue and its difficult. Starfish isn’t like that.

Customer Service

When you get service are you able to speak to someone who knows you. Can you speak to the people who are doing the actual work or are they hidden from you?

Are you able to escalate your concerns easily? Can you get a hold of the manager? Can you make a complaint?

Will your questions be answered in a generic way or will the take the time to know you and give a tempered and contextualized response.

A personal customer service is paramount to making a good website and a hassle free experience.


The cost of making, running and maintain a website

Costs can be broken down into two parts. Pre-launch and post-launch.

Aspects of the design and development technique of making a website are covered in this article about website development

Pre-launch costs

This is the cost of making the website itself. If you’re buying a website for a package price, you won’t get to see the breakdown, so here’s more or less the costs.

Not all websites packages come with all services but you get what you pay for.


  • Thinking about what to do before doing it.
  • Not very necessary if the client is doing all the planning and the service is simply about stuffing content into a template.


  • Branding, logo, and photography.
  • Pre designed templates, the adaptation of the template to the requirements or varying levels of Custom Design


Technical construction. This can be done through WordPress or can be custom developed – which can triple the cost.

Quality Assurance

Making sure that the quality of the output, the attention to detail is good. A lot of websites look good but behind the façade, they are poorly constructed.

Digital Marketing & SEO

Thinking and implementing pre-launch digital marketing and SEO strategies – important if you’re going to rely on SEO for visitors.

Project Administration

Making sure budgets and targets are met.

Art / technical direction

More unique or sophisticated projects need technical and creative direction. The director sets the overall plan of attack and so that the everything ties together.



Post Launch costs

This can be broken down into four main costs:


Starfish covers all post-launch costs under one service. It’s called Ongoing Digital Support and it’s based on a monthly budget of your choosing.

Maintenance  Costs

The more technically complex your website, the more the maintenance costs. We suggest a minimum of 5 hours a month, although some very small sites can get away with a couple of hours – though this isn’t recommended.

Websites need maintenance because software has gotten complicated and technology keeps advancing at such a rapid rate that if you don’t keep your website up to date, your website will eventually be compromised and become obsolete. Maintenance is a form of insurance against that.

Website optimization

Website speed optimization  involves making tweaks to a website to make it run faster and easier to use.. Like computers , websites slow down every now and again as they get bloated.

Website Improvements

A website after launch isn’t perfect. It’s just good enough to launch. Its best to keep improving a website  so that it works harder for the business.

Security and administration

Websites get copied, hacked, spam attacked. Regular administration, software updates and scanning is required on some websites.


Digital Marketing and SEO Costs

The amount companies invest in digital marketing and SEO is going up because online competition is heating up. We recommend no less than 15 hours a month for a small company but 25 hours a month is will help build momentum and growth.

Starfish’s service is aimed at SME’s business that are conservative in their spending. If you want to more aggressive (and costly) strategy, there are plenty of other options out there.


Hosting Costs

For people to access the website – it needs to be hosted with a hosting provider.

Hosting costs are a fixed price ongoing monthly cost. The cost depends on the speed of the hosting service and quality of the service. Faster is more expensive but not always needed. For most businesses, a basic hosting service is all that’s needed.

Domain Name costs

The business’s domain name can be bought for years at a time but it’s not a one-time purchase.

Security certificate

A yearly fee needs to be paid to keep the website security certificate up to date.

Technology costs

Though it isn’t the only consideration, the cost of the technology should be a factor in the technology you choose to work with.

The choice of website technology

The choice is normally decided for you by the technician / web agency making the website but it shouldn’t be. It should be the choice of the website owner.

Technicians may prefer technologies they are familiar with or worse still, technologies they wish to add to their resume.

The choice of technology largely depends on whether you are making a templated website or a custom website.  A simple small business website, an ecommerce website or something else.

For the most part we recommend developing in WordPress because it has enough flexibility, ease of maintenance and ease of using it to promote your business.

Why choice matters

Choice matters for the following reasons:

  • Cost of maintenance: some websites are more complicated to maintain.
  • Cost of editing.
  • Ability to switch provider should something go wrong.
  • Cost of developing features. Developer


Advice for choosing technology

It can be boiled down to this:

  • Get the simplest technology you can, the one that requires the least amount of work – unless you have experience.
  • Don’t go for anything fancy, unless you need the features now.
  • Don’t build for a future that may not come.
  • The biggest cost of any software technology is the cost of the developer using it.


How to make a website

Assuming you are not making it yourself or in-house, here are some general tips in order to get the best possible results.

Good results are dependent on both parties working together harmoniously, understanding that both have a part to play.

Be an informed client

Making a website isn’t like buying a product, there is work on both sides. It therefore makes sense that both sides have a better understanding of the goals, choices and the journey ahead.

Educated clients are easier to work with and get better results than those who haven’t understood their options.  Starfish guides its clients because the end-result is a better website.

Get ready to participate

Web agencies like to give the impression that making a website is easy – all you have to do is follow their “proven” step-by-step process and voila – a lovely website appears out the other end.


Unfortunately, results are not pre-determined and project do go wrong from time to time. The devil is in the detail: the choices your make, the guidance you receive, the ideas you have and the conversations you have or don’t have.


Budget friendly approaches

There are ways to make a website affordably without compromising on quality. The main technique is content planning and staying close to the template you choose.


Planning and project complexity

Website complexity

As your website gets more complex you will need to use more planning activities to ensure your website is built the right way.

Business complexity

Likewise, the more complex your business (the more there is to explain), the more time you need to spend planning it to make your business message clear.


If you try to rush a project and skip planning activities to save budget, you will still get a website. It may even be a pretty website – but it may not be an effective website.


Templates vs Custom Designs

Templates used to be frowned upon but now they are so flexible and customizable that they are a good place to start for most business websites, even sophisticated ones.

Custom Websites are better suited for high concept or high tech projects – where there is a good reason to start from zero. Templates is enough if you’re aiming for a functional and sleek business website.


Website-making activities

Clients can and must get involved in the early stages when it comes to the creation of their business website. To set the project on its way in the right direction.


Wireframes are blueprints. The visual plans for your project. Learn about wireframing so you know how to work with a designer and participate in the planning. They are needed for all but the most basic of projects.

Competitive Analysis

A good grounding on what a well-made website in your industry looks like is the start of knowing what can be achieved. Learn how to check out the competition and interpret the results.

Content Planning

Content is the Achilles heel of many a web project. It’s the crux of any good website, yet who makes it and where does it come from? Learn how content ought to be planned and dealt with.

Strategic Web Planning

Strategic planning is used in more complex businesses and those wishing for a seamless transition into digital promotion. Strategic planning is a deeper form of planning. It is a joined-up plan where all the various plans and business angles are made to come together as one single plan.

Website Design and Development

This is the doing bit, rather than the thinking. The part that is traditionally thought of when one makes a websites. There is a lot of design and technical activities that can be learned here.


Planning your post-launch strategy

Once your website is launched, it doesn’t end there. You now have to use the website in conjunction with a digital marketing strategy to promote your business.

If your website is going to play a big role in your digital marketing strategy, you should construct your website in such a way that it fits right into your marketing plan.

The plan ought to consider content optimization as well as a deeper level of strategic planning that considers your user’s behavior.