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Building your website: what you need to know

Your business website is your shop window on the internet, your chance to entice a customer or client inside to buy something. It’s one of the most important elements of any small business, whether you’re selling products online or just letting prospective clients know how to get in touch with you.

With a carefully chosen selection of teas and tea-related products on offer, The Tea Shed is a clean but colourful site that appeals to a younger, hipper tea-drinker. We spoke to founder and Chief Tea Lady Jules Quinn about how to get started with your business website.

“I had the idea when I was on a rubbish work placement where my main job was to make tea,” she told us. “I’d have to go to Sainsbury’s and it was strange because there was so much on offer in the coffee section, but hardly any types of tea. I thought that was a bit weird, so I thought there might be a gap in the market for a cooler, younger tea brand.”

Working with devs

After having the idea in summer of 2010, the website went live in May 2011. “We started building the website in the January, so it took quite a while because there was a lot of back and forth with the developers,” Jules said.

With a background in design, she was able to create the look of the website herself, but to have it built she went to specialist developers (devs).

“I don’t know how to code – I wish I did! It would make life easier. Working with devs is challenging because you’re not next to each other all the time, so it can be hard to express ideas. But I have it a bit easier as I can do the design myself – it’s a lot harder to describe what you want when you can’t express it in the visual way they understand.”

In fact, making sure it looked the way she wanted it to was one of the hardest things about having the site made, even though Jules did the design herself. “It’s hard to balance how you want it to look compared to what’s actually possible – not everything is possible! Sometimes you just can’t code it the way that you want it.”

Worth investing in

It cost Jules around £1,500 to have the TeaShed website built, but the cost was worth it. “We have a few concessions but we don’t have our own TeaShed shops, so the website is our store. It’s so important that it gives our customers a good idea of what we’re about.”

Once your site is up and running, it’s important to keep things fresh. “Probably about once every three weeks we’ll add new products and blog posts,” Jules says. “And then we redesign the entire site every two-to-three years.”

But there’s no point even creating your business site without a plan in place to get people on to it.

The site is just the beginning

“When I first came up with the idea and launched the website I was like. “Oh my God, gotta get everything ready, it’s a really big launch” as I had a few hundred followers on Twitter. On the day we went live I was panicking because we were an hour late putting the site up and it was drama, drama… and then it launched and we didn’t get any orders for a week.

“So I was prepared for orders to come flooding in – you think once you have a shop online, people will just come to you, but they won’t unless you’re continuously driving traffic to your website. Twitter, blogs, doing press – all that stuff. It’s a lot more than just building the website.”

So what is Jules’ top tip for any business owner? “Get a smartphone where you can have your emails on it so you can work wherever you are – you need a good network and a decent phone. I’d take that over a computer.”

For free, impartial business tech help and advice, why not book a session with an O2 Guru? They’re available online, in-store and over the phone.

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