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  • Writer's pictureHeather

Updated: May 24, 2021

I'm often asked by small business owners who are just starting out whether they really need a website. The simple answer is yes. Every business should have an online presence, and that includes a website. The next question is usually, 'How do I get a website?' That's where this article comes in.

Below are the seven basic steps that need to be completed to create and launch a new website. I’ll explain each item by comparing it to the components needed to build a new house. And I’ll split the steps into categories, based on whether they generally cost money and/or require special skills.

A. Costs money:

1. Purchase your website domain (URL) (i.e.,

(This is like the colour of house you’ll be building or your address – it’s how people will recognize it when they see it.).

How? You would do this through a domain registration service such as Namecheap or Some platforms will offer a free domain for the first year. While a nice freebie, I generally recommend registering your domain independently so you maintain full control over it.

2. Select which platform you wish to use to design and hold your website.

(This is like the materials you’ll use to build the new house – some are more complex or user-friendly than others, but at the end of the day, the house will still look more or less the same to the public.)

How? Common platforms are: Weebly, Wix, WordPress and Squarespace. A virtual assistant could help you sort out the pros and cons of each.

3. Select which host you wish your website to be supported by.

(This is like the plot of land or strata where you’ll keep the new house – you’ll pay rent here for various behind-the-scenes support services that keep your house liveable.)

Note: The hosting is included in the do-it-yourself web builder platforms, but needs to be purchased separately if going with an independent content management system (CMS) such as a site.

How? Common hosting services include: Bluehost, HostGator, HostMonster.

B. Sometimes costs money, depending on the platform and complexity:

4. Select the template/theme of your website.

(This is like the style of landscaping and interior design you’ll choose – this will let your personal style shine through once the house is built.)

Regarding cost: Another question I often get asked is which is the cheapest option? Cost, not surprisingly, is often a determining factor in which type of website to create. But it shouldn't be the only factor. At the end of the day, there is little difference between the overall cost of a basic website, no matter which platform and host you choose. As your website grows in the future, you may have additional costs to add advanced features, and there are many ‘premium’ apps you can pay for, but there’s not a huge difference in the annual cost for a basic website. It’s best to select your website platform and host based on your needs.

C. Requires creativity, time, knowledge and dedication:

5. Create the content and organize what your web pages will look like.

(This is the painting and interior design of the house. You’ll start with naming the objective of your website and who you wish to engage, and then you’ll plan the design around that. Tip: Expect this to be a somewhat long process which never really feels ‘finished’ because you’ll always see things that need to be rearranged or fixed.)

How? You may wish to work with a virtual assistant who specializes in the platform you’ve chosen, who can guide you through the website creation process. This person should have knowledge of user experience and content best practices, search engine optimization (SEO), and how to best unify your entire online presence.

D. Requires a technical expert:

6. Set up backend/technical stuff to ready the site to launch.

(This is like hooking up plumbing and electrical services to ready the house to be lived in.)

How? Like for #5 above, you may wish to work with a virtual assistant who has experience in the platform you’ve chosen, who can either do these steps themselves or teach you to do it.

7. Launch the website!

(This is move-in day! After settling in and ensuring you’re happy with where things land, you may want to send out invitations to a house-warming!)

How? You may wish to use the expertise of a virtual assistant to help you plan the publicity surrounding your launch. The plan may include social media posts, emails, and other marketing opportunities.

I hope this helps clear up the confusion that often surrounds the mysterious world of website creation. It's up to you to decide whether you feel confident to build a new website yourself. I've laid out the basic tools needed and offered some bits of advice on where you may need specialized knowledge. My advice is usually: If you can't afford to hire someone create the entire site for you, do what you are able to do, and then ask for help when you need it. Just like with building a house, a good planning session at the very beginning can save a lot of repairs and backstepping later. And above all, don't skimp on the quality of your content! Sloppy writing and unclear navigation can cause newcomers to your site to become frustrated or lose trust in you before they even meet you. Your website should create a good impression with potential clients, and help them come to the conclusion that you are to be known, liked, and trusted.

Best of luck!

Disclaimer: As I’m an affiliate with some of the companies and services mentioned above, if you happen to purchase products using the links in this article, you may receive a discount and I may receive a small finder’s fee.

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  • Writer's pictureHeather

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

Here's some food for thought: Websites are like cars and homes – they can start to fall apart if you neglect regular maintenance.

One thing in particular I love doing as a virtual assistant is supporting client websites. Whether it’s cleaning up content, fixing confusing navigation, adding metadata or setting up an online store, I love helping my clients make their website as user friendly as possible. I also enjoy troubleshooting. If something isn’t working, I like to figure out why and then fix it. In my experience, more often than not website technical issues are either because the website wasn’t set up optimally in the beginning or because nobody has been taking care of the website since it was created. Today, again, I saw proof of this.

More often than not website technical issues are either because the website wasn’t set up optimally in the beginning or because nobody has been taking care of the website since it was created.

Today a client's website crashed. It's a WordPress site that gets updated occasionally, but there's never really been anyone managing its back end. Although crisis moments are always a bit stressful, I'm always happy when I can find and explain the cause of website issues and then recommend a course of action. The issue today got resolved without too much pain, and it turns out my advice from a few months ago proved bang on – the site desperately needed an update to its PHP so the theme and plugins could be updated. (Little known fact: WordPress sites are particularly vulnerable to neglect because they are hosted by a third party and usually not closely monitored.) Unfortunately, due to a recent turnover in staff and leadership, all website work had been put on hold, so this update had not been done. We were lucky today’s fix was a relatively quick one. And I think it became clear to my client the importance (and worth) of having someone in charge of website maintenance.

WordPress sites are particularly vulnerable to neglect because they are hosted by a third party and usually not closely monitored.

If you have a website, I suggest doing a health check on it every couple of months at a minimum (more often if you update the content regularly), and set up occasional backups if it's not self-hosted. Just like a car or home, regular website maintenance can prevent major issues down the road!

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Updated: May 24, 2021

Have you experienced this issue with your email?

It happens to the best of us. Your email platform suspects certain emails are promotional rather than personal, so they don't show up in your Inbox. If you know what I'm talking about, you'll appreciate today's tip: How to redirect specific emails to your Inbox.

I’ll provide four different options to fix the issue of emails getting incorrectly treated like Promotions or Junk, using Gmail as the example email platform. While other platforms may not act exactly the same, they generally offer similar features. Also, for simplicity, I’ll refer to Gmail’s ‘Primary tab’ as your ‘Inbox.’

Let’s start with the easiest option:

1. Star that email. As a default, Gmail will show your Starred emails in your Inbox. (Note that adding a Star to the email is not the same as marking it as Important. And interestingly, marking it as Important doesn’t automatically put it into your Inbox – explained in option 3 below.)

Although easy, option 1 is only marginally effective because while this will let you see that particular email in your Inbox right now, it won’t help for future incoming emails. (That is, unless you create a Filter that would Star incoming emails – to be explained in option 4.)

Let’s move on to a much more effective option…

2. Add the sender to your Contacts list. As a general rule, Gmail will direct emails from senders in your Contact list to your Inbox. That is, unless it has a very good reason to suspect it's not a safe email. So this option works probably 99% of the time. While not perfect, it's an option I highly recommend.

Next, a not-so-effective-but-super-interesting option:

3. Mark the email as Important. While this doesn’t move the email to your Inbox immediately, it will help you teach Gmail whose and which types of emails are important to you. Over time Gmail will know it should direct those types of emails to your Inbox.

I would consider option 3 an experiment – use it if you want to see how long it takes Gmail to learn who your friends are, but don’t count on it to predictably get those emails to your Inbox.

And finally, here’s the most effective (and advanced) option:

4. Create a Filter to direct those emails to your Inbox. Using the Filter option, you can set up your account so that all incoming emails that match specific criteria (such as sent from a specific sender or domain) get directed somewhere of your choosing or are tagged in a certain way. In this case, you can ensure these emails get to your Inbox by setting up a Filter to ‘Star it’ as soon as they are delivered. (Remember in option 1 I explained that all Starred emails show up in your Inbox.)

Today's popular email platforms – including Gmail – have their limitations, but they also have some pretty amazing features. Filtering emails is one of them. And while Filters, when set up correctly, are very reliable, I still recommend occasionally checking your other tabs/mailboxes for lost or misdirected emails. You wouldn't want to miss that notification that you've finally won the hockey pool!

Until the next Technology Tip, happy emailing!

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