How Do I Set Up a Business Website?
Self-contained Hosting/Design Platforms
The most popular way to design a site is to use a blogging platform that offers free and premium features. These include WordPress.com, Wix, Blogger, Weebly, Squarespace, Google Pages, etc . . .
The main advantage of these is you can start right now for free. The main disadvantage is that until you spend some money, you can’t have your own domain; if this site were hosted by wordpress.com, for example, it would be musictechstudent.wordpress.com. Having a blogger domain isn’t terrible for some business models, like if you’re a blogger, but it’s not the most professional look you can have. Buying a real domain on these sites is usually more expensive than self-hosting (detailed below).
You are also limited to whatever each web design platform lets you use. This could be perfectly fine, or it could be terrible. Monetization and sales are usually severely limited to free users. Visual customization is also limited. The premium theme used for this site (DIVI; they’ve got a Black Friday sale soon) can’t be run on WordPress.com at all.
A great option for a landing page and portfolio are services like Behance. If you have an Adobe CC subscription, you can use Behance and Adobe Portfolio. Either one gives you a nice, clean space to store works for clients to review. These usually have minimal customization options and really won’t work well for a band or brand. My personal Behance page is solely to show off my personal skills to possible clients, though it does have a social component to it. A LinkedIn page could work just as well.
The hands-down, No. 1 option for building whatever you want is self-hosting. This could mean you pay someone to design and host your site; it’s still considered self-hosting. You could set up your own server, but most people just rent space on a shared server, since it’s much cheaper and near-infinitely easier. Companies like InMotion Hosting (what this site uses) and Bluehost (Utah-based) offer space on their servers for a fairly negligible fee (about $5-20/mo.). They will also offer to sell you a domain registration and renew it each year (again, for a fee). If you’re lucky, you’ll get the domain you want (a good rule of thumb is to go with .com, whenever possible).
Once you have a spot on a server, you can upload your site to it. The majority of the world uses WordPress.org. Note, the .org makes a huge difference! This is the self-hosting side of WordPress that’s full of developers, sweet themes, a world of plug-ins, etc . . . In a single day, you can install WordPress on your server, pick a theme, have it customized how you want, and be up and running. If you need any assistance, the hosting companies all have guides and service centers to help you through each step. If you have questions about a theme, the theme creator may help as well.
Choosing a theme is completely subjective. I picked DIVI because it’s more flexible than most, and gave me a clean, modern look with minimal effort; I also creating multiple sites and they have an infinite-site license (definitely not required for most people). It’s also a huge company that can afford to put a lot of resources into updates and support. I wholly recommend a theme that was created by a company and not an individual for that reason.
Site design is part subjective, part research. Some things just don’t work. For example, research is beginning to show that people really don’t like full-width sliders on pages. The reader either skips it immediately or gets annoyed that it auto-scrolls to the next item before they’ve finished with the one they were interested in. It really doesn’t generate much interaction. There is an industry built around SEO (search engine optimization) and data mining to figure out what’s most effective on websites. It takes quite of bit of self-education to understand enough, but it can be worth it.
One of the most important things is to know your brand and to stylize everything around it. It could be super simple, like this site (we have four colors and a lot of white space) or it could be much more complicated. ASCAP pointed out a curated list of 41 themes for musicians here (from April, 2018). Here are a few of examples of different ways to design a site; you can find hundreds of great ideas with a simple Google search:
http://www.sheandhim.com/ — I’d give this one an award for stylizing every element.
These other three aren’t online anymore, so here are some simple screenshots: