If you’ve been neglecting your online presence, sorting out your website should be your number one New Year’s resolution. Not having a website, or having a site that’s not fully functioning, can mean your business is missing out on potential customers. As well as this, if you haven’t got your legals right, this could prove costly.

Firstly, you need to decide what the objective for your website is. Will it be a place for customers to carry out transactions (e-commerce) or just a shop window? The latter is relatively simple to set up, whereas full e-commerce capability is more complicated at the off-set, but will usually be what really drives an increase in your profitability.

The choice of domain name will be key. Registration is relatively easy but you may need to consider issues relating to trademarks and passing off (with the help of a lawyer or trademark attorney if necessary), particularly if there are other businesses with the same or a similar name to you. You should give some thought to your search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy, which helps you to make the most of your website by ensuring you rank well in an internet search. Your website host should be able to guide you on this, or you can employ a specialist consultant.

When you engage a website contractor, your contract with them will need to focus on the issues of ownership of what’s on the website (protecting your ideas and brand is key), availability (the site won’t be much use if it’s down most of the time), on-going maintenance and upgrades. Your legal advisers will be able to take you through the development, hosting and maintenance contract(s) to make sure you are adequately protected.

You will also need to ensure you have an appropriate privacy policy, website terms of use and comply with company law requirements in relation to displaying information about your business (especially if you operate a regulated business), all of which can be done with a lawyer’s help. If you already have a website, but haven’t done a health check on it for a while, now is a good time to make sure these issues have been covered.

If you are already trading or want to progress to trading via your website, the security arrangements will be particularly important if you are holding customer data. Compliance with all applicable privacy laws, advertising and new consumer protection laws should also be a priority. Regulation in the areas of privacy and advertising has increased considerably in the past few years and there has been a major overhaul of consumer rights which has necessitated changes to terms of trade for all businesses, particularly those which trade online. Your solicitor should be able to guide you on what your particular business model requires in order to be compliant.

Getting your website right need not be a lengthy, difficult or costly process but it is one that you should begin now – with sufficient time and resources – to give your business the best start to 2016.

By Elliot Fry of top 100 law firm Cripps