You understand the benefits that building a website will bring to your business, but with so many options out there, how do you know which one is best? A good place to start is by looking at how your website will fit into your overall business plan. Every business operates differently and your website should enhance, not hinder your workflow. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination, but here are some common functions of a website:
- Feature products, services, sales, and events
- Provide contact information/directions to your location
- Help customers get to know your business and its employees
- Provide access to commonly used forms and documents
- Collect payments for products or services
- Educate consumers as to the latest trends in your industry
Although there are many different companies offering website services, we have broken them down into four categories that we believe will best interest a small business owner. As we look at the different options for building a website, keep in mind your purpose and vision for the finished product.
Free Website Builder
Cons: Free website builders lack the features of paid software. Often times a subscription is needed to unlock different tools or remove advertisements from your site. “Free” domain names that are sometimes offered as part of the package may contain the website builder’s address or may charge a renewal rate after a certain period of time has passed.
Tip: It is a matter of preference, but I do not want advertisements on my website announcing to my customers that I didn’t think my company’s website was worth paying for.
DIY Website Builder
Example: Square Space
Pros: Most website builders are designed using a drag-and-drop principle which is great for beginners.
Cons: More advanced users may desire more control over the design features than are offered with drag-and-drop.
Tip: Often website builders will be sold as complete packages for creating a website. It is important to look at what is being offered (builder, hosting, templates, photo gallery, etc.) and determine what additional expenses you may have. Keep the future of your website in mind as well. If your website builder comes with extras, what happens when it is time to renew? Do they continue to renew as a package or are the products then billed separately? What are the renewal rates and how do they compare to the introductory rate?
Content Management System
Pros: A Content Management System (CMS) allows changes to be made to the code itself giving you greater control over the layout and function of your website. There are numerous companies that create templates and extensions to customize that can be used to customize and add functionality to your website.
Cons: Not a good choice for beginners. Knowledge of HTML and CSS is helpful, but not necessary. You will have to find your own hosting provider.
Tip: If you’re not sure about using a CMS, Joomla and WordPress both offer a free demo so you can try it out. The free versions are limited in what they can do, but will give you an idea if a CMS is the right fit for you. As far as hosting, same rules apply as above. Make sure you know what you are getting and what it will cost you in the long run–not just the introductory period.
Example: Custom Internet Services
Pros: The easiest way to build a website–have someone else do it!
Cons: This is probably the most costly of website builds.
Tips: Do a thorough interview with your web designer before committing to anything. Will the web designer regularly update your website? How willing are they to work with your ideas? Listen to what your web designer has to say, but remember, it’s your website so you call the shots.