As a business owner, you have countless options for creating a website for your business. That said, it can be very frustrating deciding on which option will best suit your business goals, regardless of the stage of your business.
In this article, we’ll dive into the three options for creating a website and evaluate which option works best based on your business needs.
In a nutshell, there are three options for creating a website:
- Using an online website builder tool like WIX, Squarespace.
- Using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress
- Using a web designer
Using an online website builder
Online website builders (also known as fully hosted website solutions) are a turn key solution to help you create your website and manage the site’s content without the need for a web professional. Examples of popular tools in the market today include WIX, WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly plus many others that seem to be popping up every day. Essentially, this is how most website builders work.
- You sign up for an account
- You choose a website address e.g. mysite.squarespace.com or use your own domain (mysite.com)
- You choose a layout or colour theme for your website
- Start creating pages
- You decide the site navigation menu
- When you are ready to launch the site just publish the site and viola, you have a website.
The key advantage of website builders are:
- They tend to be generally easy to use as they are mainly targeted at the DIY website market.
- You do not need to worry about web hosting, backup and security as this come as part of your website. You simply pay a monthly fee and everything is taken care of.
- You can get your website up fast and easily without the help of a website professional.
The shortcomings of online website builders include:
- You are most likely going to end up with the same design and look as most websites. While most online website builders come with advanced options to help you customize your website layout look, this is where you start needing help from web professionals.
- You are restricted to the functionality that comes out of the box with the builder tool. While this might not be an issue when starting out, as your business grows, this starts to become frustrating. Examples area where this starts to bite is when:
- You need to integrate your website with other services like your CRM
- You need to implement custom functionality or a more complicated workflow on your website
- You need to add membership functionality to your website
- While most tools are very easy to use, there is still a learning curve and time investment on your business. As a business owner, you have to weigh what’s important, tweaking your website or focusing on other areas that can dramatically grow your business?
When should you use an online website builder?
- If you are starting a business or just testing out a business idea.
Web builder tools can help you cheaply put together pages. If your idea does not work out, at least you haven’t spent thousands of dollars on a web professional.
- If you have the time to learn how a website works and tweak on your website.
This one is a little tricky. From experience, we’ve seen business owners spend weeks tweaking their website and still not able to get it right. Only you know how much your time is worth and what are the most leverage activities for your website. That said, you could also invest that time and learn a valuable skill that could put you on the driving seat when it comes to managing your online presence.
Using a self-managed content management system like WordPress
The is the common option for creating websites. Essentially, it involves setting up everything yourself or outsourcing this to a web designer. In a nutshell, this is what is involved in setting up a website assuming you’ve done all the background website strategy and decided on your content:
- Sign up for a web hosting account
We recommend signing up a web hosting company that has a generous hosting space and traffic allowance.
- Decide on the content management system
We highly recommend WordPress as it is one of the most popular content management solution today with more than 25% of the websites on the internet using WordPress. WordPress also has a rich ecosystem of extensions and user community.
- Setup on your website on the hosting account
This is where things can be slightly complicated depending on your technical skills. Thankfully, there are plenty of cheap services like themevalet.com or even your own website hosting that can help you do that.
- Decide on the website theme and colour
You can use a free or purchased theme. We recommend using purchased themes as they are well supported and in most this reduces the security threats on your site.
- Create the website pages and content
Create pages and enter content for the different pages. Make sure to include keywords or phrases your audience would most likely use to search for your solution.
- Set the website menu navigation
The menu navigation usually sits on the top and bottom of the website. It includes the link to all the pages on your website.
- Make your website live
This is it! Your website is ready for the world to view and you can now start to drive traffic to your website.
The key advantage of self-managed website solutions are:
- Complete control on design
Unlike online website builders, you have unlimited options on your site look and feel. If you don’t like the way your website looks, get a free or paid theme and viola, you have a fresh website. Don’t go crazy on this, with power comes control.
- No limitations on functionality
Need extra functionality? Install a plugin. There are thousands of plugins for just about anything your business needs. When choosing plugins, pay attention to the ratings and the compatibility to your WordPress version.
- Room to grow
It’s reassuring to know that you will not need to bring down the whole website and start again as your business grows and when your website needs to evolve. Self-managed websites give you room to add more features and integrations as needed.
- You are in control
While this is not a big one, self-hosted solutions give you full control of your website. If you are using a website builder and goodness forbid, something happens to them e.g. outages, bugs or worst still they go out of your business, then you are technically screwed.
The shortcomings of self-hosted solutions include:
- Steep learning curve
If you are setting this for yourself, there will be a considerable time. Once again, you have to decide what’s the best way to invest time in your business. Learning how to set up and manage your website or selling? There are pros and cons either way.
- Professional needed
In most cases, you will need someone to help you fully set up and configure everything that’s required to get your website. If you are starting out or just testing out an idea, this is where it starts to you hit your pocket.
- You are responsible for the website’s security and backup
You are basically for the website security. Just like your computer at home, you need to keep your software up to date by performing regular security scans as well as back up your data. Guess what, with your self-managed website, this not different. That said, do not despair, there are plenty of solutions available to help you do that.
When should you use a self-hosted website solution like WordPress?
- Needing room to grow
Are you are starting a website and need room to grow. Perhaps you need to add new functionality, change the design or add more advance features later? Then you need to build your website on a stable foundation.
- Need to implement custom features
If you need to implement custom functionalities like form, bookings etc. from the get go, then a self-hosted solution is the best way to go.
Using a web designer
For many years this was the only way to get a website done but as technology advances and creating a website becomes easier, many people have joined the trade and therefore you’ll be spoiled for choice if you need to find a web designer. Just google web designer and millions of choices will pop up. How do you know who is a good web designer when the prices can vary from one extreme to another? How do you tell a good web designer from a bad one?
In a nutshell, there are two types of web designers:
- The technician
If you are just looking for someone to help you put things together then go for this girl or guy. Before you go to this guy, make sure that you have a solid web strategy and plan in place, or work with an online marketing expert on this to get it right. Also, you need to have a solid plan on the site workflow and visual needs before you see the technician. Once you have a solid plan in place, go to the technicians and they will help you implement your plan. Technicians will generally be cheap as compared to the marketers.
- The marketers
If you are looking for someone to provide you with an end to end solution including the online strategy, advice on the visual and workflow requirements and manage your entire development process, then go for the marketer. Unlike the technician who’ll mainly focus on functionality and presentation, the marketer will obsess on your traffic generation, how you convert traffic customers and how the website meets your business goals. As you can guess, the marketer will certainly be more expensive than the technician and this is why there is such a variance in web development process.
How do you evaluate a web developer:
- Portfolio – Insist on having a look at their portfolio to view their previous work.
- Case studies and results – What kinds of results are they achieving for their customers? An increase in leads? Lesser support calls? Ideally, you want to work with someone who practices what they preach.
- Experience – is the developer experienced or specialised in the industry or particular solution you are after? E.g. If you want to build an e-commerce website, you most likely want to work with someone who has experience in this area
- Guarantees – Do they have any guarantees, money back or any other convincing ways to prove that they back their work?
- Service range – Are you looking for a one-stop shop or someone who just does a few things?
- Their team – This is a big one. Who will actually do the work? Will the website be done in-house or outsourced overseas or to another company? Are they a one-man band/freelancer or company? How big is their current workload? While hiring a freelancer can be cheaper, there is also an inherent risk that the success of your website lies on one person as compared to hiring company that has a team.
- Support – Will they provide ongoing support once the website is completed. While ongoing support might come at an extra cost, it’s still reassuring to know that they will be around if you need them.
- Technology – While this is not a big one, you have to be wary about the technology that they use. Unless in extreme situations where your website needs are really complicated, we always recommend sticking with common technology like WordPress that has a rich community. The last thing you need is to be locked in a technology that makes you dependent on the web developer.
- The fine print: who owns the website – Do you get to own the website after the development and launch or do they own it? Your website is a valuable asset and you must own it 100%, no ifs, no buts.
- Use a website builder
If you are just starting out and have a very limited budget or are just testing out a business idea. You might have to pull down the website and build a more robust solution as you business needs grow but at least you can get something running fast and cheaply.
- Use a self-hosted website solution
If you need more control on the website visual look and functionality and need more room to growth.
- Use a web developer
If you would rather focus on growing your business and have an expert help you build an online asset that captures leads and makes you money.