It’s 2020 next month. A website for your business is no longer a maybe. It should not be something that sits on the internet, untouched, unloved and out-of-date. It needs to be at the heart of your marketing. It should be the home of your brand online and it should be a driver of your future growth.
This blog explores the options available to entrepreneurs like you looking to step up your online presence. We know you have many jobs in your business. You are the bookkeeper, HR manager, salesperson… the list goes on. Do you really want to add web designer and site developer to that list?
This article will guide you through website options for your small business. It will give you the pros and cons of “doing-it-yourself” and the questions to ask if you are hiring an expert.
First, we are going to dive into three questions you need to ask before making any major website decisions:
Why does my business need a website?
This will help you understand the scale and scope of the project that lies ahead. Here are some questions that will help you decide what you want from your new site:
- Do you need it so you are visible to potential clients searching for your service online?
- Do you need to offer online booking?
- Does the site need to showcase your work portfolio?
- Do you plan to offer customer service through your site?
- Do you need a blog or a way to catalogue your latest articles, videos or podcasts?
Look at your competitors’ sites, identify what you like, and start to work out the elements that are must-haves in your design (or re-design).
What is your budget for this project?
Much is possible on a shoestring budget today. You can spend less than $500 and have a beautiful, responsive website with lots of advanced functionality. But in the end, you are going to pay for that with hours spent watching YouTube tutorials and ample frustration when you can’t get that cool widget positioning in the centre of the page on the mobile view.
This does not rule out the need for professional designers and “done for you” options. Many business owners do not have the skill, knowledge or patience to go it alone and work it out for themselves. They need a web design professional to guide them through the process and they will see this investment in their brand as money well spent.
What is your timeline?
This is going to be a highly visible aspect of your business. It needs to convey the awesomeness of your brand and should not be rushed because you know you needed to be online yesterday. Plan, set a realistic deadline, and start the process when you know you have time to give it real attention.
Now, on to the website options available to you.
Hire a web design professional
15 years ago, this was the only option for businesses seeking a modern and professional website. Today, we have a wealth of options. Designers and developers will work with business owners to discover what they would like on their website and how they would like it to look.
Make sure that you are working with a team that understands Search Engine Optimization and that you can update content and make minor changes once the site is live. If you do not think that you will make changes yourself, make sure that there is a plan in place to work with the design team in the long-term so that your site stays fresh and appealing.
Expect to pay the most for this option. The range here is huge. From an international designer working remotely through a site like Fiverr, to a local expert who may charge considerably more, the options are many. Make sure you do your research by speaking to existing clients, browsing portfolios and connecting with several providers before you make a decision.
Use a platform like Squarespace or WIX
These are all-in-one offerings for entrepreneurs looking to get their business website live. For a monthly fee of around $20, you get a domain name, hosting and access to excellent templates and a “drag and drop” website editor making it much easier to create attractive sites. They also have add-ons, widgets and tools that make it possible to add features like online booking, chat-bots and e-commerce. There is lots of help online in the form of videos, blogs and tutorials that will help you get the site you wished for.
It’s starting to feel like a no-brainer… just wait.
As simple and straightforward as these platforms are, they can still be challenging to entrepreneurs who do not have a creative eye or who do not have the time to sit at a computer and spend hours doing the detailed work necessary to make these templated websites shine. Also, some people criticize these sites for looking like templates, they can be too “off-the-peg” and do not speak to the true individual spirit of your business.
Is WordPress a good option?
WordPress will give you many more options than WIX or Squarespace. It can be cheaper, more flexible and you can use templates or exercise your creativity with custom design and one-of-a-kind originality.
You will need a domain and hosting which should set you back about $150 a year, making it a little cheaper than the Squarespace/WIX option.
The main drawback of developing a WordPress site is that the learning curve can be steep. The platform is not as intuitive or user-friendly as other options and you will have to remain vigilant about site security as websites that have not been updated can become targets for malware and other cyber attacks.
On the plus side, you will never outgrow WordPress. Websites as diverse as The Government of Sweden and The Walt Disney Company use WordPress so you know that the possibilities are endless with such an established platform (plus, the Beyonce site is WordPress, so it must be good, right?).
There is no shortage of platforms, professionals and advice to help you establish your business online. It is now important to take the next step. Do not get stuck in the planning and research phase. Make a phone call, reach out to a designer, sign-up for a Squarespace account, YouTube “WordPress for Beginners” take action and start realizing the benefits of having an online presence as special as your real-world business.