If you are looking at building your own website, you’ll notice several website platforms in the marketplace.
Many of the platforms have easy to use web builders that don’t require the user to have web design skills . The builders have easy drag & drop functionality for the individual or business who wants to DIY and avoid hiring a web developer.
For a small business owner it can be quite daunting choosing a platform, and figuring out whether it has everything you need for your website.
So here are a few steps I have put together to make the task of choosing a platform a little less stressful for you!
First step - what do you want your website to do?
Before choosing a platform, take some time to think about what you want from your website and write it down!
Is the website to sell products and services?
Is the website to inform, entertain, educate or advise its readers?
Do you want your website to contain a blog?
Will you need an online portfolio to showcase your work?
Will you need an online store?
Will you be providing a client portal (private login) on your site?
Will you need a sign-up form for a newsletter or online course?
Will you need a contact or booking form?
Will you need to display a calendar of events (e.g. workshops, classes, exhibits)?
Is there any particular 3rd party app that you would like to integrate into your website (ie. MailChimp newsletter)
Do you need a website that will grow with your business?
Will you be building the website yourself or hiring a developer?
Will you be maintaining your website or outsourcing the work to someone like a web developer or VA?
Second step - research
Most small business owners require a simple website that provides a web presence. They want it to promote their business, and have a way to communicate with their customers and receive enquiries.
They may also want to link up to their social media platforms, write a regular blog post, advise customers of new products and services, team members, or offer promotions.
An online store is not only useful for selling products, but items such as: services, templates, or attendance to a workshop or course.
It’s a good idea to do some research and look at the different types of websites that are out on the internet. Check out what your competitors are doing. This will help you identify the type of features you might like to include on your website.
Third step - compare website builders
Below is a list of some of the popular website builders and content management systems (CMS) that are on the market. Please note this list isn’t comprehensive in anyway, I am sure there is a lot more platforms available than what I have listed, but this gives you an idea on the some the popular platforms that are being used.
Shopify - eCommerce platform
BigCommerce - eCommerce platform
GoDaddy web builder
Google web designer
You will find that most platforms have a free plan or offer a 14-day trial, where you can test the functionality of the platform before signing up to a monthly or yearly plan.
I have written my thoughts on three of the platforms that I use, please note I am in no way promoting or advising of the best platform. I am only sharing details of platforms I know of, that I use or have found useful!
WordPress is the biggest and most used CMS around with a whopping 75 million websites using WordPress (1).
With WordPress you can choose between WordPress.com and WordPress.org - .com takes care of all the hosting for you, where .org relies on you to install the site on a web server & have it hosted externally. WordPress has thousands of themes and plugins on offer (free & for purchase), and has a huge community of developers and WP users, which is very handy if you ever get stuck with creating your site.
WP has several drag & drop plugins, for example, Elegant Themes Divi Builder, that is compatible with some of the WP templates. If you are familiar with creating websites, Divi Builder is fairly easy to get the hang of, however much like WordPress you need to spend time getting familiar with it.
WordPress is no doubt a web developers favourite CMS, as it gives the ability to customise a website unlike some of the other platforms which are limited to the templates that are available.
I currently use Squarespace for my business and for building Client websites. It is an affordable, all-inclusive platform and offers web & domain hosting, so no need to get someone else to host your site, unlike WordPress. org.
Squarespace has a drag & drop builder that is easy to use with it’s selection of sleek web responsive templates. If there’s a template you don’t like, you can switch between templates (before publishing your website) so you can test out a different look on your site.
Squarespace takes care of everything from websites, domains, hosting, 24/7 support, analytics, and marketing support. The platform has SEO capabilities and allows for the addition of newsletters, calendars, blogs, portfolios, or an online store. Depending on the plan you purchase you can also add external code for customising your site.
Squarespace has several integrations built-in to the platform making it easy to link up to 3rd party accounts such as MailChimp or Zapier.
Weebly is a nice drag & drop web builder, and is very easy to use. Weebly has a free (very basic) plan to get you started, however this does not cover eCommerce sites, nor does it supply you with your domain name. This plan includes Weebly branding displayed on your website.
Weebly has various types of themes/templates to choose from (e.g. Online Store, Business, Portfolio, Personal, Event, Blog) and lets you select from a palette of colours for how you want your site to appear.
You can add features such as a blog, online store or portfolio to your website, as well as have access to an app centre where you can find 3rd party integrations for your website.
Fourth step - how will you maintain your site?
Whether you are wanting to be ‘hands-on’ with the ongoing maintenance of your website, or just publish a website and ‘let it be’ in the wide world web, you should take a moment to think of how you will manage future updates.
You may want to be in charge of updating your website, however due to your workload it might not be possible, therefore outsourcing several tasks might be the best thing for you.
Examples of some of those tasks include:
updating & creating webpage content,
adding & maintaining stock to the online store,
uploading photos of new stock,
creating website graphics,
entering workshop information into the calendar of events,
repairing broken links, errors found on your website and updating files,
adding social media posts to your website,
creating a newsletter landing page and sign-up box on your homepage,
performing regular backups & plugin updates,
composing & publishing new blog posts.
When reviewing platforms you need to take all of this into consideration, so you find the one that is right for you!
Will you outsource the website content management to someone like a VA?
Please note, I have not received any endorsements for this post, these are just platforms I like and have experience using.