Small Business Website Series Part 2
I don’t care who you are, what your business is, or whether you are self-employed, a simple partnership or a small business. You need a website. Not having one is a mistake. In our post “5 Bad Reasons Why Self-Employed or Small Businesses Don’t Have A Website” we look at and refute the top 5 excuses to not have a website.
Once you accept that you must have a website, the next step is to figure out the best way to make it happen. In today’s post we’re going to look at the two primary ways to get your business online: Build It Yourself or Outsource It.
Build It Yourself
With this option you either learn to code, use a free website builder, use a paid online website builder service, or use a CRM like WordPress.
1. Learn to Code
Pros: Cheap in terms of cost
2. Use A Free Website Builder
Free website builders have been around for a while. Many website hosts also include free builders with there hosting packages. These builders allow you to set up a website without knowing code or technical stuff. You simply use a template, drag and drop content areas to create a layout, and add your content. In most cases they are simple to change fonts, colors and copy from a user interface.
Pros: Requires no technical experience, free templates are available, and cost (it’s free right)
Cons: The quality of the tool will vary, customization can be difficult or impossible (hope they have a theme you like and that fits your business) and the code produced for the back end of your site can be clunky and not optimized for SEO. Plus you still have to learn how the tool works, develop your website strategy, create graphics, write content, etc.
3. Paid Website Builder
Paid website builders like Wix, Weebly and Squarespace do offer free options, but often the free version restricts tool usage and/or includes an ad placement. The paid versions are more robust and the code produced for your site is typically better optimized than the free builders code.
Pros: Requires no technical experience, free templates are available, typically include apps to extend functionality (some at an additional cost) and relatively low cost.
Cons: While building a site is easy customizing some aspects of the site can be difficult or next to impossible, making the site mobile responsive requires that you do extra work to control how elements appear on different devices, and extending the site functionality can require additional costs. Once again you still have to learn how the tool works, develop your website strategy, create graphics, write content etc.
4. Build Your Site with a CRM Like WordPress
WordPress originally started as a blogging platform but has evolved into the most popular website CRM. It is relatively easy to use. Most hosting accounts include an option to automatically set up WordPress. Then you can select a free template or purchase a commercial one for your design. Its easy to add pages and edit content using either a word like editor or through a text editor for using html code. Functionality can be added through either free or paid plugins.
There are two versions of WordPress – the publishing platform (wordpress.com) which is fully hosted and similar to the website builders and a self-hosted version (wordpress.org) that is more flexible. For the builder like version the pros and cons listed above under the free and paid builders apply. For the self-hosted version refer to the following:
Pros: Cost (WordPress is free), availability of free and paid themes, there are over 1.2 million plugins available to extend functionality (most for free), large number of communities for support and troubleshooting, easy to add, delete and edit content.
In each of these four options the primary benefit is cost relative to outsourcing the building of your site.
The alternative to building your own site of course is to let someone else build it. One of the advantages of outsourcing to a qualified developer is that they will do a lot more than simply build your website.
Pros: The benefits of working with a good website developer include
- Strategy: What is the purpose of your website? There are a lot of reasons to have a website starting from simply providing company information online, generating online leads, selling products or services, generating sign ups, promoting events, establishing thought leadership via a blog, and more. Your developer will factor in the purpose of your website throughout the design and build process.
- Design: Most often people equate design with how nice a website looks. That’s partially correct, but we’ve seen a lot of sites that look good yet do nothing for the business. Design also includes ensuring that the site is easy to navigate through the information architecture and navigation of the site. It includes how messages and calls to action are incorporated into the natural eye-flow pattern visitors follow when visiting a site. And it includes the use of size, placement, color and accessory elements to properly place emphasis on the most important elements of a page.
- Optimization: Your website needs to appeal to both people visiting your site as well as search engines. Your development should include on-page optimization to ensure your pages have the best chance possible to rank in search engines such as Google for keyword searches. You can also optimize pages to improve conversions.
- Usability: The visitors to your site will use a variety of devices, desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones, each brand having different unique screen sizes. A good developer will ensure that your website is mobile responsive and performs equally well regardless of the device used to view it. Even if you build your own site with a mobile responsive theme, we find that some additional tweaking is usually needed to present content in its optimal format.
Each business is unique and will have different needs. Your developer should be able to provide additional resources like keyword research, determining the best website structure, graphic editing and image sourcing, customization not available in plugins or templates, additional SEO, content development…
Cons: Cost (relative to Build It Yourself options)
Cost: The 800LB Gorilla in the Room
Cost (along with “not relevant to my business”) is one of the top two reasons why self-employed and small businesses don’t have a website. So how much does it cost to outsource your website build to a developer?
According to Inc.com the price for a website is between $2,000 and $25,000. In a post on Elegant Themes, a WordPress theme seller, they list a range from $6,000 – $15,000 for a custom WordPress website. In both cases I think they are right and wrong. The pricing they are providing is for a site that is larger and more customized than most real small businesses (2 – 5 employees) or self-employed people need.
We’ve developed a special website development package that has prices that are more affordable and reasonable, and offer two payment options:
- Pay As You Go (Monthly): Includes strategy, design, development, optimization, maintenance, and hosting. In addition you get 1 hour of edits each month, your site is insured against being hacked and you get a free redesign every 36 months.
- Pay Up Front (one-time): Includes strategy, design, development, and optimization. You provide the hosting and maintenance.
=>View Pricing and See What Is Included in these Affordable small business websites.
Every business should have a website and there are affordable options whether you choose to build it yourself or outsource the development. If you build it yourself you will want to take the time to learn more about website strategies, SEO, creating graphics and how to use the tool you choose. If you choose to outsource your website build or redesign you will still need to spend some time thinking about the purpose of your website and the content that will be included. The difference is that your developer will guide you in developing your strategy and content, and you’ll spend more time focused on your business instead of your website.