So you’re looking to create a website for your business. You may have heard that 70,000 searches are made every second using Google or that 81% of people research a product online before purchasing. No matter what reason you’re choosing to create a website for your business you’re probably being bombarded with options:
- Custom code
Then comes the who and how of creating a website:
- Get someone to build it
- Build it yourself
- Use a free service
- Pay £30 a month
- Pay £2,000 for a completely custom design
Enough already! Let’s get real and talk about what you actually need to know to make an informed decision when it comes to creating a business website. This article goes through the basics of what all of this jargon means, what options exist for creating a website and why each option is suitable for different businesses at different times.
If you were expecting us to tell you “just do this” we’re sorry the answer is different for every business. Want to stop thinking about it and just get some expert advice, you’re more than welcome to contact our team to discuss your options.
What are your Website Design Options?
You’re committed to creating a website for your business, but have you considered all of the options. Let’s get started by busting some jargon and explaining some of the most popular options available:
- WordPress – WordPress is perhaps the most popular content management system (CMS) available at the moment. It’s completely free and open source, so developers all over the world have flocked to it as a great option for building websites. Initially designed as a blogging platform it isn’t without its limitations more complex commercial websites need careful management to ensure they don’t become slow and hard to maintain.
- Wix – One of the most advertised DIY website builders in the UK, they have a nice user-friendly interface to build your own website and make it look pretty good too. Everything is pretty much drag and drop but you soon find that your website is running painfully slow and there’s very little you can do about it. One client of ours was even told by their customer support that their 10s load time was acceptable.
- Magento – Is the second most popular open source CMS specifically designed for eCommerce stores. The community is big and there are lots of add-ons available to upgrade the out of the box installation. Personally, the only reason we prefer WordPress is that it’s easier to optimise for search engines and in our experience easier to manage.
- Drupal – Is an often overlooked open source CMS that is extremely well developed. It was built by developers for developers, we’ve worked with clients in the past using Drupal websites and they found it difficult to understand exactly how and where to edit their website. In addition, with the WordPress community being much larger there’s a wider variety of themes and plugins to use making it quicker (and cheaper) to build a website.
- Joomla – Is still relatively popular but has been steadily dropping in usage since 2013. Once again it’s another open source CMS and won many awards in its time. The dwindling size of the community is the main reason to stay away. If you’re looking online for some advice you’ll see one reply in a forum thread discussing Joomla but ten if the same question was asked about WordPress.
- PrestaShop – Is primarily a paid closed environment for setting up eCommerce websites. They can help you with everything from site design and layout to payment providers, shipping and advertising. It’s a great option if you have a hobby business, but it does cost €24.90 a month. When you start to scale up and have a bigger online store it can become pricey and you are trapped in their environment having to pay them for pretty much everything.
- Shopify – The more popular bigger brother of PrestaShop. It’s once again a paid platform and it’s grown much bigger than PrestaShop. They also made it really easy to switch to them from PrestaShop and have been steadily growing over the last few years. However, they aren’t cheap a basic package comes in at $29 a month as well as 2.2% + 20p for every payment they take on your behalf. Even if you’re using payment providers other than Shopify Payments you still have a fee of 2%.
- Squarespace – Can build some really visual websites that look great but isn’t really a popular option here in the UK, in fact, it’s much more popular over in the US. If you want a basic online presence it will cost you £15 per month or double that if you’re selling products online. The templates they have all look great but it can be difficult to make your website look unique. .
- Custom code – If you’re not wanting to edit content on your website and want something completely unique then getting someone to build it from scratch is an option. The possibilities are pretty much endless, but the same can be said for the price tag. We build sites using WordPress as it offers a lot of flexibility and functionality that normally you would have to pay someone to build. It’s simple math would you rather pay someone £400 to reinvent the wheel or £30 to install and configure correctly something that has exactly the same functionality.
Ultimately with all of the above, you have two choices when it comes to implementation. Either learn to do it yourself or pay someone else to do the work. Here are some things to consider with each option:
- Build your own website – The first website I ever built had 5 pages and took me 3 days to build. I was happy with this too! Building a website yourself comes down to how technically minded you are, your ability to learn new skills and ultimately the time you’re willing to dedicate to it.
Some options make building your own website easier than others such as Wix or Shopify but often this comes at a price. In the case of Wix, this is often a much slower website. As for Shopify, people often complain about high transaction fees and some really terrible out of the box search engine optimisation issues.
If you’re wanting to play with the pro’s then it’s probably best to learn how to create your own WordPress website. This reduces your learning curve and time expenditure, as a lot of other developers provide free stuff you can use. You do however have to learn the ins and outs of WordPress, the best place to host it, how to to make it run faster and ultimately how to build a website design that looks professional.
- Hire a professional – If you hire a web developer to build your businesses website then you free up your time to focus on other aspects of your business. A good web developer should ask if you want them to build a website that is editable by both you and them using a content management system (CMS). This is extremely useful so you are not paying for every small change you want to make.
WordPress is the most popular CMS used for small to medium business website builds and is supported by lots of developers. A nearby second place would go to Magento, which is used more frequently for eCommerce stores but from my personal experience isn’t quite as user-friendly.
When it comes to hiring a professional you should take your time to get multiple quotes, developers can cost £30 an hour or in excess of £100 depending on location and experience. Remember the more junior a person you work with the more errors to expect, remember you’re paying for a cheaper product and be prepared to work with them to ensure you get the quality you expect.
Neither option is perfect doing it yourself or handing over to someone else both come with pitfalls. We’ll dig into this a bit deeper to help you decide which is right for you.
Building Your Own Website?
Building your own website is a great idea for those that simply don’t have the budget to hire a professional. A basic website can be achieved with relative ease if you are willing to do a reasonable amount self-teaching. You can purchase yourself a beautiful theme and place your text straight into that. This will not be fully unique but it should look nice and professional, as long as you choose the right template for the job.
The main things to remember;
- You will need to buy hosting and your domain name.
- If you want a professional logo, you will need to hire a logo designer.
- You need to decide whether to build a website with WordPress or try a website creator website, such as Wix or Squarespace (if using the latter consider that you will be using their hosting and coding, this may not be up to scratch).
- You can find free or purchasable WordPress templates, we would always suggest searching the general look of your competitors and deciding if you would like a similar aesthetic.
- Writing for a website can be more difficult than you would expect, make sure you use headers that contain words that are directly related to your business. You could at this point hire someone to SEO your website.
Hiring A Web Developer?
If you have the budget available, then hire a web developer.
With the right digital marketing agency, you will get a functional, unique and practical website. It may cost you a little more but you can also make sure that they search engine optimize (SEO) your website. If the site is built on WordPress or similar you will be able to edit your own content and save yourself some money in the future.
The main things to remember;
- It is best to buy your own domain but if you don’t understand how to, the digital marketing agency should happily guide you through the process.
- The more information you can supply to the team you have chosen to build your website the more chance you have of getting a product that suits your needs.
- If you want a logo a good marketing agency should be able to source, design and supply a logo.
- You should receive a unique and custom website, remember that more important than anything else is the functionality. A good website is one that sells!
- If you wish to have content created for the website give briefs, but expect that the right team will be passionate about your business and will be able to write content with little to no problem. This content should be search engine optimised and therefore over time, you will see your website climb the Google rankings.
- Remember that SEO is not a fast game, a good web developer will use methods that mean your website climbs the ranks more slowly. Only work with companies that use white hat SEO methods.
- If it sounds too good to be true don’t risk it!
To summarise when it comes to creating a website for your business your options really are endless, if you go for a do it yourself option then you’ll see lower setup costs but either poorer performance or larger ongoing costs (especially when paying per sale). The problem is that you really do get what you pay for so we recommend setting aside a budget in the region of £1,000 for a website build and doing it properly working with a professional agency.
Web design and development isn’t simple so when paying £1,000 or more for a website remember what you’re actually paying for is:
- The experience of the team – They have done this 100 times and should have learnt from their previous mistakes (we all make them), so you’ll get something that works much better.
- Freeing up your own time – If you haven’t built a website before it can be a slow painful process. Would you rather spend a couple of weeks building your website yourself or pay a professional and free up your time to focus on other aspects of your business.
- Better results – When it comes to creating a website you get what you pay for we often work with small business owners who have been disappointed at the results of their website. If you want real results pay for a professional, fast, SEO friendly website that looks great on both desktop and mobile devices. User experience matters people will judge your website in seconds, selling online your website is your storefront. How it looks creates your brand’s first impression.
In terms of what platform to use we recommend WordPress for one simple reason. It’s the biggest most popular platform available. This means it’s easier to change suppliers if you have a bad experience, easier to find plugins and themes and generally cheaper to build and maintain a website. It’s not without flaws and requires special attention in the areas of speed and SEO but with the right initial setup, you should never have to think about these things ever again.