Table of Contents
Are you ready to build a website for your business? Your competition has one… isn’t it about time you do as well? You know how important it is to have an online presence these days. But with all of the website platforms and various website builders available out there, if it’s all starting to make your head spin, this article is for you!
I’m here to tell you that choosing the right website builder isn’t as daunting as it may seem. It all comes down to 3 things:
- The features you currently need at this time and place in your business
- Any features you may need in the future when your business grows
- How much money you have to spend
Some platforms and website builders provide more features than others. In just about any industry… optics matter. That being said, it’s no surprise that the better website builders come with more features and higher costs.
In this article, I’ll go over the 3 categories of website technology and the popular website builders for each category. So, breathe easy and relax… together, we will explore the pros & cons of each to help you make an informed decision on which would work best for your business website.
Categorizing the Various Website Builders
While I can (and have) build a website for almost anyone in any industry, I have spent the past 10+ years working more with restaurants and service industry professionals. My bread and butter clients are hard-working local small restaurant owners, electricians, plumbers, contractors, roofers, etc.
Over the years, I find many small business owners search for the cheapest website option – thinking something budget is “good enough” for their business website. This mentality totally blows my mind and they couldn’t be more wrong. This sort of thinking goes directly against their own philosophy of being in the service industry themselves. I know they hear day in and day out, “I have found this and that for cheaper” and I’m sure hearing that over and over again pisses them off to no end, as they lose another lead to the low bid instead of taking into consideration quality and experience.
So why do these small business owners fall into this mode when it comes to building their business website?
While there are multiple ways to build a website, I’m gonna break it down into 3 categories.
- Category #1: DIY website builders like Wix, Shopify, Squarespace, etc.
- Category #2: CMS systems like WordPress, Drupal, Webflow, etc.
- Category #3: Custom-builds
Category #1: DIY Website Builders
Basic DIY website builders like Wix, Weebly, Shopify, Squarespace, GoDaddy, etc. are designed to be tackled by the average human, in just a few days, weeks, or months… depending on the amount of free time you can dedicate to it. For business owners on a small budget, website builders like Wix and Squarespace seem to be the most popular option. For businesses looking to sell products online, Shopify is probably the better website builder option.
- These website builder offer a user-friendly, drag-and-drop platform, without any previously website or coding knowledge.
- There are literally hundreds of design templates to choose from.
- Each has it’s own version of an “App Market” where you can choose add-ons and integrations to enhance the functionality of your website. Unfortunately, many of these add-ons cost money… and the more you add, the more you spend.
- These website builder options are extremely cheap and monthly plans can be had for just a few dollars a month.
- Since these website builder and built to only work within their own ecosystem, they each come with their own hosting. But don’t be fooled… this “pro” is a double-edged sword and is also a huge “con”.
- With all of these platforms, you’re on your own. While each are designed to be easy to learn, it’s still completely foreign to most and the learning curve may prove difficult for some people.
- While each offers a wide range of design templates, customization of these templates is extremely limited. Many restrict complete control over the website’s appearance and functionality, making it hard to get your business website just the way you want.
- Most business owners go into business hoping to grow. If that’s the case, this entire category of builders may not be the best choice for business websites that need to scale and evolve to accommodate a growing business.
- Each of these builders function in their own environment. While this means your website comes with built-in hosting, the environment they run on is very low-end. You share your resources with hundreds, and sometimes thousands of other websites. If one website is compromised, the entire server can run slow or even go offline until the problem is fixed.
- With an enclosed environment, comes other issues. You never truly “own” your website. If your business outgrows these platforms, you cannot pack up your website and move to another platform. Wix won’t work on Squarespace, and Squarespace won’t work on WordPress. If you ever need to leave… you walk away with nothing and have to start from scratch on the new platform.
- If ranking on search engines is important, then this category may not be for you. While each of these builders have continued to improve their SEO capabilities, there are still limitations over certain SEO elements without the use of costly add-ons.
If this category still sounds appealing to you, then opt for Squarespace compared to Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy or other similar options. Squarespace’s pricing beats out most competitors and comes with better design templates and features like built-in search engine optimization tools and an analytics system for data tracking.
If you’re looking for even better capabilities such as more advanced plugins or a robust eCommerce solution, then Shopify would be a better fit than the other website builders. Shopify has been specifically designed for those who need a comprehensive eCommerce environment – including product management capacities, shipping features, and online payment systems.
Category #2: Content Management Systems (CMS)
While there are several CMS’s available; like Drupal, Joomla, Webflow, Ghost, and more… the most popular on the planet is WordPress – and for good reason. WordPress alone is responsible for roughly 40% of all websites on the entire internet, and for that reason alone, I’m only going to talk about WordPress.
- WordPress offers the most comprehensive selection of customization options, allowing creators to build highly flexible and unique websites.
- There are thousands of both free and paid themes and plugins available that can be used to modify the appearance and functionality of a WordPress website. This is what makes WordPress so powerful and allows you to make your website exactly what you want it to be.
- WordPress has a vast user community of users and developers. There is a wealth of resources, documentation, and online support and how-to video readily available. This makes it easier to find help, learn new techniques, and troubleshoot any issues that may arise with your website.
- WordPress is highly scalable and can handle websites of all sizes, from small personal blogs to large enterprise-level eCommerce business websites.
- You are free to secure the hosting that fits you best. From extremely cheap shared hosting to virtual private machines… WordPress websites can handle high traffic volumes and accommodate the growth of your website over time.
- Like DIY builders, WordPress also has many website builders like Bricks, Breakdance, Divi, Elementor, and more that offer a user-friendly, drag-and-drop platform, without any previously website or coding knowledge.
- While WordPress is relatively user-friendly, there can still be a learning curve for beginners who are new to the platform. Understanding how to navigate the interface, install themes and plugins, and manage updates may take some time to master.
- Since WordPress is one of the most popular CMS platforms, it’s often targeted by hackers. This is why employing premium (instead of free) plugins and securing quality hosting is so important to the security of your business website.
- WordPress requires regular maintenance, including updates to the core software, themes, and plugins. Failing to keep everything up to date can lead to compatibility issues or security vulnerabilities.
- While extremely powerful and flexible… there are still limitations. If your business website needs something truly unique, stepping up to a custom build may be the best choice for you.
If your business is selling product, WooCommerce is an excellent e-commerce option for WordPress users. It offers a powerful and versatile solution for creating online stores. As the most robust eCommerce plugin specifically designed for WordPress, WooCommerce seamlessly integrates with the platform and offers extensive customization options. WooCommerce users have access to a wide range of both free and premium themes, extensions, and plugins on the WooCommerce website.
Even though I have been building websites since 1995, I made the switch to WordPress back in 2014 and now ONLY build client websites on WordPress. Over the years, I have gained extensive knowledge of WordPress, what it can do, and what are the best premium plugins to use on client projects. My WordPress websites are extremely affordable and offer the most flexibility for the price for my clients’ budgets. And while there are a plethora of design templates out there, I personally choose to build all of my websites from scratch. I feel that each business, it’s owner, and it product and service offerings are unique, thus each website should be as well.
Category #3: Custom-Built
While WordPress offers numerous advantages, especially when compared to the DIY option, there are instances where a custom-built website may be more suitable. If your business need a website that is completely unique, with one-of-a-kind functionality and options, the next (and final category) is to go custom-built. Large companies with deep pockets, like Amazon, Airbnb, and Basecamp are just a few examples of websites that necessitate a custom build.
- With a custom-built website, you have full control over every aspect of your site’s design and functionality. You can tailor it precisely to your specific needs and create a unique user experience.
- Custom-built websites can be highly scalable, allowing you to easily accommodate growth and add new features as your business evolves. There are no limitations imposed by pre-existing templates or plugins, or platform environments.
- By custom coding your website, you can optimize its performance, ensuring faster loading times, efficient code structure, and improved overall user experience.
- Custom-built websites can offer enhanced security measures since they are not as widely targeted by hackers compared to other platforms.
- Building a custom website from scratch takes time and effort. Developing the necessary code, debugging, and ensuring compatibility across different browsers and devices can be time-consuming compared to using a pre-built CMS like WordPress.
- Custom-built websites often lack the user-friendly backend interface of popular CMS platforms like WordPress. Managing content and making updates require more technical knowledge or a dependency on hiring developers.
- Unlike CMS platforms like WordPress, custom-built websites do not have a wide range of readily available plugins or themes that can be easily integrated. Adding advanced features require hiring skilled developers to create the functionality needed for the website.
I have been building custom websites since 1995. However, as of 2019, I no longer offer this option to my clients. I have yet to find a client who needs a feature that isn’t already offered by WordPress, or who are willing to spend 2-3x the amount of money of a WordPress website just to say their website is custom-built.
When it comes to selecting the right platform for your small business website, there are a few important things you should take into account. Do you think you can go at it on your own or should you hire a website designer instead? If you don’t have a budget to hire a professional or lack the technical know-how, then perhaps a DIY builder like Squarespace or Wix is your only real option.
Just remember to tether your expectations and don’t expect an amazing website. The term “you get what you pay for” should float through your mind and as I said before, optics are everything. If a prospect lands on your website and it looks like crap, what do you think that says about your business to that person who has no idea who you are?
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I offer free design and marketing advice and am happy will help you to avoid the most common pitfalls associated with identifying the right designer for your business.
Thank you for reading and best of luck on your business journey!