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There are a lot of options on how to create a business website. Which you choose depends on your needs and your budget. You can build a simple small business website yourself in a matter of hours, but for more complex sites or online stores, you might need to spend more time and money. Websites with a lot of functions and features might require a web designer (and maybe a web developer) to get correct, which will typically cost more than using DIY tools or something like WordPress.
The good news is that building a quality and professional website is easier than ever, and even website builder tools can give you the professional designs and functionality that only pros could provide five years ago.
Before you get started:
Before you decide which path you want to go down for creating your website – ask yourself a few questions. Start with these three:
- What do you want your website to do? Does it need to have a few pages and look nice, or do you need to sell something, schedule appointments, etc?
- Do you want to be able to easily update things yourself in the future, or pay someone to do them?
- What is your budget? Do you want to spend nothing now and then $15 per month, or $5,000 now and more when you need changes?
Then, consider the answers to these additional website needs questions before deciding on the best way to get your website set up. For more help assessing your needs, see this checklist (or download this checklist)
Building a Website with Do-it-Yourself Tools
Do-it-yourself tools are a great way to create a free website that meshes well with your business and brand image. You can find free website builders with basic options, or you can pay premium prices for unlimited customization and advanced SEO, marketing, and eCommerce tools.
Website builder pricing varies depends on the tool you choose and which of their plans you want. While a free website builder may seem tempting, you could end up with too many restrictions and feel that you’re forced to start paying monthly.
While do-it-yourself website builders offer a wide variety of choices, most DIY users are relative beginners looking for easy, low-cost, and low-maintenance web designs.
Benefits of DIY:
- Cost-effective depending on the type of business website you need.
- Built-in website host.
- Increased website security.
- Wide range of easy-to-use templates and drag-and-drop features.
- You can test the services out with the free versions, and then upgrade if you like them.
Downsides of DIY:
- Limited customization depending on the plan you choose.
- You must build a brand-new website if you change from one company to the next.
- Free plans typically come with stipulations and limits.
- Customer support is limited, depending on your plan.
Popular DIY Tools:
Wix offers powerful website templates that can be used as is, or fully customized to meet your needs. Wix offers a variety of advanced features like a blog or eCommerce store. You have complete control of how your website looks and what you include on each page. You can also edit your website’s mobile view so that you can better optimize the site for smartphone and tablet browsers. Wix provides SEO guidance to help your website rank higher in search engines, and your entire website is built through the most effortless drag-and-drop interface available. The Wix website builder pricing starts at $0 for the basic plan and then moves between $17 a month and $28 a month, depending on the type of business website you need to build.
Weebly is an easy to use website builder that offers a variety of themes and templates to match your needs. As Weebly advertises, you can “give your business credibility [and] make it easy for customers to find you.” Weebly provides options for both service-oriented small businesses and eCommerce stores that use Square to take payments. You don’t need coding skills to create a website on Weebly, and the built-in tools maximize your customization. You can build a simple and professional business website on Weebly in just an hour or two. Weebly starts at $6 a month (billed annually) and goes as high as $25 a month for Weebly Performance eCommerce stores.
If your small business is centered around eCommerce and selling physical goods, Shopify is an excellent source to build a business website. Shopify allows users to create online stores that are fully customizable. The site offers over 70 pre-designed themes, or you can create a custom theme to match your eCommerce store. If you’re not sure how to build the website that you want, you can connect with a Shopify web designer to get started. Shopify comes with a 90-day free trial and then costs between $29 a month and $299 a month, depending on the package you choose. There is no free option. Shopify charges 30 cents per transaction and takes a varying percentage of each sale depending on whether you use their credit card processing or you own merchant account. Using Shopify’s credit card processing option avoids the need to set up your own merchant account if you don’t have one.
You’ve probably heard of WordPress, but you might not know that the company offers a DIY web-based tool at WordPress.com. This is very different from the WordPress publishing platform that is used by millions and requires more technical know-how.
WordPress.com offers hundreds of templates (some free, some paid) and is accessible for beginners to use. To get the most out of your new website, you’ll want to move to a paid plan. If you’re looking for a huge library of templates, a simple interface and easy-to-use tools, WordPress.com is an excellent choice. There is a basic free option and then several different price tiers depending on the level of customization for which you are looking — between $4 a month and $45 a month.
Should You Use a Free Website Builder or Paid Tool?
Building a website can get costly if you use a DIY tool that has monthly and/or startup fees. But while it’s tempting to use only free tools, when there’s no monetary investment, you pay in other ways to use the tools.
For example, free tools often come with stipulations like advertisements that you don’t choose. You might not have the option to monetize your website through ads, meaning that if there are ads on your page, you’re not earning money from them. You might also have the web company’s logo stamped in your header or footer, which you can’t remove. WordPress.com has free site building options, but they put all three of these stipulations on your account. If you want to remove their logo, make money off ads, or remove unwanted ads from your site pages, you have to move to a paid plan.
If you don’t have time to learn how to use a DYI tool to set up your site, don’t know much about design, or need more than a simple site, you have the option to pay a web designer to use the do it yourself website builder for you. Most web designers work for a set or hourly fee, but you should end up with a quality website that looks professional and meets your requirements. If you choose this route, ask the person you hire to show you how to make content updates yourself once the site is set up.
Learning how to create a website with DIY tools can take time at first, but the entire process can take as little as one or two hours for a basic site. And when you need to make changes, you’ll be glad you can do it yourself.
Building a Website with WordPress
The WordPress platform (details at WordPress.org) is used by millions of websites and is different from the DIY builder at WordPress.com. The WordPress platform is used by both huge websites and small businesses, as it offers nearly unlimited options for design and functionality.
WordPress is best suited for people with moderate to advanced technical knowledge as it requires some technical skills to launch and keep updated. Once built, the interface for creating pages and editing content is generally straightforward. It is more intensive labor to get started than do-it-yourself website builders and typically doesn’t come with drag-and-drop features, however, there are 3rd party tools (called plugins) like Elementor that add “drag and drop” functionality).
If you hire a web designer to create your website, they will often use WordPress for the job. There are thousands of templates available. Some are free, some are fee-based. There are also countless 3rd party plugins to add functionality for everything from SEO to eCommerce and analytics. WordPress is extremely popular because it is open-source software, and it is available to download for free. All you need to get started is the software, a domain name, and a web hosting company.
Even though using the WordPress platform is more challenging than a do it yourself website builder, anyone can learn how to build a business website if they dedicate enough time to the task.
Benefits of WordPress for your Business Site:
- Full control over your small business website.
- You own the website, all the data, and all of the content.
- Customize with thousands of free and paid plugins, themes, and apps.
- Monetize your site without sharing a portion of the ad revenue.
Downsides of WordPress
- It isn’t simple enough for total beginners to launch and manage
- You are fully responsible for updates to the software (though many hosts do this automatically)
- WordPress can be prone to hacks if you don’t keep it updated
- Web hosting can get expensive, especially as your website grows
A theme is a collection of templates and stylistic choices and examples. You can use a theme to change your website’s appearance to show off better what your small business is about. Most themes offer full customization of the on-page elements.
Where to find themes for WordPress:
A WordPress plugin is a software that adds a specific function to your website, like taking orders or making transactions. Plugins let you add functionality to your business website and incorporate new features when you need them.
WooCommerce: Manage transactions, track your incoming and outgoing cash flow, and monitor any open disputes on a transaction. WooCommerce is by far the most popular plugin in for eCommerce websites.
Yoast SEO: Yoast SEO optimizes your webpage content so that your website ranks higher in search engine results. You’ll get more visitors from Google, Bing, social media platforms, and other areas where SEO is vital.
Contact Form 7: A popular contact form plugin that adds reCAPTCHA API keys to your message forms. reCAPTCHA functionality prevents bots from overwhelming your contact form with nonsense messages.
WordFence: WordFence is a high-end security plugin that offers firewall protection and security scanner. You can use WordFence Central to monitor and manage multiple websites in one place if you have more than one WordPress website.
Hiring a Web Designer to Build a Website
If using a do it yourself website builder or learning how to create a website with WordPress is more than you’re willing to take on, you should consider finding and hiring a web designer. Quality web designers can build a stunning business website that meets your requirements and exactly does what you need. However, paying for a quality web designer can get expensive.
Some designers charge hundreds or thousands of dollars to do the work well and on time. If your budget can afford this option, then it is a practical choice. If you have a smaller budget, don’t try to hire a less expensive web designer as a workaround to getting a website. Web designers who advertise rock-bottom pricing may provide poor customer service, bad communication, and lackluster websites.
If you choose to hire a web designer, be sure to look at their portfolio and also ask for references and check them. Find out if they have built sites that will function the way you want yours to work. Someone who has never built ecommerce sites, for instance, might not do a good job creating your ecommerce site.
Benefits of Hiring a Web Designer:
- More design options.
- Higher quality designs and customizations
- Increased reliability to get what you want
Downsides of Hiring a Web Designer:
- More expensive.
- It can take longer to build the site.
- You might get duped by a disreputable designer.
- Harder to make changes on your own.
If you are working with a Web Designer or web design agency:
- Ask if they will be using a DIY tool to build the site. This isn’t necessarily bad (in fact, sometimes it is great), but consider that you can save a lot of money if you use the same DIY tool without a middleman
- Make sure that you own and manage your domain name yourself. Many business owners have been burned when their web designer they hired online buys their domain name and uses it as leverage if things go south.
- Make sure that your agreement states that you own all rights to your website content, logo, and custom-designed templates and artwork.
- Be sure any photos and illustrations used on the site are properly licensed if they are not created by you or the designer.
- Get multiple referrals from current and past customers.
- Know what the ongoing maintenance costs will be before you start building. Some designers will give a smaller upfront charge but then charge you a monthly fee to “maintain” the website going forward. Your $1,000 website may not seem so cheap when you add in the $49 maintenance fee.
- Know if you will be able to make changes yourself to the website content yourself, or if the designer is required to do it (and if so, what is the cost). You don’t want to end up in a situation where you’re reliant on the web designer for every little change to your site. If you hire someone to build a website, make sure they teach you how to make changes in the future. Most small business owners don’t want to rely on a web designer or third-party company to manage their website forever.
What to Consider
Whichever way you decide to go, you can build a quality website for your small business that generates new business and takes your company to the next level. Work through the various options available to you and decide which method of creating a site works for your business type, needs, and budget.
If you decide to use a DIY builder, choose a host that provides the options and features better suited to your style. If you opt to build a site on WordPress.org, research the best themes and plugins to customize your company website. At the end of the day, if neither of these is appealing, hire an experienced and reputable web designer or web developer.
Building the business website of your dreams should be exciting and lead to increased sales and conversion rates. If you find that your business isn’t doing better after you spend the time and money on a website, consider whether you built the right site for what you do, how you’re promoting the website, and whether or not it’s been optimized to be found in search engines. Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board if you need to.
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