You’ve got a small business to run. Or maybe you have a hot new startup to promote. Your to-do list grows larger by the second, and your responsibilities as a business owner or entrepreneur keep you hustling 24/7. You don’t have time to think about how you’re going to get a website designed and built for your company, but you know it’s one of the most important ‘to-dos’ on your list. Your first thought may be, “Where do I even start?”
There are a lot of website design platforms out there — some good, some bad, and some really bad — so how do you decide which web design platform is right for your new (or perhaps existing) business venture?
I spend a lot of time each week talking to startups and small business owners about the website platform my team and I designed and developed to help them figure out if it’s right for their business. To help make the process easier, try focusing on these high-level decision factors to help guide you in the right direction when you’re considering choosing a new website platform for your brand.
1) Acknowledge that all website design platforms are not created equal
As with most aspects of life, you get what you pay for. There’s even more truth to that saying when you’re talking about the web design industry. What’s under the hood of your website is just as important — if not more so — than how your website looks. The code behind it could be written poorly, it may load slowly (or in some cases not at all), or it may not be optimized to deliver the same experience across any device (known as being ‘responsive’). All of these things can directly influence your website’s search engine optimization (SEO), your wallet, and your sanity.
Some free platforms require a ton of maintenance and management that doesn’t fall within a typical business owner’s wheelhouse, so keep that in mind. Also, if you’re not a designer, a DIY option may be more trouble than it’s worth because you’ll never get that custom look you’re after for your brand. You’ll also want to consider the platform’s flexibility to scale and grow with your business down the road.
Above I mention you ‘get what you pay for’ when it comes to website design services, however that can be a positive thing if the team behind it knows their stuff. We developed our small business website products for one reason: to simplify an unnecessarily arduous and confusing process and deliver a best-in-class custom website managed solution at an affordable price for small businesses and startups.
2) Website pricing, hosting and support costs should be transparent
Watch out for hidden costs, and make sure you’re aware of the total costs for the website platform and what it’ll cost you to maintain and make changes to it long-term. If the product you’re considering isn’t capable of scaling, you’ll need to find another platform sooner than you think and have to start the vetting — and spending — process all over again.
If you’re not using a DIY service, make sure the website design agency you’re using clearly lays out a schedule with milestones and a launch date. One of my personal pet peeves with the industry is how unnecessarily over-complicated this process has become, and it’s one of the main reasons I started the JustBuildMeAWebsite.com custom website platform. In my opinion, if you have the technical expertise, industry experience, and a solid platform that allows you to build successful websites, you should be able to design, build, and launch client websites in days — not weeks or months.
The pricing structure for our small business website platform is about as transparent and clear-cut as it gets. We’re confident in the technology and service we provide so we’re happy to openly share it.
3) Decide if you really need a content management system (CMS)
A CMS gives you the ability to log into an admin area of a website and update your content, add photos, downloadables, etc. I frequently set clients up on my custom CMS, but my first question to them when they ask about it is, “Is it something you really need?”
If you’re going to be blogging weekly, updating content daily, managing inventory, or building a user-based site, then yes, you’ll need a platform that gives you that kind of access.
Don’t choose a CMS because someone told you that you need it. Most CMS’s require a ton of maintenance and management, and since you’re reading this article, it’s safe to assume that your time and your money is important to you. You need a capable team or at least a proficient in-house developer to manage a CMS for you correctly and efficiently.
I’ve found that most small businesses and startups really don’t need a CMS, and that a managed website design service for your business makes more sense. We include up to six hours of support and change requests monthly to our clients. Simply send us an email with your updates and we’ll take care of it for you, hassle-free. White glove service in web design is typically unheard of, but it should be standard.
4) Do-it-yourself website platforms are built by robots
The rise of DIY website design platforms has taken over the industry, and not necessarily in a good way. Remember, you get what you pay for — and you may be getting unsecure servers, shoddy customer support, and templated websites. If you want to stand out from your competitors but don’t have the time or technical chops, you might want to consider a managed website design platform and a team of humans that stands behind it. It’s the only way you’re going to get a custom website built that clearly conveys your brand and resonates with your target audience.
You’re probably not a designer, and that’s OK. But most of the clients that we onboard to our website design service are coming from DIY website platforms because they couldn’t get them to do what they wanted, either technically or aesthetically. Instead, consider delegating the task of designing and managing your website to a team of experts so you can focus on building your business instead.
5) The bottom line
There are hundreds of options out there when it comes to getting a website designed and built for your business, so like anything else it’s important to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible before making a decision. Choosing the right website design platform for your small business can make or break your online branding efforts, because first impressions really are everything when it comes to websites.