Introduction to best web design platform for small businesses
So, you just got an idea, want to showcase it to the world and monetise and grow into a stable business. There are a lot of platforms to start on – YouTube, Instagram, Facebook etc. For many, this means building a website for their showroom.
It is an effing maze out there regarding what platform you should use to build your website, even for the technically savvy or those in the cool nerd category. Oh, the haunting questions of:
Should I design the website myself and use a DIY platform like Squarespace or Wix
Which platform is my developer going to use to build my website? Is it WordPress, Shopify or Grassroot web coding
Do I retain the services of a super-expensive digital marketing agency that charge between $6,000 to $12,000 to build a website or less expensive web developers that charge far less – between $900 to $3000?
These are difficult questions that have plagued anyone stepping foot into the digital realm. You don’t want to pay ten times for a business or an idea barely making any profit, but you don’t want to go cheap out only to pay more later.
This article hopefully demystifies the path of building a website and settles the answers to the questions above. If you want a relatively straightforward answer, then jump straight to the conclusion at the bottom.
Web Design Basics
If you want to build a website, you should be well versed with the following, regardless of the platform you pick:
The domain name identifies the website itself. You have to buy your website’s domain name, and this is often as simple as Googling buy a domain name. Many companies provide this service, from Godday to your local telecommunication company like Spark in New Zealand.
You can only buy domain names that aren’t already registered to another person or business.
You may find yourself getting a legacy website with a domain name already owned by the business or your predecessor. In these instances, building your website gets a bit more complication using DIY platforms. It requires a fair amount of technical involvement in transferring your domain name to a platform like Squarespace.
owning your domain and having a host for your website are distinctly different things – this is not an uncommon mistake. Think of your domain as your cyber address and the host as your cyberland located at that address.
Once you register for a domain, you need to find a web hosting company to host your website. To make life easier, many of these companies offer domain and hosting services, but the critical point is the two are not the same, and you can move either hosting or domain while keeping the other where it’s already placed.
If your host has not provided your domain name, you need to update your domain name setting and point it to your web hosting company after you get a host.
Secure Sockets Layer or SSL provides security for your website. I could get into the technical nerdy jargon, but the critical point is that your website needs to be considered secured by Google to gain any ranking in Google.
This usually means an extra annual fee to your hosting company or a third party in the vicinity of $80.
Traditionally this use to be and still is to a large extent where your web developer is involved. The web developer, builds and complete the A to Z of your website.
DIY Website platforms
If the above sounds a bit scary or stressful, you’re not alone. This is precisely what DIY web platforms like Squarespace and Wix remedy. You pay a monthly subscription and design the website yourself. In most cases, the subscription covers the domain hurdle, and in all cases, it covers you for the hosting and SSL certificate. See the link here for a list of DIY web platforms – https://blog.hubspot.com/website/squarespace-alternatives.
DIY platforms allow users to use pre-built website templates and drag-and-drop elements to create and modify web pages. The cool thing is that most of the technical dance is done for you. No need to find a hosting company, get Cpanel access, buy a separate SSL certificate.
Look, we design websites and have a team of web developers, but we can’t deny that these DIY platforms are getting good. They have an expansive list of templates to choose from, inventory management systems for e-commerce, secure payment options, and some even have systems for shipment pending in your country. Some even have SEO integration and analytics tools to track the traffic on your website – this is super improving for increasing your Google ranking with keywords relevant to your website.
Want a more original and flexible website – need a developer
DIY platforms are fantastic, but they can be generic, unoriginal, and inflexible. If you want to take your website presentation to the next level, you most likely need to go with WordPress or Shopify. Though these platforms can be learned, they are really designed for web developers. Especially WordPress, where it’s a free platform but has close to zero customer support. Shopify is a bit better in the customer service department.
High-level different between WordPress and Shopify
What’s the difference between WordPress and Shopify, you may ask? Long story cut short, Shopify is a closed ecosystem built for e-commerce, and WordPress is an open-source platform with various plugins. The former has better support and is more reliable for online stores and suitable those who can’t take the slightest chance with their website going offline. The latter is excellent for blogs, companies who offer services and or otherwise require online brand presence. The link below compares and contrasts WordPress and Shopify – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJ6HUAI3cQ8
With a platform like WordPress, you need to register for a domain, find a company to host your website, acquire an SSL certificate for that website and zero in a web designer you trust. Often, your web designer can advise and guide you through this process (we definitely do this for our clients). Overall there is a lot more technical jumbo involved besides finding a web designer.
Who’s the right developer for your web design needs
Not all developers are equal, and sometimes the price differences show this – Note the words “Sometimes”. Many talented developers go above and beyond who charge substantially less than the competition because they live in countries with a lower cost of living.
For a modest e-commerce site, WordPress and Shopify developers charge range is between $2,000 and $11,000 (NZ dollars). This is not including optimising the site to increase its ranking in Google’s search engine or SEO.
You have to consider where your business and website is in its life, development and evolution. Suppose you are just hitting the market, or your business is still in its infancy, promising but yet to develop its templates, procedures and processes. In that case, it makes no sense to hire a top tier web developer company and spend thousands of dollars on your website.
Start small, ask around and find a developer who sounds trustworthy but charges the minimum. Play out the web designing process, observe and learn. If the website gets designed well, then you’ve saved thousands of dollars. If its design is poor to average, then think of it as a small learning cost, equipping you with weaponised knowledge so that you know what to look for and ask for at your next meetings with web developer companies.
Conclusions – answers to question in the intro
Here are the short answers:
Start on a DIY platform and learn the ropes if you don’t already have a domain registered and you’re inheriting any legacy, such as an already existing business with a registered domain and somewhat business activities. Know this is the beginning of the beginning, and eventually, you will need a web developer. That someday may be anywhere between 6 to 12 months from when you start your DIY website. The link here shows several DIY platforms, including Squarespace and Wix – https://blog.hubspot.com/website/squarespace-alternatives
If you’ve managed your website on a DIY platform or starting your web game from something that already has some legacy establishment, find a trustworthy budget developer to build your website on WordPress. To do this, you need to find a hosting company, buy an SSL certificate and do all the steps explained above.
Learn what you can from your web developer, undertake some of the administration tasks in your WordPress Dash, sound it out and reevaluate after a few months whether:
It will help if you change to Shopify (for e-commerce sites)
You need a more experienced developer to further evolve your website on WordPress
You require brand consulting
We’ve seen many of our clients go through this process, so it warrants an article discussing developer vs DIY platforms at a high level. We hope this helps, and let us know if you have any questions.