Anyone with enough time and elbow grease can build a small business website. All of the essential tools are free in some form. Website hosts even include “no-code” website builders free with most hosting packages. Small businesses should be saving buckets of cash on web design. There’s only one problem with this dream come true: websites are more than one-click affairs.
The real deal takes an investment of time t0 choose and configure the best add-on software and services. And increasingly, the best quality website add-ons charge a fee to use.
Admittedly, you can get a lot of easy to use and innovative add-ons for free. But I think there’s a glut of poorly made rip-offs crowding sites like CodeCanyon and the WordPress Directory. What you need are up-to-date, developer-supported, guaranteed plugins that just work. Following are my recommendations for three essential website add-ons worth paying for.
Online Form Builder
Every website should have a contact form to collect simple information from website visitors. However, some websites require forms that allow registrations, calculations, demonstrations, and defenestrations. Just kidding about the last one.
There are several popular WordPress plugins that let users easily build forms into their site, but my favorite is Formstack. Whether you use WordPress or not, Formstack lets you capture complicated information from visitors with forms that are easy to navigate. And wide integration with payment gateways and e-mail marketing platforms make Formstack forms adaptable to almost any application. The Starter account costs $14/month.
One free alternative to Formstack is Wufoo.com. The integration options there are more limited, but Wufoo maintains a free account level useful for basic websites.
Landing Page Builder
One of the most successful internet marketing tactics we’ve found uses Google AdWords and landing pages. It goes like this: write a creative, persuasive ad and link to a special page that focuses website visitors on solving their problem. They exchange their name and email address for a solution or information that moves them close to one. I’ll let Tamre talk about getting started with AdWords, but creating good landing pages is it’s own challenge.
I prefer to use a WordPress plugin called Premise from the folks at Copyblogger. Even non-coders can’t help but make simple and good landing pages with the pre-built templates and step-by-step tools loaded into Premise. Yet, there’s enough flexibility for a skilled web designer to intricately tweak everything to their perfectionist heart’s content. Plus, there’s a whole lot more to generate more leads and turn your site into a major content destination. Get it yourself for $165. Pricey, but worth it. And your web designer may even have an unlimited license already, in which case they can install it for you cheaper (I know we can).
Website Backup Service
The Internet’s full of hackers and spammers looking to ruin your website. And every website owner’s clicked the wrong thing and screwed up their site. How can you protect yourself when the digital world’s so dangerous? Backup your website with your website host. Done that? Back it up again, in case your website host goes down too.
Backups let you minimize potential damage by providing a restore point to get your site running again after an attack or your own klutzy move. Most hosting companies record your website monthly and offer their own backup options. Definitely take advantage of those options.
However, your backups need backups. WordPress users can choose from services like VaultPress and Backupbuddy that let you set your own backup frequency and automatically send the files to Dropbox or another remote storage location. You can even download the whole thing right to your computer’s desktop.
To get started backing up your website, contact your hosting company. Then compare backup add-ons to make sure your website investment can be recovered. Note: A backed-up website is not a secure website. Try to prevent a breach altogether. Read this for steps you can take today to secure your site.
If you’re going to pay for anything to do with your website, these features are some of the essentials deserving your investment. Suggest your own must-have paid plugins and add-ons in the comments.
Have questions about these services or web design in general? Get in touch by email or give us a call.
photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc