These days there are so many easy-to-use website building platforms (with easy-to-swallow price points) that almost everyone and their mother has a website. In theory, it shouldn’t be hard to set one up for your business, right? After all, you have a computer, Internet connection and a credit card so building your own website is certainly within your reach.
Programs like Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, EHost and Web.com feature drag and drop editors, responsive templates and the promise of web design without knowing a line a code. But wait! Before you start your research or pick a platform there are a few things to consider.
What do you need your website to do?
Is it simply a marketing tool? A brochure online? Or do you need your website to do more?
Service companies rely on their websites to present a description of services with prominent contact information on every page. But a good service website will also include calendars and schedule forms so prospective customers can book appointments. If you have multiple customers booking appointments every day, then integrating the form with the calendar you use daily on your phone and computer will be critical. Unfortunately, that will often require a more sophisticated form then what is built into a DIY website building tool.
Companies with broad product lines may want to include photo galleries where potential customers can browse to find and save their favorites. Browsing is easy to facilitate on almost any website, but allowing customers to create and store favorites, well that takes more than the basics.
Depending on what you do or what you sell, your website may need to have more features than just a simple list of services to convince your next client to pick up the phone. If you’re building your own website, make a list of all the features you think you will need to help you build trust with prospective clients. Then be sure the web building tool you select will allow you to build that feature into your website. .
Can you afford it?
If it’s just you and a business partner or employee a template platform is probably a savvy way to get your website up and running. It’ll perform the basic needs required of a website, and with a little patience, you can get it to look almost like the template you chose.
So the $99 catch-all price tag on Squarespace looks super attractive. If you’re just starting your business and have some time on your hands, that’s a great place to start. However, as your business grows, you need to be prepared to completely rebuild your site on a more robust platform.
And if your business is already running at full speed and you have a few employees, you probably laughed at the phrase “time on your hands.” Taking time to learn a new software product, while you are trying to run your business probably means lots of nights and weekends to get it launched. And you may still have to upgrade to get all the features you business will ultimately demand.
Just remember, if you build it then you need to fix it. So when your website breaks, and yes it’s when, not if, you will be the person on the phone listening to the hold music as you wait to talk to a customer service representative for who knows how long. Can you afford the time to sit on the line and have someone try to figure out what went wrong?
Remember why you wanted a website
Your website is a marketing tool. For some customers, it’ll be the first time they give you a handshake. Are you wearing a wrinkled blazer from Kohl’s, a suit off the sale rack you had tailored or something custom-made for you? In this analogy, with the proper amount of thought and care, Squarespace can be a nice suit from the retailer that’s a little boxy around the shoulders and long in the sleeves. It’s a suit and still gives the right impression, but tailoring makes a world of difference in how people perceive you.
So I’ll repeat, what can you afford?
Whether you are planning on building your website yourself or hiring a firm to do it, start with our web planning guide.