There are a couple of things that small businesses need to consider when building their first website.
Before they even get to the building phase, they should understand who their audience is and the purpose of the website. Is it a retail customer (a specific demographic?), other businesses, a certain type of professional, or some other target? What do they want the visitor to do once they come to the site? Get an address or phone number? See a menu? Make an appointment? Buy something directly? Once they know who they’re talking to, they can develop their message, design, and functionality around that customer.
When it comes to platforms, there are several ways to do it, from free builders, to WordPress templates, to a completely custom website. Here are some pros and cons on the general methods:
“Free” Platforms (Wix, Squarespace)
The good thing about these platforms is that they are inexpensive and relatively easy to use (although slightly frustrating at times). They have themes that you can select from and you can swap out some photos and text and be done. If you don’t need something too custom, this may be a good option for you. The largest downside is that you’re locked into their platform and hosting. You won’t be able to move your website.
Pre-existing WordPress Themes
These can be a good option to get a nice design for cheap. You’ll need a WordPress site set up and will either have to work with a freelancer to set up your theme or do it yourself. It’s not rocket science but there can often be some technical challenges. Once you’re familiar with the theme on the back end, you’ll often be able to customize the site and add additional content. This is a good option if you’re planning a blog or a site with a lot of content. The biggest danger with a pre-existing theme is performance. Since they are often built to accommodate multiple variations and different scenarios, they can be bloated and extremely slow, which will hurt your user experience and your SEO.
Custom WordPress Themes
A website development company can develop custom WordPress themes for your website based on any design. This gives you the flexibility of having WordPress as your content management system, but allows you to have a design and website that is customized to your business. This can make a tremendous difference in site performance as well as provide you a way to stand apart from your competition. The downside to a custom WordPress theme is the time and cost to develop it. It often begins with a design phase, then production/development, testing, and implementation.
The two most popular platforms for e-commerce are WooCommerce (on WordPress) and Shopify. If you’re looking to begin selling products on your own website, definitely check them out. Shopify is an all-inclusive platform that has a lot of features built in. WooCommerce allows you to add various plugins and make modifications to do just about whatever you need. The factor that usually helps us decide is the other content on the site. If you plan on having a robust website, along with an e-commerce store, we recommend WooCommerce. If you just need a store and don’t have much other content, Shopify might be the way to go.
Finally, there are lots of other technologies and platforms out there, but for a small business, these are probably the best places to start.
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