11 Things to Consider When Choosing a Website Platform for Your Business
Choosing a Website Platform for Your Business is Crucial!
Every business needs a website, and every company has different needs: different online objectives, products, services, and more. No cookie-cutter website platform will work perfectly for everyone. However, choosing a website platform for your business is a crucial step for the long-term success of your business or product brand.
We hear of some platforms more than others, like WordPress for blogs and small local businesses and Shopify for all things e-commerce related. There are other players in the space, along with fully custom builds.
Before you blindly select a website platform, there are some things you need to consider. First, to find the best website platform for your specific needs, you must ask yourself a few questions. Don’t simply select a platform that is just considered the “best option,” according to some random blogger who likely slipped an affiliate link or two into the article.
How to Select a Website Platform
Choosing a website platform, also known as a website builder, is akin to selecting the foundation when building your home. Everything that follows, the look, functionality, user experience, maintenance, adding on, and more, will be determined by this choice. When choosing the right platform to build your website, the most crucial question is what you plan to accomplish with your website.
Some platforms are better suited for e-commerce, others for security. All the following website platforms have their unique strengths and weaknesses; the idea is to choose a platform that works for you today and can grow as quickly as your business.
You can search online and get bombarded with tons of differing opinions from Squarespace to WordPress and everything in between. Although many of these platforms have certain limitations that others don’t, most can support your objectives.
So how do you decide which website platform you should use for your business or startup?
How to Select a Website Platform for your Business
Here are a few essential questions to ask yourself when choosing a website platform for your business:
Does your business model depend on your online presence?
If you need an e-commerce platform, you will have to choose a robust and modular solution. On the other hand, if you’re selling B2B services, a more basic creator that fulfills your needs without requiring extensive development and maintenance efforts would be a better choice.
How far along is your business?
A budding startup eager to have an online presence does not have the exact needs of a 25-year-old factory wanting to develop international business.
What do you hope to accomplish with your website?
I believe that no matter the development stage of your business, a website should focus on three objectives: attracting, converting, and selling. However, I am well aware that many companies do not need a web development tool with all the frills.
But setting a goal for your website is essential. For example, do you want your website to be visible only via its URL? Do you want it to be visible to people searching for similar products or services? Or do you want to create an influx of new customers and prospective customers?
What is your intended use for your website?
What do you need your website to do? Do you want to showcase products, services, and company information, or are you looking to sell directly on your website? If you are looking for an online presence for your business, a WordPress site with a blog will do the trick.
If you are a brand looking to sell direct to consumers, then Shopify is a plug-and-play option that offers low-cost options and a shallow barrier of entry. However, if you have unique needs, you might need a fully custom build.
Alternatively, if you have no intention of blogging or utilizing SEO, you can use a simple single-page HTML website. Unfortunately, many times, businesses will be on a platform that isn’t up to par in terms of what they need or build on something that is complete overkill.
What goals does your user have on your website?
Yes, your website visitor also has their own goals when they land on your site. Think about how they’re getting to your website.
- Did they find you organically on Google via one of your blog posts?
- Did they find you on social media and decide to click on the link?
- Did they already meet you at a small business networking event?
Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what the next step would be. For example, are they ready to purchase, or do they want to browse?
For example, if you’re a blogger and most of your traffic comes from posts, the user might not know enough about you to purchase your funny merchandise. Still, they may be more likely to sign up for an email newsletter in exchange for your free PDF with tips on the subject you blog about.
What is your technical expertise?
Different website platforms require different levels of technical expertise. If you are willing to spend the time to learn a platform, it will help you get the most out of your website. This simple fact is something that many don’t consider. Sure, having a website up is a start, but don’t forget it’s a tool for your business.
When you know how to leverage a website to its full potential, it can significantly impact the success of your business. For example, a company that launches a Shopify store connects a domain, uploads some products, and then lets it sit there will not increase sales rapidly.
On the other hand, someone with considerable technical knowledge can leverage the tracking and insights to drive more sales and then utilize abandonment recovery and upselling, among other things, to drive sales.
What type of team does your business have?
This might seem like an odd question to ask yourself when deciding on what website platform to choose but follow me for a second.
If you’re a solopreneur without any support (be it contractors or employees), you have to consider the time it’ll take to build AND maintain the website.
Creating regular backups, updating plugins, themes, PHP, core code, and more can start feeling like a drag, and you’ll soon procrastinate on those. And trust me, you DON’T want to put these off if your website requires them.
Not keeping the site updated means your user’s experience will slowly deteriorate, or worse, you’re leaving holes for hackers. If this goes on long enough, the cost to fix all of these will likely be more than a simple maintenance plan would have cost.
Let’s assume your small business has a team – whether it’s just a VA or more robust. Does that team know how to keep the website up to date? Is it in their job description? Are they willing to learn?
Suppose you don’t foresee having a person who will keep the website’s tech part updated. In that case, you might want to consider a platform like Squarespace so that you (and your team) can focus on things like content and business growth without wondering, “What the heck is PHP again?”
What features do you want your business website to have?
Next, ask yourself what cool things you want your website to do or have when you launch. For example, if a quiz is something important to you, you can use something like Typeform. What about a chatbox? Is it easy to add a snippet of code to the platform?
Back to your goals for the website, ask yourself if your list of features are must-haves for right now or are they nice to have items but ultimately won’t make or break your business.
We have had tons of clients get stuck on tiny features that don’t move the business forward, such as a booking system that can charge for a strategy session versus whether the website can have images that slide. One is essential to make money, and the other is just a nice feature.
What is your realistic budget?
Consider the cost of building the site and your budget, whether you’ll need to hire help to set up and maintain the site, and any fees associated with using the platform.
You can download, install and set up a WordPress website for free. It will cost you about $15 for a domain, and you can get low-cost shared hosting for as little as $5 per month. On the e-commerce side, you can build a website on WooCommerce using the free Storefront theme or Shopify using a free template and be up and running for $29 per month.
Then, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, is a fully customized build with custom databases, functionality, and more. You could drop a quarter-million dollars on a fully customized elaborate website or online store. Many factors affect the cost of building a website.
Don’t discredit the lower-cost opportunities, as they can support large companies. For example, some of the largest e-commerce brands in the world run on WordPress and Shopify and generate millions of dollars daily using the same tech stack that is available to you.
How customizable does your website need to be?
Do you want to be able to customize the design to reflect your brand? Will you need to add features via plugin programs? If you don’t need anything too elaborate, there are endless options for available themes. Whether you are building on Shopify or WordPress, free themes work very well and offer some degree of customization.
Thousands of paid themes are available, priced anywhere from $39 to $200, that provide you affordable access to sleek website designs and features that you can adjust to match your needs and branding.
If you are looking for custom animation and something unique, you will need to hire a front-end and back-end team to build it from the ground up. This kind of one-off customization will cost a pretty penny, but the expense is worth it for some businesses.
What is the learning curve?
How difficult is it to set up a website using the platform? If your available skill set doesn’t match the platform’s difficulty level, factor in the need to hire help or the time necessary to learn how to work with the platform.
Most popular DIY platforms like Shopify, WordPress, BigCommerce, Wix, and Squarespace have plenty of online resources to help guide you. These resources include the blog and video content they produce and the content that users create.
Pros and Cons of 3 Common Options
The number of solutions like Wix, Weebly, or SquareSpace has increased significantly in the past few years, and it is easy to see why. These website builders allow you to create websites using a drag and drop interface without specific technical knowledge.
You select a template that matches the functionality you require and customize the content from there. All you need is a bit of time, and the drag-and-drop builder tool guides you through the process.
- Easy to use
- Quick set-up
- Many different templates are available
- Your site will never look as good as the sample they show
- You do not own anything on the platform
- Your control is minimal, and you can end up in a dead-end
- Beware of hidden fees
If you need a website to be up and running ASAP, you can find what you need in this type of solution. But do keep in mind that you have no control over the platform and will quickly reach its limits. So make a plan to transition to another builder solution when that time comes.
Content Management System (CMS)
Content management systems are platforms that allow you great control of your website design, functionality, and performance. A Content Management System (CMS) is a software solution used to create and manage digital content, offering a management interface between the front-end (what the end-user sees) and the back-end (what happens at the server level).
With content management systems, you buy your domain, set up website hosting, and have the CMS software installed on your web server for your domain. Next, you will need to choose a theme for your website, add plugins for enhanced functionality, and create your content.
In addition to the setup, you will have to perform regular maintenance such as backups, software updates, and security. Some CMS-specific web hosting services like Cloudways, WP Engine, and Kinsta include maintenance and security in their plans, which is the best option for those who don’t want to worry about maintenance.
One of the advantages of using WordPress, in particular, is that, because of its popularity, you will always be able to find designs, plugins, developers, and services to help you create the exact website you want for your business. But, of course, you can also use WordPress for just about anything – static websites, blogs, e-commerce, forums, membership sites, and more.
- You control everything
- You can use advanced functions for 1/10 of the price of custom websites
- You can choose to use an existing theme or create your own
- Better performance and longevity than a website building tool
- Excellent integration with other tools (CRM, data analysis, email marketing, and more.)
- You do most of the maintenance
- Many online resources to help guide you through the process
- May not be suitable for all users
- Requires technical skills (or at least understanding)
- It will take time to master the tool
- It’s hard to find good developers when you are not a pro yourself
If you need a website for marketing purposes and are looking for a solid foundation for the future growth of your company, this is undoubtedly the best solution for you. Plus, you probably won’t need to use any other tools: a CMS like WordPress can do it all from a showcase website to a lead-generating machine.
Although a CMS can act as a framework for your website, you might need a tailor-made solution if your business model depends heavily on your site.
- You have control over absolutely everything
- Nobody else uses the same tool. It is yours and yours alone
- If it is highly optimized, you will have an outstanding level of performance
- The cost can rise very, very quickly
- You need to have an in-depth understanding of the technical components
- Regular maintenance is necessary
If you want to build something that has never existed, a custom solution is what you need. Then, you can pair it with a CMS to save some time and resources for marketing.
If you want to focus solely on selling products, an e-commerce platform may be the right choice for your business. Here are some standard options:
WooCommerce is a customizable, open-source e-commerce platform built on WordPress. Add the WooCommerce plugin to any WordPress site and set up a new store in minutes. Get secure payments, configurable shipping options, and more out of the box.
Magento is an e-commerce platform built on open source technology that provides online merchants with a flexible shopping cart system and control over the look, content, and functionality of their online store. In addition, Magento offers powerful marketing, search engine optimization, and catalog-management tools from the Adobe Experience Cloud.
Shopify and Bigcommerce are two hosted e-commerce platforms that allow you to create and set up an online store quickly. You can start with basic plans at $29 per month, including your online store, unlimited products, and basic payment processing.
One of the perks of going with a hosted e-commerce platform, like those mentioned above, is that you don’t have to worry about your website’s hosting or security regarding payment processing. 24/7 support and transaction security are part of the package.
Selecting the Right Website Platform
To conclude, there is no perfect solution. Selecting a website platform for your business depends primarily on your specific needs and objectives.
Start with what your company needs – whether a simple website to communicate information about what you do or something far more complex, like a complete e-commerce solution. Next, think about the best option for your budget, and give some thought to what features and functionality you might need in the future to help ensure your business’s long-term success.
If you know you want to sell products online, you may opt to start with a WordPress site, knowing you can add the e-commerce functionality later.
If you don’t have the budget to hire an onsite development team to manage and update your website, look for a website platform that you feel comfortable (and confident) to learn.
One final consideration: Nearly half (46%) of web users say a website’s design is their number one criterion for determining a company’s credibility – make sure your company’s design stands out among the rest.
Web design is a complex process requiring extensive knowledge and experience to bear results. Therefore, you need to take your time selecting a website platform for your business that will meet your present needs and future requirements. We are here to help!
Are You Looking to Build a Website for Your Business?
Do you want to create a functional, thoughtful, and user-friendly website for your business or product brand? Our team of professional designers will be happy to help you with this. But, first, look at our portfolio and read our case studies.
Then, if you believe we are a good fit for your web design needs, let’s talk! We offer a full range of consulting and design services for businesses and product brands, including custom web design and development, e-commerce solutions, website redesign, multilingual web design, search engine optimization, and WordPress optimization.
And if you are still not sure how to select a website platform for your business, let’s talk! Our team will listen to you, answer your questions, and determine the best website platform to support your business objectives. It is one of our specialties, after all!
Did You Select Your Website Platform?
Have you found the perfect website platform for your business? Which platform did you select? And how is your website platform working out for you?
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