Starting a business can be a lot of work—especially if you’re doing it on your own. Navigating the world of websites and choosing whether you should do-it-yourself or hire someone to design and develop it for you alone can be difficult. I’m going to simplify things for you so you can focus your time on your business, and get your website working for you.
There are more ways to get websites built and in front of your target audience being developed all the time. Squarespace, Wix, Webflow, and WordPress are just some of the bigger names you may have heard. With each of these, you could potentially have a website up and running in a matter of hours. Though which one should you choose?
There is no shortage of debate and comparison of these services online, and if you want to lose a few hours reading subjective arguments feel free to Google it. I believe that in the end, it doesn’t matter. This is the technology we’re talking about—the code behind your website. Not your website itself. Your website is actually your content.
Your knowledge and expertise, consolidated into text and visual content, user experience, and how you guide a potential customer through the content to convert them to a customer. That is what really makes up your website.
Does it matter if the content is being served through PHP or ASP? Or if it is using nginx versus Apache? Not really no, in the grand scheme of things.
What matters most is that potential customers see the content, engage with it, and are convinced to become a customer. Don’t worry about technology yet. Launch your website. Generate some leads. Validate your business and the effectiveness of your site. After that then you should consider investing more in your site.
So, why WordPress
Despite my argument that it doesn’t matter which service you use, why not just go with the cheapest? With WordPress.com or Wix you could have a site up for free without your own domain name. For $12/month or less you could have your own domain name and site with any of the four services above. So why do I use WordPress? A few reasons:
- It’s open-source and has a huge community.
- I trust it.
- It’s easy to work with.
- It’s easy to expand.
- It’s what I know.
There are cons too, and honestly, Squarespace beats WordPress in the design quality of the available themes and direct support. But they aren’t exactly the same thing and not so simple to compare. Squarespace is a full service; hosting, domain registration, and content management system (CMS). WordPress is just the content management portion. Pairing WordPress with the right hosting provider can give you something more comparable to SquareSpace, and the potential for much more.
I’ve been in this industry for over 10 years and worked with a variety of technologies. I’ve worked with Drupal, Joomla, a hand-built CMS, Textpattern, and WordPress. Many and more exist that I haven’t worked with, but WordPress remains my favourite. A big part of that is because I’ve worked with WordPress the most. However, whether my clients are building new sites or redesigning old ones, in each case WordPress is a great solution. Some clients need the bare minimum of a few pages of content and a contact form. WordPress does that very well. Other clients need some customization, such as job postings, a portfolio of work, or e-commerce. My experience with WordPress does that very well.
Design Discovery ConsultationDon't jump into a big-budget project. Invest in a small discovery session to discover your exact needs and plan out the website to help your business flourish.
How to Start
Now, let’s get to the actual what of your website. What do you need? Do you simply need a landing page to gather interest for your business, and start collecting leads? Or, are you further along in your development and want to explain a suite of products or services, requiring a full website?
A landing page is a great way to start when you are in the early stages of building your new business. It allows you to introduce yourself and your business, and collect email addresses of people interested as new leads.
A landing page is a single web page consisting of content, a promise of some sort, and a form requesting the visitor’s contact information so you can email them to fulfill the promise. Often the promise is a valuable resource like an e-book, a demo, or maybe a consultation session. The important part is the landing page is focused solely on this transaction—presenting a promise, asking for their contact information in return for the promise, then delivering the promise. There are no menus or navigation away from the page, the only actions that can be taken are to submit the form or close the page.
Landing pages could, and should be part of the overall website, giving you a place to send would-be customers. When starting out though, it is quicker to write the content for this one page and get it live rather than writing out all the content for a full website. Better to have a live landing page gathering interest than wait weeks or months with multiple work-in-progress pages not working for you at all.
If you’re already established and/or have already written content for your site then going for the full website makes sense. You can explain more complex product offerings and services, create multiple funnels for potential customers, and display your work through multiple pages.
A website is comprised of multiple pages organized within a menu system. A website should have a logic to the organization, all based around the goals of the site. For businesses, this is typically to generate revenue, but that may be through requests for a quote, a direct purchase, or a more complicated journey through content and needs assessment. For more detail on how to get started thinking about your website try this article, Starting a Website — Where do I begin?
So, you have two layers of choices to consider to get started.
- Do you do-it-yourself, or hire a consultant?
- Do you start with a landing page and expand later, or, go for a multi-page website?
For do-it-yourself my recommendation with starting with Dreamhost, a web hosting provider I use for my own website. They have a very inexpensive option to get started for a simple low-traffic site, and a reasonably priced option that is easier to scale if your plans are to grow. You can have WordPress automatically installed, or do it simply after you have your account, complete with a visual website builder so you won’t need to write any code.
As a side note, I do get a referral bonus for any signup on Dreamhost through my referral link. But, rest assured I do recommend Dreamhost. I use them for my own website and all my clients that either doesn’t already have a host or are looking to move.
This is a great option for those who like to learn and do-it-yourself, however, it’s not for everyone. Your time may be better spent doing other valuable tasks for the business, in which case I hope you would consider hiring me.
I am working on more resources to help the do-it-yourselfer but for now, here are a few articles to get you started:
- The Why of Web Design: Basics of Website Strategy
- Choosing Website Platforms — The Right Tool for the Job
- Starting a Website — Where do I begin?
- Easy Usability Wins for Improved Experience and Conversions
- User Experience Design for Conversion
Hire a consultant. Ahem, me.
Websites are my expertise, your business is your own. So why not offload this task to me so you can stay focused on what’s important to your business.
Some may say websites are commodities and most websites are the same. They may not be wrong, but they are certainly not 100% correct. Businesses come in all shapes and sizes, and in my opinion, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. That is why everything starts with discovery. Rather than invest thousands of dollars into a website that we suspect will meet the needs of your customers, you invest a smaller amount into a discovery session. A discovery session with me gets you:
- Me for a day. That’s up to 8 hours of my time focused on you and your business.
- Up to two hours of face-to-face conversation where we discuss your business and explore your website needs
- Competitor research
- User/customer research
- Website strategy
- A proposal and plan for your website
No commitment. After the discovery session you can decide to take the knowledge I shared with you and hire me, do-it-yourself, or go hire someone cheaper with less experience. If you can stick with me and we can design and develop a custom website that meets your exact needs now and has the flexibility to grow with your business.