Building your business website or embarking on a web redesign project includes several moving parts including scope definition, sitemap and wire-frame creation, content creation, user interface (UI) design among several other elements. Choosing the right web platform to build your website upon should balance the requirements of functionality, ease of use, price, customization needs and technical features. Quite commonly embarking on a web design project will lead most small businesses to choose from two popular web services: Squarespace or WordPress.
To help determine the right platform for your requirements, the decision to be made ultimately boils down to how much management and control you want to have over your website, its design and any associated branding. Are you interested in taking a cookie cutter approach that provides an all-in-one solution? Then a platform that includes hosting and domain services as well as site templates (i.e., Squarespace or Wix) could be the right choice for your business. If having a fully customizable site that is completely managed by yourself or other hosting provider of your choosing, then WordPress platform will meet your requirements.
Planning Your Approach
Regardless of the platform be sure to:
- Outline Goals.Determine the website’s objective and define its overall purpose. Are you trying to entice the visitor to buy a product or service right away, or is it more important that the user gathers information and makes a follow-up call? Consider the audience and be sure to target the website visitor’s needs and wants. Every decision made throughout the web design process should reflect upon the site’s objective. Properly defining the scope, goals, objectives, limitations and constraints are key to success in any project, and is no different in a web design endeavor.
- Register Domain Name. A domain name or the web address required to reach your business website will be required. Most businesses will choose their business name as their domain name (i.e., compulite.ca) but you’ll need to make certain the name you desire is available and that you assign someone to be responsible for renewing the registered name on a yearly basis. Long-term management is crucial for domain name registration. You would not want to loose your business domain name three years down the line due to employee turnover or because you forgot who is responsible for maintaining it.
- Draft content. Plan the flow and structure of the content. While a content writer can be hired, no one understands your business better than you. Your input and insight will still be required to make an effective website that communicates appropriate content. Consider how to take advantage of search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure your site is seen by your target audience. Make navigating the site intuitive, free of clutter and ensure that each page prompts the visitor to act in the way you want (i.e., place a call, place an order, sign up for your company newsletter, etc.).
If choosing a platform that is highly customizable, be sure to:
- Secure a Hosting Provider. A hosting provider will be required to put your website up on the internet. The provider will store all your website files and display them to your site visitors. With numerous providers and rates available, a thorough comparison should be performed prior to selecting the right one for your business. Examine the provider’s up-time service level agreement (SLA), storage capacity offered and backup and security services available. Cyber criminals, malware, software bugs and other failures could cause data loss from your website.
- Hire a Reliable Designer. Web designers (much like IT service providers) come in a variety of styles, with varying work ethics and professionalism. Since your website will arguably be as important (if not more than important) than your brick and mortar office space, go with a reputable web design company that a has a portfolio of websites you can reference. A web design company that has staff on-site will ensure you can meet with designers in person to communicate details that are difficult to translate via e-mail or phone call.
Selecting the Right Platform
With your site’s main objectives and goals clearly defined, you can then begin to investigate the different platforms available. The most notable features of the platforms we choose to highlight are included below.
- Site-building tool that creates visually stunning websites, provides support through live-chat, e-mail and community forums.
- Straightforward, uncomplicated website building service that even non-technical users can utilize; easily publish new posts and pages.
- User-friendly interface, no knowledge of coding necessary.
- Site templates include blogging functionality, ability to import and export content, connectivity with social media, and the ability to have multiple users with different levels of access for maintaining site content.
- Templates to choose from include options for online stores, and mobile versions. (Remember your site will be constrained to their templates, you cannot customize beyond the options already present.)
- With several pricing plans available (personal vs. business) be sure to read details carefully as the plans limit your page numbers, blogging capabilities and contributors to your site. The plans also include fully managed cloud hosting (US based) web service.
- More than a web-site builder tool, WordPress is an open-source platform content management system with support available on paid plans.
- Flexible and scalable platform with high quality features. Extremely flexible and has several plugins and widgets, as well as SEO packs and commenting systems. More than 10,000 free and paid themes to choose from. (Be aware that some themes are responsive while others are not.)
- While your website is completely editable, the design process can be complex. It is recommended to work with a developer that has experience deploying WordPress sites.
Things to Consider
Regardless of the platform, be sure you are able to move your site to a different platform with ease, without losing data or traffic (WordPress excels at this capability). Since most businesses update their websites every 2-3 years be sure to ask yourself these questions prior to making your selection:
- How can I move away from this platform should it be necessary in the future? What happens to data?
- What features can I move out? For instance are there restrictions on what cannot be exported from your site when migrating content out (i.e., text, audio, video,etc.) ?
Since your online presence directly impacts your business reputation, you may determine it is best to use a professional developer. Security, data breaches and site hackings can severely damage your business reputation and ultimately your profitability.