Small business websites – what are the options?

Options for small business websites

Small business websites – what are the options?

Having a website is a must for pretty much every business these days. But how do you go about getting one? Or if you’ve got one already but are considering a revamp, what are your options for small business websites?

Broadly speaking, your options are:

1)      Build it yourself

2)      Get a friend to build it for you

3)      Pay someone to build it for you.

The right choice for you will depend on a number of factors including your budget, what you want your website to do (both in terms of functionality and business goals) and your technical know-how. Here’s a quick run-down of your options with some pros and cons for each, to help you figure out the right route for you.

Build it yourself from scratch

Only consider this option if you have patience and time in abundance – you’ll need both! Having said that, gone are the days when you need to be a coding whizz to build a website. There are some great free platforms, like WordPress and Drupal which offer the building blocks you need to get you started. You’ll still need to consider where you’re going to host your site.

Pros:

  • Cost-effective at the outset
  • A great sense of achievement as you learn a new skill
  • You can end up with a website as unique as your business.

Cons:

  • It will take you longer than you expect. You could be better spending that time on other areas of your business
  • You need to become an expert in website building, graphic design, user experience, copywriting and search engine optimisation to end up with a professional looking site that works for you – that’s a lot of new skills
  • What at first appeared cost-effective may cost you a lot in time and, depending on how you get on, you may end up paying for someone to help you out if you get stuck.

Build it yourself using an ‘out of the box’ solution

You may have seen the adverts on TV for ‘build your own website’ services. There are various options out there, such as MrSite or 1&1. They provide you with a tool box to help you build your site, and often cover your hosting too. Some even come with templates for your industry.

Pros:

  • Tends to be quite a low cost option at the outset
  • Likely to be easier than building your own site from scratch so you can get your site live quickly
  • Can take care of hosting and domain registration so everything is in one place.

Cons:

  • Depending on your package and the aims of your site, costs can escalate with ‘bolt on’ services that aren’t included as standard
  • Options tend to be more limited so you can’t create a site quite like the one you imagined
  • Even though these packages take away some of the pain of building a site, you’ll still need to have skills in graphic design, user experience, copywriting and search engine optimisation to end up with a professional looking site that works well.

Get a friend to build it for you

Because there are so many great platforms for building website now, most people will know someone who may well volunteer to build your site for you, either as a favour or for a very low cost. This might be a great option for your business but, as ever, there are things to consider…

Pros:

  • A friend is likely to charge you less (or nothing) for building your site
  • If they’re a close friend, they might already know quite a bit about your business and understand more about who you’re trying to reach and what you want to achieve.

Cons:

  • A friend may have the technical skills to build a site, but do they also know about search engine optimisation, copywriting and the other elements which go into a great site?
  • You may end up waiting a long time if your friend is trying to fit your website in around their full time job – you’ve very little room to try and speed things up if they’re doing you a favour
  • It can be hard to tell a friend if you don’t like what they’ve done so you may end up with something you’re not happy with
  • They may lose interest if you keep asking them to make updates to the site – good will is sometimes finite!

Paying someone to build it for you

There are lots of businesses which offer web design and development services, ranging from local one man bands through to large corporate companies. There’s no right answer as to who will be best for your business, but make sure you look at some of their previous work before committing to anything. Some people who claim to ‘do web design’ are actually not very good! The following pros and cons are based on the assumption that you’re working with one of the good ones…

Pros:

  • Your finished site will look really professional and is likely to drive more business as a result
  • Better long-term value – you’re less likely to ‘outgrow’ your site than if you’ve used an ‘out of the box’ service
  • Your site will be bespoke and tailored to your business
  • If working with a local designer, you can meet them face to face and receive a more personal service as a result.

Cons:

  • It’s likely to be more expensive than building it yourself – but prices vary hugely so ask around
  • There may be ongoing costs for maintenance and updates – clarify this up front
  • A ‘web designer’ may not include the cost of any stock images, copywriting and search engine optimisation within their costs – check that they have these skills too or you might end up shelling out again.

My business offers web design as a service, so I’m bound to think you’re better off going for the last option. However, to back that up I think it’s worth mentioning that a lot of my work is rebuilding sites for people who have started off building their site either from scratch or using one of the packages available, and have then found out it doesn’t do what they wanted it to, or doesn’t look how they want it to look. Make sure you do your research before you jump into any of these options – making the right decision now could save you time and money in the long run. Any questions? Feel free to get in touch for a chat.