If you own a small business, it's essential to have an online presence. A website ensures your customers can find you, establishes your brand and credibility, markets your business, and expands your reach to a wider audience. But, you're a business owner, you likely don't know much about building a website, and you probably don't have a ton of time to figure it out. Luckily, you’ve got a few options on how to make your perfect business site happen.
The main factors informing your decision about whether or not to build your own website are cost, customization, time, difficulty, and ongoing maintenance.
These factors vary depending on whether you choose to use an online website builder, code your own website, or hire someone to build your own website for you.
Code it yourself
If you want complete control of your website layout, then manually creating HTML and CSS is your best choice. To code your own site, you can either learn HTML, and hand-type the tags, or you can use an HTML-writing WYSIWYG program like Dreamweaver.
HTML is a coding language that controls the layout of your pages. If you're interested in learning HTML, W3Schools has great fundamentals available here.
WYSIWYG editors work much like word processors. You enter your website text and insert images from a menu in the program. The editor produces the HTML to make sure what you see on the screen matches what a visitor sees on your website.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is also a useful coding language to learn, since you can use it to control your website's appearance. The style sheet controls placement and style elements for a Web browser to display your page. You control fonts and paragraph width with your CSS. Again, W3Schools has great CSS content available here.
Learning HTML and CSS just to create one website is a large investment of your time. However, coding it yourself will save you some money. Your costs involved for this method include your domain name, hosting services, and perhaps a WYSIWYG editor. If you choose not to use the WYSIWYG editor, you can find free HTML editors online, which let you hand-code the HTML.
If manually creating HTML and CSS code sounds intimidating, a simple online site builder like GoDaddy's Website Builder might be best for you. With a site builder, you're still creating your own site, but without the more complex element of dealing with the site's code. These user-friendly applications hide the backend code and let you build your website visually right from your web browser.
Site builders limit the control you have over your website, but are great if you want to have a beautiful website in a very short amount of time.
They're mostly template-based, so you generally begin by choosing a pre-designed template and then replacing the text and images to meet your needs. In this way, the layout and design is pretty much done for you, so you don't have to deal with difficult decisions about placement of text and graphics.
Going the site builder route is inexpensive, because these applications are typically bundled with some type of online hosting plan for one low monthly cost. Having your site hosted and built through one company simplifies the process of creating and maintaining your site, since you'll only need to access one site and contact one company to handle technical issues.
Depending on the type of website you need and the functionality you want to have, site builders range from free (these usually display ads on your site) to less than $30 per month. Updating your site is also quick and easy.
For most small businesses, a website builder is sufficient. But as your business grows, and you need a more complicated website, you might consider an option that offers you more flexibility.
WordPress and Joomla!
If you like the idea of building and updating your own website without learning HTML, but want more flexibility than a site builder, then consider using WordPress or Joomla!. These free programs use themes to control the look of your website and a dashboard to update content and add pages. We even offer WordPress Hosting and Joomla Web Hosting.
With WordPress, you can create a professional-looking site with a lot of functionality without a lot of hassle.
For example, you can add your Twitter feed, a calendar, or a variety of other elements and plug-ins to your website with a few clicks of your mouse.
WordPress has a reputation for being easy to use and is popular among novice builders. There are thousands of free templates and plug-ins available at WordPress.org to make a good-looking site and extend the features of your website.
Joomla! allows for multiple authors and additional modules to customize its functions. So, it's great for building large-scale websites with lots of pages and multiple administrators.
You can download either application and install it yourself on your hosting account. However, many hosting providers make it easy to install these applications with automated installs.
Hire a web professional
If you have an idea of the site you want, but don't want to build it yourself, consider having a professional build it for you. This is the most expensive route to get online. Most freelance designers typically charge somewhere between $500 and $1,500 for a simple site, whereas larger design firms usually cost from $2,000 to $5,000. Additionally, a professional designer will likely either host your site on his or her server or sign up for a hosting plan on a third party site. Either way, you'll probably still have to pay a monthly hosting fee, in addition to the cost of your website design.
However, when you consider the time and effort needed for you to build your website, working with a web design service can be a really great investment.
Professional web designers can turn your vision into a fully functional website.
Don't have a vision? They can work with you to help shape your direction based on your goals and needs.
Compare your website building options
Look at a side-by-side comparison of template-based site builders, content management systems like WordPress, and professional web design services. This will help you start to zero in on your best option at a glance.
We’ve got you covered. Check out this simple chart that compares factors including cost, hosting, necessary skill level, time required, customer support, ease of updating, availability of advanced features and mobile-friendliness.
Making that decision
We've given you a few options to get your site online and keep it going. A good method for making your final decision is to prioritize your most important considerations: cost, time, flexibility, difficulty, the ongoing maintenance. Then, weigh the options against your needs.