When starting a business you will have to establish your website, if you don’t know any developers to seek advice from then getting online can be a daunting task. Generally you have a few options to consider
The kind of business you are running will determine which website builder is the right platform for you, sometimes as you scale up you may also need to consider changing your platform.
Website builders are widely considered to be the lowest level of websites or ‘entry-level’, however this is not entirely fair. These builders also have the lowest barrier to entry, you can set up by jumping straight to a monthly payment model with no upfront cost.
Use case: Great for testing new business ideas, reacting to a surge of business, for simple informational sites or e-commerce stores.
Pros: Cheap, simple, easy to use, look amazing, and tools for small businesses.
Cons: Limited flexibility, ongoing subscription model, can look cookie-cutter.
Verdict: Website builders should not be ignored, they can get you started very quickly and could even last the entire lifetime of your business depending on what you do. A lot of the negative sentiment they get are really not warranted.
Content Management Systems hold the largest share of how websites are built today, with a clear market leader in WordPress. WordPress itself is how almost 40% of all sites online are made.
These websites often feature a template that you can find for free, buy pre-made or have a developer create for you. CMS systems are probably the most serious contender for creating long-term websites because they are highly customizable and come with many features that keep you at a competitive advantage.
CMS sites are most likely to last you the life of your business, due to the range of scale it can exist at and still be suitable.
Use case: New websites for a solid business where ongoing content will be added, marketing is likely to be utilised and some customised features are desired.
Pros: Reasonably priced, scalable, customisable, high branding potential, marketable.
Cons: Occasional security issues, requires long-term maintenance.
Verdict: CMS sites are the right choice for the majority of businesses mostly because of their ability to scale and be customisable, however it becomes easy for an over-zealous contributor to overburden the website with add-ons when not properly managed.
Bespoke websites are a misleading category, because they could very well be a CMS system that has been highly developed to expand functionality far beyond what the core system does. Alternatively they can skip using a CMS altogether in favour of a full development solution by being built on top of a framework.
Bespoke websites give you complete control over the look and feel of your website, the performance, and functionality. There are no limits on a bespoke site apart from imagination and budget.
Use case: Large companies, specific niches or a technology focused businesses will often benefit from a no limits approach.
Pros: Your vision will be met, any accommodation can be made.
Cons: Expensive, can sometimes miss competitive advantages present in pre-built systems and requires an ongoing team, either in-house or agency provided.
Verdict: Completely bespoke sites are not for everyone, generally you have to be able to justify the large initial investment and ongoing costs by producing something of incredible value that can make the investment appear almost insignificant.
There are generally a few factors to consider when working out which route to take:
Generally a low budget will immediately restrain you to a website builder or a CMS site.
Your long term plans will then decide if you can get away with using a website builder, i.e. in cases you have a relatively narrow scope such as selling online or providing information only.
Whereas if you plan to have a careers section with jobs listed, or a meet the team page and various booking forms it may make sense to jump straight into a CMS to avoid the temporary cost of a builder and eventual cost of a migration.
If your budget is extremely limited then you may have to go through the website builder route and take the eventual migration costs when you can afford it.
When you require customised features for your website you are unlikely to be able to use a website builder. While they claim to be highly customizable a lot of the time it is extremely complicated and non-intuitive to accomplish this in the relatively simple structure of website builders.
You will most likely need a CMS website, with that in mind your budget will determine just how simplistic your starting point is. If you require more functionality you can always start off small and incrementally commission the individual features to be built.
If your business is growing exponentially then it’s likely your existing website solution will start to feel the limits of scalability. At this point you will need to seek a new process to help manage the scaling challenges to continue to deliver the best experience for your customers.