If you have a business, building a website is often at the top of an ever growing to-do list.
A website offers many advantages including a place to showcase your services or products, provides contact information for prospective clients and customers, and answers basic questions such as hours of operation or your menu of services or products.
The path from wanting a website to having a website that you're happy with can be a bumpy one.
I work with many business owners who need to either revise or create a website. These are the options I often present:
A Custom Coded Website
On the continuum of websites this is an option, but to be honest it's not selected by most of my clients. If you have very specific needs that can't be found in a template or theme you may have to opt for a custom coded site. The cost for these sites can often range over $10,000 and you will typically need to have either the developer or a coder make changes.
A WordPress Website
WordPress is an open source content publishing platform, but there are two kinds of WordPress sites. A free site can be created on WordPress.com but this is something I don't recommend as there are many limitations including lack of an independent domain name, limited space and limited ability to customize or use plug-ins.
Most people that use WordPress sites use WordPress.org. These sites can be customized, you have full control and flexibility and you can use your own domain name.
For many people WordPress.org is the platform of choice because of the huge variety of themes and plug-ins. For people who want to be in the business of blogging or who have the budget, I would recommend having a WordPress.org site. There are a number of plugins that can be used to optimize SEO and social sharing that are very helpful for building a solid site that can be found in search.
I will tell you that there is a learning curve to building a WordPress site and that you have to maintain it every month to make sure all the plugins are updated and working properly. Because they can take time to build and there is a learning curve to build this type of site, there are also a good amount of people who will design or develop a WordPress site for you. In my experience, the average cost is $3,000-$5,000 to build a site and $30-$75 per month for site maintenance.
Most of my clients are small businesses who can't afford the initial cost of building a WordPress site and don't have time to learn how to do it themselves. As an alternative I recommend several easy to build platform options including Squarespace and Weebly that aren't as difficult to build and don't have to be maintained.
Squarespace and Weebly Websites
Many of my clients want a website that they can either build themselves or have someone build for them for a reasonable fee. I build these type of websites starting at $600 for sites that are 3 pages or less. I build larger sites as well but on average rarely do they exceed $1,000.
I tell my clients that these are platforms that they can use to build a site themselves, however I can build them faster and can apply my knowledge of building sites obtained over the last eight years to optimize their site for search engines. There are plug-ins to optimize a WordPress site but for platform sites such as Weebly and Squarespace, it's helpful to build each page using current optimization strategies.
Weebly is a platform many of my clients have been happy with. Once the site is built, they can easily add a page or change a sentence themselves without having to call a developer. After a quick instructional session, they can learn to create a blog post or I can do that for them.
Squarespace offers more customization and although it is a relatively easy platform to use my clients that aren't used to building or modifying websites find it a little more difficult to navigate. One advantage to Squarespace sites is that they can be converted to WordPress at a later date.
Both of these platforms allow you to build an attractive website without spending as much time and money as a WordPress site. There is less customization and there are very few widgets or plug-ins. For many people who just need a basic site or who don't need a complex site a WordPress site may be more than they need or more than they can afford.
To have a Weebly or Squarespace site you can have your own domain but you will pay a monthly fee ranging from about $10-$25 to both host your site and use their platform, depending on how many pages you have and what functionality you need. The monthly fee for Squarespace is slightly higher and both platforms offer discounts if you pay a year or more at a time.
To give you an idea, the starter plan on Weebly is around $8 a month for unlimited pages. Squarespace will run you about $12 a month for 20 pages or $18 a month for unlimited pages. These prices are if you bill annually, slightly higher if you pay month to month.
When deciding between Weebly and Squarespace the questions to ask yourself are
~ do you anticipate adding pages or blog posts (if you do, you would need the $18 Squarespace plan or the $8 Weebly plan)
~ do you anticipate wanting to make changes or add a blog post yourself (much easier with Weebly but neither program has a huge learning curve)
~ do you want to have the flexibility to migrate to Wordpress (Squarespace is the better option)
If you are hiring someone to build a site for you, you will find that there are web developers and web designers. Web developers are more versed in SEO (search engine optimization) and really make sure a site works under the hood. A web designer builds an attractive site that works well but isn't always as well versed in SEO. You will need to ask a lot of questions to make sure you are getting the right person to build a site for you. If you are building a site yourself, it's important to investigate the platform options and know that you need to have more than a good looking site in order for it to eventually be found in search.
In general if you want to have your own website you will need the following
~ A domain name
~ Either a hosting company or use a platform that includes hosting
~ Choose whether you want to have a custom coded site, a WordPress.org site or a site built on a platform such as Weebly or Squarespace.
If you need a new website or would like to revise your current site, I would be happy to discuss your needs if you contact me. I also do screenshare sessions with clients who want to build their own site but need a one hour consult to get started!