A website is a critical component to marketing for businesses. Not only do consumers depend on the web for information, they are more likely to trust companies that have websites over those that don’t. A 2012 study found that more than half of consumer’s trust company websites while fewer than half trust ads on TV or in print. It’s evident that in this digital age, a website is a necessary component for most small businesses.
The biggest challenge for most new businesses when it comes to developing a website is not that they don’t see the importance of one; it’s that they don’t know how to create a website when their marketing budget is tight. Here are some tools entrepreneurs can tap into to get themselves up and running in the digital world (and save some money from hiring a pricey designer or developer).
First things first, you’re going to want to secure your domain. Your domain is the .com or .ca address that you will refer customers too. GoDaddy is a great and inexpensive tool to search and find a domain that works with your business and secure it for as cheap as $5.00 CDN.
Keep in mind that when you search available domain names on GoDaddy, they will give you several different options from a URL ending in .com to ones ending with different words. It’s always best to stick with something that customers will remember, and often .com or .ca are the most popular.
GoDaddy is also an option for hosting, think of hosting as the space that you rent out to have your business in, but in the digital world. Hosting is what allows you to have a place for your website and data to reside online. Hosting plans with GoDaddy start as low as $6.00 CDN.
Note: Some of the below tools I’ll mention require you to purchase hosting, but some have hosting included.
Squarespace allows you to create a website for your business for as low as $8.00-$18.00 USD a month. SquareSpace has several template designs you can scroll through and choose from, and once you’ve selected a design that works best for you and your business, you will be brought to a user-friendly dashboard that will let you edit and personalize the template. Squarespace even offers a free trial, so if you pick a template and play with it, then realize that this platform just isn’t for you, you can easily delete your account and continue forward with something else.
All plans with Squarespace offer mobile-optimized websites, website metrics, a custom domain & hosting (you won’t have to use GoDaddy), 24/7 support, and the business plan offers a professional email.
WordPress is my personal favourite because there is a lot of freedom with customization through this platform, and what many people don’t know, many large organizations websites are built through the WordPress platform. In fact, this website you’re on right now is built on it!
First things first, it’s important to note that WordPress has two platforms, wordpress.org and wordpress.com. What differentiates the two is that wordpress.com is a free platform, but has some limitations around customizing your website, where wordpress.org will require you to do a bit more work but you’ll have maximum flexibility. A breakdown below explains more about the two.
WordPress.com is free for you to use, provided that you don’t want a custom domain (www.businessname.com versus www.businessname.worpress.com), you don’t need additional space (photos, videos, and content take up space), and you are okay with advertisements being placed on your site. This is a good entry-level place to start, but most businesses will find that this platform doesn’t provide them with the customization capabilities they need. For example: you can’t add custom plugins or themes—therefore you are limited to what your site looks like.
WordPress.org gives you the opportunity to purchase your own domain name (for example, through GoDaddy), your own hosting with the amount of storage you need, and you will not have any advertisements placed on your site. This can be a more expensive route to go, and you may require help from a web designer/developer to get set up, but this option will allow you ultimate customization.
Here is a great image to better explain each:
Shopify is one of the best options for those that want to set up an online store/ecommerce business. This platform will allow you to customize your store with its own domain name, layout, colours and content, and you don’t have to have any design or website development skills to make your online store look professional.
The platform will allow you to showcase your products in an online catalog and organize by category if need be—making it user friendly for your shoppers. It will also allow you to handle all orders right through your Shopify store. You’ll be able to accept payments through a variety of different methods, in a safe and secure way, and your orders will be organized in a clean, and easy-to-use dashboard. When you receive a new order, you’ll be notified by email or mobile and you’ll be able to organize shipping with all major carriers. Shopify even tracks analytics of sales, site traffic, and key information you may want to know to see how your store is doing.
Shopify offers several different plans to choose from that range from $9 USD to $179 USD depending on the needs of your website, and even if you know you want to create an online store down the road, but aren’t ready yet, you can start at their $9 USD plan and work your way up as your business grows.
Building a website can be overwhelming and confusing, but in 2016 there are so many tools out there that allow you or your tech-savvy friend build you a website that you’ll be happy with, for a much lower cost than you would expect. Take the time to figure out what works best for you and give your business the online presence it deserves.
Written By: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Creation Coordinator, Futurpreneur Canada