What Kind of Website Do You Need?
Before you know which of these top website builders is the best fit for you, let’s answer some basic questions about your business so that we can narrow down the options.
If you’re still in the process of answering these questions, consider taking a look at our Business Planning Guide to get you started.
What Kind of Business Are You Running?
Businesses come in many forms, each with its own functionality requirements. The website for a plumber is going to be very different from what is required of a local photographer.
Start by making a list of what your business will need. Think about those elements that you’ve seen on websites for similar kinds of businesses. If you’re not sure what exactly this looks like, here are a few common examples to get you started:
- Local business - These businesses are places where customers are likely to interact in a real-world, brick-and-mortar sense — think plumbers, real estate agents, or attorneys. For a lot of local businesses, the most important thing a website can do is display contact information and hours of operation.
- Restaurant- These are a subset of local businesses, but any restaurant or eatery needs to have a menu for people to easily find and read.
- Creative work - If you’re working in a creative field, being able to show samples of your work in a portfolio or creative blog is going to be instrumental in finding work. A creative blog or portfolio will likely need to cleanly fit the elements together in a pleasing way.
- Ecommerce - An online store. These business websites want to sell directly to a customer online. You’ll need to be able to get a customer all the way through the purchase process via your website.
- Online services - Think about social media companies, web forums, or software-as-a-service (SaaS) firms. These companies exist to provide a digital service. If you’re looking to start this kind of business, chances are you already know how to code or are paying someone else to do that coding.
This list is by no means comprehensive, and your business may not fit into just one category. So make a list of what essentials you will need when it comes time to create a website.
Will the Needs of Your Website Change as Your Business Grows?
As your company grows will you want greater functionality? If you start by just showing customers a menu with an address, will you later want to let a customer order directly online? If you start a business selling sporting equipment in a storefront, will you want to add the option for people to shop completely online later? Have a plan for your future growth.
It’s important to note that your business website doesn’t need to change as you grow. Many of the world’s largest brands maintain technically simple websites, often about as complex as a blog.
Should You Use WordPress vs. Other Website Builders?
After you’ve decided what you need your website to do, the next step is to decide what software will help you along your way. The first choice is to decide between using a simple, drag-and-drop website builder or if you need the flexibility that WordPress offers.
Create a Website with Website Builders
Website builders are specialized services that offer a one-stop-shop solution for your website. These are services like Wix, Squarespace, the GoDaddy website builder, and Shopify. It’s important to note that each service in this category has its own strengths and weaknesses that we go over thoroughly in our Best Website Builders in 2021 article.
Think about website builders like buying a new car from a dealership. You’ll first answer questions about what you want. Then, the dealership will figure out which options are the best fit for you, hand you the paperwork, and show you where to sign.
Website Builder Summary
- Required skill level - Low: You’ll be able to get by with basic computer operation skills.
- Required resources - Low: Website builders charge affordable monthly fees, but because you don’t need to hire a web developer, your time represents the main cost.
- Flexibility - Medium: Depending on your builder of choice, you’ll probably find options to suit your needs. However, don’t expect to see a perfect solution for every little tweak and change you want to make.
- Scalability - High: Website builders can handle the load of almost all websites built using their software for the lifetime of the site. Keep in mind, If your website outgrows the service, it can always be moved over to WordPress.
Which Website Builder Is Right for Your Business?
You have a lot of options when it comes to choosing the best website builder. We can help you decide which one is best for you, check out our Best Website Builder article, where we have an in-depth explanation of many of the most popular options.
Create a Website with WordPress
WordPress powers nearly 40% of the world’s websites. There’s really not much you can’t do with WordPress if you have the time or the desire to learn how to use it properly. WordPress offers one of the most adaptable options for website building, with a collection of more than 50,000 third-party applications and plug-ins.
WordPress isn’t without its drawbacks, however. With the flexibility of WordPress, there’s also complexity that’s a step above other options. It can be time-consuming to get the most out of the platform.
If using a website builder is like going to a car dealership, then WordPress is like designing a custom car from scratch. You’ll bring together tools and parts from different vendors in order to get things working exactly how you want. It will take more time to get set up, but you’ll have more control over the finished product.
- Required skill level - Medium: You’ll need some web-development experience before creating a WordPress website.
- Required resources - Medium: If you’re starting from scratch without any design experience, you’ll need quite a bit of time and patience to build your site on your own, or you’ll have to pay an expert to build it for you.
- Flexibility - High: You can build almost anything you want on WordPress.
- Scalability - High: if it’s built properly, your website can scale forever.
For a more in-depth look at WordPress check out our complete WordPress review.
Picking the Best Template or Theme for Your Business
Now that you’ve got an idea of which software will be best for you, it’s time to make some decisions about your actual website. Your template or theme will be the foundation from which you start building your business website.
WordPress uses themes as your starting point for how your website will look and feel. To choose the best theme you’ll be looking at third-party companies. To save you some time we’ve compiled a list of some of the best WordPress themes to help save you the time of sifting through all the options. Keep in mind that a theme will influence the design and look of your site, but also includes back-end functionality.
Website builders use templates as your starting point. Templates will only change how your website looks, most of your back-end functionality will be managed by your service provider.
The single most important aspects of a theme or template is how easily your end-users will be able to use and navigate your site. If people visit your website and can’t figure out how to navigate its pages or find the information they need quickly, your site will drive people away, rather than draw them in. The most popular themes and templates will already be designed with this in mind.
It’s also important to keep in mind that things like radical color schemes will be harder to read on certain screen styles or sizes. You’ll want to stick with a theme or template that is legible on screens as small as phones and as well as full sized monitors. In fact, many business owners will actually begin their business’s branding process at their website and then build out from there.
If you are still coming up with ideas for your business’s logo and overall look, check out our free logo generator to gather some ideas.
What Pages Does Your Website Need?
Now it’s time to create pages for your website. At a fundamental level, a website is a collection of pages. There are certain pages that have become standard and expected for every website. Then there are pages that you will need to be tailored to fit your specific business. Above all, keep in mind that each page should have its own reason to exist and bring value to the overall experience of your website.
Pages That Every Website Needs
There are certain pages you’ll find on every well-designed website. Let’s talk about the pages every single website needs to meet the end-user's expectations.
- Home page - The landing page of your website. This will be the first page that people who visit your site will see. It should give an overview of information that your customers should know.
- About page - The people, vision or mission statement of your business. This is also where you can share other identifying information with your customers.
- Contact page - This page tells people how they can get in touch with your business. Many sites will feature contact forms, but you should include a phone number or other direct way someone can reach out to your business. Business hours and address may also fit on this page.
- Terms and conditions - This page outlines an agreement between you and your customers regarding how your business or website operates.
Most of the information for your Home, About, and Contact pages you likely already have — it’s basic information about your business. If you’re not sure about how to phrase or order each page, take a look at websites for similar businesses and see how they laid out their respective pages.
Pages That Your Website Needs
At this point, the only things left to build are the pages for your business. This is where your needs will really differentiate yourself from the competition. Here we’ll suggest some common page types, but remember that this is just to get you started and is far from a comprehensive list.
- Product page - This page shows off and describes a product that you sell. This page allows customers to understand and examine your product. It also gives customers an opportunity to buy it directly.
- Pricing page - If you’re selling a service rather than a product, a pricing page may be closer to what you need. A pricing page describes a company's different service levels and price points.
- Menu page - The most important page for any restaurant or cafe. You absolutely have to provide a clear and easy-to-find page detailing the items on your menu.
- Blog page - A well-maintained blog is something that nearly every business can benefit from. Often people start business blogs in order to help their site’s search engine optimization (SEO).
Sometimes a combination of these pages may be important to your business, other times you’ll need something different entirely. Just remember that internet users aren’t going to stick around if they have to spend five minutes navigating your avant-garde page layout.
We go more in-depth about how you should structure your website here.
How to Build an Effective Webpage
Now you know what pages you need to build, but how do you create your pages in a way that will help your business succeed and benefit you the most? Let’s go over a couple of best practices.
Calls to Action
A call to action (CTA) is an element that helps a user take immediate action. Common CTA examples include those big “Buy Now!” buttons, a “fill out this form” direction, or a “click here for more details” hyperlink.
Try to remember the last time you visited a website trying to find the answer to a question, or trying to find a product you needed. You likely found that information within a few minutes and knew exactly where to click to learn more or to place an order. What about the last time you tried to do the same and couldn’t? You left and found the information elsewhere. Sites without strong CTAs may encourage customers to leave and find direct answers to their questions or needs elsewhere.
In the spirit of strong CTAs, if you want a more in-depth look at how to build a webpage we’ve got the link for you.
SEO is the process of using headings, phrases and words to increase your web pages rank in search engine results. If you’ve got any doubts that this is an important aspect of your website, try to remember the last time you looked past the first page of results when you looked something up. Past that, when was the last time you went back further than the second page?
Using SEO as a tool is a whole school of thought and skill set of its own. So, we strongly encourage you to read over our SEO for startups guide.
Last Check and Publishing
So, you’ve followed this guide, checked the links and built out all of your pages. You’re just about finished — the last step is to go live and launch your website.
Before you publish, make sure you complete a quality control review of every feature of your site. Read every bit of text, fill out your own forms, and click every link. Take a thorough look over the entire site.
However, Don’t wait for perfection. The most important feature of your website is that it’s live. You’re always going to learn more as you go, or discover something after the fact. There will always be things you want to tweak and make just right. Make your review, find what you can, accept that it’s not going to be perfect, then publish your site.
Upkeep and Maintenance
Congratulations, you’ve got a working website! However, you’re not entirely finished. Now your job is to maintain and update the site as needed to stay current and keep your features up to date.
The level of work that goes into this phase will vary greatly depending on the software platform you decided to go with. In most cases, a platform like WordPress will require more input and attention than a website builder.
If you build your website using WordPress you’ll have to go in and update your theme, plug-ins and the core WordPress software whenever new software versions are released. This is something you will have to do by hand, but the process is usually as simple as clicking the update button and periodically logging in to check for updates.
If you choose to use a website builder to create your website, you generally won’t need to worry about updates. The nature of builders enables their developers to work independently of you and update your site from behind the scenes.