Building a website.
If you have or work for a small business and know you need a website, there are many options as to what to do. You have probably been bombarded with ads for Squarespace or Wix or other “easy to use” website builders. You may also have heard of WordPress or other “Content Management Systems” that claim to make it simple to build your own site. Well at Premier Web, we have been building websites for a while now (I recently checked and the earliest domain I ever registered was in 2003 – so we have been at this for 17 years) and have been through many changes in technologies and tools and platforms. So I want to share some of the things I have learned about building websites and working with small and medium businesses.
Companies like Squarespace and Wix have done an amazing job making it possible to build your own site. The tools are non-technical so anyone can use them and you can get a decent looking website up and running in short order. But here’s the thing – it is usually just a “decent looking” website. Unless you spend a good amount of time learning the tool, it is often very difficult to make the site look as professional as you want. Additionally, while it is cheap to start and build your site, now you are committed to that platform. You can’t have a Wix website or a Squarespace website anywhere but on their servers, and if you do want to move it someday (to add functionality or optimize for SEO – which you may not have thought of when you first started) now you will have to rebuild the entire thing in a platform that is better suited to growing businesses. So even though you have managed to get a website up and running quickly and looking pretty good, you have just pigeonholed yourself into a platform that does not scale well and does not lend itself to good Search Engine Optimization. Those web builder companies tell you that they work well for SEO, and they have definitely improved, once again, it calls for really learning the platform in order to do it well.
So that leads us to WordPress. WordPress is what is known as a Content Management System – which means that an end user can manage the content of the site without having to understand coding or have to worry about impacting the look and feel of the site when they add or modify content. There are other content managements systems out there – DNN, Drupal, Joomla to name a few. We have worked with many of them and continue to do so for clients who have existing investments in their site using one of those systems. We even built most new sites on DNN for a number of years, as we do all of our custom software development here using Microsoft technology and DNN is a system that is built using the Microsoft platform as well. However, we found it to be slow and more difficult for our users to understand as well as more expensive to run and requires more time to keep up to date and secure. So we primarily build sites using WordPress now, and let me just quickly iterate why:
- It is everywhere – there are estimated 455 million websites built on WordPress. See some more amazing stats here: https://www.whoishostingthis.com/compare/wordpress/stats/
- It is very easy to add functionality through plugins. There are currently over 50,000 plugins available to do anything from changing the look of the login page to full eCommerce – and if one of those doesn’t work for you – since WordPress is Open Source, you (or someone who knows how to anyway) can write your own custom functionality and add it in
- You can host it almost anywhere. There are web hosts that are dedicated to WordPress and so they make sure it is fast and secure, but the fact is you can host a WordPress site on just about any web host that supports PHP and mySQL. That makes it very portable and makes sure you are not tied to any one web host.
- There are a ton of online resources. If you need help with something on your WordPress site, a simple google search is likely to turn up a number of different options since so many people are using it. Chances are you are not the first one to have a problem.
- Many web design companies use it. This means if you built your site yourself, or even if you used a web design firm to build it, you won’t be stuck if you need to outsource or get some help.
- You can start small and grow. If you want to learn how to use WordPress, you can start with a single page site, or a single blog post and grow as your company grows. We have sites from 2 to 300 pages built in wordpress. If you doubt that big sites can be built in WordPress – here is a company you may have heard of that built their site using it: https://www.thewaltdisneycompany.com/
Since we started using WordPress for most of our builds, we have been able to create fast, secure, attractive websites for our customers with a high degree of customer satisfaction. I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with a WordPress site – and I didn’t always think that – I have reached that conclusion after building sites with many different platforms and methods.
What does this mean to a person who wants to build a site for their small or medium business? IT means that of the options to get a site up and running quickly, while Squarespace and Wix and other website builders are an attractive option, that using a more scalable and flexible platform like WordPress is worth the investment in time to learn or outsource. An excellent strategy for a growing business is to create a simple site and adding to it over time as the business changes and grows, and by choosing a platform that is well supported and scalable and well known, you are enabling that growth.