“Web design is hard. ”
“It has all these long strings of nonsense words and characters called code.”
Or so most people think.
First the bad news, small businesses often can’t hire web developers in-house to develop a site. Web, UX/UI designers and developers are highly sought after talent that gets sucked up by large companies to maintain and develop their own online presence. Even medium sized businesses might have trouble affording someone on staff. Yet small business needs a solid brand presence on the web to compete in the digital marketplace.
How can a small business or start-up ever hope to compete?
We got you covered.
The good news is times have changed and website development isn’t as complicated as it used to. Platforms featuring plugins, themes and extensions can provide you the basic building-blocks to start with a great website right out of the gate.
So what do you need to start out?
To start with, you need a domain (the internet address), hosting (physical space on a server to use for your website) and the website itself. We will not be reviewing domains and hosting in this article, as the pricing plans and offers are too diverse to sift through. The truth is, as a small business even the cheapest plan from almost any popular hosting provider will be enough.
What we want to talk about is what technology and platforms can be leveraged to create and engaging and high-quality website or landing page.
What’s a CMS?
When building a website, some hosting providers offer simple HTML templates to create that first landing page. However they are usually limiting to your business and marketing by being static content. They are hard to update with content and don’t scale with your business.
If you want to have any semblance of content marketing, you need a CMS to regularly post content to the website. A template simply won’t do. Additionally a CMS gives you the ability to have multiple people post for you, without having access to your domain services (which is safer). You simply have what is called a back-end, which allows you to log in and use it like any other service. CMS’ are whole platforms, not just website builders.
Whats out there? Is it free?
Drupal is a modular, open source CMS designed by and for web design professionals. It’s incredibly flexible with the ability to customize every minute detail of your front-end and back-end via modules and themes. You can have, full page videos, blogs, tiled galleries, custom dashboards, different access levels for users and much more.
The downside is that while Drupal is a very flexible CMS, it requires a modicum of experience to set up. For first-time users this might not be the best choice as the setup and installation can be confusing. However once its set up by a professional it is as easy to use as any of the others.
There is no cost associated with the CMS itself, however some templates and modules might be paid.
Joomla! is very similar to Drupal, although it has a more friendly installation process. Just as Drupal it offers a range of flexibility through extensions and themes, although without expert help some of it might be hard to achieve for first-time users. Just as the others, Joomla! is free, although some extensions and themes might be paid.
WordPress sits at the top as the most popular CMS in existence. Currently over 30% of all websites on the internet use WordPress as their CMS of choice. And around 60% of the entire CMS market is controlled by WordPress.
Just like the others, WordPress is modular and can be customized with themes and plugins. Since it is so popular it has the largest base of resources available, and is compatible with large-scale professional solutions. Since this is the case, WordPress is particularly suited to be your choice as a first CMS, since scaling it later when your company grows becomes much easier.
Additionally since WordPress is so popular, most hosting providers have a one-click install function which makes setting it up a complete breeze.
Honorable Mention: Wix
Wix is something of a more old-school page-builder rather than a full-fledged CMS.
It comes from a design portfolio pedigree, back when WordPress wasn’t as extensive as it is today. Its main function is to create stunning portfolios for creatives. Its easy to use though and has a set of templates that look great out of the box.
The clear downside is the fact everything is hosted on the Wix domain and can not be migrated, which eventually will create problems when your business grows.
It’s not a hard choice.
WordPress being the most used and highly supported throughout the web, it should come as no surprise that we would recommend it. With hundreds of affordable or free high quality templates, plugins and extensions WordPress is the king of CMS for a reason.
With plugins like Divi or Unyson building websites is fantastically easy. Just drag and drop elements and arrange them as you would see them on your website. In many ways it works just like Wix once you have the plugin installed. You can even freely try it out here for Divi.
If you need help creating content for the website, check our previous entries on the topic.
But web design isn’t just about beautiful images and responsive mobile-ready pages. It’s also about UX and UI.
While you will be able to create a professionally looking website with these tools, they will never replace an expert in web design. Developing a great web presence needs strategy and planning.
These platforms will start you on a leg up to your competition though, and scaling or optimizing later will be much easier. Say goodbye to amateur looking pages that repel customers.
And when your business has grown enough where your needs can no longer be met we are here to help.
Also published on Medium.