As a business owner, you already know that you need a website. You may not want to pay for custom website development and you’re looking for a less expensive solution, even if you have to do some of the work yourself. Actually, if you’ve decided to go with a low-cost, “do it yourself” website solution, you should set aside plenty of time for yourself or one of your employees to get the website up and running. If you’re a seasonal business, this is a perfect “low season” project, but prepare to commit the time necessary to see the project through to the end. The benefits of having an attractive, well-made website will be worth the time invested.
Old School Website Companies
In the past, low-cost, self-service business web site solutions were exclusively provided by hosting companies, web directories and domain name registration companies who provided a relatively inexpensive templated website solution. These templated sites are still available from companies such as Network Solutions, GoDaddy, HostGator, 1&1, web.com and others, but the templates tend to be hard to work with, inflexible and use proprietary software that is not compatible with other systems. Additionally, these templates tend to be built using older code that doesn’t incorporate the latest recommendations by search engines and social media networks, such as schema tags and open graph tags.
New School Website Companies
Fortunately, there is a growing segment of “build your own website” companies using the latest web code and technologies, as well as providing more intuitive dashboards where you can adjust settings and create the content for your website. These providers include companies such as WordPress, squarespace, weebly, wix, edicy, Jimdo and more. These companies not only share an aversion to capital letters, but also provide free hosting plans or free trials to allow you to actually use the system and work on building your website before you have to start paying for the service.
Make a Plan and Try It Out
All of these companies have different features and offerings within their free and paid plans, but they offer many of the same features and services. My suggestion is that you make a plan to build a business website that your customers will love. Once you have the information together that you need to present on your site and the pages you want to create, check out the different companies and choose one to try. Register for the free plan or the free trial and set up your site. If you have issues with templates or creating content or anything else, contact support to see what that process is like. Rinse and repeat with as many as you need to until you feel comfortable with the provider you’ve chosen and then upgrade to the plan that has all the features you need.
Your Domain Name
While many of the features are optional, using your own domain name should not be optional. Read our tips on how to choose a domain name for your business and choose a plan that includes a domain name. Additionally, make sure that you own your own domain name, because if you decide to change website providers, you will want to take your domain name with you.
Another thing these services have in common is that while they do provide domain name registration services so your website will appear on your own domain name, they don’t typically offer a service for your email. However, there are several good email service providers available, including Google Apps for business, that will allow you to use your domain name for your email, calendar and more. One advantage of keeping your email service separate from your website is that if you have issues with your website company, it won’t affect your email.
Do it Right
Your website is one of your most important marketing channels, because it will be the first impression many potential customers will have of your business when researching your products and services. If your website seems ill-conceived or poorly put together, potential customers may think that the same applies to your products and services.