If you don’t have the coding experience, setting up a website can be a lot of work. E-commerce makes up a sizable percentage of small businesses – in fact, approximately 26% of US small businesses have some form of online presence. Customers have to come to expect a certain level of availability from businesses, and a level of usability from their platforms. What’s more, the quality of online experience is so high now, that presenting an unprofessional site can damage consumer trust and interest in your brand before any purchase is made.
For some small businesses that have more resources available it’s possible to hire coders to do the heavy lifting and build something from scratch. However, for the majority – where healthy cash flow is rarely guaranteed – workarounds are preferable. Website builders offer a lot of flexibility and customization, but above all else, they’re quick. However, because there are so many to choose from, finding the right web builder for you can be intimidating and confusing if you don’t know exactly what you need. So, let’s dive in and consider the options.
Online Vs. Offline Website Builders’ Features
An offline website builder is essentially a software tool that allows you to build sites directly on your computer. Often, those with a little more experience might opt for these tools as they allow for more complex builds due to their large libraries of templates. Online builders are a lot more common, and arguably more suitable if you’re starting out.
Website builders’ features are designed to turn the complex coding into a basic drag-and-drop functionality. If you’re concerned with time constraints, some will offer less customization on templates that are effectively 90% complete, while others will be essentially skeleton frameworks, allowing you to include your own media, themes, and styles down to the smallest details. For some businesses, avoiding a site that feels largely unchanged from the template can be ideal. It allows you to differentiate yourself a lot more, and build more of a unique brand, character and feel to your online presence. As with any platform, you’ll get what you pay for. Builders range from freemium models to modest subscription-based services. At the very highest end, they are high-powered subscriptions offering a larger array of additional features, like SEO tools or customization capability.
Beyond the site
Building a site is really only one piece of the puzzle. Your other priorities will be choosing a domain name and web host for your site. Domain names are a competitive business, so deciding on one and securing the URL might actually be the first thing you consider as there’s no guarantee you’ll get the one you want. Some website builders will provide all these services together, but you’ll need to consider the migration of your domain if you want to use different builders and website hosts together.
A Few More Considerations
Beyond the basics, there are several other elements to a site that you may or may not want to include, depending on how you think they could affect your business. Some typical ones might be SEO or analytics integration. Many people will opt to integrate Google Analytics into their site’s backend, allowing you to understand your audience and the ‘stickiness’ of your site – how well it keeps people browsing. Mobile compatibility is another important factor to consider. Some site builders will offer this functionality on top of the basic site, and it’s great for those who want to offer an omnichannel experience to their users.
A final one would be business email generation. Some builders offer these as complementary additions, while others might be charged per address. A great site is able to capture and direct sales or leads to you from many different angles. So, making yourself reachable – whether through mobile, email, social media, or otherwise – will affect the performance of your online presence and likely earnings through e-commerce.
A great way to figure out what sort of website builder might suit you is to take a look at what your competitors are doing. It might be the case that the market you’re in doesn’t boast an impressive online coverage of services or products and is crying out for a really modern, intuitive site. Equally, if your competitors are large brands, with professional sites, you’ll want to be more tactical about what you build and who you promote it to. Audience analysis, via things like SEO research tools, can be handy here.
Starting a small business is, for many, a major undertaking and carries plenty of new responsibilities and risks. A website builder is a great way to take the stress out of the technical stuff you might not have experience in, allowing you to focus on the stuff you’re really passionate about and want to provide to your customers.