This question is getting harder to answer as the technology available now to simply design and publish websites is making it much simpler for anyone who can use Word for example to publish a website. For anyone in a small business this question is one they should be asking themselves as your businesses future can depend on it and getting full value out of your website is critical.
This is where having a website that can grow and adapt to what you want it to say about yourself now, not yesterday will be important to you gaining new customers. Being able to update, change and grow your website is just as important as the design elements used in its creation.
Having run for several years a web design business when we get asked to design a website for a client, getting exactly the look that you want from your website is a difficult process. Most small business web design clients are really in the hands of web designers to recommend the look of the site rather than the look they wanted if they had designed it themselves.
You will find that you have to spend thousands or even a lot more to get a website designed from scratch rather than your web designer using a template of some sort.
Cheaper small business websites that you can have made for you are a template or other short cut web designs as this keeps the cost of producing a web design down to an affordable level. This though making it more affordable can be limiting in how we can design the website as it’s a cost versus time equation so the more template you use the less time it takes to publish.
Though there are many striking template websites to choose from this can give your website a generic look that you may not want it to have and can limit the size of your site. Also the costs that are involved in not just designing a website but the long term cost pain in monthly fee’s just to have a few pages can also be limiting to a small business.
So what are your choices?
1. Get a cheap website made for you
2. Get a fill in template website that you add your content to
3. Use web building software and start your own from scratch and look after it yourself
1. What are the pro’s and con’s of getting someone to design a cheap website for you?
There are many businesses now that cater to the budget end of website design as software has made the process of design and publishing a website fairly simple. We make money off budget web design by using a template and putting your content into the pre arranged spaces on the pages, a budget website is never started from a blank page.
You can get a professional looking website published to the web fairly fast and for only $300 to $400 it is fairly good value. You generally get to choose the look of the template used and you get to tailor it with your own content and some images. Some templates even allow you to log into your website and change some content and images or even add a few pages to the website.
It can be a fast and effective way of getting your business on the net fast.
You are getting a template website filled in by someone else with your stuff, though you can choose from hundreds of templates, it is a template and most design elements are generic to whatever template that you choose. The cost at the design stage can be low but most places will then charge you a monthly fee to keep your website live and hosted and this is where the overall cost of the website might not be as cheap as you think it will be.
Also being tied to a template that you have rented can make it very hard to move your website some where else (i.e cheaper hosting) as the template really belongs to some one else not you, you only own the content. This makes you stuck where you are and can make things difficult for you if your site is very popular as your monthly fee’s can shoot up and there is nothing you can do about it.
The generic nature of template websites some in the industry believe make it harder to optimise the site for search engines also some template websites hide back links to other peoples websites in the coding making the site work for them not you.
2. Do your own fill in template website
This is what I would recommend to anyone thinking of setting up a template website as you cut out the middle man and save yourself some money to get the same product. For as little as $15 to $20 a month an account is set up for you and the shell of a website is created on a server for you.
You log in and choose the template that you like this will set the look and menu design up for you and you fill in the blanks press publish and you’re away. Might not be that easy, but it is a fairly straight forward process that with just a little computer skill if you follow the directions you will be onto it in no time and because the account is linked to the server publishing is just a click of one button.
The con’s are really the same as getting some one else to do it for you as it is still a template website with the inherent problems that that brings. Plus you are really guaranteed that your website will be providing your service provider a back link to their website.
3. Use modern website building software and start from scratch
This is an exciting area to look into for most small business owners as website building software has gone through quite an evolution. It used to mean that to start a green fields website you needed quite a lot of programming skills to even install the software that you had to use let alone open and use it. Many have tried to perfect software that you could easily build a website with but it still required a certain amount of programming skills and that has put many people off using them.
But web design software has really come a long way and now there are some excellent examples of this sort of software that take the HTML coding out of the equation and make the whole process fairly easy. These are called W.Y.S.I.W.Y.G (what you see is what you get) software that totally remove any coding out of designing a website. You set up the page/s how you want them to look and push the publish button and it will automatically publish the web pages you designed to the web.
You get the design freedom to set the menu design, page layout, text and background colours, content and images in fact any aspect of the web design you are in total control of.
No complex coding as the design software does that for you and you have total freedom of design, you set up the page (i.e like setting up an email or Word document) fill in the hosting details and press publish and it’s done for you. It makes it very simple to make updates and changes to your website any change that you make on any page of the website on your computer will be made to your website when you press publish and at any time you can change any aspect of the look or function of your website.
Add product sales, image galleries in fact any third party coding just by using copy and then pasting that code onto your website and you’re done and selling from your website. With basic computer skills you really can be in total control of every aspect of your website design.
With this type of software you will never be stuck with one hosting provider you can very easily publish your website to another server and never be taken advantage of by unscrupulous hosting providers. Your website’s main files live on your computer not on some one else’s computer so if you don’t like what they are charging you take your website somewhere else, you really are in total control.
It can take a confidence boost to start using this type of software as we all think that maybe it’s harder than what it really is. It can be just a little confusing for some to set up the hosting settings as some of the terms that you have to ask your hosting provider will sound foreign and as with any new software you will be unfamiliar with its interface. There are ways around learning how to use W.Y.S.I.W.Y.G software and once you can gain just a little confidence you will be amazed at what you could achieve for your small business.
This covers the basics of the budget end of web design and I hope has given you a rundown of the pro’s and con’s in this end of the web design market. We will cover in the next article what the SEO (search engine optimisation) value of budget websites are and what are the advantages of the SEO enhancing capabilities of W.Y.S.I.W.Y.G type software for your small business.