If you have an idea or business that you’re ready to introduce to the world, you need a website.
Some of you may already have a social media presence, but a website will allow you to introduce your idea, product or service to your customer or community. It will also allow you to collect email addresses so you can stay connected with your tribe. At any point, one of your favorite social media platforms could decide to close up shop and you would lose access to thousands of your followers.
You may already be at the place where you know what content you want to put on your website, but you’re not sure which content management system (CMS) to choose. A CMS is a web platform that will easily let you update the content of your website. CMS’s have gotten more sophisticated over the years and they all have WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors and web themes that allow people with no programing experience to create beautiful websites.
There are several options on the market, but I recommend you go with one of the three below depending on your idea or business. There are free CMS option on the market; however, I recommend going with one of these paid web platforms to allow you to create a sophisticated website that will grow with your business.
PRO TIP: No matter what CMS you choose always have a custom domain name (i.e. nachesnow.com vs wordpress.nachesnow.com)
WHEN TO USE: If you need a simple website that doesn’t require a lot of customization.
THE DETAILS: You can have a SquareSpace website up and running in a weekend. The backend interface is very easy and simple to use. If you have your photos/graphics and content written you can accomplish this with little effort. They have amazing website templates so even if you’re not a designer your website can have a very polished look as long as you keep things simple and stick to the aesthetic of the theme you’ve chosen.
Best of all, you can get everything you need for your website in one place: URL, web hosting, web theme. They make it super simple for people who don’t have experience with creating websites. If you want to add some light customization, Squarespace integrates with several tools. There plans are also very affordable.
WHEN TO USE: If you’re selling a product and require a robust website that will allow you to easily process and sell online and in-person.
THE DETAILS: If you’re currently selling your products on an online marketplace you might be ready to have an online storefront of your own. Shopify is great for people ready to take their sales to the next level. It integrates with platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, and Houzz, which will help get your products seen. They also have an amazing ecommerce system that allows you to easily track orders through your website and their app (phone and tablet).
Shopify also has great web themes and has some of the best customer service support around. Even if you’re new to creating website you will find it relatively easy to set up. With any platform it takes awhile to learn all of the ins and outs, but at any point you can reach out to them and they are very responsive. Their plans and premium themes are on the higher side, but with a little hustling you can make that money back within a month.
WHEN TO USE: If you need a customized site that will allow you to integrate multiple tools and plugins.
THE DETAILS: There is a learning curve for self-hosted WordPress, but if you need your website to have specific features it’s the best route. For example, you may want to include video integration, a calendar, a member section, a directory, sell electronic products and/or embed surveys. Self-hosted WordPress will give you more flexibility to do some or all of the items I mentioned. The sky really is the limit with this platform and there is a plugin for just about everything.
There is a learning curve because you’ll have to choose the right host, install WordPress on your host server, find a free/premium theme, and identify what plugins make sense for your website. Also, there is no support to call, you are the support unless you pay a developer to help you. This can seem daunting, but plenty of newbies have figured it out. Between Google and YouTube you can find tutorials to help you get started or find an answer to any challenges you may run into. The key here is patience!
PRO TIP: If it’s in your budget have a professional photographer take pictures of you and your products. Having big beautiful high resolution photos will draw customers in.
Know that there is a lot of crossover. For example, you can sell items on all three of these platforms. Also, all of them integrate with various tools, you just need to make sure you choose a CMS that integrates with tools or software that you need for your business.
The purpose of your business and the content will help you determine the right platform to choose. You also need to be realistic about your skill level and what you’re comfortable with. SquareSpace and Shopify offer free trials so you can test which one works best for you.
If you need help you can always go to online sites like UpWork to find developers and designers to help you if it’s in your budget. Just remember to ask for references and if you’re looking for a designer make sure their design portfolio matches your aesthetic.
Remember that your website will continue to evolve as you grow. It doesn’t need to be perfect right out of the gate. As you get feedback make necessary changes because it’s important that you keep your content up to date.
PRO TIP: Check all of you links, especially your social media icons. Most people activate their social media icons, but forget to actually link them.
Now it’s time to get started! There are several resource guides out here that will help you pick the right web platform, host and/or theme.