Which web platform to choose?
Just starting out and unsure which web platform to choose?
If you are new to the idea of having your own website, you may be wrestling with the idea of which one. There is a big choice out there. Hopefully, you will know why you need one, even when you have social media accounts such as Instagram, FaceBook, Twitter. For those who are less savvy minded, often reply “people know where to find me”.
Let me just quickly cover off the different roles played by FB, Instagram and having your own website. Each platform works in a different way, for example, FaceBook is the place where most small business clients hang out. It’s a great place to share industry news & behind the scenes. While Instagram is the perfect place to create a virtual online brochure, especially if you have a visual business such as a bakery, hairdresser, design etc. Can you see how they can how you would use them differently? Now your Website is your online home base, digital home. And depending on which platform you choose, the digital space you will have 100% control over. Websites are the difference between amateurs and professionals.
If a client turns around and wants to check you out and you say check me out on fb or look me up on Instagram – it’s a great first step. But when a client is thinking about booking a service, they want to invest their money wisely. Plus all your traffic should point home. A place, which you have control over. A space that you can style to be an integral part of your brand, and your sales and marketing.
So when someone lands on your Instagram and falls in love with your pictures, they should then go to your website to book a service. That is a natural and organic path that clients will follow before they think of coming to see you. If those pieces are missing then it will be challenging for them to be a client.
Choosing a web platform is overwhelming. There is so much choice. So many new terms to learn. It’s a steep learning curve. I get it. As a self-taught web design, I get it. Overwhelm leads to procrastination, which leads to no action. There is a lot of choices out there. Lots of different platforms, all with sleek sales and marketing material, it can be hard to see what you actually want.
Get started is the key and remember it boils down to your decision. But I thought I would share my knowledge, experience, and views. Just to be up front, I believe anyone who has a website wants to have full control. By that I mean it is free from other people’s advertising (if you want to put ad’s for the products you use and recommend that is fine). That you can (if you want to), easily add a new page or blog post (or hire someone else to do that for you). That is a platform, which has lots of support and resources.
Also, as you do your research, start to list out all the costs.
- Monthly Fees
Wix / Weebly
Lots of non-website designers within the small business community will recommend Wix or Weebly. I believe their advice comes from a good place, that they want you to get started, but this advice comes from lack of knowledge. They also believe other platforms are hard to learn or teach (in my experience, and my clients, they aren’t). While these two options maybe consider good as a starting point, as soon as you want to expand and grow they lack flexibility. That is the point many people start to talk to an actual web designer. Let’s talk smartphones. As you are probably aware many sites are viewed on a mobile or tablet. So the website needs to be responsive. i.e. the screen configuration changes to fit the screen. I have yet to find a Weebly or Wix site that is fully optimized for smartphones. They claim they are optimized for smartphones but you can’t easily and simply configure your site to look different on a laptop vs iPad vs smartphone. So they are not fully customized.
Another key factor to consider is that both of these platforms are ‘close-source’. What is closed-source? It means that only people who work for that company can create code, do improvements, in essence, make changes to how it feels, looks, and functions. So what happens if they go out of business? Bye, bye website. I have also found transfer a site from these platforms to WordPress rather difficult. As for support, as fewer people use it, limited designers or coders which with these systems, then support outside the company will be limited.
Also, a number of those type of platforms mask how your site appears to Google. So they are ‘ranked’ ahead of your own site. For example, instead of Google seeing yourdomainname.com, it will see yourdomainname.webplatform.com, which isn’t great for
Squarespace does create great looking sites and again many non-techies say it is simple to use. The old appeal of Squarespace is the drag of drop way of building. However, a number of WP developers have now created WP theme to do this now. Many Squaresqaure sites I have seen are fully responsive on smartphones, which is a great bonus. I know a number of website designers who also work with Squarespace, so there will be more support from a wider community (such as youtube video’s). Again Squarespace is also closed-source website builder. This means less flexibility, less control, and fewer options.
WordPress uses a free (when hosted with WP) and an open-source platform, which means developers, can create new themes, and different functionality for the platform. However to get full control over your WordPress site you need to use WordPress.com and be self-hosted. Which usually costs between $15 – 25 per month. The key advantages of WP is control, flexible, lots of online support (youtube), more options for help, and it will always be around. I always suggest using the Divi theme with WordPress as it gives a client the flexibility of the drag and drop approach.
Let’s quickly cover off costs and adverts. With all these options you can have the free version where the company will put adverts on your site (which you have no control over – so may be misaligned to your company values). Or can upgrade / self-host when you can decide if you have adverts or not.
Plus there are lots of plugins (small packs of code)
At the end of the day, deep down I don’t believe there is a right or a wrong choice. It’s a personal choice which you have to make. I say this because I see so many people stuck in deciding that they lose time and possible revenue, but not getting their website up. If you find something that suits your needs now go for it. Nothing is set in stone. You can change your mind later. But if you ask me what I recommend, then every time I will say Self Hosted WordPress.
Clare owns a digital and web design studio at ThePistachioClub.com. She loves making the internet more pretty (and functional) one website at a once. However, she has some other hidden talents and has been in a Hollywood movie and was a dance performer in the 2012 Olympics. She loves to explore the local coastline in Dorset, and at weekends you’ll often find her hiking.
I’d love to hear your thoughts? Comment below.
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