So, you’re putting your business online, by building a website. But you’re not sure where to start. There are different types of websites and there is too much information online about the different types. What do you do?
All websites are not created equal. This post will explain what type of website you should have, depending on your business needs.
There isn’t just one kind of website. There are, for our purposes, at least three kinds of websites:
- out-of-the-box sites
- CMS sites
- Custom sites
You can think about these three types in ascending order of complexity. Unless you plan on making all sorts of changes to your site all the time, you likely just need the out-of-the-box variety.
Out of the Box Websites
In the last few years, a new type of website has emerged allowing people with zero knowledge of website design and coding to create their own websites. These are known as “out of the box” websites because they are pretty much ready to use after you purchase them. Here are the major providers:
Who Should Use an Out-of-The-Box Site Creator?
If you just want a webpage for your business, say you just want a place for people to look you up, or find your contact information, this is for you.
If your business provides a product or service that is easily presented in pictures, I’d recommend Squarespace.
These sites even support e-commerce so if you are planning on selling items on your site, but you don’t want to make many changes to your site, this is also a good option.
However, if you want access to the “back end” of your site, or you want to customize elements of your site, these services are not for you.
Content Management System (CMS)
The most common type of website currently is a CMS or Content Management System. A CMS is software for a website that allows you, the average person, to do things to your website that used to require a coder or a designer, or both. The three most common CMSs are:
All three of them are written in PHP, which is a programming language for the web. That’s not seemingly something you need to know, but there are different web languages and the advantage of these being written in the same language is that, theoretically, your site can be moved easily between them.
WordPress Above Everything Else
Though all three CMSs have their supporters and detractors and their pluses and minuses, Wordress is the most popular which has some distinct advantages, namely that you will be able to find templates and wordpress-centric designers and coders for WordPress much more easily than for the other two.
The short of it is: When in doubt, choose WordPress.
Drupal and Joomla are good for certain specific requirements, including very large sites, among other things, but are unlikely to be necessary.
Anyone can set up a WordPress site, just like anyone can set up an out-of-the-box website, there are a couple of extra steps with WordPress, but they are way easier than you’d think.
It’s hard to come up with a reason, at this point, why you should pay someone to create a custom site for you.
If you need something really, really specific – say, a completely customized checkout process that meets security standards imposed upon you by regulatory body – you might (I stress might) need a fully customized site built from scratch.
But most of the most successful companies on the internet now use CMSs for their websites for the same reason small business owners should: a CMS removes the need for a developer on staff.
So if you are thinking of hiring someone who is offering you to build you a website, do not go the custom route without making sure you really, really need it. (This is especially if that person or company offering to build you a custom website is offering you a deal to build your custom site. They’re doing this specifically because they know a custom site will keep them employed after the site is built.)
When it doubt, go with a CMS. Really, when in doubt, go with WordPress. If you have specific needs use Drupal or Joomla. Or if you are really, really uncomfortable online, then use an out-of-the-box site creator. Don’t go custom.