As an online business owner, the last thing you should think about is the platform you will be using to set up your website. You are already swamped with multiple tasks of growing your business. How you design and develop your site should be a low priority, right?
Another study, 2015 B2B Web Usability Report: What B2B Buyers Want from Vendor Websites by Huff Industrial Marketing, KoMarketing, & BuyerZone, states that 47% of visitors browse through the products and services pages first before looking at any other sections.
More studies affirm the importance of setting up a business website to attract and engage with your audience and potential clients. Point being, you need to put more stock on how you plan to develop and sustain your website. The success of your business will depend on how good your website is.
The problem now is deciding which website development tool or platform to choose from the market.
Each has features and benefits that others don’t possess. Therefore, you need to settle with the best tool that suits your needs.
If you don’t know where to begin choosing your site builder for your online business, then take heed from the business owners below. They share their thoughts and opinions on which is the best platform for online businesses and why.
Every small business will benefit from a website that helps strengthen their brand, products, and services while extending their reach. For business owners looking to move online, it is important to align your goals with your budget and expectations.
The easiest way to get up and running is to consult with a web professional you feel you can trust. The right professional can help navigate the proper balance of platform, initial setup, monthly service fees, and ongoing maintenance. Every business is unique, and there are no right or wrong answers – but some will be better for you than others.
There are many amazing online platforms available designed to help get your site up and your message out while minimizing initial overhead. Both Wix and Squarespace immediately come to mind, and both have some beautiful and very cost-effective templates to get you up and running quickly. Each has a very user-friendly administration and design tools that don’t require any special training to use. Once you’re set up, updating your site’s content should feel natural, and empowering.
If your business is selling goods online or in store, or both, then nothing beats Shopify. It offers very affordable pricing tiers designed for growth, free and reasonably priced paid templates to help get you up and running quickly and also has a great Point of Sale system that can tie directly into your business itself. Manage your website content, inventory, orders, shipping and fulfillment and customer management all under one roof – it’s gorgeous and game-changing. And will grow with you right through to enterprise.
While WordPress is definitely fluid enough to make websites of any kind and size, we live in a world of choices at the moment. Your choice should depend on what kind of website you want to operate. A small business owner who needs to sell their products online can pick Shopify or Magento. If you want to promote a service, check out SquareSpace.
But if all you need is to set up a microsite to gather customer leads, then Unbounce or Instapage are great choices. All these services cost just a few dollars a month and are point-and-click based. It should take less than ten minutes to set up websites with any of these services.
There are many online services where you can create a small business website in an hour by yourself. i.e.: Wix, Weebly, Squarespace.
But even for the smallest budget, I suggest people use WordPress platform.
Because WordPress has the most variety of tools, you can expand and upgrade your website with more flexibility. After all, a website owner needs to think about the site management, security, backup, etc. For all these working with a managed WordPress hosting service like WP Engine, Pagely or Fly Wheel. I defined don’t suggest to use a shared unmanaged hosting service for a business to trust for their online presence. Also, remember to keep everything back up with services like Fatdisco or VaultPress.
The best way to get up and running would be to use an easy-to-use, off-the-shelf service like SquareSpace.com.
Even a total newbie would be able to create a site within minutes on SquareSpace. The best part is, they offer a free trial and no credit card needed. Did I forget to mention that sites created using SquareSpace look gorgeous and they also do e-commerce sites?
If you’re a small business owner looking to sell digital products I highly recommend using the RainMaker Platform which is an all in one solution to build your online brand without having to purchase multiple products.
Some of the many features it includes are:
Multiple WordPress templates
Learning Management System to create online courses
Social media scheduling tool
Email Automation tool for drip campaigns
Ability to host podcasts
Ability to create membership websites
I also recommend HubSpot if you’re scaling a B2B Saas startup. It’s a top-tier marketing automation system which makes implementing inbound marketing campaigns a breeze. If you’re a tech startup within an incubator, you may qualify for a 90% HubSpot discount.
Throughout the years, I’ve launched many online ventures and experimented a lot with most types of CMS. When Christopher asked me about the easiest way to build a website, I thought of creating this list, in hope that you will choose not what it’s popular out there, but what is the best platform to suit your needs, products, and services. Here it is:
IT all depends on your business type.
a) If you are a visual business (let’s say you provide info graphics, image creation, social media content creation, logos, photography), then I highly advise you to go for the Tumblr CMS.
The perfect example (and one of the websites I’ve been following since 2011) is This Isn’t Happiness. Peteski, the owner, launched it as a community, and afterward, followed the shop, where you can buy the “Isn’t” T-shirts. For this type of community-based business, you don’t need much, and Tumblr is the easiest way to just put an image, link, and short description out there.
IT requires a minimum amount of investment, and it’s super user-friendly. The marketing part is up to you, though.
This would be my go-to if I wanted to launch a website that explains our company’s services and products and focus on what we can do to help our customers. And less about who we are, our voice, and so on. For the second part, you have social media, Medium.com, and LinkedIn Pulse. I say these work just as fine to blog about the company and the team or promote customer success stories. While the website is the go-to source for customers, the so-called “online business card”.
Building a website in HTML5 is a one-time investment, a bit pricey (can cost about 2,000 USD or higher, depending on what you want), but it’s stable, and you have full control over how it’s going to look and function. A personal favorite.
Now, don’t worry about the SEO part. Because it is easy to optimize your website for search engines by implementing the proper SEO architecture into the website’s code. Your coder should know a thing or two about this.
c) Shopify is the CMS platform for you if you’re thinking of selling items, it has e-commerce written all over its layouts. Incorporation with social media platforms makes it a great asset if you’re struggling with sales funnels, too.
d) Building a personal brand? Then go “WordPress.” And… we’re here. Next stop, WordPress. IF you are a solopreneur or freelancer, having a blog will help you gain exposure, and build trust for your brand. It also comes along with many plugins that can help optimize each article for the SERPs, and for social media (through SM cards).
As an alternative, many freelancers would use Behance or Wix just to put a portfolio out there. But if you want more, and love communicating with your audience, readers, and customers, stick to WordPress.
My recent business, SERPlified, acts like a blog. Basically, I wanted to a place of my own where I could occasionally write, and a “page” where clients could read my mind. I mostly select my clients based on recommendations, so at this point, I didn’t need a call-to-action type of website made in HTML5.
e) An app-based or IT business just starting (start-up, small biz) could benefit more from using Joomla. It is widely used in the US (over 50%, according to GetApp.com), with 33% of companies being based in the Internet sector, and the same number in the IT&Services industry.
You have more flexibility, value for money, and great support in this CMS. The downside is the security part in the pre-built features. However, this can be overcome with cybersecurity protocols. And IT knows its best when it comes to cyber protection.
I usually recommend WordPress to most small businesses, and if you want to build a community or membership site, that’s the way to go. However, there are other solutions popping up that are providing terrific value to small businesses.
One option that I’ve seen lately is Synergy 8. The guys at Synergy 8 have built an amazing small business web solution that helps you rank well on SEO and enables you to run your entire CRM and event systems from their platform. I recently visited the guy at Synergy 8 and was very impressed.
WordPress for sure! Using WordPress has been almost a 2nd nature for most online businesses over the past decade or so – but it is how you customize it makes all the difference.
For simple websites that do not need a lot of pages, I prefer to do a single page website. The navigation bar does contain the usual pages of about, contact, etc. but they are hash-linked to the specific screen of the same single page homepage.
For example, my site on Crowd Speaking is such a site. The top navigation buttons send the visitor to the specific location on the page where the particular content is. If you click on the About or the Features tabs, the screen will point you to the place on the page where that data is located.
This way, not only you save yourself from creating multiple pages, but you also make it easy for the visitor to get all the information that he wants quickly.
Even for sites that are custom coded or they have used any other CMS and are reluctant to change – they too need a redesign or a blog section at some point. When I was consulted with the re-design of Temok, I suggested going with WordPress for its blog section. With WordPress, there are plugins available that can get you social sharing button, add membership, set-up pricing page, Fix your SEO, make your Schema look all right – it can even get you into Google News! There is no way any other CMS can do so many things. WordPress is just the easiest way to build a site for any small business.
My choice is rather common, but I have to give my recommendation to none other than WordPress.
Many users have spent countless months (even years) polishing and perfecting their blogs on a non-self-hosted platform. Eventually, they have gradually realized all the limitations these platforms impose on their ability to grow. In fact, I have stumbled upon horror stories in which venues like Blogger.com suddenly – and quite abruptly – terminated the user’s website without warning.
For this and many other reasons, self-hosted WordPress is the absolute best platform for any blogger that’s serious about online publishing, whether this person is starting a business or a mere hobbyist.
Another reason for choosing alternative platforms (like the aforementioned Blogger) is due to them offering free hosting space. That being said, acquiring your web hosting space is as little as $3 – $4 per month these days, thus making WordPress highly accessible and a no-brainer for newer and experienced bloggers alike.
The luxury way is to go with a company who has the experience, talent, and expertise to extract the best from you and ensure it’s coming out on a website that represents your business in a way you can be proud of. However, some SMEs have limited budgets and have no choice but to go DIY. Often they choose WordPress templates because WordPress is so widely used and sophisticated. However, for inexperienced users, DIY WordPress templates often create a lot of trouble, and they are not easy. In fact, if we were to recommend a good template DIY route, we’d recommend Squarespace – it’s one of the better template builders. It has some limitations, but it’s much more intuitive and less hassle. So easy by comparison.
Bonus Tip: Make sure you organize yourself a proper domain name, so you don’t have .squarespace.com at the end. And one day, you will be able to invest in the next step (the luxury option) – a bespoke designed website with WordPress as the CMS – created by a team of talented experts!
For me, the quickest and easiest way to create a quality website at a low cost is still WordPress. Having said that I’m keeping a close eye on the new AI-powered website builders such as Firedrop and Grid.
While I’m sure this technology will take some refinement to get right, with the continued improvement of AI-powered tools such as chatbots and Amazon’s Alexa, I’m in no doubt that this technology will bring a new dawn of convenience and use of building a new website. However for now and the foreseeable future, I would always recommend hiring human talent to get the job done if your budget allows.
I personally prefer to use WordPress for small business websites. But WordPress installs often require some advanced expertise to get right, and technical issues can be difficult for the uninitiated to resolve on their own.
Bearing that in mind, I’d recommend SquareSpace as the easiest way for a small business owner to build a new website. It’s extremely user-friendly and neophytes will feel comfortable working with the platform in no time at all.
As a boutique business owner for nearly 30 years, I can tell you that online marketing isn’t a priority one.
With all the hats a small biz owner wears in operating and managing—especially in a local services brick and mortar operation—an already busy company, it’s not unusual for the thought of a website to be completely out of mind.
In truth, when I thought about, or looked into, having a business website over the years, a few things hung me up. To me, these were obstacles to starting. The biggest problems were (at the time) the high cost to have a site designed, lack of creative freedom in the design, in general, and the lack of control to make changes and updates to the site.
Finally, but mostly because I started writing content for the web, I created a website for my first business to give it a “web presence”…and to add something to my writing portfolio!
I couldn’t master WordPress at first, so my first site resides on WebStarts, a Wix-like hosting and site building provider that made it pretty easy peasy. Pretty DYI. And pretty inexpensive.
Of course, now, as a pro content creator for businesses, I’ve both conquered and learned that
WordPress sites are a business site competitive standard. Still, my local market site remains on a local easy site builder and maintains a “web presence.”
When building our website for Vincredo we wanted to use a platform that would be easy, quick and stylish to put together. Aside from being incredibly simple to drag and drop elements to design the website, they have a Video Background you can build into the website to make it a lot more visually appealing to promote Vincredo and our products.
That was really what sold the platform when it came to making a decision which platform to use.
Many people will probably respond by recommending the use of a template from a user-friendly CMS’s like WordPress.
However, what if you are in the stage of trying to prove your business concept? There are many landing page builders like Instapage and LaunchRock (with pre-built one pager templates) which can help you get a page up quickly and cost-effectively.
The aim is to define the clear path of revenue/leads for your business, and sometimes having to consider website/CMS features first can lead to distractions.
Everyone uses WordPress as their base- myself included, which is a good start as it’s easy to use and configure for your needs.
But if you want traffic and sales, just using WordPress is not enough.
You need to be posting tons of one-minute videos that integrate with Facebook. Look for WordPress plugins that manage Facebook’s comments, Facebook pixel, and Facebook Instant Articles- there are many available.
After all, no matter how “nice” your site looks, what is important is connecting it to the largest source of traffic on the planet– Facebook. If you add these items, you’ll have the best of both worlds and not be wasting precious time messing around with technical bits.
For friends and clients that need super simple sites I know I can build on my own, I use Panther. It’s a new web building site that is super easy to use and makes beautiful, responsive sites that are perfect for small businesses, consultants, and freelancers. I’ve done a few, and I love the way it integrates with the big hosting providers so you can publish sites on your domain at the click of a button.
For my site, I use WordPress. I’ve been working with WordPress for over ten years, so I’m very comfortable with it. It’s gotten so sophisticated that many really big companies are now using it and it can be customised to do pretty much anything you might want.
If you’re looking for a fast drag and drop intuitive platform to build your website, Wix would without a doubt be the best place to start. They have a very user-friendly CMS which makes creating your site a breeze with very cost effective hosting plans.
However, if you’re looking for something a bit more robust regarding an eCommerce site, Shopify would be the best choice for you. Their CMS is a little bit more complicated that Wix, but the functionality is beautiful with everything from smart search built into automated abandoned cart recovery emails.
WordPress is my GO TO platform when it comes to starting a website, but It’s not the easiest platform to use. This is where WIX and Squarespace have an advantage, but they are limited in features. That’s why I always recommend my clients attend a 1-day WordPress training course in their local area which is usually enough to build a good enough site and start managing your content.
There’s some reasons why I prefer WordPress over other platforms, but my top 3 are:
Customisations – you can do anything nowadays with WordPress from using as a traditional blog to selling products and services through Woocommerce.
Managing Content – it’s easy to add content and make it look great
Massive Community – being such a popular platform it makes it easy to find someone who knows how to do something you don’t.
Squarespace is one of the best website builders for small businesses. It’s biggest USP is that small businesses do not need to hire a proficient coder to build up the site.
Unlike in WordPress, where strenuous amounts of coding are required, Squarespace lets you drag and drop pictures and text. As one makes the site, they can simultaneously get a live glimpse of how the website will look. I loved it!
For a basic website, an easy and interesting solution would be a flat CMS. You do not have a database to manage, it doesn’t take up much hosting space, and it could be a lot faster than a big CMS.
Moreover, a flat CMS is usually very easy to install: you simply unzip it on your server. But if your site is a piece of a long-term strategy or if it needs particular features, then go with the good old WordPress. It is easy to maintain and update. It is easy to customize and adapt due to the multiple plugins and themes. Should I mention the enormous and friendly community?
So, if you have a simple site, you could choose a flat CMS. Otherwise, the answer is WordPress.
The fastest way of growing a small business is by concentrating on content. And though Weebly, Wix allows you to create beautiful websites, blog pages – WordPress is still the king. You can manage both large number of pages as well as users. To add to that the vast directory of free plugins that WordPress offers is something every small business can use at some point or other.
With a diverse list of answers above from successful business owners, your head is probably spinning a bit at this point. A lot of people suggested using popular platforms like WordPress and Squarespace while others mentioned taking a different route by going with AI-powered website builders and even using a flat CMS.
Aside from the sheer volume of platforms to pick, you need to embrace the fact that your website is arguably the most important online asset you have. It is where you’ll be able to drive traffic that you can convert into sales. Without a great looking website that your audience loves, then expect your business to plummet.
This simple reason is why you need to carefully choose the best platform for you based on what people above said.
Christopher Jan Benitez is a professional freelance writer who provides small businesses with content that engages their audience and increases conversion. If you are looking for high-quality articles about anything related to digital marketing, then he's your guy! Feel free to say "hi" to him on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.