Finding the best tool to build a business website can be tricky, especially if you are new to this world. With limitless design possibilities and a wide range of beginner and professional tools, it’s easy to get confused and make the wrong choice – one that will not only fall short in functionality but also cost you in the long run.
The tool you choose is one of the most important steps in the website building process. It can make or break you – here’s why.
Align with your circumstances
Choosing the right tool starts by figuring out what your needs are. In a way, you need to balance out three things:
- Level of knowledge and resources you have
- Purpose of the website
- The size and type of business
In reality, freelancers and small businesses are usually short on money or resources or knowledge (sometimes even the intent) to commit to building a big website. So, they opt for DIY solutions like Wix and Squarespace – arguably the two best options within that segment right now that have a lot of limitations but are very comfortable to use.
These are great for simple(r) websites such as blogs or other content-driven sites, although they also offer more expansive options. This is where the purpose of the website comes into play. All websites are created to be useful and it’s different for everyone. Some businesses do it to establish themselves online, others to gather leads and generate sales, provide specific, helpful information, and so on.
In that case, you can use Webflow as a starting point, a slightly more advanced option aimed exclusively for creating business websites that both small and medium businesses can utilize, depending also on a few other factors I’ll list further below.
On the other hand, if you already have resources and the know-how or a developer, you can absolutely build the site yourself and avoid simple platforms altogether, which is what some large(r) businesses do when they want to stand out with their branding or need a more complex framework or require a tailor-made solution.
It’s an option that’s rarely used, in my experience. Building from scratch on an open-source platform like WordPress, React or Vue is a must only when there is a specific and high-level business need, as well as when it makes sense to pay to have a special, custom-built feature. You don’t see banks using a website builder because they have certain security concerns, for example, and need to have a reliable online banking website – something that programming and web design expertise effectively deliver.
Most website builders cover a wide range of options, from basics to enterprise-level scalability and security. There are no limitations to what you should do and no rules to what you should choose – just some guidelines to maximize your effort.
One step beyond the basics
Between simple platforms and custom solutions, there is the middle ground with the inevitable WordPress, the world’s largest CMS by far. WordPress is open-source so you can leverage it as intended through various plugins and writing code for full customization (as almost everything you do with WordPress is code-related). Or, you can use Elementor, a WordPress page builder that allows you to do even more with your website by implementing more complex and specific features in a less technical way. Essentially, you’d be tweaking your website to be a lot more responsive and relevant to the target audience.
With the more advanced (semi-pro, so to speak) options like WordPress, it takes a fair amount of time to learn the ropes and do something properly, even with a plugin like Elementor. For those with low-level needs, some (if not most) of these things would be more effective and easier to do on other platforms.
For instance, Wix has a lot of options but they do specific things better than others such as optimization for mobile sites or tools like photo filters. While it has cool layouts and features for online stores and small businesses, a niche platform such as Shopify is a better fit for those selling products and services because it’s heavily e-commerce oriented and offers features you won’t get elsewhere (a full suite of analytics with pixel and conversion tracking comes to mind).
With Wix and other DIY platforms, you primarily get an all-round website builder, while niche platforms are more powerful and feature-specific because they are designed with a particular audience in mind. In between are more advanced options like Webflow and Elementor that offer more in terms of functionality and customizations.
Most of the time though, you’ll likely run into situations where an additional touch will be required. Case in point: MILI, a subdomain on M51’s website for a non-profit organization that gathers mentors who volunteer time and expertise to help Israeli small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic. M51’s website is based on WordPress, and the entire MILI page was done with Elementor.
However, a few things couldn’t have been done without a developer, such as an email answering system that automatically sorts the applications based on available input options (e.g. if a person is applying to be a mentor or mentee or the industry in question). This level of automation is not something you’ll find as a part of an existing system – no drag&drop UI will have such a specific option available.
Determine how much you can invest
When you calculate those three points, you get a good foundation for choosing the best platform to build your website. When researching your options, you’ll quickly notice that each platform has a specific output despite doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that. You have to account for the fact that you likely won’t get everything you need.
This brings us to my next point: the budget.
As always, you get what you pay for and the goal is to only pay for what you really need. Between $8 to $12 a month, you can get a simple site that doesn’t need a fancy CMS and includes unlimited bandwidth and storage and website metrics, for instance. Then again, “a higher traffic marketing site or blog” costs three to four times that if what you need is more unique daily visits every month.
As said, most tools cover a wide array of options, including e-commerce. Webflow’s cheapest plan starts at $29 – the same as Shopify’s basic plan, yet both are more expensive than Wix’s starting plan at $17 that will get your business off the ground. Then again, Shopify Lite allows you to sell on Facebook and do all the things you’d normally do (chat with your customers, add products, accept payments) for only $9 per month.
The point is this: there are plenty of options to choose from. Whether one of them will be sufficient is up to you and if your budgetary restraints will allow a bit of stretching to accommodate most or all of your needs, with or without professional help.
Let your needs guide you
There are plenty of generic templates out there that can make your business website look representable with a little bit of editing. The technology has advanced to the point where even a newbie can come up with an end result that looks and feels good but is that what’s really needed in terms of functionality and customer demands and expectations?
The fact that you have certain tools at your disposal doesn’t necessarily mean you have all it takes to do it properly. It’s vital to take stock of what you truly need and what your financial capabilities are so you pay for what matters, not for value such as it is.