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It was not all that long ago that it was impossible to build a website, even a basic one, without a web designer. However, as web builders were able to introduce programs that did not require advanced coding with pre-built templates, the ability for a small business owner to save some funds and create one themselves became a reality.
So how do you know which web builder on the market is the best one for your small business?
Finding an Audience
There are several considerations you need before getting too deep into the web development process. First off, how do you envision your target demographic interacting with you the most online? If you have any kind of younger demographic (30 or young, even 40 and younger) than having a website that is also very mobile-friendly is a HUGE advantage.
More and more people are browsing the web on a smartphone or tablet so having a mobile version is gigantic plus.
Mobile websites are designed to bring web content to you in an easily accessible and readable manner. Mobile websites are characterized by:
- Simple, easy to read and scan content
- Image heavy
- Over-sized with photo icons or other methods to click on content and navigate the mobile version with a tap of a finger.
While mobile sites have a simple and clear presentation they are not always easy to design for someone new to web design.
Drag ‘n Drop Web Builders
The primary alternative to advanced web design is a software program that features drag ‘n drop web builders. All of the services on our best web builder list feature drag ‘n drop technology.
The feature makes creating a website a breeze. Like the name implies, new users are presented with a box to designate what content they want in a certain custom field. Users simply drag a custom field and drop it where they want the text or image located on the web page.
Drag ‘n drop web builders are effortlessly easy to create a new website from scratch. You do not need any coding experience, or even know your way around a computer very well to utilize the feature.
Advantages to launching a new website
If you are not already aware of the numerous features of having an online presence, even for well established brick and mortar storefronts, here are but a few:
- Legitimize your business
- Attract new customers
- Generate more revenue
- Save money on traditional business expenses
Building a website is essentially the same as building a home or a brick and mortar shop. It takes time, effort, planning, and money.
6 Must-Have Website Features
User-Friendly Design & Navigation
Nothing repels customers faster than a hard to use website. If they can’t figure out how to navigate your page in less than a few minutes, chances are they will move to the next site. Remember, the attention span on the internet is remarkably short!
To make sure your site is user friendly; it should look inviting, colorful, and crisp. The font is easy to read and not drown into too many long paragraphs.
While presentation is vital, people still turn to website for the value of its content. So if you don’t offer your customers something useful as well as directions to buy or use your product or service, it doesn’t matter how stylish the web pages look.
A call-to-action is a statement declaring what you want your customers to do once they have read through your information. An example is:
Contact Us Today!
Fill Out This Form For More Information!
If the website, primarily the homepage is missing a clear call to action than you are missing out on potential customers. Think of it this way: people on the web prefer that you direct their eyes to someplace or something, as opposed to you doing it for them.
Adaptable for Mobile Devices
The website should not only look good and accessible on a laptop, but also on a smartphone. Make sure the content is adaptable for mobile devices or you’re already a step behind.
Again, pointing back to short attention spans, customers on the web turn to quick digestion of important but also demand a lot by seeking regularly updated content. The easiest way to do this is introduce social media or short videos along with your standard, “evergreen content”.
Easy to find Contact Info
Most small business websites keep their contact info at the bottom of the homepage. This is so common that it has become second nature for customers to check here when they want to find out a business’s phone, email, or address.
What to Look For in a Web Builder
Web builders like Site 123 and Wix are the easiest to use. While these programs are fairly sophisticated they are still the most basic form of a website builder.
The next step up would represent something that is a combination of a basic web page editor (with coding alternative) found with apps like WordPress and Joomla.
The third option is to hire the tried and true method of hiring a professional web designer which is by far the most expensive. The most challenging of all is you won’t be able to adapt and change the website much after the developer finishes the project on their end.
If you’re a small business owner who doesn’t have the time to code or the money to pay a pro, the best alternative is a web builder.
Almost all web builders include domain registration and hosting, and almost all web builders can be used for payment or for free. To legitimize your small business, you’ll want to find a web builder that includes customized domain hosting as part of its for-payment package.
Templates – Design Styles To Match Your Business
At its core, all DIY web builders are similar. The builders let you drag items and drop items, and all they require from you is the ability to point and click.
The primary difference between one website builder and the next is the themes. Different builders offer different templates catered to different types of businesses. To find the right set of templates, you’ll need to be able to both define what your business does and how you want to present that to customers.
The top web builders will come with additional marketing features that aid in the process of small business expansion. Most will come with very basic features that place an emphasis on SEO. These features will work, but again they are simply a watered down version of a process that is actually extremely complex.
The biggest advantage a web builder provides over hiring a web designer is not only can you go back and edit the design and content of the website later, but also continue to market it to reach a broader audience.
Support – What type? How good?
Support is particularly important with website builders because if you’re using one, chances are that you have no idea what you’re doing (no offense).
Finding a service that offers quality support means finding one that offers it 24/7, and in a variety of forms. If you like to learn on your own, online reading materials or videos are usually the best, especially if they are searchable. If you like personal guidance, find a website builder that’s known for one-on-one live chats or support over the phone.
How often should you update your website?
The answer to that question should help you decide if a web builder like Duda or Weebly is right for you. Web designers cost a lot to hire but they provide exceptional quality. The problem is when they are finished with the project they leave the website in your hands and you have no idea what they did or how they made the site present the way it does. Consequently, without a lot of web development knowledge you will be stuck with what you got unless you hire the same designer or a new one.
A big pro with web builders is you can go back and change the content as frequently as you want. It’s a great feature for small businesses that need to provide frequent updates or shifts in the information provided on a web page, such as a restaurant or bar.
Should you consider free hosting options?
Overall, free hosting is not the best option for a small business. Medium-to-large businesses are a different story because they usually have a large client list and financial stability. However, if you are trying to build up a small business, a regular hosting plan is best for you.
Why is it not the top option for small businesses?
Free hosting is not good for small businesses for two reasons: A) you will not receive any support, and B) ads downtime.
Support is incredibly important for small business owners because they already have a lot of other factors to worry about. Money, marketing, advertisement, and more are just a few of the worries small business owners face.
If you have to answer your own questions, figure out your hosting services, and muddle through your concerns, it could cost you both time and money. Support centers are there to walk you through the hosting process.
When you choose the free web hosting option, you lose all of that. In addition, you are also losing ads due to ads downtime. This means that those who offer ads, like Google, Yahoo, and more are giving their free ad credit offers to web hosts that charge their clients.
Free hosting cannot afford to offer ads, which results in ads downtime. Ads are another important step in establishing your online presence, so you do not want to miss that opportunity.
Get some experience, spend a little money, and watch your business grow before you decide to look into free hosting.