How Websites are Built
Websites may be custom coded or built on a templated platform or content management system (CMS). A custom website is necessary when the site requires unique functionality, beyond a brochure-type site or e-commerce site. Custom sites are expensive and time consuming to create, because they require designers, developers and coders. Unless you're familiar with putting websites together, the whole process can be challenging and you may not end up with what you want or need. You'll also need to keep hiring people to help you make changes and maintain the site.
Easy to Create with Website Templates
Most small business websites today are built with templates, like those offered by Weebly, Wix and Squarespace. Wordpress requires a higher degree of Web savvy, but it's great for those whose main business is publishing a blog. Shopify is one of the easiest ways to build a fully functional ecommerce site. We recommend these for startups requiring little specialized design or functionality.
These builders include hosting, the content management system and a variety of other tools.
Website Builder Benefits
There are many benefits to using a hosted website builder rather than creating a site from scratch. You'll get your site built quickly without the need to know too much about the technology behind it. They all offer beautifully designed, mobile responsive and professional templates, which can be customized with your branded colors, fonts, headers, images and more. It's also a lot cheaper and faster to construct. How to create website content is a different story and also where you should be spending most of your effort and/or resources.
It's What's Inside that Counts
If you're not worried about flashy graphics or custom coding, these builders can do the job for the small business owner at an affordable price. Especially useful if you want to do your own maintenance (another cost savings).
Once you learn how to use the tools (some are more complicated than others, but offer more customization), you'll be able to make most of the simple changes yourself, making your site easier to update and maintain -- you won't have to go back to your developer every time you want to update your site. This is very important as your business evolves, because it's difficult to anticipate everything you need from the start.
Host your site where you want to
You don't need to host your site where you registered your domain name. For example, if you register at Go Daddy, you don't need to build your website there. Just find the web builder you like and point your domain to the new host. The registrar and new host will help you with the technical details.
Get an email address with your domain name
To look professional, you'll want to set up email addresses with your own domain name, that is, firstname.lastname@example.org, or aliases like, info@yourdomainname. There was a time when these were included in the domain registration fee, but now you'll need to pay for it.
Google Apps for Business offers a low cost way to set up your email address using your domain name for about $5/user/month. It's a simple way to establish your brand, making it look more established and professional.
Manage your Google visibility
Once you set up your site, be sure to sign up for Google's Search Console to monitor your website. You'll also want to make sure your website host analytics (or Google Analytics) are turned on, so you can track your visitors. This is incredibly important to determine the effectiveness of your website and your overall marketing activities. For links to these and other useful Google tools, request our Google Stack worksheet.