Last week, a client chose me among 100 other businessmen to drive a dream car on the most beautiful track in the world, Spa-Francochamps. You can imagine the adrenaline rush I experienced on the racetrack. But something surprising occurred when my client introduced me as his online marketer.
I spent the rest of the day answering questions about how to assess a website’s performance, the generation of leads and the ROI. Interestingly enough, the most delicate topic we discussed was choosing a website development tool.
I thought that with the multitude of resources available online, it was easy for a person to choose the creator best suited to their needs. However, those present expressed their frustration with how hard it is to modify their existing webpages and the mediocre performance of the tools they use.
Choosing the right platform to build your website on is often undervalued, yet it’s probably the most important thing you will need to do. It will affect your marketing efforts and most of the actions you take will be fruitless if you choose an ill-suited tool.
Let me explain the three key points to take into consideration before making your decision. Then we will take a walk through the pros and cons of the three main available options.
Key points to consider when choosing a web platform
- First, does your business model depend on your online presence?
If what you need is an e-commerce platform, you will have to choose a powerful and modular solution. On the other hand, if you’re selling B2B services, a more basic creator that fulfils your needs without requiring extensive development and maintenance efforts would be a better choice.
- How far along is your business?
Obviously enough, a budding startup eager to have an online presence does not have the same needs as a 25-year-old factory wanting to develop international business.
- What do you hope to accomplish with your website?
I am personally convinced that, no matter the development stage of your business, a website should focus on three objectives: attracting, converting and selling. I am well aware that many businesses do not need a web development tool with all the frills. But setting a goal for your website is essential. Do you want your website to be visible only via its URL? Do you want it to be visible to people searching for similar products or services? Or do you want to create an influx of new customers and prospective customers?
Pros and cons of the 3 main available options
- Website building tools
The number of solutions like Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace and SiteBuilder.com has increased significantly in the past few years and it is easy to see why. They let you build your own website without any specific technical knowledge. All you need is a bit of time, and the drag-and-drop builder tool guides you through the process.
- Easy to use
- Quick set-up
- Many different templates available
- Your site will never look as good as the sample they show
- You do not own anything on the platform
- Your control is very limited and you can end up in a dead end
- Beware of hidden fees
If you need a website to be up and running ASAP, you can find what you need in this type of solution. But do keep in mind that you have no control over the platform and will quickly reach its limits. Make a plan to transition over to another builder solution when that time comes.
- Content Management System (CMS)
A CMS is a software solution used to create and manage digital content, offering a management interface between the front-end (what the end user sees) and the back-end (what happens at server level). The best known CMS is WordPress, used by over 28% of websites ranging from small businesses to sites like Financial Times and Mercedes-Benz. WordPress has proven itself to be the most powerful and flexible CMS solution available.
- You control everything
- You can use advanced functions for 1/10 of the price of custom websites
- You can choose to use an existing theme or create your own
- Better performance and longevity than a website building tool
- Very good integration with other tools (CRM, data analysis, email marketing, etc…)
- You do most of the maintenance
- Many online resources to help guide you through the process
- May not be suitable for all users
- Requires technical skills (or at least understanding)
- It will take time to master the tool
- It’s hard to find good developers when you are not a pro yourself (you can read my article on the topic1)
If you need a website for marketing purposes and are looking for a solid foundation for the future growth of your company, this is undoubtedly the best solution for you. Plus, you probably won’t need to use any other tools: from a showcase website to a lead generating machine, a CMS like WordPress can do it all.
- Custom websites
Although a CMS can act as a framework for your website, if your business model depends heavily on your site, you might need a tailor-made solution.
- You have control over absolutely everything
- Nobody else uses the same tool, it is yours and yours alone
- If it is optimally developed, you will have an outstanding level of performance
- The cost can rise very, very quickly
- You need to have in-depth understanding of the technical components
- Regular maintenance is necessary
If you want to build something that has never existed, a custom solution is what you need. You can pair it with a CMS to save some time and resources for marketing.
To conclude, there is no perfect solution. Choosing the right tool depends primarily on your specific needs and objectives. One thing I can assure you is that having ownership rights to your business website is absolutely essential to avoid the pitfalls of a custom-made solution. You can join in on our monthly meeting free of charge, “Luxembourg WordPress Community”2 (in French). We would be more than happy to help you find the right solution for you, and if WordPress is the answer, we can walk you through the steps to building your website.
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