How to Choose a Website Platform for Your Small Business
If there is one thing I will never get tired of saying, it's that every business - regardless of size - needs to have a website. In this digital age, your website will oftentimes be how people discover you, their first interaction with your brand, how you capture leads to nurture, and how you convert those leads to sales. It's pretty much the hardest working member of your marketing department, even if it doesn't get all the glamour. And still, 29% of small businesses still didn't have a website in 2021.
For a lot of small business owners, the process of creating a website can be a bit intimidating. There's a lot of decisions to be made and when you're already overwhelmed with the 872 things you're responsible for as a business owner, tackling a new website might honestly just feel like too much. But it doesn't have to be.
One of the very first decisions you need to make when creating a website for your business is which platform to build it on, and this decision alone can really make a huge difference in how the process goes. There's a lot of options out there (and more seem to pop up every year), but which one is best?
If you're hoping for a blanket statement about which platform you should be using to build your website on, I'm afraid that I'm about to disappoint you. There is no "one size fits all" for website platforms and the truth is that a lot of them are great. Has WordPress been the industry standard for a long time? Sure, but it can also be a lot of complicated pieces if you're looking for something simple. Is Shopify a great ecommerce platform? Absolutely. But it's expensive if you don't need a ton of bells and whistles.
You'll hear a lot of voices out in the world if you ask what the best website platform is, but at the end of the day you need to find the platform that makes the most sense for YOU and YOUR BUSINESS.
But how? Here are a couple of questions you should ask yourself when weighing out your platform options.
What do you want to accomplish?
It's important to level-set on what you want your website to actually DO. Are you looking to grow brand awareness? To improve conversions? To generate and capture leads? Understanding this will help you look for a platform that can meet those needs.
What is the site's intended use?
This is a bit different than what it's going to accomplish and may seem like an obvious one, but ask yourself what you need from your website. Maybe you want to leverage blogging, or just want to showcase your services. Maybe you want to share a portfolio. Maybe you need e-commerce capabilities that also connect to a brick and mortar store. Maybe it's all of those things, and that's cool too! Different platforms are really great at different things, so take the time to consider this right up front before you choose one that can't do everything you need.
What features will you want to include?
Consider what integrations you will likely want to have folded into your site. It could be a CRM (customer relationship manager) that you use, or invoicing that connects directly to your financial software. Maybe you want a chatbox that responds to site visitors or automations to help retrieve lost carts. Your web platform shouldn't hold you back from doing any of these things.
What is your budget?
Websites don't really have a reputation for being cheap, but that doesn't mean they need to break the bank either. Some things to consider when budgeting for your project: hosting, premium plan upgrades, third party apps (see integrations above). But also - the cost of designing and building the website itself. If hiring a professional is not in the budget, you will be better off building your website on more of a drag-and-drop platform (unless you're also savvy) than one that requires custom theme design and/or coding.
What are you looking for as far support goes?
Obviously your budget might be the thing dictating whether or not you outsource the design and development of your website. However, if you do know you're going to be hiring a web designer and maybe even already have someone in mind, consider speaking with them before making a decision on a platform. Chances are they'll have worked with a variety and can tell you which one might be the right fit for your needs.
How do you intend to maintain it?
While this topic also plays into the budget, it's important to consider what will happen to your website AFER you launch it. Building it is one thing, but it will then be a living, breathing thing that will require attention. How tech savvy are you? Will you be managing the site yourself? If so, what will that entail? Making updates, adding blog posts, managing orders? Consider what will be sustainable for you, and if you intend to do it yourself, pick a platform that you'll be comfortable using moving forward.
As you can see, there's a lot of details to consider when deciding which platform makes the most sense for your business well beyond the recommendations of people on the internet. Your choice should be the one that is going to meet your budget, your needs, and your goals. If after asking yourself these questions you still feel really unsure, it might be time to consult a brand strategist or website designer who can help you really hone in on what you need from your website in order to choose the platform that will meet those needs.