Websites come in all shapes, sizes, platforms, and functions. There is no one-size-fits-all format. The type of site you need depends entirely on what you want to accomplish. Following are three questions to help you get what you need and avoid expensive pitfalls in both time and money.
1. What do you want your site to do for you?
This is the single most important question for you to answer as a website owner. It sets the tone for every other choice you will make in the process. Following are examples of site types and what they’ll do for you.
Online Brochure – serves the same function as a paper brochure of your products and services. This is a good site type for:
- Brick-and-mortar stores/offices to take advantage of Google Places and local search.
- Service providers who want an easy way for potential clients to read testimonials and learn more about all of their offerings.
- Artisans to display galleries of their previous and current works.
Calendar of Events – serves as an in-depth description of upcoming events and news. This is a good site type for:
- Small non-profit groups who mainly use monthly newsletters to communicate with their audience.
- Single-event notices or on-going class/meeting schedules.
Blogging – serves as a way to build an audience around a particular topic of interest. This is a good site type for:
- Service and product providers who want to educate their audience and build their expertise in a field.
- Reviewers of books, gadgets, or other tangible products.
- Affiliate marketers who specialize in writing about one niche to build an audience and drive traffic to a site that offers affiliate links.
2. What is the best site platform for me?
There are several types of site platforms including the following:
- Static site that a designer builds and maintains for you.
- CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress or Blogger.
The CMS platform is by far the most popular. You can use it as a static site or incorporate a blog. There are thousands of designs and designers readily available as well.
3. Do I design it myself or hire someone?
If you’re in business, and unless you are a geek and ad copy writing guru, it’s likely that you won’t have the expertise to create a site that gets traffic in your door. Hire someone to either consult and/or design your site. Make sure you chose someone who can move your business needle, not just provide you with something pretty.
You will want to consider using WordPress.org as your platform (not WordPress.com or Blogger) because it offers the most robust environment for your present needs and any elements you might want to add in the future, such as a blog or integration with social media sites. (Read 4 Good Reasons not to Build Your Own Site.)
If your site will be for a non-profit or casual affiliate marketing, such as a book reviewer, and branding is not a big factor, you have a lot of free or low-cost options available that will work just fine.
Blogger is a great choice for those just starting out. It offers static pages and a blog, plus you can include affiliate links or PayPal buttons to sell things right off the site. And, Blogger is fairly easy to use and quick to learn even for the novice.
You can also consider using free DIY site templates that many good host providers offer.
You can purchase a domain name (like www.mysite.com) and use on Blogger and most DIY template sites.
For personal use, WordPress.com is a great option. Even though folks use that platform for groups or businesses, the practice is frowned upon and could get you banned from the service. (It actually violates their Terms of Service, but is not rigorously enforced.)
If you run a business, you need an online presence, period. (Read List Your Business with Local Search Now or Disappear.) You’ll pay a little more to have it professional set up, but whatever the cost, it will be cheaper than setting up a freebie that doesn’t work well and doesn’t bring you business, and then paying to have it done right the second time. I know. Most of my business is second site design and training for folks who went that route. Their number one comment is they wish they had done it right the first time because it’s too expensive in time and money to do it twice.
If you run a group or non-profit site, keep it simple and don’t pay for too much. There are far too many free services that you can use. However, you may want to spend a wee bit on a qualified consultant to help you get started with integrating everything or just the initial setup of all elements.
Here are a few helpful posts and articles where you can learn more.
WordPress or Blogger – Which is Right for Me?
The Anatomy of a WordPress Website (Also has great tips on choosing designers and themes.)
How to Choose a Host Provider
The 8 advantages of starting a blog with RSS feeds
What You Need to Know About WordPress Website Design
The top 5 reasons why websites fail
Focus Your Message with the Right Colors for Your Website
What SEO is and Why You Need It
How you hurt your SEO by getting hosting and domain too soon
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What Every Site Owner Should Know