What website providers are available to small businesses?
The pros and cons to consider when choosing a website solution
Your website is the internet's version of a shop front, so it needs to look its best. It should be well put together, professional, and most of all, it needs to work. Finding the right designer and developer for your business is essential.
This guide runs through the most popular routes taken by small businesses, and evaluates their pros and cons.
DIY Website Builders
Free and cheap are two of anyone's favourite words, especially small businesses who have high start-up costs. There are many free, or extremely cheap, website solutions around waiting to take up our spare change.
In our experience, these can be great if you're technically competent and proficient in HTML code, as it keeps costs down and you retain all creative control. If you've got the technical know-how, go for it!
However DIY builders are not for everyone. Not many of us have the required skills to create a website that looks professional enough to attract a targeted audience, and that's okay!
The last thing a new business needs is a sloppy looking website, as this can damage a brand image more than having no website at all. Looking for a complete solution that covers design and development leaves you to focus on other aspects of your business.
A website agency
Commissioning a specialist website agency means that you get the complete package, with everything you need from design to maintenance.
You can usually expect to be given a total project cost once you have submitted a detailed brief. An agency charge will probably start at £1,000-£2,000 depending on your requirements, and they are likely to charge more if they use creative or development third party agencies.
The level of service and experience will be high, and agency professionals will almost always have additional expertise in other marketing areas, such as branding and e-commerce. If you need complicated design or technology for your website, such as mobile-site design and integrated app development, then you'll probably need the services of an agency.
The downside? You will have a bespoke website most likely built on a bespoke platform. This means that you won't be able to move it anywhere else and you'll be tied to that development company for the life of the website.
An online design and development service
If using an online service especially designed to help small businesses, you could pay anything in the range of £100-£2000, depending on your requirements. Many of these solutions still operate on a bespoke design and development basis, which means that you can get a unique website at a great price.
The quality can vary hugely with these services, so look carefully at the whole portfolio to make sure that even their old website designs still work. Some of these companies will have developers outside the UK to keep their prices down. If you know you'll want/need a lot of communication with your designer during the process, make sure that you can contact them (and vice versa) before paying for the service.
To also keep prices down, their services may not cover everything that you need to get online. The design, development, domain and hosting are all essential to having a fully functioning website. You may find that some only offer the design, which is why the service can appear so affordable. When researching these services, check to see if the package you're buying covers everything you need to get online, as purchasing the other services separately can rack up the costs.
The major plus is that as these solutions are designed for new small businesses the designers and developers will be used to working with start-up companies, so they'll be more than willing to answer your questions. Most importantly, you need to evaluate the right option for you and your business.
Make sure you think about what you will actually need from your website, not just right now but in the future. A good website should last your business a long time.