I think for most business owners getting a new website can be a lot like buying a new car. You’re more concerned about how it looks, and a few key features than what’s under the hood.
We’re more familiar with the kinds of cars – electric/hybrid or combustion engine, SUV vs sedan and how they fit for our personal needs. When we make that first broad decision, to get a small SUV for example, we’re making a strategic decision as to which kind of car is the best fit for my current season in life?
If you’re at the point where you’re looking to revamp your website – do you know what kind of site is the best fit for your current season in business? Are you trusting a developer or salesperson to make that decision for you without understanding the ramifications? ARE YOU GUESSING?
Let’s take a quick look at the basic options in websites and the situations they’re best suited for. My goal is to help you decide which is best for you.
All in one website builder services
The technical term for these is Software as a Service (Saas). These companies host your site and provide access to their proprietary site building tools and features for a monthly or annual fee. Examples you’ve probably heard of are WIX, Kajabi, and Shopify. Their main selling point is that they make it easy to build a professional looking site quickly and offer a suite of functionality to enable you to run your e-business.
These services are great for businesses just starting out, or more mature businesses that can operate within the limitations of these platforms.
Which brings me to the weakness of these platforms.
- In order to be ‘easy to use’ – options need to be limited. SO these platforms select their features to appeal to the broad market. My experience is it doesn’t take much for a business to need something that’s out of scope.
- These platforms are really really good at one thing. For example, Kajabi’s course building tools are top-notch. However, functionality for other features, such as email marketing can be thin.
Usually, the reason to use one of these platforms is because you (the business owner) has decided to take the DIY approach to building and maintaining a website. There’s nothing wrong with this, but more than likely you’ll end up with a site that doesn’t stand out – despite the ‘stunning website” marketing messages to the contrary. Hiring a designer to set things up can make a site built on these platforms really sing.
Host your own/build your own (usually WordPress)
If you find the features/options in an all in one service too limiting, you can build your own site with the features you want. For the vast majority of you, the best platform for this is WordPress, integrated with additional software modules (called plugins) for e-commerce and course building functionality.
This makes a lot of sense when a tailored fit is what your business needs to get to the next level.
The downside of this approach is complexity. This path requires technical skills and if you don’t have those skills you’ll need a developer to set things up and maintain the site. But it makes sense when the customization pays for itself in terms of business growth.
Sometimes it makes sense to get the best of both worlds and set up a hybrid site that uses an all-in-one builder alongside a custom site. The most common example would be using an e-commerce engine like Shopify to run your online store alongside a WordPress site. Shopify’s web building tools are fine for small sites, but if you have a lot of content, something more robust is needed.
The downside of this approach is the complexity of managing two sites while keeping the user experience as seamless as possible. It can also have a negative impact on SEO.