Now that we’ve established EVERY business needs a website, the next question is WHAT type of website? Or, put it another way, what platform should you build your website on?
(If you’re still not sure that you actually need a website, I suggest you check out this article).
Whilst it might seem like there are just way too many options to choose from, your choice basically comes down to one of 5 categories:
- Dedicated e-commerce platforms (Shopify, Magento, OpenCart, etc)
- Page builder style platforms (Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy, etc)
- All-in-one platforms (Kajabi, 10XPro, etc)
- Custom build
- WordPress (which by the way currently powers around 43% of all sites)
Yes, I know there are a number of other content management systems in the market, but I won’t be considering them here as they are essentially too “fringe” to bet your business on.
So, how do you choose which platform is right for you?
Well, let’s look at the pros and cons of each…
Dedicated e-commerce platforms
Interestingly, Shopify is now the number 2 website platform, powering about 4.3% of all sites (yes, about one tenth as many sites as WordPress – a massive gap between first and second place).
Why is it so popular?
Well, it’s easy to setup, it has lots of great templates to work with, and it simplifies managing your sales and inventory. It even has a built-in payment processor to make collecting money easy.
If your business is centred around physical products, then this would actually be a good choice for you. Probably a better choice than WooCommerce on WordPress, which has been the de-facto standard for product based sites up until the last few years.
But physical products is probably one of the toughest business models, so unless you are a passionate creative I would’t recommend going this path.
And yes, Shopify can also be used to sell digital products (like ebooks), but this adds even further to the monthly cost (which is not particularly cheap to start with). Yes, it’s functional, but far it’s from the most flexible way to sell digital products online.
Finally, because Shopify is designed as an e-commerce system, it’s definitely not the right solution for you if you’re focussing on services, coaching or courses.
Page builder style platforms
Wix and Squarespace are currently the 3rd and 4th most popular platforms in the market, each with just over 1% market share.
GoDaddy also have a website builder they are heavily pitching in this space. Interestingly though, despite their aggressive marketing of late, GoDaddy still don’t even rate in the top 20 website platforms.
The promise of these platforms is that even a novice with little technical or design skill can put together a professional looking website in quick time. And most of them live up to this promise – to a point.
They all offer pretty decent templates, with the ability to customise colours, layouts and content.
You can also set up sales pages for your services, and easily accept payments on the site. Some even do a decent job with digital products and basic courses.
None of these options are particularly costly (in fact, they are all cheaper than Shopify), but there are some downsides you should consider before going down this path:
- Being proprietary platforms, you are limited to the functionality they provide. Yes, they have a pretty good range of functionality, but they don’t have unlimited resources to be everything to everyone. If you want to do something a bit different, or integrate with a service they don’t offer, you’re out of luck.
- Some of the more advanced functionality (like courses or memberships) can be tricky to set up. And because of the small market share, there’s not really many people you can turn to for help. It’s basically up to you and the platform support staff to figure out.
- When you decide you’ve outgrown the platform and want to move, there is no easy way to migrate your content to another platform. With some of the platforms, you can export your content as text files, and maybe you can export some of the images used, but it’s definitely not a simple task to rebuild your site somewhere else.
So whilst these platforms might seem very attractive upfront, they may not grow well with your business.
The promise of these platforms is that they provide everything you need to run your business – not just a website builder, but also your marketing emails, sales funnels, shopping cart, course delivery, analytics, etc.
Sounds like heaven, right?
And given that these platforms are generally made, and marketed, by some of the biggest players in internet marketing, the sales pitches are very slick.
Unfortunately, the reality doesn’t quite live up to the hype.
Firstly, most of these platforms aren’t the complete “one stop shop” they promise to be.
For instance, Kajabi will quite happily send marketing emails from your domain, but if you want to do transactional emails (eg, contact forms, replying to customers, etc) you’ll still need an external email service provider, like Google Workspace or Proton Mail. And you’ll need some technical understanding to link things up properly.
Then there is the issue that they are also proprietary platforms – you’re constrained not only by what features are implemented, but how they are implemented. And now it’s not just your website that suffers this constraint, it’s your whole business.
Next is what I would consider the biggest reason to be wary of these platforms – because they are trying to be everything to everyone, they will never be the best at any particular function.
Think of it this way, if you have a whole company focussed on developing a single piece of functionality (eg, email marketing, forms, website builder, etc) then they’re going to be able to achieve a lot better result than a company that has similar resources but is trying to build everything.
So these all-one-platforms are never going to have market leading functionality across all functions. There will be limitations.
Speaking of limitations, the biggest one for most people will be the cost. These platforms generally start at around $2,000 per year and go up from there, depending on how many contacts you have on your email list (or, in some cases, how many sales you make). And that’s in USD!
I would rarely recommend these platforms for any business, and never for anyone just starting out.
Yes, there are still people that will offer to build you a totally custom website.
In reality, most of these will use one of the “fringe” content management systems (like Joomla), or worse, a customised version they have put together over the years.
Either way, whilst the idea of having something built from the ground up just for your business, it’s actually a recipe for disaster.
You’re basically locking yourself in to that developer for the life of your website.
Because if you need to change anything, or if something goes wrong, very few people are going to be able to decipher how your site is put together and make the required changes. At least not without a long and costly learning curve.
And if (more like when) the relationship with your developer falls apart, you’ll be left with a site that’s pretty much unsupportable.
Not a great position to be in when your business depends on your website 🙁
It should come as no surprise that my recommendation is to build your site on WordPress. But with around 43% of all websites being built on WordPress, I’m obviously not alone in this view.
There are plenty of really good reasons for using WordPress, including:
- It’s cheap to get started. The WordPress software itself is free. You just need a good host to install it on – you can start for less than $150 for the first year.
- It’s easy to use. The built-in block editor has come a long way in the last few years, making it pretty easy to create your content. And there are some really good theme builders that make creating a whole site as easy as on a platform like Squarespace.
- It’s extensible. There are plugins for absolutely any functionality you could ever want to add to your site. And there are generally more than one for any given function, so there’s a good chance that you’ll find one that works the way you like to work.
- It’s well supported. Not only is the core platform regularly updated with new features and bug fixes, but there is a massive developer community as well. That means if you get stuck, or your original developer moves on, you’ll have no trouble finding someone to help you out with your site.
- It’s highly composable. That’s just a fancy way of saying you can easily integrate best of breed services (like email marketing, payment solutions, etc) to build up the perfect website for your business.
And best of all, you don’t need to pay for a whole bunch of functionality you don’t use. Or have that functionality bloating your site and slowing it down.
You can start simple and add functionality as you go.
If you want to see just how simple it is to get up and running, stick around.
And if you’re in a rush to get started, and need some help, you can book in for a free chat with me to discuss how I can help you get up and running quickly.