Wednesday, September 6, 2017 Top 4 Ways to get a New Website (the Pleasure and the Pain) So, you need a brand new website. Once upon a time, about the only option was to find someone “who knows about that stuff” and pay them to do it for you. These days, with online web builders designed for people with no training, open-source software, and an increasing number of people with advanced web skills, your options have become so many that it’s hard to know which way is best. Go online and you’ll soon find plenty of ‘business gurus’ to tell you that you’re wasting your money paying a web designer when it’s so easy to create a professional looking website yourself really quickly. Naturally, the web designers then counter with the argument that that’s fine until something goes wrong, or if you decide you want a truly customised website unique to your business. Like many arguments, there will never be a winner because there’s no right answer and there’s no wrong answer. Just confusion and doubt for you the business owner who just wants to get online. To help you get a clearer idea of which option might be most suitable for you, we’ve tried our best to boil it down to four basic choices. This article is not intended to be an instruction manual for how to go about each one (but that might be a blog topic in the future) but rather a simple analysis of the pros and cons of each. The best option for you will really depend upon a combination of six factors, and how important they are in your current situation: Your budget Your own skills and knowledge (not only technical knowledge but marketing, graphic design, and writing as well) Time Long term objectives Short term objectives Your website’s role within your entire marketing plan Background Information Before we get into the options, if you are a complete novice there are probably a few terms we should cover first. Domain Name/Web Address: Looks like this www.example.com.au and is how people find your website on the web. Think of it as being like your house address. Web Hosting: The physical space on a server (big computer drive) where your website resides. If your domain is like your house address, the hosting is like the block of land, and the website is like the actual house. In order to create a ‘home’ on the web you need all three. …and a note about Wordpress Wordpress is one of the most popular programs for building websites but where people get confused is that there are two options. At wordpress.com you can create a free website and have it hosted there as well. Then there is wordpress.org which is free software made to be installed on your own hosting account to then be used to build a website. Okay, armed with that knowledge, let’s have a look at your options…. Option 1: Give It a Go Yourself This is often the first choice for new businesses operating on a tight budget. If you can save money by doing something yourself, why wouldn’t you? Plus, there are lots of tutorials on the web for most popular website platforms. If you’re in business, an advert for the DIY platform, Wix, has probably popped up more than once in your social media feed. Another DIY platform gaining popularity is SquareSpace. One of the most attractive things about these ‘all-in-one’ services is that for a small monthly or annual fee, you get access to the website builder, you can use your own domain name, plus they will host your website. However, if you decide to leave you can’t take your website with you. If you don’t want to use your own domain name and are happy for it to be a subdomain of the host (eg. yourbusinessname.wixsite.com), these options are sometimes free. You will also most likely have to agree to them running adverts on your site as well. The free plans are a long way from ideal in terms of professionalism, but if you genuinely have no budget whatsoever, you at least have options. If you are feeling a little more savvy and you want some more flexibility, you can organise your own web-hosting which will come with the facility to install software such as Wordpress.org, Drupal, and Joomla. You will need to know how to direct your domain name (www.example.com.au) to your hosting account and you may need separate logins to access your hosting account and the ‘back-end’ of your actual website. If you are comfortable with Wordpress, there is also the 100% free option called Wordpress.com but again, you can’t use your own domain name, it will be a sub-domain eg. mybusinessname.wordpress.com and you will have to show their adverts unless you sign-up for a paid plan. Pleasure Points: The potential to save money by doing it yourself There are lots of tutorials on the web to help you Possible Pain: With only a basic knowledge, you will be limited to what the standard templates allow you to do. The templates generally use beautiful stock photos, and often don’t look anywhere near as attractive when you replace the images with your own. It can be frustrating to get halfway through a job only to find you actually need a solution with more options. With some options, you can’t take your website with you when you cancel your subscription to their service. Despite the promises which are often made before you sign up, most people can’t build even a basic website in 30 minutes. It is nearly always a time-consuming task which can see you burning the candle at both ends. Key Considerations Budget, and the time you have available. Key Factor For Success: Your own level of skill and knowledge. Option 2: Your Nephew’s Mate From Uni A lot of us know someone who isn’t working as web designer, but has some skills. After all, the kids are learning this stuff at school these days right alongside English and Maths. If they happen to be a student who could use some extra money, they will probably put something together for you for a couple of hundred dollars cash and you could get a decent website nice and cheap, with no effort on your part. Pleasure Points: Next cheapest option after DIY If they have good skills, you could well get a great looking site at a very low price Very little or no time required on your part Possible Pain: The site may look great, but it's appeal may only be skin deep. Your website visitors have arrived at your site because they are looking for something. Does your designer have enough experience or know enough about marketing to create an effective tool that will be the online home of your business? When they move on and are working 60 hours a week for a company in another city, helping you with ongoing support (with things such as security updates, content updates, website crashes, email problems, finding your domain registration details etc.) is probably going to be the last thing on their mind. Key Considerations: Budget, time, short and long term business objectives. Key Factors For Success: The designer’s knowledge and experience with creating a website that meets your objectives. Putting measures in place so you are not left isolated after they move on. Option 3: Someone From The Internet Does It Outsourcing tasks to freelancers has become a huge growth area with the high profile of books such as Tim Ferris’ The Four Hour Work Week, and the increasing popularity of outsourcing sites such as Fiverr, Upwork, and DesignCrowd. You can literally choose freelancers from anywhere in the world to work with remotely to create a website. As many of them are based in countries where the rates of pay are significantly lower than Australia, they can also be relatively inexpensive to hire. As with Option 2, you could end up with a great looking site for a small outlay…or you might not. Pleasure Points: This can be a relatively inexpensive and efficient way of managing many tasks (not just building websites). There’s a good chance you will get an experienced web designer who creates a great looking final product. Possible Pain: ‘Communication issues’ can soak up a lot of time and cancel out your reasons for outsourcing the job in the first place. It can be a lottery when it comes to finding someone reliable, trustworthy, and who you can work well with. If you are not happy with the final result, there is very little recourse except maybe to give them a low rating on the site where you found them. Local consumer and business watchdogs can’t help you with a bad deal you got from someone in Bulgaria. Like option 2, the support usually finishes when the initial project is finished. From there, you are on your own. Key Considerations: Budget, time, short and long term business objectives. Key Factors For Success: As with option 2, the designer’s knowledge and experience with creating a website that meets your objectives and putting measures in place so you are not left isolated after they move on. Also, finding someone you can work and communicate easily with. Option 4: A Full-Service Local Web Design Firm Does It Obviously, this is where we come in and we’d love it if everyone chose this option. However, we understand that not everyone’s circumstances allow them to do this. A full-service firm will look at everything that happens from your website design to what is happening at the back-end to make sure your website is performing at its absolute best. A good web design and development business will get to know your overall business objectives and help you create a website AND other associated marketing tools to help you achieve them. Once the initial job is done, the relationship doesn’t end there. Working with a well-established firm ensures that you will always have support when you need it and you have a partner who can help you respond to new opportunities and changes in circumstances. Pleasure Points: Personal service and a product specifically created to meet your objectives Experienced advice regarding related services such as web hosting and SEO Over the long term, the initial outlay proves to be a sound investment Ongoing support that will always be there Possible Pain: Initial outlay may be beyond the means of some businesses. Key Considerations: Budget, and long term business objectives. Key Factors For Success: Developing a business partnership where it is in the best interests of both parties to work together to achieve positive outcomes. Your designer’s ability to look at your website as one part of your overall marketing strategy, not as a stand-alone project. Conclusion There is no right or wrong way to go about getting a website and getting your business online. The best approach will depend largely on your individual circumstances. What we do know is that no one will find you if you do nothing. The biggest challenge for most people is knowing WHAT you should be thinking about when it comes to deciding how to tackle the project. Hopefully we’ve helped you look at your situation with a bit more insight and feel bit more confident knowing where to start.