Multimillion-dollar businesses have been built on the premise that only graphic designers and web architects have the know-how to design, build, and manage professional websites.
Yet given enough time, technology simplifies even the most complicated jobs. And when it comes to creating websites, the tools now exist to design and build them yourself—or at least in-house—even if your tech savvy doesn’t extend beyond regular Facebook posts.
And when you build your own site, it’s likely that you won’t ever have to pay someone to update or make changes to it—in building the portal, you will have mastered its capabilities.
Ready to erect a beautiful and high-functioning new site for your store? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Choose an All-in-One Builder
There are dozens of quality platforms that allow users to create and maintain a website. But unless you’re already decently tech-savvy, opt for one that has these three things: responsive design (which basically means you build one site that adapts to all screens, from desktops to mobile phones), built-in security and maintenance features, and stunning premade design templates.
“When you’re working with WordPress or other [less turnkey] web builders, you have to do all that stuff on your own—the design, the security, the responsiveness,” says Christie Thompson, cofounder of Richmond, Va., brand consulting firm Campfire & Co., which builds sites for small businesses, among other services. “It can be cumbersome and very time-consuming.” Thompson likes Squarespace because “it includes everything in your monthly payment. It’s actually a really great deal.”
For retailers, Shopify is another excellent all-in-one option. The web builder “has a really robust e-commerce component,” Thompson says. “It’s built specifically for stores. You can match up your point-of-sale system to the one that’s in your store.”
Make Sure Your Platform Has Legs
Thompson adds that in the fast-moving world of web technology, it’s safer to choose a web platform that’s been around awhile—and has a proven track record of investment in its web tools. Shopify, for one, “has stayed in the game and invested in their platform,” Thompson says, adding that Squarespace, too, “has really arrived in the space. You get the feeling they’re going to be around for a long time.”
Also, make sure you pick a builder with plenty of stylish, modern-feeling templates to choose from, and that its components (blog templates, product shopping pages, etc.) are as appealing and fully functioning as its landing pages. Wix, for example, makes it very easy to build a basic website, but once you get beyond the pretty front pages, the designs are less compelling.
“Some of the smaller platforms will be around for a few years, then they get bought out and that company will decide they don’t want to invest in it anymore,” Thompson explains. “So your site may still work, but you’re not going to get any additional features.”
Call for Help if You Need It
Once you get the skeleton of your website up (and a lot of its organization pinned down), you can always hire a branding firm or a web designer for a finite amount of time to add the final design flourishes, such as a new logo—a job web platforms have yet to simplify with any real success. Then again, it’s only a matter of time.