Many of my clients ask me to build a website for them to sell a product, advertise their services, or take payments online. They often have an existing website that is old or no longer works and want to upgrade if possible as part of this.
However, when it comes to choosing what software to use, there are so many options these days - Wordpress, Squarespace, Shopify, Bluehost, build your own site - it's very hard to know what's right for any business. As I answer these questions a lot, I thought it would be a good idea to write down how to choose the right software to build your website.
Some initial questions to consider are:
- Do you have a programmer/developer in your company who will build the site and can maintain it into the future? Or are you hiring someone just to build the website? This is important because if you are paying someone to build the site, like an agency or contractor, once they've finished building the site, they won't do any more work in the future (unless you pay them again). Most software requires updates on a regular basis and if you don't have someone who can do those updates, then it can get expensive to pay someone else to do it. Additionally, if you break something on the site in 3 months, who will fix it? How much will that cost? It's worth considering these questions ahead of time. Note: If this is your situation, there are options for you.
- Do you intend to sell products or is a website for people to contact you on? Different websites charge different amounts for selling things online, for example through credit card fees. Some stores offer shipping, some don't. Do you sell physical products that you need to ship or digital ones (like an e-book) that you can email, or subscriptions to a product?
- Do you want a very unique website design or are you happy to have a good-looking website that works? It's possible to design a very custom site if that's what you need, but in my opinion that's usually quite rare. If you are not sure that you need a really unique site, you probably don't.
Based on my own work to date with different clients, here are some of my recommendations.
- If you are hiring a contractor just to build the site, and don't have the budget/don't want to pay someone to maintain it, and don't need a particularly custom site, I'd recommend Squarespace. It's all hosted in the cloud, so you don't have to worry about upgrading the future, or fixing security holes and things like that. The design is not as customisable as other options like Wordpress, but that may not be an issue for you - and you can always add extras like a shop or a booking system if you need them. It's also very easy for non-technical people to add new pages/products/links on the site. I use it with a lot of my clients and they're very happy. If you're interested, I can talk with you about it as well.
- If you are hiring a contractor just to build the site, and don't have the budget/don't want to pay someone to maintain it, and do need a more custom site, I'd recommend Wordpress, hosted on Bluehost. It's all hosted in the cloud, so you don't have to worry about upgrading the future, or fixing security holes and things like that. However, you'll need to make sure your design still works when upgrades occur (which isn't the case with Squarepace - I've had people ask for my help who couldn't use their site any more after an update on Wordpress). However, Wordpress has thousands of website designs to choose from - more than Squarespace for sure - and it's easy for non-technical people to add new pages/products/links on a Wordpress site. Having said all that, I think Squarespace is easier to use personally, but I use Wordpress it with some of my clients as well, and they're very happy.
- If you just need a shop/storefront, I'd recommend Shopify - it's really easy to get set up quickly, and they offer features like shipping and POS support (so if you had a stall at a market, you could use Shopify to take payments there).
- If you want a website and a shop, I'd recommend Squarespace (plus Stripe, which is software that handles card payments for you, and integrated into Squarespace). I have a number of clients who sell subscription services using Squarespace and Stripe and it works really well for them. They need more than just a shop, as they publish content related to their industry on their site - so Squarespace is the right solution.
I'm going to keep this as a living document and add to it as time goes on, but I think these are solid recommendations as of September 2020 - did I miss anything or forget to answer any quetions ? Let me know!