By platform I mean the service provider that hosts your website - such as Wix, Weebly, Vistaprint, WordPress to name a few.
Starting out the right way with a website means it's less stress, easier to manage so it takes up less of your time, and easier to change as your business grows or changes.
Now I know that you're thinking, Karen, you're a WordPress Business Consultant so obviously you're going to say go with WordPress.
Well yes and no.....
I think, you can correct me if I'm wrong, I think that most of the decisions to go with those kind of website platforms are budget and ease of use. However I don't think that they're as cheap as you think, either in terms of money or time.
Here are some questions to consider when choosing your website platform for your business needs:
Will it make me look professional?
This is so important. Your website is where people will get an idea of who you are, what you do, why you do it and whether they want to work or buy from you.
If you're website is more relaxed for your clients, that's great but it still needs to be done in a professional way.
For example I know a business that sells a high end product yet their website says designed by Vistaprint at the bottom. I've seen the recent TV adverts for Vistaprint and maybe they are trying to change their image but my impression of them is cheap business cards (and yes I have used them in the past). In my mind having an association with cheap on a high end product website simply doesn't work.
For me (as a micro business owner) if someone approaches me offering a service or product and they are using a website that is free or send an email using from a gmail email address I think a few things:
- someone is not serious about their business because they are not setting it up the correct way
- someone is testing a new website / service to see if it works and they could be gone soon
- whoever is guiding them with their marketing strategy either isn't doing a good job or they are not listening to them
Will this platform allow my business to grow?
I know that when a lot of micro / home businesses start up that they are on a budget, I've been there and done that too. If you have a business plan (even if it's just in your head) make sure that you have marketing in there and a rough idea of how and when to create or upgrade your website.
If you are simply testing an idea or you know that all you'll ever want is a website with a few pages then one of the simpler platforms may be ideal for you. Yes right now all you may need is a 5 page website, but will that be enough in the future?
Do I own the domain for my website?
You want to make sure that you own your website domain. It's an important part of your business and branding. No-one other than you should own it - not a website platform and not someone who set it up for you - only you.
Why? Because as you build your business people will get to know your domain name, and if you don't own it then you've lost control.
You'd be shocked (or maybe you wouldn't be) at the number of clients that have come to me either about to lose their domain or their hosting.
Some platforms allow to buy a domain through them, or give it to you for free, but if you want to leave you have to pay a fee.
If possible, buy your domain name first in your name (or your company name) and then add it to the platform.
Do I own the content?
Make sure that your content (text and images) are still owned by you when you use a website platform. In other words always read the small print - no matter how small it is and how long it goes on for.
Can I move my content easily to another platform?
Unfortunately some platforms seem to think that if they don't provide a way of easily letting you export your content (yes it's your content after all) then you'll stay with them.
If you only have a small website, only a few pages, then copy and paste is an option when moving your website.
Can you imagine doing that on a big website that as grown over time to tens or hundreds of pages? I know business owners that either are or will have to do that at some stage.
Make sure that you have all your images and other content kept somewhere else so if you do need to re-create your website you have all the details.
Can I have a copy of my website for safe keeping?
Oh I have too many backups - said no-one EVER!
What's a fundamental of buying property? Location, location, location.
What is a little known fundamental of having a website? Backup, backup, backup.
When you don't have a backup of your own website here's what some clients have some across:
- If their website has a problem and it needs to be restored they have to pay to have the website restored (this can vary in price)
- If they have an issue with their hosting company (payment has not been received although it's been paid) they could lose their entire website if the hosting is taken down
- If whoever hosts your website has serious issues such as server problem, you've lost your website and you may not get it back for days, weeks or maybe you've lost it forever
Yes I know I'm coming across as a backup lunatic person and you're right. If you've worked damn hard on your website (or even if you haven't), you want to make sure that you have a copy somewhere.
All my clients, yes even on WordPress and even with excellent website hosting companies, have a regular backup of their website which is sent to cloud storage. This means that if anything happens to their website, hosting, or even to me, they have a full copy of their website that can be restored quickly to get them back up and running.
So which platform is right for you?
If you want to know which budget platform I would choose - I would probably go with WordPress.com. They do the hosting for you, you can take your own domain, you can add options to expand or change your business, you can take a backup of your website yourself and you can export your content too.
With any platform there is a learning curve, whether it's WordPress or something else.
Test out a few free platforms
If you want to find one that feels right to you then set up a few free accounts and see which one is easier to use. Just be aware that the easiest one may not be the one that answers all these questions in a way that you like, but at least you would know what choice you are making.
In closing, ask yourself these questions to see if you're on the right platform for your business:
- Will it make me look professional?
- Will this platform allow my business to grow?
- Do I own the domain for my website?
- Who owns the content?
- Can I move my content easily to another platform?
- Can you have a copy of your website backup?
If you're on the right platform, congratulations, you can sleep easy at night.
If you're not sure, read the small print or ask questions of your website platform.
If you're not on the right platform or think you may need to move, you can check out my website business process and contact me if you want some help moving to WordPress. If you'd prefer to chat please book a 15 minute complimentary call so we can discuss WordPress to see if it's right for you and your business.