When Do You Need a Custom Website?

Custom Websites from Small Business Online BrandingThe array of options available to anyone who wants to create a website is enormous. It is no wonder that small business people often drag their feet when it comes to setting up a solid web presence. Even a cursory glance at the possibilities is overwhelming. It seems obvious that a serious learning curve and a load of decision-making are involved. Who has time for all that, in addition to the already breakneck pace of living?

So allow me to over-simplify, in the interest of making things easier for the people who really count when it comes to building websites: the people who own the businesses behind them.

Web designers and developers thrive on having lots of options, but those who actually need websites are likely to fare better with just a few clear choices.

VERY generally speaking, you can build a site in one of four ways.*

1.  The simplest foundation is located in a WordPress.com or Google-account-related Blogger site. The hosting and templates come free, and some people have built impressively customized sites with these tools.

2.  Next step up would be a site created via an online app such as Weebly, Artisteer, or Homestead. The quality of these sites is absolutely professional, and there are hundreds of design options available. 

3.  Far more customizable is a WordPress.org site, an app that most hosting companies will offer as a free add-on.

4.  And at the top of the complexity and cost scales is a proprietary site built with a combination of codes and extras as required by big industry. Communications, sales, customer service, multiple managers and everything else about big business will generally require completely custom structures that can cost five or six figures to build.

* Please note: Each of these options has many additional examples. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list.

Again in general, there are three different features that distinguish these four types of website builders.

1. Hosting – i.e., the business of placing and maintaining your site on the web – is taken care of in #1 above, but must be arranged separately by you for the other three options. It’s drop-dead simple to register with a new host (this site is hosted by Bluehost.com, and I’m not ashamed to give them huge, unaffiliated kudos for their excellent service) so don’t let this detail scare you away.

2. Design – how your website looks, feels, and how it’s structured to hang together – is another key element. Options #1 and #2 above offer limited design options; #3 is far more flexible, and #4 is 110% customized.

3.  Support – the arrangement for ongoing guidance in using your website ranges from public forums for WordPress.com and Blogger users to in-house staff for the big corporations, and everything inbetween. As a small business, you may want a professional service provider to cover this base for you when needed. In options #2 and #3 above, even though you may manage to create the site on your own, having someone to keep it spiffy and attractive may be worth the investment.

There’s cookie-cutter, DIY, and custom high quality. Each appropriately applies to a certain stage of business. Does this help you see where you should start? Please let me know in the comments.

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If you’ve already concluded that custom WordPress is your thing, check out our services in that area!

About Mary Ruth

Mary H. Ruth is a virtual assistant, online marketing manager, copywriter and editor, and certified inbound marketing specialist. She has over 30 years' experience in administration and marketing in both non-profit and business sectors, having earned a degree in English Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1975. Now living in Gainesville, Florida, she's been working online since late 2007.

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