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Websites for Small Businesses: What are Your Options?
Micah Marcano
June 7, 2023
Websites for Small Businesses: What are Your Options?

Especially in the early days of a small business, getting your name out there and raising brand awareness are priorities of the utmost importance. Naturally, many turn to digital channels like paid marketing and social media advertising to do it. While those are key techniques to be sure, you also need to see them for what they really are: one small part of a much larger story.

According to one recent study, over 90% of all online experiences between a business and its potential customers or clients still begin the same way: via a search engine. While people will undoubtedly come across the content you're sharing on a site like Facebook, or they might see one of the ads you paid to run alongside one of their favorite websites, they are statistically far more likely to experience your business for the first time via your website.

Unfortunately, many companies make the mistake of putting most (or even all) of their precious budget into other marketing channels, neglecting their website entirely. But in a time when over half of all consumers in the United States say they use a search engine like Google to research products and services before making a purchase, it needs to become the epicenter of your digital efforts to raise awareness.

When constructed properly, your website should be built to represent the best version of your business. It should communicate who you are, what you stand for, what you do, and why people should be paying attention. Likewise, don't forget statistics like those outlined above illustrate how people will find your website and whether it gives off this positive impression or not — so it's absolutely in your best interest to ensure that it does.

When it comes to actually building websites for small businesses, you have three main options available to you. First, you can choose to do everything yourself and design the site from the ground up totally in-house. You could also choose to use a template or a theme - essentially giving you a head start in terms of populating the site with a pre-built design. Finally, you can engage a partner specializing in custom websites for small businesses to craft something uniquely "you."

All three options have distinct advantages and disadvantages; understanding more about each is the key to making the best possible choice for your company.

DIY Website Builders: What You Need To Know

DIY Websites For Small Businesses

As the term implies, DIY or "do it yourself" websites are handled entirely in-house by the small business owner and their team. Some people choose to bring on a web developer as an employee, or at least outsource the job to someone they're comfortable with. Others may have the entry-level programming skills required to quickly get something off the ground themselves. Regardless, DIY website builders are under your total control... which can be either a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. 

The Pros of DIY Websites

  • Putting together a DIY website for your small business will typically be the least expensive of all available options. There are many providers you can work with, like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, GoDaddy, and Shopify, to name a few.
  • Except for any limitations inherent in your chosen platform, you are in total control over the design you choose and the website you create. All decisions are made by you, and nobody else has input. In essence, given the tools you have to work with (and your natural abilities in terms of web design), your vision is yours and yours alone to execute.
  • You are also subject to following your own timeline, which again can be positive or negative depending on the context. If you want to launch a site quickly, provided that you have the ability to do so yourself, you will not have to wait to receive deliverables from any other parties. Having said that, if you're trying to put together a website while also running your small business, this could extend the timeline longer than you're comfortable with. 

The Cons of DIY Websites

  • In many situations, your website is owned by the provider you work with, and it is essentially being "leased" to you in exchange for the fee that you pay. This means that if you ever want to move your site to another provider, you likely cannot easily do so and will instead have to start from scratch.
  • While many DIY website providers have templates available, you are still inherently limited as to your options. They may support a limited amount of customization, and they don't give you much of an opportunity to work outside the framework you are provided with.
  • Every additional service beyond basic website design that you would get from working with a dedicated partner will also fall to you. That means you'll have to do your own testing to make sure the site functions as it needs, you'll need to spend time researching competitors and keywords that you should be targeting for SEO, etc.
  • Your chosen website design from the platform might not fit your business properly, or important elements might be missing. With this option, you lack the guidance of a professional to best chance at converting traffic into customers. 

Using a Website Template or Theme: An Overview

Template Websites For Small Businesses

For many small businesses, using a template or theme in a content management system like WordPress is an ideal way to quickly get started with a website that functions and (largely) makes the positive impression they need without requiring extensive programming skills to get started. There are many platforms out there that you can purchase a template to work with that includes various designs for services and other information about your business, contact information, links to your social media channels, and more. You essentially swap out the content with your media and relevant details about your specific small business. This sounds simple, but there is actually a lot more to it, and attempting this on your own would prove to be quite difficult.

The Pros of Using a Website Template

  • What you're essentially buying is a more built-out pre-designed template with a larger variety of options, and often included is a back-end page builder to make changes simpler.
  • You can take the template and set everything up yourself if you know how, or you can hire someone to do it on your behalf.
  • Lots of options to host and build a website on when using a theme or website template with a CMS like WordPress. Unlike DIY website builders, you own the build and the content. 
  • Faster and cheaper than custom web design and development

The Cons of Using a Website Template

  • It can be less expensive than a DIY platform, but only if you did everything yourself, and this can be tough to do when you have little to no experience and you're trying to start or grow your business. Using a template can still cost thousands of dollars, depending on how much customization you require of the template you purchased and other things you need, like server setup, content creation, graphic design, etc. 
  • You're using a template that potentially thousands of companies have used. While options for customization do exist, you're still working within the confines of what you know if you are doing it yourself. 
  • While the design might look nice, it might not necessarily be a right fit or might be missing certain elements that would be beneficial for your business. 
  • Templates have a ton of bloated code in them because of everything that is included in it. This causes poorer performance and adds future compatibility and security issues to the site that will need to be managed. 
  • No guarantee that the website theme or template will continue to be supported by the authors. This can cause compatibility issues with future PHP, WordPress, or plugin updates.  
  • Templates still need to go through responsive testing, cross-browser testing, and QA. They do not come out of the box working perfectly. 

Solution: Try our pre-packaged WordPress theme options for small business websites! Everything you need to get a professional website developed cheaper and faster. 

Custom Websites: Breaking Things Down

Custom Websites For Small Businesses

Finally, you can always hire a freelance web designer, a web development agency, or some other digital agency partner to design, build, launch, and optimize your small business' website from top to bottom. While this is the most expensive of the three options, it is also desirable for many reasons.

The Pros of Custom Websites

  • A digital agency will perform all work necessary to launch a high-quality custom website on your behalf that no one else has. They'll take the time to learn not only your business but also your target audience so that you're always able to get the right message in front of the right people at exactly the right time. 
  • They have a plan and approach to designing and building a website, making the process as simple as possible for the company. Including sourcing and creating all the content, a website needs for you. 
  • The provider will help you determine all the necessary designs, pages, and functionality to include in the project based on what you offer and your industry and business goals. 
  • Clean code and optimal performance. With truly custom designs, there is less bloat and potential security and compatibility issues. (Some providers say you are getting a custom website, but in reality, you are getting a customized template. We don't do that, and make sure you ask about this prior to agreeing to anything.)
  • Professionals will test your site to make sure it looks and performs exceptionally on all devices in all popular browsers.
  • Custom websites give you the best chance at higher conversions giving you a greater ROI on money spent on other marketing channels. 
  • A partner will also not leave you to fend for yourself the moment your site is online. They will continue to work with you by way of ongoing support moving forward. 
  • If you work with a company like Tampa Bay Web Design Firm, you will own the entire build and all the content. It will also be hosted on an account you control. We do not host websites for our clients; we set everything up and manage it for them. 

The Cons of Custom Websites

  • Naturally, this is the most expensive of the three options. It takes a variety of people to deliver a high-quality custom website on time and within budget—a project manager, designer, developer, copywriter, QA developer, at a minimum. 
  • This is the most time-consuming of the three options by far, but luckily, most of the work is done by the agency. Doing competitor research, making an effort to understand your target audience, designing the site, development, and all other elements can take a significant amount of time - meaning that if you want to get a website off the ground in a week or two, this is not how you do it.

Making the Right Web Design Choice

Having said that, as the old saying goes, "You can only make one first impression, so you need to make it a good one." It's better to launch a high-quality site a little later than you'd like than to launch a low-quality site immediately.

In the end, understand that not all small businesses are created equally — which is why there is no "one size fits all" answer to how your website should take shape. For some, working with a partner may literally not be an option due to a lack of vision, budget, or both. In many situations, entrepreneurs and small business owners understand how critical a website is but aren't sure how to bring it to life, so partnering with a trusted provider to craft a custom website is absolutely the way to go.

The point is that only after understanding the pros and cons of each technique, as outlined above will you be able to choose the best fit for you and everything you've worked so hard to build. Don't start with something like a DIY website and assume it will meet your needs. Begin by coming to a better understanding of your small business's position in the market and what your needs actually are. At that point, you'll be able to work your way backward to the point where the best possible solution can't help but reveal itself.

Your Partner in Websites for Small Businesses

At Tampa Bay Web Design Firm, we believe your small business website should be more than just a virtual business card. It should be a strategic part of your outreach efforts, allowing you to convert traffic into customers or clients in the most efficient and cost-effective ways possible. This is why virtually all larger companies invest just as much in their website as they do in other online marketing channels, if not more. Your website is a powerful opportunity that is far too important to ignore.

Contact our team today to learn more about your options in terms of websites for small businesses and what we're prepared to do to help ensure yours gives the impression you need.