So is it time to consider a ‘ready madeʼ website?
There are ‘ready madeʼ services such as Squarespace, Shopify or Wix among others that allow people to set-up a quick website online.
Then there is wordpress which is different to these services?
To explain the difference simply… do you want to rent or own your own site?
I have clients who own their own websites using wordpress/woo-commerce and clients who rent or subscribe to a website service from a provider like shopify, squarespace etc.
Personally as a web designer and I think I speak for most designers, I tend to encourage the more sophisticated WordPress approach which offer more versatility and options for growing businesses, while it might cost more to set up initially it can be much cheaper also in the long term.
The ‘ready madeʼ sites such as Shopify are a service you rent by the month. This is the main difference as WordPress are not paid services. The wordpress software is free to use, you develop your site using the software and you host it on a server for an annual fee. Outside of the web designers fees there are no other costs.
Hence with WordPress you can move your business to another host, back it up, store it or modify it anyway you want. With WordPress you control the software, you can add any software to add additional features to your website, mostly free of charge. Web developers and designers are more comfortable with WordPress because they find it easier to customise and meet their customers needs. Websites are marketing platforms so a lot is asked of web designers, every business is different so the platform needs to be very customisable.
WordPress far outshines any platform in terms of client options.
On paper these ‘ready madeʼ platforms tick quite a few boxes, look amazing and have great photos but before deciding on a platform it is important to consider your long term marketing plans to future proof your business.
Donʼt be fooled by a pretty face
If you take a look at Squarespace, Wix, Shopify or Weebly they are really well designed, have beautiful visuals, products and themes. What is important to realise though, these templates have been designed by professional web designers and visuals produced by the top photographers, illustrators and videographers. These creatives wont be working on your site when yo subscribe and you will need to replace much of the elements, it is important to realise the new website you create will be only as good as your design and visuals.
Web design is not ‘painting by numbersʼ, it is a strategic marketing exercise, your business turnover is dependent on the end result. Anyone who has used a template to build a website in the past will tell you this approach is often harder and slower than designing a website in the conventional way.
So does a ‘greatʼ template have any bearing on the purchasing decision?
From a marketing perspective, think in reverse, put yourself in your customers shoes.
The web is great place to research products and services. But how do people do this?
Well simply put, they scan a website as you would newspaper or magazine. And we all know when scanning a Sunday newspaper we tend to look at the photos, if one catches our attention, we might glance at the caption underneath. If still interested, we might delve further and read the article attached with the photo. Your website statistically is hostage to an even more frenzied reader, statistically you only have a split second to engage a customer on your homepage or they are gone, moving quickly to greener more interesting pastures.
So think … First, what should the site look like, develop out a mood board. Second develop a clear marketing message, what problem you solve in the market place and why should they buy from you?Third, use visuals to deliver that message fast. You have less than two seconds on average.And Fourth a CTA , known as a Call to action or what I like to call a ‘No Brainerʼ a button or offer so they can take advantage of the marketing message you developed on the page.
Now if you use this formula throughout the website you will have a content plan formulated before you need to pick your website platform.
How versatile are these platforms?
The reason WordPress websites are more commonly used is as I have mentioned ‘versatilityʼ. Services like Squarespace, shopify and Weebly are developed by an inhouse team at their various headquarters. When you consider the World Wide Web is developing at an exponential pace, it is hard for individual companies to keep up.The WordPress code is open to all, which is why the platform sees massive innovation each year. Open to all, the imagination of the massive wordpress developer community is infinite which has helped WordPress to be a leader as a marketing platform. Plus when you consider the ecosystem there are thousands of free extensions that attach to WordPress, so you can literally get the platform to do anything. I continually find myself answering client questions with …“if itʼs on WordPress I might know how to do it right now but I guarantee you there is a way.”
What computer code do they use?
Many of my clients move from Etsy, Shopify, Squarespace to a conventional website when sales increase. Some of the pre-built services claim you can move to another platform if you need. Is this true? Technically yes, however you will need to have a very good grasp of web development, as it isnʼt straightforward. in fact we have never attempted it. It has been my experience that it tends to absorb a lot of time and money from our clients. So start as you propose to proceed.
How does Google look at these pre-built platforms?
Google does a very good job of scanning WordPress websites as they are designed with logical SEO in mind. WordPress has many innovative and clever SEO plugins available for Google optimisation free of charge. Some alternative platforms such as Squarespace set up the design to be SEO friendly, but actually working on SEO within the platform can be tricky and unconventional. For example if we are asked to help with the SEO on a Squarespace website we add a premium as it takes us a little longer to tick all the boxes. Time is money. My vote for SEO would tend to lean towards WordPress.
Where is your business located?
For premium SEO your website should be placed on a server in your own country or as close as possible. There are many reasons, one is Google defaults your business listing to be in the same region as your server. Most Squarespace servers are in the USA, also the closer your server is to your customers the faster the website response time. Google now uses speed as a ranking factor so if you want to rank well page speed is key. So it is important to place your files on a server close to your geographic area, this is not always possible with Squarespace or the other subscription services.
There is a misconception that I see every month when discussing costs with clients for a ‘ready madeʼ option such a Squarespace or Shopify, they believe the subscription model is free to set up? I gently do the math, how much per year, how much over three years….over 10? And what will you have in ten years?These platforms tend to more expensive than a WordPress website with a bill arriving in your inbox every four weeks. WordPress websites tend to be relatively free if you build it yourself. Plus, if you have several websites hosted on your hosting account the cost benefits really accumulate.
“I believe full control of your website options is the most cost effective approach.”
So when is a subscription service suitable?
Donʼt get me wrong we work every week with the subscription services they are for the most part solid and very useful to many businesses. There are plenty of reasons to subscribe, for example if you are a ‘one person showʼ and you sell some very basic products. Shopify for example has a very solid e-commerce platform. It is well designed and can be implemented with your cash register POS system easier then WordPress. If you are going to do everything yourself quite often the subscription services are kinder to the non-technical person, also the security and maintenance of the website is part of our subscription cost so if there is a problem you can call technical support. Where we see the subscription services in our own business is quite often we take over the website subscription where the client is having problems modifying the platform or where they want us to investigate do they need to upgrade to WordPress, quite often we will make some tweaks and this subscription service will still be good for them for another year or two or until they outgrow it.
There are no shortcuts when marketing your business online. Outline what ‘outcomesʼ or aspirations you are envisaging for the next five to ten years and then list all the steps you will need to achieve these ‘outcomesʼ. You will realise you need a versatile approach to handle all eventualities. A WordPress website is the way forward for 80-90% of all businesses in the long run or until something better comes along. I believe full control of your website options is the most cost effective approach.