The best platforms for building your website: from beginner to expert
If you have a product or service to promote, you need to have a website. It’s the best way to keep all of your information in one place for customers to easily access and make purchases. Especially if you’re a marketing or design brand, your website would be one of the most important tools in attracting interested customers. It’s a one-stop-shop for everything your brand offers. But more than that, it’s a physical representation of who you are.
Marketing and design brands need to have clean and cohesive websites so your audience knows that they can expect the same quality in the work you do for them. If your website has dead links, a confusing layout, or outdated information, they might be turned away from doing business with you because they think their projects will end up with the same flaws. Luckily, you don’t need to be a graphic design expert to have an attractive and successful website. There are lots of website building platforms out there — and we’re here to break down how to choose the best one for you.
What features do I need?
The best website building platforms come with more features than you’ll probably need to use, so it’s up to you to decide which ones work for your brand. An effective website builder should make it easy for you to build a user friendly website for your customers. You don’t want a customer struggling to find how to purchase one of your products — it’ll drive them away and make you lose business. Of course, each platform offers slightly different features, so you should take some time exploring them to decide on what is best for what your brand needs.
To figure out which services offer the best features for you, you should consider your customers’ needs. For example, do they need to learn more about your past work? You might want to include a portfolio page that lets you show off examples of your best work. Perhaps your customers need to know more information about some of your products. If so, including a Frequently Asked Questions page may save both you and them the time of having to exchange emails about the question.
These are some common features on website building programs you may want to consider when thinking about your website functionality:
- eCommerce. If you’re selling a product or service, one of the first tools you’ll probably want to look for is an eCommerce functionality. This allows your customers to make purchases directly on your website. You want to make sure this feature is updated often and you are troubleshooting any issues; people are more likely to turn away if there are bugs and glitches when trying to make a purchase.
- Form builder. Form builders give you the power to create a form for just about anything. A contact form is the most common one you’ll see, and for a good reason — someone interested in doing business with you may want to get in touch first to find out more information. Some platforms will automatically email you when someone submits a form on your website. They can also track responses to your forms so you can see them all in one place. You can also use forms to collect email addresses from customers who are interested in receiving blog or newsletter updates from you. Forms are a great way to connect, so you may want to prioritize finding a website builder that offers this feature.
- Forums. If your brand is about community, offering a forum page could be a great way to encourage connection and conversation while keeping your customers on your website. Some platforms allow different forum groups depending on the topic; other more complex platforms allow users to make an account in order to track all of their conversations; and still others let customers post anonymously. Consider what your own audience is looking for in order to decide which option is right for your website.
- Blogging. If you want to share your knowledge or more of your personality with your customers, having a blog is an effective way to do so. Your blog can provide users with updates about your business, tips and tricks about how to engage with your product or service, or information for those who are interested in breaking into the field. As long as your blog content is engaging to your audience, it’ll encourage them to keep coming back to read more.
- Image galleries. If you offer more tangible products, your customers will most likely want to see them. After all, seeing is believing! Finding a website builder that offers image galleries is important for showcasing your work. Likewise, you could include an image gallery of your employees and your office culture to add a bit of personality to your page.
- Social sharing. For digital marketing, social sharing is everything. Your website should ideally include the ability to share your blog posts, images, or overall page directly to social media. Built-in social sharing buttons encourage someone to share more than if they had to go out of their way to make a post on a social platform of their choice. Plus, when your customers share your business on social media, it will in turn be shown to their followers — presumably people in a similar demographic and therefore part of your target audience. It’s basically organic advertising!
- Analytics. We already know about the importance of monitoring your social media analytics, but you shouldn’t stop there. Looking at the data from your website is important to understand how your audience engages with your site. Some platforms will show you analytics such as how many people view your website each day, where they are viewing it from, which pages are most viewed, and how long they stay on your site.
What are the top platforms for building a website?
There are plenty of website building platforms out there, but some are more well known than others. We’ve taken a look at some of the most popular sites that people use:
- Squarespace. Squarespace is one of the top-rated website builders. It’s sleek and easy to use for the everyday user. It might have one of the cleanest layouts out of all of the common programs. It comes with dozens of website designs, which is great for beginners, but if you’re a more seasoned designer you may not feel like it’s customizable enough for you. Squarespace’s intuitive drag-and-drop capabilities make adding content to your site a breeze. It also offers an eCommerce plan so you can have an online store on your website — however, it only allows for Stripe, Apple Pay, and PayPal payments, so keep that in mind if you need a more versatile shopping feature. Squarespace starts at $12 a month and its eCommerce plans can go up to $40 a month.
- Wix. Wix is a good cloud-based option for businesses. You can use one of their hundreds of templates, and you’re able to customize each one to fit your brand’s colors and font. It even offers an artificial design intelligence if you want your website designed for you. Wix has lots of free and paid features such as displaying your Instagram feed and allowing bookings directly on your site. This website builder also lets you toggle between web view and mobile view, so you can make sure your customers will have a good user experience no matter where they’re accessing your website from. Wix offers free web hosting without much storage or a custom domain name. If you want to upgrade, their plans start at $14.95 per month, or $26.25 a month for the eCommerce plan.
- WordPress. WordPress is a very popular website builder — in fact, 41% of websites are powered by WordPress. Its wide range of features is something that is very attractive to businesses that need a more complex website. It offers an eCommerce store, social networking capabilities, forums, and more. For someone who isn’t too keen on design, there are thousands of themes that are already built into the platform for you to choose from. But if you’re quite familiar with design, you have the ability to fully customize your layout yourself. Plus, you can use WordPress’ more than 50,000 apps for extra features, like Google analytics, live chat, SEO tools, and more. WordPress is clearly a great option for those who are looking to get the most features out of their website, but for someone who is just looking for the basics, it might feel a bit overwhelming. WordPress is free to build, but you have to purchase a domain name and web hosting separately, which totals about $110 a year.
What should I look for when trying out these programs?
You should of course take note of if your website building platform of choice offers the features you need to run your business smoothly, but there are other things you should pay attention to as well. It’s important to make sure the website is easy to use, both for you and your customers. As beautiful as your website may be, if it takes you half an hour to figure out how to change some copy, it might not be worth the investment. Plus, it should be intuitive for your customers to use so they feel persuaded to stay on your site and seek out your products or services.
Once you think your website is done, you can go through it as if you were a customer and look for anything you missed that your customers might be looking for. You can also do some research by asking your actual customers to give it a test run to make sure it’s hitting all of your customers’ needs. The great thing about all of these platforms is that you’re able to try them out and build a website without paying first; you only need to do that when you want to publish your site. So feel free to experiment with the different platforms out there and see what feels right for your brand.
If some of these website builders feel pricey, keep in mind it can save you a lot of money in the long run by letting you conduct your business more efficiently online, especially if you’re already paying for a different online store platform. And if you find that you don’t know where to get started or that your website needs a professional refresh, reach out to us here at Creative Juice for all of your website design needs. 🍑