Whether you are building your new website yourself or working with a website design company like Natural History to build it for you, you should start off by knowing broadly what the main platforms are and how different platforms can be more or less useful for your business.
Many websites for small and medium businesses are built using WordPress, a powerful web platform that allows for endless modifications and customising, to create unique, stable and powerful sites.
WordPress has beginner’s appeal because it can appear at first that you can build a fantastic site using a theme, but the reality is often a little more complicated, and if you are a complete beginner building your very first website, it’s difficult to get a polished look first time with WordPress – it takes time and practice, and there are probably better platforms for you to start off with.
However, if you are working with a web design agency, chances are that they will suggest WordPress for your site, and here is why:
WordPress is a fully-fledged software package built with PHP and mySQL that can handle pretty much anything a website could need to do. You host it yourself, on your own hosting package (such as Bluehost or GoDaddy) and have 100% control of your site.
There are over 40,000 plugins in the WordPress Repository and many, many more besides to create affordable and “out of the box” extra functionality for your new site.
It’s hugely scalable and can handle websites of almost any size. CNN and Mercedez-Benz are just two huge companies that use it, as well as your local yoga teacher.
It’s more affordable than a website that is hand coded from scratch. A web design agency like Natural History can turn a WordPress website like this one that you are on right now around for you in just a week or two, but it would take much longer and require more developer hours if we had hand coded every page of it – and that is a cost that you will have to bear.
Unless you require specific functionality that WordPress is not suitable for, we will always recommend WordPress as the first choice for a company website for a small, medium or large business, unless…
… you want to focus on Ecommerce.
Shopify is a hosted ecommerce platform that allows you to build stylish and powerful ecommerce websites to sell your products on the internet.
From a business owner’s perspective it is better than WordPress in the sense that its back end and order management side is fantastic – orders are easy to see and process, you can print off invoices, packing slips and addresses easily, and it integrates with your software package as well as Stripe and Paypal to keep your finances nicely organised. It has an increasing number if plugins and apps to enhance your product management abilities, but not as many as WordPress.
From a design perspective, it comes with several free themes to use as well as a number of premium themes, many of which are beautiful with something to suit every field of ecommerce. It is also highly customisable and you can work with a website design studio to create a completely unique, custom design and still benefit from their powerful back end.
There is a monthly fee, but you get a lot in return for it, and although Shopify isn’t hugely scalable, it’s an affordable and elegant first step into ecommerce.
Want to go it alone? Not having the budget for a professional web designer right now doesn’t mean you can’t have a slick website. Squarespace offers a great and accessible platform for fledgling website builders for a reasonable monthly fee, and with a wide range of customisable templates available, you can be up and running in a day or two. You can see what you are doing as you build your website, and you can even build an Ecommerce website on the platform.
It’s not as scalable as WordPress, but if you need an elegant brochure website to set out your business, services and portfolio, this is a great starting point.
Magento is a powerful ecommerce platform with a market share of a little over 14% in the ecommerce space. It has substantial capacities and a powerful back end. More complex to get up and running than the platforms mentioned above, this is one that you can’t do alone – you will need the services of an ecommerce website design agency to start using Magento for your retail business.
Unlike WordPress, Magento was designed exclusively for ecommerce, so every single element of it is designed with that end in mind, and there are many pre-built Magento extensions that you can use to customise your users’ experience of your site, including a fast and efficient check-out process.
Magento had been dogged by complaints about slowness and a complex user interface, but when Magento 2 was released in 2015 they resolved all of these problems, and Magento 2 runs quickly, has a far better range of capacities “out of the box” and greatly improved user experience throughout. It’s perfect for a growing or ambitious online retail business.