There are so many different ways to bring your business or brand online and it can be overwhelming when reviewing all of the options. I want to help clear up a few things before you actually dive in and make a website.
I'll be going over if you actually need a website to WordPress and custom solutions. If you need any clarification on anything be sure to reach out to me.
Do you actually need a website?
I ask this question because I believe making a website is what makes a business official for people. It reminds me of when someone goes to get an LLC and the next thing they do is print off business cards. The next thing on the list is to create a website right?
In my opinion, I don't think so. If you're starting a service based business there are different options you can take that are easier to manage. "I want to sell things online" - some of you might say. Well, there's a ton of marketplaces you can use to get things going in the meantime.
The other downside to creating a website upfront is that you have to promote that as well. So, think about this... You have this newly formed company that you're trying to promote and then you go and add a website that you have to go and promote on top of that. I think that's the classic definition of hustling backward.
My recommendation is to use services like Google My Business, Yelp, Instagram, Facebook, Medium, Etsy, eBay, Amazon, Email, the actual phone - Someplace where you don't have to promote as hard to get a paying customer. Reroute the energy and time you'll be wasting on creating fake FAQ's (that no one's gonna read anyway lol) and go where the money is!
If you actually need to have a site
These are all great questions and let's go over options from free to paid, hardly no technical skill to you're comfortable with learning new things.
Let's get this one out of the way. This is the most thrown around term in web development. WordPress powers a ton of websites and rightfully so. The software is easy to obtain and requires little effort to get it up and running.
As much praise as WordPress gets, it's not without its faults. It's definitely easy to install especially with hosting providers and their one-click setups, but after that, you have to learn more about their ecosystem.
You'll need to familiarize yourself with pages, posts, upgrades, plugins, and themes. There are plenty of plugins and themes for WordPress, some are free and some are paid. However, you'll need to be careful and understand what you're installing, how it can affect a theme or configuration and realize that you run the risk of introducing malware to your site.
WordPress does offer a hosted solution and that can be a great route to go, but you lose some of the customizability that you get when you host your own. Hosting your own requires you to purchase a domain and hosting space. Buying a domain is usually around $13 per year and hosting is usually $5+ per month.
If you need recommendations I'll be more than happy to provide hosts and domain name registrars that I use. Just let me know.
If you're not comfortable with any of the above I'd stay away from WordPress for now and maybe start with one of the options that I'll discuss further down on this post.
I have to admit, I used to hate these when I had my web design/development shop in 07. I felt as if they were direct competition, but now I recommend these to just about everyone. I've even used them for projects I've done in the past 🤫.
So what are they?
They are services like Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly. The reason I like them so much is that they are easy to set up, fairly cheap and defers most liability/reliability and security off onto the service provider.
They are more than likely one-stop shops too. You can buy your domain, SSL certificate, and other things that go right along with your website. This makes it super easy and less headache to get up and running.
One thing to be aware of is if you buy your domain through some of these services, check to make sure that you can transfer the domain to another hosting provider/service if you ever decide to switch. I believe most (if not all) of these site builders allow you to transfer your domain, but you won't be able to take the design and maybe some of the content with you if you decide to leave.
If you're just starting out there really isn't a great reason to do this. There are far more time and money efficient ways to get your site up. With that being said this route deserves its own post on how to work with a web agency/freelancer and what to look out for. I'll give a few tidbits here and if anyone needs me to elaborate I will.
A custom-built solution is obviously going to be the most pricey. You'll typically pay one of two ways - hourly or per project. It's best to shop around and get recommendations if you feel this is the best solution for you.
The reason for the expensive price tag is that you're consulting with person or group to give you exactly what you want. This can be extremely valuable if you have a specific look and feel you're going for.
Taking this route will also be the most time consuming and that's because you'll have to take time out to sit down and explain what you want. The agency will then take your ideas, input, and existing branding and come up with something. From there, you'll work with them to tweak everything to get it exactly to your liking.
If price is still a bit of a concern to you, I would try and look for freelancers. This can be the hybrid solution that you want. For instance, you could work with a freelance web designer to get the exact design that you want. Then you can hire a freelance web developer to bring the design to life. Don't forget about the other content such as copy, and pictures! You may need to work with a copywriter and/or a photographer.
At the end of the day, I say roll with a website builder such as Weebly. I find their platform pretty comprehensive and is a nice one stop shop for pretty much anything you need.