Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Building a Small Business Website

If you are at the stage of choosing a website building platform, you are already aware of all benefits that a small business website has. It is about not only online representation and growing sales. A solid website is not just the face of your business. It comes as a powerful promotion and marketing tool to let you move forward.
Apart from obvious advantages of having a small business website such as reaching a worldwide audience or having your customers aware entrepreneurs get a full access to a fully customizable platform with featuring flexibility in the face of the latest mobile technologies.
Thanks to innovative website builders and CMS platforms, you do not need to be a web design expert or coder. They are easy to use letting you come up with a solid online representation within a couple of hours.
Choosing the best match is the toughest challenge. With so many software available today, you need to focus on key parameters and specs to pick the right variant for your needs.
We have reviewed some of the most popular CMS platforms and website building software to highlight their hits and misses. Get involved in the detailed guide describing the process of building a small business website from scratch using either CMS or website builders.

Building a Small Business Website Using Website Builders

As a rule, website building software offers an intuitive interface that is easy to understand. The platforms are followed by detailed tutorials and extended customer support. They proved to be a cost-effective solution as well as offering a simple step-by-step web building process:
  1. Choose a platform.
  2. Choose a plan.
  3. Sign up.
  4. Edit web pages.
  5. Publish the website.
The process looks pretty easy. The main challenge might arise when you are at the first stage. Choosing proper software may look daunting. Considers the following issues before applying for a plan:
  • Test the Platform – As a rule, most website builders have a free trial or free plan. It is a great opportunity to check is the system suits your needs. Try all the available tools. Compare and contrast several platforms and pick the best bet.
  • Look for Stylish Templates – Opt for platforms with a wide selection of themes. Make sure they are mobile-friendly and work well on various devices.
  • Marketing and SEO Tools – Website builders are not only about ease of use. They deliver a selection of great tools out of the box. Select software with advanced SEO and marketing tools to promote your business online.
  • Widgets and Integrations – The more options to customize the website you have, the better. Check if the platform either allows third-party integration with other services like MailChimp and Google Analytics or offers an array of its own widgets and add-ons. The slightest detail may play a vital role when it comes to users’ impression and engagement.
  • Extension Capabilities – A website can serve multiple purposes. Look for a website builder with additional functions like a blogging feature, for example.
  • Affordable Plans – Most users appreciate the adorability of modern website builders. They come as a more cost-effective solution if compared to custom developers. At the same time, plans usually include a free domain, hosting, templates, and advanced features depending on the price. You will always have enough variants to choose from.
Once we have learned what features to consider when choosing the website builder, let’s compare some platforms that are a good option to build a small business website from scratch.

5 Best Website Builders for Small Business

Designed as a simple tool for non-technicians, website builders are very easy to use. The core advantage is a simple editor and customization instruments in addition to a selection of widgets, add-ons and integration capabilities. Newbies will easily handle the building process without special skills.

#1 Wix

Wix website builder
Wix is an all-in-one solution to ensure a fast and simple web building process. Designed to create various site types, it is good for small business as well as offering affordable plans, SEO features, Wix App Market and more.

Wix Features:

  • Simple Editing – Wix is one of the easiest platforms to use thanks to its drag-and-drop feature in addition to Wix ADI tool. The AI-based instrument handles the entire web building process for the user based on his or her requirements. Simply choose a site category and answer several questions to get a ready-to-use template. Now you only need to add content and go online with just a click.
  • Extended Features – For those craving for more tools, Wix delivers a set of eCommerce and SEO features. Users can easily set a solid digital store and fine-tune the website for higher search engine ranks with the help of SEO Wizard.
  • Wix App Store – The platform boasts its own app store featuring dozens of handful of widgets to customize the website. You can increase users’ acquisition with the help of custom subscription forms or integrate services like MailChimp. Add professional photo galleries or set your blog using essential blogging feature.

Wix Design

The platform comes with an array of different templates. You can choose from different mobile responsive and professionally designed themes. Users can create different layouts and use them any time you need thanks to Wix Dynamic Pages. For example, you can create a template for the product page and use if for various items over and over again without manual editing.
Mobile preview mode is another great Wix advantage. You can edit the way your website will look on various mobile devices.

Wix Pricing

The platform has a free plan although it features only 500MB of storage and bandwidth. Obviously, it is not enough for a complex small business website though you have a chance to test the system in a free mode.
The Premium Plan (Combo) price starts from $8/month including a free domain, hosting and templates. If you require a more complex website with a set of advanced features and extensions, you can opt for a VIP plan costing $24.50 per month.
Summing Up: Wix was designed to create websites of any type. It is a good solution for small business sites as well as offering a whole pack of features and editing tools for non-technicians.
See also: In-depth Wix review.

#2 Shopify

Shopify eCommerce software
Shopify was designed especially for eCommerce needs. It is perfect to build small and medium digital stores of different complexity. The software introduces its advanced product management system in addition to promotion and marketing tools, SEO settings, blogging feature and more.

Shopify Features:

  • Editing Process – Although Shopify might look a bit more complicated if compared to Wix or Ukit, it also has a drag-and-drop feature for a fast editing. Adding new content or media files is easy. Moreover, experienced users will appreciate CSS access to take the fullest from customization process and stand out from competitors.
  • Extended Features – Take control over your products and categories. Implement different payment options. Add as many item images as you need. Benefit from sales tracking and managing tools. Implement a simple checkout process. Manage the shipping process. Add various currencies and more. Promote your products with advanced loyalty programs, coupons, and promo codes.
  • SEO Settings – Users can edit meta titles and descriptions as well as indicate the focus keyword to boost search engine ranks.
  • Blogging Feature – If your web store needs a blog, simply use the feature to launch a professional blog. Add texts, images, and videos with just a click.

Shopify Design

The software has a range of templates featuring various styles. They are mobile-friendly and look professional. On the other hand, they are pretty basic. Luckily for experienced users, they can access template’s PHP or CSS to implement any style and stand out from competitors.

Shopify Pricing

Shopify comes with an array of plans that cost from $9 to $299 per month. The price will depend on the website complexity and features you look for it. Basic Shopify plan costing $29 per month looks like a good option for a start. It has all necessary eCommerce features you might need. You can switch between plans any time you want.
Summing Up: Shopify is a flexible eCommerce platform that is limited to only digital store web building. Newbies may find the platform a bit hard for the uptake from the start. However, the editing process is still pretty simple.
At the same time, it offers some extended features as well as the ability to enter the digital market without actually building a website. Simple go to Shopify Exchange Marketplace where you can buy ready-to-use business to match your preferences and competence. A simple way to start selling products online.

#3 uKit

uKit website builder
When reviewing uKit, it becomes obvious that a website builder is a great solution for small business sites whenever you need to create a professional business card, portfolio or landing page. The software is flexible enough in addition to affordable prices and ease of use.

uKit Features:

  • Intuitive Interface – Editing a uKit website is very easy. Based on advanced drag-and-drop technology, the platform lets you easily customize each page, change and remove blocks, add content and media files.
  • Flexibility – Apart from built-in features, uKit brings great integration opportunities. Users can integrate their website with analytic and marketing tools to grow email campaigns. CRM integration feature is perfect for small digital stores whenever you need to track your sale stats. Users can implement such popular services as Google Maps, Analytics, Vimeo, SoundCloud and more to make the site as engaging as possible.
  • Website Outsourcing – Are you planning to work with a team of writers, administrators, and developers? uKit provides outsourcing capabilities thanks to its Developer Access mode.

uKit Design

Although it does not offer the same range of templates like Wix, for example, uKit delivers a decent collection of templates for different categories of business. All templates are optimized for mobile usage. You can choose from a list of ready-to-use landing page templates as well.
uKit mobile customization feature makes it easy to ensure proper mobile website running. Mobile and Tablet View mode is simple function to fine-tune the way your site looks like on various mobile devices featuring different screen dimensions and specs. Feel free to hide some blocks that might look off-putting from a smartphone or tablet without harming the desktop version.

uKit Pricing

uKit is among most affordable website builders. It has a 14-day free trial to check if the system suits you fine. Its Premium Plan comes as an all-in-one solution featuring free access to all templates, domain, and hosting. The price starts at $4 per month.
Summing Up: uKit is a good software at a reasonable price. It delivers all the necessary instruments to build a professional small business website from scratch. On the other hand, it is good for simple sites that do not require extended features or customization capabilities.

#4 SITE123

SITE123 website builder
Designed mainly for newbies, SITE123 might look a bit too straightforward and simple especially for professional web designers. On the other hand, its power in its simplicity. A platform is a good option for non-technicians who do not have much time or endless budgets on building a professional small business website.

SITE123 Features:

  • Ease of Use – SITE123 features an intuitive interface. Simply choose a template and start editing.
  • Multi-Language Feature – You can create a website for any audience despite the residence. Simply insert the text and the system will automatically translate it into a required language.
  • Extended Flexibility – Despite its simplicity, SITE123 is perfect for different types of sites. The software offers ready-to-use eCommerce templates for those who want to launch their small digital stores.
  • Marketing Instruments – The platform delivers users’ acquisition tools. They include custom subscription forms in addition to compatibility with such popular services as GetResponse, Robly or MailChimp.

SITE123 Design

Users can choose from an array of layouts for different needs. All SITE123 templates are mobile responsive. On the other hand, some might find them a bit too limited when it comes to customization. You might require some more flexible options.

SITE123 Pricing

Despite the availability of a basic plan for only $10.80 per month, you may need an advanced plan to meet your small business needs. It will cost you from $16.80 monthly including marketing features, free domain, and hosting. Email campaigns with up to 1000 mailing list messages, etc.
Summing Up: The platform boasts a good value for money considering its marketing and promotion features. It is easy to use and affordable. It does not require special skills or knowledge through more involved and experienced users might find software a bit too basic and simple.

#5 Bookmark

Bookmark website builder
Bookmark introduces the latest web technologies. It comes as a cloud-based AI solution for different types of sites. You can use it to build professionally looking Landing pages, small business websites, digital shops, etc. The software boasts a nice balance of features, capabilities, and pricing.

Bookmark Features:

  • AI Design Assistant – AIDA is your personal digital assistant that will handle the web building process for you. All you need is to indicate your business field and type in the name of the website. Lay back and watch how the software automatically creates the layout for you.
  • Focus Feature – A great customization tool letting you choose from a list of professionally designed blocks and section for your page. Select from various COntact and About Us sections, implement various content styles, add photo galleries, price charts, quotes and more.
  • Ready-to-Use Blocks & Modules – the platform offers a selection of ready-to-use blocks and modules. Simply choose the one you need and customize it according to your needs.
  • Extended Features – Users can manage their currencies, products, shipping and order setting using an advanced eCommerce feature. SEO settings include meta title and description editing, analytics, email subscription and more.

Bookmark Design

Bookmark does not offer a range of templates in the way we are used to. All themes and layouts are automatically generated by the platform’s ADIA. The artificial intelligence offers a template according to your needs. Then you are free to change or customize it. All layouts are mobile responsive, of course.

Bookmark Pricing

Bookmark personal plan starts from $4.99 per month. However, it will hardly meet your small business needs considering only 500MB of storage and 1 GB of bandwidth. You can start with a Professional plan costing $11.99 per month. It includes a free hosting and domain, unlimited storage and bandwidth in addition to all advanced features including SEO and eCommerce. A business plan is better for digital stores with 1000+ products. It costs $24.99 per month.
Summing Up: Bookmark certainly follows the latest web technology trends. Its AI-based system comes as a handy helper for newbies offering various layouts for any niche and business field. The software is affordable enough with a pack of features you might need in the long run.

Building a Small Business Website Using CMS

CMS platforms are programs designed to create functional websites of different types. They let users handle the web building process for different needs including small business or eCommerce. The software is functional enough with an array of functions to implement. Most platforms come with an easy editing process though plugin integration and customization still requires some technical skills.
Unlike website builders, the web building process using CMS is a bit more complicated, as it requires more stages. They are as follows:
  1. Hosting – unlike website builders that offer a free hosting depending on the plan, you will have to care about the place to host your site when it comes to CMS. The best bet is to compare and contrast all available offers considering the future website structure, complexity, content, etc.
  2. Domain – the same thing is with the domain name. You will have to handle the registration process yourself and pay for the prolongation separately. Make sure it is not too long (up to 12 characters), easy to spell and remember (do not use special symbols or numbers). Try to include a key phrase or word describing your business.
  3. Install the CMS platform – the installation process generally depends on the type of CMS you choose. Offline platforms require downloading. The process is not complicated though it may take some time. Moreover, you can access the dashboard only from the device with the software installed. The web-based software comes as a more flexible solution offering a simple access from any device with the Internet connection.
  4. Start Editing – As a rule, most CMS platforms offer a simple editing tool. You can insert and format texts, download media files, activate plugins and widgets. The last one may require some special technical skills.
  5. Publish your site – Once you have completed all the above-mentioned stages, you can go online with your website.
Do not forget to keep an eye on the plugins and templates to update them on time. As a rule, users will have to apply the operations manually.

4 Best CMS Platforms for Small Business Websites

Once again, do not rush for the first CMS you find on the web. You need to do the research and compare the available options. Although there are some proven leaders in the niche, you can opt for several platforms from our list.

#1 WordPress

WordPress website builder
WordPress has been one of the most popular platforms over the years. It boasts millions of websites across the globe. They include blogs, small business sites, digital stores, etc. The system is very easy to use though customization still requires at least basic HTML skills. However, it comes as a flexible solution considering a selection of plugins and integration capabilities.

WordPress features:

  • Is it good for newbies? – On the one hand, WordPress sites are very easy to edit. Despite the lack of drag-and-drop feature, adding texts and files is very easy. You can download images and videos to your library and insert them in posts or pages from there. On the other hand, you might need some more customization options to stand out. This is where HTML and PHP skills can be vital.
  • How about Features? – What is good about WordPress is the endless list of great features. Users can work on website’s SEO, add analytic tools, integrate the site with all popular CM systems, and more.
  • Craving for plugins? – WordPress boasts probably the widest selection of plugins for all tastes. From subscription forms, anti-spam systems, table and image shortcodes to advanced SEO and Marketing plugins – choose the one you need from the library, install and activate the plugin.

WordPress Design

The CMS platforms offer a wide selection of different templates that are mobile friendly. Some templates are free while some are paid. Free themes generally look the same with some slight differences. However, you will hardly find it difficult to customize them in case you have a deep HTML or PHP knowledge. Premium templates are more versatile and unique though they also require some slight customization.

WordPress Pricing

The platforms are absolutely free to use. On the other hand, you will have to pay for hosting and domain as well as for the premium template. The list of plugins includes paid ones while others may require premium account activation to take the fullest from their features.
Summing Up: Although WordPress maybe not the best option for newbies if compared to website builders, it delivers endless customization and design capabilities, in addition to endless plugins. The platform certainly serves well when it comes to small business websites.

#2 Joomla

Joomla CMS
Joomla is the world’s second most popular CMS platform after WordPress. Established in 2005, it boasts enormous websites’ market share, though some people say, it has gone out-of-date over the years. The platform is good for various types of websites from business cards to small business and eCommerce. Mainly based on PHP and SQL databases, it is not as easy to edit although rookies can work the things out within several days.

Joomla Features:

  • Simple Installation – Before you start building your stunning new website, you need to download the software and have it installed on your computer. Joomla is not a web-based platform and requires installation. Simply press the download button and wait for a couple of minutes.
  • Hundreds of Plugins – Joomla script delivers hundreds of various plugins out of the box. You will see them on the homepage. Unlike WordPress, you do not need to have dozens of widgets for each and every move. From this point from view, Joomla looks more functional.
  • Administration Panel – Here you will find all the necessary settings and functions. The panel might look like a technical nightmare especially for newbies at first sight. However, you will get used to it rather quickly.

Joomla Design

Joomla offers a selection of templates that are can run well on mobile and desktop versions. Each template has a so-called plugin ecosystem. It means that you will need new models and plugins to customize the pages. The customization tools include:
  • Components – they let you work with some parts of the page and modify sections;
  • Modules – they are the same as WordPress plugins;
  • Plugins – those are instruments to handle events that can be executed under certain conditions.
A bad thing about Joomla templates is the lack of a centralized directory. In other words, you need to rely on your own theme sources.

Joomla Pricing

The Joomla software itself is free. However, you will have to pay for premium templates as well as some of the extended modules. You should also consider separate hosting and domain costs when using the platform launch your small business website from scratch.
Summing Up: Editing Joomla website can be daunting. The platform is hard for newbies. Eve experienced developers and web designers can be annoyed with some of its features. A good thing about the software is the fact it is downloadable. It ensures higher digital security for the website.

#3 Drupal

Drupal CMS
Released in 2001, Drupal is yet the longest running website building software. It is more advanced if compared to WordPress and Joomla, which makes Drupal a better CMS option for bigger websites including eCommerce, complex portals and sites for small business.

Drupal Features:

  • Ease of Use – By far, Drupal is the most complex software. Building a solid website will be a tough challenge for newbies. They will be forced to hire PHP specialists. CMS distribution is aimed to put an ease on the web building process. It provides already-installed plugins and modules.
  • Editing Process – Drupal is an advanced CMS platform the provides a total control over the site as soon as you install the necessary software. Users will get an access to a bunch of customization options. The main downside I that you will need PHP or HTML programming skills every time you want to make the slightest change on the page.
  • Built-In Customization Opportunities – Designed to create custom websites, Drupal delivers a huge pack of customization options. Users can change literally everything on the site. Choose from any of 40,000 modules or integrate your website with Social networks, mailing services, eCommerce platforms like Shopify, etc.

Drupal Design

Drupal comes with a huge collection of 2,600 themes. The main mission was to create themes that are not very demanding from technical issues. It means you can save a couple of bucks on the server capacity and ensure a smooth website running on various devices including mobile. The list of themes is updated all the time. Here you can find templates for different site types including small business and eCommerce.

Drupal Pricing

The software is free. Moreover, Drupal was designed for a better performance. It may let you cut down on server costs. On the other hand, you will need a premium theme in order to stand out. At the same time, newbies will hardly manage without professional programmer’s help when it comes to site customization. You should consider that fact as well when planning the budget in addition to hosting and domain price.
Summing Up: Drupal is certainly a good platform to build a solid professional website with an enhanced performance. Unfortunately, they are a bad idea for newbies. You will need advanced PHP programming knowledge to handle the building process.

#4 Concrete5

Concrete5 CMS
Concrete5 was initially designed as a fast and simple solution to building websites from scratch. The platform delivers plenty of add-ons and widgets from the built-in a marketplace controlled by Concrete5. It means no third parties and plugins that are 100$ compatible with your website.

Concrete5 Features:

  • Customizable Themes – Concrete5 reserves the opportunity to choose whether you want to use pre-built templates with built-in add-ons or customize them accessing website’s CSS. It is a good option for those who are not interested in heavy coding though some basic knowledge would be a huge plus.
  • Software Security – The program is 1005 compatible with SSL. It has been checked by Users can benefit from audit trails, custom CAPTCHA, etc.
  • Hundreds of Add-ons – Users can look through hundreds of different widgets from image carousel to analytics and eCommerce features.
  • Huge Knowledge Base – It can be helpful every time you are stuck at any stage of the building process. You are free to access CMS documentation and detailed tutorials in addition to local users’ community. Unfortunately, you will have to purchase some of the materials.

Concrete5 Design

The software delivers a number of free and paid templates. The selection is pretty limited if compared with WordPress, for instance. However, while being an open source CMS, Concrete5 reserves much space for customization in case you have enough programming skills to create mobile-friendly, functional and attractive small business websites.

Concrete5 Pricing

The CMS is a free open source web-building tool. However, you should prepare to pay for premium themes, some of the add-ons and materials from the knowledgebase.
Summing Up: The program has already made a name for itself. However, it can hardly compete with some proven leaders in the niche like WordPress or Drupal.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Website Builders?

Website builders are taking the audience by storm. They have proved to be a good option for newbies while technicians might find them a bit too limited when it comes to customization capabilities. On the other hand, the software offers an all-in-one solution to build solid and professional small business website as well as save time and money.

Website Builders Pros:

  • Simple Editing – they are very easy to use. The software was designed to help non-technicians build a great site at no time at all. Some platforms follow the latest web technologies introducing AI-based instruments.
  • Great Design – website builders usually come with a diverse selection of templates for any field or niche. Whether you need a stunning portfolio, professional business card or an up-to-date digital store, you will find it here.
  • Flexibility – a selection of add-ons, widgets and third-party integrations makes the customization process easy and fat. Users can create a unique style for higher customers’ engagement.
  • Cheap Plans – You can choose from a plan that meets your requirements. Once you have subscribed, you will no longer worry about hosting, domain, security and other issues. You pay once and for all.

Website Builders Cons:

  • Limited Customization Capabilities – the platform comes with some code editing restrictions although some builders provide an access to CSS.
  • No Import Option – once you have chosen a platform, you need to stick to it for good with no chance to transfer your website to another platform, or CMS.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using CMS?

Although not for newbies, CMS platforms provide more freedom when it comes to design, SEO and customization. If you are not afraid of some difficulties on the way to a strong online representation and have at least fundamental coding skills, CMS platforms won’t let you down.

CMS Pros:

  • Advanced Flexibility – you can choose from hundreds of plugins, modules, and widgets for any taste;
  • Advanced SEO Features – CMS platforms reserve much space to fine-tune your website’s SEO. You are not limited to meta titles and descriptions only but can work on the content making it more relevant and suitable for search engines.
  • Extended Editing – a full access to website’s PHP and CSS lets users edit practically each and every element creating a stunning design to stand out.
  • Affordability – opting for CMS is a more cost-effective decision considering lower hosting and domain costs. The handicap will be terminated once you hire a professional developer or get addicted to paid premium themes and plugins.

CMS Cons:

  • Difficult to Use – They are much more difficult to use if compared to website builders. The lack of technical and coding skills may result in serious stumbling blocks.
  • Not All-in-One – you need to take care of several things at the same time apart from the building process. You need to register and prolong the domain name as well as take care about hosting for the site.

The Bottom Line

Choosing the award-winning platform is a challenging task. On the other hand, web technologies are evolving. They provide more advanced web building tools in the face of modern website builders. Time is money especially when it comes to small business. There is no need to dive deep into the technical issues of CMS platforms. Modern website builders makes it easy to come up with a great small business site within a couple of hours. It comes as the best bet for non-technicians as well.
Experienced developers and web designers might search for more freedom and capabilities. They would probably choose CMS platforms for their flexibility. The choice will totally depend on the website complexity and features you want to implement. Also, consider your budget and timeframes. Do not hesitate to try several instruments and pick the one that meets your requirements.

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