If you don’t have a website these days, do you even exist?
There’s plenty of people who would say no. But it’s true that hiring a company to make you a website can be prohibitively expensive, especially for solopreneurs and startups. Software that allows anybody to build a website has accelerated in recent years, meaning you don’t need to know a single line of code to get started.
But that doesn’t make you an expert just yet. Not all products are the same, so you need to be careful about which one you go for.
That’s why we’ve collected 10 important aspects to consider when choosing a website builder. In our list, you’ll open your eyes to what is out there, and get a solid list of must-haves for your website builder functionalities.
When choosing a website builder, the first place to start is with your domain and hosting. Put simply, your domain is the name of your site, and hosting is the engine behind your site. Without these, your website can’t be online, so it’s a good idea to get them sorted straight away.
Ideally, you want to be able to choose your own domain name, so you’re easily recognizable to anybody searching for you. Some site builders come with tiered pricing, with each level offering a different style of domain. For example, free versions would include a mention to the web builder’s site name, while paid versions give you total flexibility.
In terms of hosting, there are two options:
Cloud hosting is the first choice for most people creating a website. No need to maintain your own servers on-site, you can store all your files in secure external storage facilities, which works out the more economical choice.
Self-hosting options are for organizations who have a specific reason to keep their files in-house. Unless you’ve got a proven team of tech experts, we’d strongly advise against this exceedingly expensive pathway.
Once you’ve got your domain, it’s time to create a website, and the best place to start is with a template. When you choose a website building platform, take a look into the quantity and quality of templates available, because the first question to ask yourself is: “what do I need a website for?”
With your answer to that question, start looking for industry-specific website templates. Not only do templates save you a huge amount of time, but they come with the right look and feel for your sector.
Of course, you will want to add your own flair to your site, and that’s fine. Almost all website builders offer templates that you can later customize to your own needs. What’s more, most have a super-simple drag-and-drop editor, so choosing a website builder that you can use without coding doesn’t need to break the bank.
Now you’ve got your template, it’s time to start adding the fun bits that take your site to the next level. Again, you should think about choosing a website builder that skips the hard work of coding each feature, and follow the easy route instead.
Let’s take an ecommerce site as an example. You’ll want features to easily showcase all your stock for your customers to browse. But what’s even better is to sync the stock on your website with your actual stock in a warehouse.
The best ecommerce templates should include features such as a product catalog, order management, and inventory management tools as standard so you don’t have the headache of adjusting every small detail. Similarly, you should be able to easily integrate a payment system that takes care of all your deals.
Lead-generating tools are often of equal importance, as they mark the beginning of your customer journey. Customizable forms and contact widgets are incredibly tough to code if you don’t have a high level of coding skills, so try to choose a website building platform that gives you an easy drag and drop option.
As we mentioned in the last section, lead capturing is the main purpose of many websites. And with the right tools working behind the scenes, you can cover the entire pipeline, from lead acquisition to customer service. Our top advice for this aspect is to look for a natively integrated CRM and marketing automation tool.
Customizable forms and contact widgets are the gateway to your CRM, and any information inserted will automatically populate your customer relationship manager. Without you lifting a finger, your contacts slot into your pipeline, where you can get to work on the human side of lead nurturing.
The most competent website builders will then allow you to send out personalized, automated campaigns across a vast range of channels. Whether it’s marketing campaigns or social media shout outs, you can craft specific messages to each demographic from your CRM. To bolster your marketing efforts, check if you can integrate Google Analytics to track user behavior on your site.
Your CRM ultimately becomes your customer service center too. With records of every interaction on every contact, you can receive calls or instant messages and pull up everything you need to know about your customer in an instant.
Industry Specific Templates
So you’ve got a wonderful website, connected to your CRM, and fully in line with the law. But how do people find you?
If you’re choosing a website builder, you’ve probably heard of the importance of search engine optimization (SEO). But so many website owners don’t fully understand it — and don’t use it to its full potential. The ultimate aim of SEO is to bring customers to your website for a fraction of the cost of paid advertising, so it’s important to use it properly.
Luckily, the best software comes with clear, intuitive SEO tools so you can add alt text to your images and meta descriptions. All of these small tweaks make the difference between the top of the search engine and the dreaded page two.
Therefore, when choosing a CMS to build your website, keep a keen eye out for native SEO tools and get your name out there on the search engines.
Your customers use devices interchangeably these days, and if you build a rigid website, you’re investing in a poor user experience from the get-go. With people’s expectations so high and attention spans so short, you need to grab attention fast, which just isn’t going to happen with a slow, unformatted page.
Keep an eye out for the word “responsive” as you’re choosing a website builder, and you’ll be able to create a site that works just as well on mobile as it does on desktop. Then double down and find out the finer details. Does it just refer to the layout and design, or will it cover widgets, SEO, images, and video too?
Sure, you want an excellent UI for your customers, but that’s only half the battle. Your content management system (CMS) is just as important. If every update is a complex maze of essential steps and confusing check boxes, you’ll spend more time uploading content than actually creating it.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can sit down and just get used to it. The time may come when you have to bring in external suppliers, or train new staff on your tool, and these onboarding processes should be as easy as possible.
But it’s not just about saving time. Overly complicated content management systems with tons of confusing features only mean there are more things there are to go wrong. So unless you’re an expert, you’re likely to run into problems that will make your site look less professional.
The difficulty is that it’s hard to guess how easy or hard a tool will be to use. We’d recommend going for a free trial before choosing a CMS to build your website.
Part of a successful site is keeping it all above board. Unless you’re an expert in privacy law (and a bunch more areas), it’s not worth even dipping your toes into these murky waters. When in doubt, source it out.
Choosing a website builder that keeps you compliant is easier than ever now, with technology coming on leaps and bounds in the past few years. It’s not just from a technical standpoint either: Web builders will adapt the metrics and wording of your privacy and cookie policies to stay in line with local laws, so you can safely branch your website out into new territories.
Like so many points on this list, you want to keep things simple when you create a website, so some ready-made drag-and-drop legal texts are what you need here.
Cost is usually at the top of the priority list when choosing a website builder — especially for small businesses on a budget. However, we’ve left it to a late stage on our list as it brings together so many of the previous points.
Outsourcing the construction of a website to programming experts used to be the go-to strategy for companies, and it didn’t come cheap. But now, even if you’ve never written a line of code in your life, you can build a professional-looking website in house. With templates to get you started, you can make drag-and-drop modifications without worrying about crashing the entire site.
However, cost creep really kicks in if you haven’t done any forward planning. Many organizations fall into the trap of creating a beautiful website, then quickly realizing that it lives in isolation. Then, they hit the market for a CRM and SEO tools and find themselves scraping the barrel to pay for it.
That’s why most forward-planners look for an all-in-one package from the outset, with website builder functionalities natively integrated to the tools that give your site a purpose.
Even if you’ve been diligent in choosing a CMS to build your website, unexpected complications can always appear, so you need a system that comes with strong support.
This doesn’t have to be a hotline to web builder HQ. Training centers can be doubly useful as you can improve your own knowledge and include the most valuable tips and tricks in your onboarding and training packages.
The best website builders increasingly include huge knowledge bases filled with text guides, video how-tos, searchable FAQs, and training courses so you can build competence and confidence in all your website builder functionalities. Furthermore, you may even get a personal consultant to help you onboard your own software and answer any questions.
However, when emergencies arise, you may need that hotline to keep your site online, so be sure to look out for this kind of support when choosing a website builder.
Now you know what to look for, but how do you know where to find the right platform for you?
Bitrix24 makes choosing a website builder a piece of cake. With a block-based editing format, over 100 industry-specific templates, native integrations to a powerful CRM and more, it comes fully loaded with features so you can have a professional website.
So if you’re looking for a sleek shop front for your ecommerce business, or stunning landing pages to draw in your leads, sign up for Bitrix24 today!