A website can be a small business owner’s best tool for advertising to, and connecting with, potential customers. Displaying information about your business, the services you offer, and even special deals helps consumers when making decisions. Investing in a website is very important for a business owner, but with all of the website building options available, it can be difficult to know what is the best choice is. Since 2005 most small business owners have begun using systems that are considered built on a CMS (Content Management System) allowing them to edit pictures, add blogs and make changes to their websites without having the knowledge of coding, html and using FTP software. With millions of small businesses starting on an annual basis the field for web design and marketing services, is ultra competitive with one platform (WordPress) controlling over 25% of the market share for total sites and nearly 60% of all CMS platforms. Small business owners often don’t realize some of the risks associated with free or open source CMS platforms.
Popular DIY website builders like Weebly, Wix, and GoDaddy provide pre-designed and coded templates that business owners can utilize to build their sites. These platforms tend to be offered at a lower cost, since the website owner will be the one doing the work. They often include things like web hosting, emails, and sometimes a domain name in the cost giving a “one-stop-shop” appeal for users. The goal behind these website builders is to make it simple for anyone to use. There are a few issues, however, that people can run into when using softwares like these:
All the functionality you need might not be available. (i.e. e-commerce & blogging)
There is usually only a certain level of customization allowed.
Sites built on these platforms may share a generic resemblance.
Additional charges can be incurred for needed “extras” including storage and bandwidth.
Outsourced help may be needed to achieve what is beyond the user’s knowledge, which is time-consuming and costly.
A small business owner needs to consider how proficient with computers he or she is before choosing a content management system (CMS) like this. One should also be mindful of how often he or she will need to update content on the website. Are there frequently-changing coupons? Do you have event occurrences or blogs that need to be posted weekly, monthly, etc? Time is valuable, and although these DIY website builders are meant to be quick and easy, that is not always the case unless one has at least some prior experience. These website builders do typically have 24/7 support forums and call centers that are available to answer questions. Without some knowledge, however, you could find yourself calling and emailing constantly which slows your productivity. Some support teams have better reputations than others, so you want to do your research. A small business owner does not have the time to be placed on endless holds or wait days for email responses.
Small Business Owners Often Have No Insight Into Open Source versus Closed Source content management platforms
Another very important thing to consider, aside from usability, is safety. Open-source content management systems like those mentioned above allow for third-party “plugins” to be installed for enhanced functionality. Those plugins are easily hacked since they are rarely updated, as pointed out by a recent Search Engine Journal article highlighting this occurrence with WordPress sites specifically. By compromising these plugins, hackers can gain access to the websites that use them. With so much unsecure access to websites on platforms like WordPress, a hacker who infiltrates the software is able to do so not only to 1 site, but millions. This is one method used, but your website can be hacked a number of ways, so security needs to be priority with your website hosting and software company. These hacks could turn into the spread of viruses to website visitors, and cause real harm to the sites themselves. Depending on the damage done to a site that has been hacked, it could take years to “clean-up” the site for search engines to begin trusting and ranking it again. This means incurring even more costs finding a reputable company to perform the necessary restoration.
Considering user-friendliness and safety, hiring a website development and management company might be a good option for small business owners to consider. The cost would be higher, as you are paying for the expertise, security, and support of a dedicated team. There are thousands of companies who market for web design services, using some reference webistes like Top 10 Designs or clutch.co can help you to find some providers who are using alternativce CMS plaforms. One company we discovered that offers a CMS platform for web design not built on WordPress was High Level Marketing of West Bloomfield Michigan. They were rated as a top 10 firm and are using a platform called MYCE™. Most importantly, it is exclusive to High Level Marketing clients, meaning that it is not an open source platform which provides some additional level of security options for small business owners to help reduce the potential that their website may be compromised. According to Justin Fishaw, a company spokesperson with High Level Marketing “We have been providing design services on the MYCE platform since 2009 and have worked with thousands of small business owners. Once a business owner becomes aware of the security challenges of open source, they are more confident in working with a boutique design agency for the extra security and exclusive designs we are able to offer.”
Companies Like High Level Marketing and Eggbeater Marketing Separate Their Design Portfolio Through Custom Built Software
Using a company like High Level Marketing, Kohactive or Seven Designs to build your website, you are not limited choosing your design based on pre-developed templates. The design of your website will be customized to best represent your business, meaning you have a say in what it looks like. This allows for creativity outside of the “cookie-cutter” look sites might share using platforms like Squarespace. When editing or adding content, it’s always ideal to work with a system that keeps things formatted consistency throughout your site, so the integrity of your design is maintained.
As a small business owner, you want to treat your website as a resource and an investment in your business. You need it to work for you, not create more work for you. Take the time to weigh your options before choosing the safest and most sensible route for building your website.
David Ridley – is a freelance journalist covering online marketing since 2009 and frequently is featured on TechStars, WebDesign Guild and PHP forums.