BUILDING A SMALL BUSINESS, PART 1: CHOOSING A CMS PLATFORM FOR YOUR WEBSITE
'Choosing a platform for your website' is Part 1 of Building a Small Business - A multi-part guide by Bronte Jones, designed to assist women in taking the first steps to establish their own small business.
Whether a service provider or product based business, one of the biggest stages of the journey is creating and launching a website.
The journey to a launched website can be a surprisingly long process (I once had a client who had spent three years trying to perfect her website before we worked together), which can be unexpected to a lot of new business owners who haven’t experienced the process before. One of the aspects I consider to be highly important is back end usability for the average person, and how you as a business owner can mange and edit your own site. I highly believe every small business owner should be able to maintain their own website, and should avoid falling into a trap of requiring a developer for every little change.
Whilst every designer and developer will have their own opinions and experiences, here’s what I’ve learnt from my clients and their journeys, in the hope that it will give you a little insight to the world of website design.
My original favourite platform! And where I spend 80% off my time for website work. Squarespace is great for easy to access features and sleek design. It’s the platform that I’ve found easiest to code and there’s a lot of online resources available for this. It also has a lot of great partnerships with external companies and applications, which makes integrations easy. The backend is easy to navigate, and whilst the design side can take a little bit of getting used to, with a little bit of practice and play, you’ll be there in no time.
I first used Wix back in my university days, and back then it was not so great. About a year ago I ended up using it again for a client project that requested Wix and boy did I fall in love! Wix has made so many advancements in their online website builder… everything from design features to SEO improvements. The amount of creative freedom and control you get with Wix is so valuable. For businesses that want more of a unique edge with their site, Wix should be your go to. The other part of Wix that I absolutely love is all the built in apps. From paid membership portals to appointment schedulers, having these features built in will save small businesses a tonne of money, and make it easy to manage all in one place. Wix is steadily becoming my new go-to platform.
The main reason I’ll direct a client over to Shopify, is if they need to use AfterPay or another unique app for shipping or accounting software. Whilst it definitely shines in this area, Shopify can be quite limiting in the design field. Code can come in handy for improving the design of your site, although it’s not as straightforward as Squarespace in this area. My general recommendation for Shopify is to go in with an open mind and a flexible attitude. You can make a beautiful, easy to use site in Shopify, you just might not be able to get every little thing your way.
My least favourite website platform, purely based on the number of clients I’ve had who are leaving Wordpress for something else. I’ve rarely seen a Wordpress site that I love. Wordpress gets a lot of praise from certain developers, especially as it’s one of the original platforms. Whilst it may be true that anything is possible on Wordpress, whether you can then manage that site yourself is another story. I once had a client who had a gorgeous Wordpress site, but she couldn’t edit any of the code herself, and this made making changes almost impossible for her. The cost to build these “anything is possible” features can also blow out the budget, and may not be worth the extra cost. And although Wordpress promises the opportunity to do anything, the amount of lacklustre designs I see aren’t doing this platform any good.
Signing off with a tip for one of the most important financial lessons you can learn…Be careful what subscriptions you sign up and pay for too early on. I’ve seen too many unlucky business owners burned by payments they didn’t need and then couldn’t get out of.
Most online applications have a free trial period, and you usually don’t need to upgrade until you’re ready to launch. Do your research, enquire with a designer, and don’t be afraid to have a play with all the platforms before you get too far in!
Bronte Jones is MYllennial's resident Design Expert and Small Business Columnist.
She is a freelance graphic designer based in Melbourne, Australia. Specialising in branding and website design for service and product based businesses, she can be found over at designbybronte.com or contacted at email@example.com