Building a site: choosing a website builder
Once you have your domain name sorted then you need to build a site. A few years ago this would have been quite a formidable task and one that might involve having to pay someone. Today, there are many tools for making this happen, most of which allow you to check your URL is unique, register it and then build a site – increasingly a site that is mobile optimised too.
So what do you need to bear in mind when choosing a site builder?
What are website builders?
Website builders are online software tools that let you build all the elements of a website that you may need. They usually offer a wide range of templates and you can choose colour palettes, add logos and more. Most also feature content management systems, so you can keep updating and refreshing what you do. They also tend to come with associated email addresses – usually five, so you can have a range of help@, info@, accounts@ and even yourname@. Since you are an ecommerce site you will need to check out the ones that offer you a checkout system too so that you can actually take money. It is also worth picking one that offers mobile optimisation or is even mobile first.
Choosing a website builder
When looking at which website builder to use – and there are many – you need to bear in mind several key things:
- Widest choice of templates and colours
- Flexibility of adding logos, images and more
- Easy to update and manage
- SEO baked in
- Mobile and other device optimisation
- Content management system
- Technical support
These are the essentials. It is also nice to have:
- Associated database building and linking tools
- Compatibility with leading shipping management software
- URL redirect services
- Complete control of site from within
While this is one of the key things we have outlined above, it is worth mentioning that customer support – that is supporting you, the ecommerce company using the site builder, not your customers, the shoppers – is vital. If you are a newbie or even if you are an old hand, things can still go awry and you need access to someone who can help – at all levels from beginner to advanced. And they need to be available 24×7. This may lead you to look at the more expensive site builders, but we strongly recommend that you opt for that over cheapness as it will save you much more in the longrun.
- Fotolia, link
We researched getting a website built professionally and ended up using a UK company Neoteric UK that showed good reviews and seemed to push all the right buttons a contract was sent over for us to look at and we made a 50% down payment. We were told it would take 8-12 weeks only extended if we kept responding to information requests slowly or making vast swathes of alterations. We made no alterations apart from basic errors on their part such as names spelt wrongly and we responded to all requests for information within hours of being asked. But it seemed the development team were in India.
1 Year on and with no end in sight i decided to pull the plug and demanded my money back. They immediately refused and said they would counter claim for the second half of the payment.
We went to court and we won our case but it took 2 visits to court and a long drawn out amount of work. In hindsight the contract is very loaded towards the supplier because of words used such as reasonable time and unforseen circumstances so check it over and then get back to your development people with your own direct additions to the contract that way you can then confidently proceed down the legal route if things go wrong.
It put us off proceeding with others like them for a very long time. So be warned tighten the contract before signing and agree timlines
Neoteric UK we nearly went with them a couple of years ago and I was so close to giving them the go button, something told me in my gut not to go.
It is a total MINEFIELD….Ours has been up for over 2 years now, and we took someone on private from a recommendation instead of a firm that promises the EARTH and leaves you high and dry. We have learnt so much by ourselves also, if you had asked me to create a bit of code two years ago I would have shot the boots of you.
I do want to bring my website to the next level and am getting some help from a supplier who gets the marketplaces are no help to them in the long term to them either.
It is top dollar however, and hard work especially with Google which is biased to those who pay the most . However Facebook is a great generator of traffic if you use it right. Anyway we want to build our own brand and not someone else’s.
A few years ago we paid a well reviewed UK based web design company a few k to write our new site, the old one was 10 yrs + old and I believed database driven so not search engine friendly. As per the top comment we provided everything, the site is up and running but very sadly on going support is all but non existent or costs a fortune. It doesn’t perform as well as the old one did in terms of search results. I have come to the conclusion now that the only way to achieve satisfaction for us will be to employ possibly part time an in house web designer to work in our offices and produce the results we need, support by remote control seems to be time consuming and not particularly effective. We also had a few years ago experience of an India based company, promised the world and delivered nothing but on going expenditure. My advice to anyone looking now to build a site would be to firstly if you have the time (I didn’t / don’t despite been capable) to create your own and learn, (unless you’re over 50 when it seems we forget as quickly as we learn !) getting help where needed. Otherwise see if you can find a local friend / partner / neighbor willing to do it part time, I’m not convinced the solution is paying the mandatory £3k+ to a UK based developer for a cut & paste. remote control solution is really either good money spent or the answer for a trouble free site.
I had a Website built by a local company “bespoke4business”, local, so that I could bang on a few desks if unsolved problems arose. Cost was quite high, but I never had any major problems with the build, & was very please with the design process. I was kept in the loop all along, & once the website went live it only took 6-8 months of sales to get the outlay back. Did not even have any SEO, & sales from the website outstrip Ebay sales now. Any problems are sorted within 1-2 days, depending on the complexity. It was the best thing I had done, & well worth it.
We had the same problem when we first looked at getting a website built. Found a company that promised the earth with a huge contract and as soon as we signed they outsourced it to India. The website was a mess which lasted about 8 months when we decided we needed something better. Still wet behind the ears we looked at the Prestashop platform. In the end it was easy to work with, it looked good but the SEO was miles of the mark. Took some advice from an SEO expert who adviced us to go for Magento. Found a company in Lincoln who made the site for us, cost us a fortune only to find once I started learning a little about code that they had filled the site with there own code to make it really hard for anybody to add there own programs without asking them to do it at £84 an hour. Had a go at building a Magento site which we found really hard. Only then to find that it was all going to change over to Magento 2 and would have to start all over again. For the past 18 months when doing research I kept finding information about WordPress/Woocommerce. We have now built 2 sites. The first one took us 17 days doing 2-3 hours a day after work and we found it really easy with lots of tutorials on Youtube. Best part about it was that it cost us about £130 for a theme, ssl, initial hosting on a hosting company and a couple of programs that needed updating to the pro version that costs. Apart from a little help from Simple Servers (by the way are really good and helpful) we did actually enjoy the whole experience. The second site cost us a little less to build and the cost was recovered on the first day on both sites we went live which really puts a smile on our face. Best part about it is the odd things have gone wrong with the site we have a really good idea what it is and we have rectified ourselves within minutes and for free which is better than waiting for a company to do it when they feel they have the time and charge you £84 for a five minute job. Best thing we ever did doing it ourselves and we won’t be relying on any company to build us a site again. I’m sure there are other platforms out there that are just as good but we can certainly recommend WordPress/Woocommerce with hosting on Simple Severs for £9.99+vat a month for ease of build and use and SEO capabilities.
After struggling with outsourced Web Development Organisation from South East Asia, I came across this useful website builder called TemplateToaster. It really was a huge pain for making these freelancers understand how I wanted my web pages. I’m not a professional Web Developer but not a complete novice either. I have the basic understanding of how the layouts should be framed and I was astonished to see the fellowship these outsourced freelancers retained.
After using TemplateToaster software for building my web pages, I’m more than satisfied and convinced that I did it all by myself, the way I wanted it. I’ll say its a must try tool for those who are struggling to build something on WordPress, because that makes WordPress too easy to work with.
When I was struggling I found a company to do one of my websites – https://www.codeandcreate.co.uk/ they are very good at what they do and dont charge an arm and a leg! They are not a huge company but I found that an advantage because the people you talk to are the ones that can make decisions, suggestions and quotes.
They are also quoting me on some bespoke software.
Magento and other platforms, are fantastic, but unless you have a reasonable budget or you are fairly technical, they can be a bit of overkill.
If you are considering a first eCommerce site, I would probably recommend checking out a hosted eCommerce solution, something like Shopify, EKM Powershop or Big Commerce (there are many others).
You don’t necessarily need to use a web developer or programmer to set it up. Most people would set it up themselves. Those platforms have really good functionality and a fairly low monthly fee. They will take care of some of the important technical stuff like maintaining and patching the software, leaving you time to focus on the site design and listing your products. Also, they will either have some built in multi-channel functionality, or they will connect with your favourite multi-channel software, so you can link up your marketplaces and website sales and stock.
The money you save creating the website, can then be put into advertising campaigns to drive customers to the website e.g. Google Adwords, SEO etc
Hope that helps someone 🙂
Each company will be different but i found most of the time you can outgrown shopify/ekm/bigcommerce very quickly and then have to fund to build your own site within the same year. These prepaid stores costs can build up quickly.
WordPress/woocommerce is easy enough to use and allows for future changes.
@Tim – I would agree, you’ll probably need to migrate eventually, although we’ve a few Clients using Shopify in particular with turn overs through the site of between £500K and £1m, not massive, but significant enough for a small business.