Building a website is a vitally important task for any small business owner.
As the world moves further online, it is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to survive without some form of web presence. But it is often presumed that building a website is a difficult or costly task.
In reality, it becomes easier every day for business owners to build an impressive web presence on their own, and with very little outlay. Of course, if your business is expanding into e-commerce or if you want to build something particularly complex, then you will probably need to seek help from a third party. But with the range of simple, easy-to-use platforms available to business owners today, it is perfectly possible to build a functional first website for all but free.
So which platform should you choose to build your business website?
Wordpress is perhaps the most popular content management system (CMS) available today. A CMS provides you with a framework on which to build your site, and a simple means by which you can manage your pages.
Wordpress has the immediate advantage of a huge community of users. Many of these individuals have built ‘themes’, which provide a simple, out-of-the-box design solution. You simply upload and install the theme you would like, and then tweak it to suit your purposes.
The Wordpress ‘dashboard’, or administration panel, is very straightforward. It allows you to edit pages (static content) and posts (time-sensitive) using an interface that is very similar to a word processor. You can preview your posts before publishing them, or schedule them for publishing at a later date.
Wordpress also boasts an easily navigable Media Library, which allows you to keep and organise things like images and video that are used on your site.
Free. Available on your own domain or through Wordpress.com
Joomla is another free, open source CMS. It has not received as much attention as Wordpress in recent years – partly because it is seen as less uesr-friendly in many quarters.
As Joomla are happy to point out, almost 3 per cent of the internet runs on their platform – and it is growing in popularity.
Joomla prides itself on being scalable, and capable of handling large corporate projects. It provides much of the functionality offered by Wordpress, albeit with a rather less user-friendly interface. You should also bear in mind that the themes available for Joomla are frequently not of as high quality as those available for Wordpress – although many developers port their themes across multiple platforms.
If you are looking for something stable and you don't mind a bit of a learning curve, Joomla might be for you.
Free. Only available on your own domain. Joomla.org
Originally designed for purely personal use, Tumblr is becoming an increasingly popular choice for business websites.
From the outset you should understand that Tumblr is not a CMS. It is, instead, a blog platform, with limited functionality relative to the likes of Wordpress. But Tumblr boasts some unique features. Primary amongst these is the inbuilt ability for users to ‘follow’ specific Tumblrs. If a user chooses to follow you, they will receive your updates automatically every time they log in.
Tumblr may well be a good choice if you require only a basic site (for example with a couple of pages explaining what you do and how people can get in contact), but wish to use your site as a blog. This can be a great way to keep in touch with current and potential customers, and to build a sense of brand loyalty.
Free. Available on your own domain or through Tumblr.com
Google Getting British Business Online
Earlier this year Google launched its Getting British Business Online service, which aims to encourage firms without a web presence to start building one. Again, you should understand that this isn’t in itself a platform. Instead, it is a suite of tools and discounts.
Businesses who sign up receive a free .co.uk domain and email address. They can also use the Yola service to build a basic site – a task that Google claim could take as little as 15 minutes.
The site you will end up with will be basic, and will be made up of static content and images. But the free domain and the ease with which you can get online make this a tempting proposition.