What kind of website do I need?

Posted by Eric Goodenough on July 24, 2013

what kind of website

For many small business owners, building a website for your business can be a process full of anxiety, uncertainty and stress. We regularly get asked “what kind of website do I need?”

You may or may not be familiar with the different kind of site platforms out there, WordPress, Blogger, Drupal, Joomla, just to name a few.  So how do you know what kind of website you need? What is best for your business?

When you are getting ready to build your site, what kind of site you want is important to convey to the developer/project manager. I’m going to sit down with my favorite project manager today and ask him all the questions you should ask when searching for a team to build your site.

Amber: So project manager person to whom I am not related in any way (ok fine, it’s my husband…so sue me). What are the different types of websites and why should I care?

Eric: Well there are 3 main types of sites.

  1. A static website, which is a website that is up for informational purposes that doesn’t need content publishing.  In other words, you don’t need to update it very often. Think of it like a print flyer, just information not a whole lot of interaction with customers.
  2. The second is a CMS/blog (content management system) an example would be WordPress.  This type of site might have a blog or news feed that you can update on a regular basis. And allows a lot of customization such as shopping carts, membership sites etc.
  3. The third type is a web application, which is a type of site where you have user accounts and users are going to interact with the site.  Good examples of this would be Facebook and Twitter.  This type of project is usually a custom project that stems from an initial idea.  An app that lets users interact, store data and sometimes collaborate.

Amber:  So let’s say I want to build a site for my interior design business and I’m going to use social media as part of my marketing strategy. What would you recommend?

Eric: I would recommend a CMS for your business.  What that allows you to do is post updates on current projects and upload pictures and video of spaces you have decorated.  The advantage of a CMS is that you can really interact with your readers, you can publish content so potential clients can find you. And it’s easy to integrate with your social media efforts.

Amber:  What if I have a bakery and I really just need a basic website, like my location and hours and contact info?

Eric:  In this case I would recommend just going with a static HTML website. If you are not planning on updating the information frequently, or you don’t need a blog…this is a fast and inexpensive way to have an online presence. From your site you can then link to social media sites…which allows you to get the message out on new menu items, specials and sales.

Amber:  Let’s say I’m a photographer, I want to build something custom for my business where my clients can log in and see proofs and then order prints etc.?

Eric:  This is a good case for a web app, the key word here is custom. If you are planning on having your users interact with your site or you are thinking about providing an online tool, then a web app might be the way to go. As I stated earlier, an app is an interactive way to store, create, share info and in some cases, allow users to create accounts.
A web app is great for this because its a customized solution for your business. As the photographer you can upload photos from events and then allow people to create accounts to view the photos, comment on them and order prints right off the site.

Most of the time a small business really needs a static or CMS site. Apps are really more for technology based businesses. For example TripIt is a web app that people use to plan their travel. It’s not a marketing site or a blog. It’s a tool.

Amber:  Ok so I’m ready to hire a developer.  When talking to a web team about my project, what are the top 5 things I should be thinking about?

  1. Always think like your customer or user. Every decision that you make, should be focused on how the user is going to interact with your website. Don’t get caught up in what you want to see.
  2. Consider the future. If you think that you are going to want to do a blog next year or 6 months from now, then build the site in a blog platform. You can always turn the blog on later when you need it. You don’t want to spend money to build a static site now and then realize you should have done a CMS and have to spend more money making the change.
  3. Be realistic in your expectations. Having a good web team to build and maintain your site is very important. Get multiple quotes, know your budget. If you have a $3,000 budget, you aren’t going to get Amazon.com, you have to make some sacrifices sometimes. Understand what the key features are that will make your business’ online presence successful.
  4. Choose your battles. You are going to come up against decisions about design, features, functionality…every time one of these decisions come up…step back for a second and see if this is really something you want to fight for. You hired this team for their expertise, listen to what they have to say. Don’t fight them when they are telling you that this one little thing you want might not happen.
  5. Respect your web team. You’ve made a decision to hire a team of people that are hopefully experts. Let them do their job. If you don’t trust your team, you are going to end up with a product that isn’t that great.

In the end the best way to navigate all of this is to find a good developer that you can trust.  Someone that is interested in helping you become successful online, not just about getting your money.  Look for developers with good references, or ask a friend if they have someone they would recommend. Remember it’s your business and your hard earned cash, don’t let a pushy web guy get in the way of your vision.