Where to start with Websites

We typically recommend that every business, no matter how new or how small, set up a website.

At a minimum, a website helps you drive sales by establishing credibility as a professional operation and providing basic information about the services/products you offer.

It can also serve as a hub for original content that establishes you and your business as an expert in your industry, host customer testimonials, and process sales directly (e-commerce) among dozens of other functions.

Building a website can seem daunting, especially for business owners who have neither the budget nor technical expertise to build a custom website from scratch. This is where a website builder or a  CMS can save the day!

What is a CMS?

A CMS, or content management system, is software that allows users without programming knowledge to create, edit, and publish web content, such as text or multimedia elements, collectively via a graphical user interface.

In other words, a CMS takes care of the grunt work of getting your website set up and lets you focus on populating your site with great content. 

What is a website builder?

Website builders are often even simpler than CMSs, although they typically offer less functionality. These sites are often drag-and-drop and a great option if you just want to get up a barebones page with your basic information.

Both website builders and CMSs are popular solutions for many small businesses, and there are options to suit every budget and level of comfort with programming.

We thought it might be helpful to walk through some of the pros and cons of the best website builders and CMSs for small businesses:

CMS/

Website Builder

Pros Cons
WordPress

(CMS)

 

We recommend this one.

  • Massive popularity means there are tons of online resources (guides, forum posts etc.)
  • Started out as a blogging platform and still one of the best for blogs
  • One of the best options for services businesses
  • 50,000 extensions available = tons of flexibility on what the site can do
  • Many free design templates with options for customization
  • “Five-minute installation” wizard
  • Search engine friendly URLs
  • Publishing tools for mobile
  • Endless possible extensions, templates, and customization mean the learning curve can be rough
  • No dedicated support team; only online guides and a forum
  • You must install an eCommerce plugin if creating an online store – if this is your site’s primary function, Shopify might be a better option
Joomla

(CMS)

  • Great for hosting blogs and services businesses
  • Around 8,000 extensions available
  • Some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) support
  • Open-source platform
  • Community support through forums
  • Slightly more complex than WordPress
Shopify

(CMS) We recommend this one if you are looking at doing an online store.

  • Dedicated to e-commerce, so excellent functionality for online stores
  • Pretty flexible on design
  • Excellent tutorials available so you can learn quickly
  • If you’re a services business or have no interest in selling online, this is not a good fit
  • Blogging comes secondary, if you are primarily interested in creating content and selling a few things on the side this is not your best bet
Drupal

(CMF)

  • Open-source
  • Slim basic installation with more than 36,000 extension modules
  • Focus on social publishing and community projects
  • More than 1100 distributions as a complete solution for typical applications
  • Very flexible, modular layout
  • Very Old School!
  • Steep learning curve
  • Best for those with some knowledge of web development
Squarespace

(CMS/Website Builder)

  • Great pre-packaged design options
  • Easy to set up, no coding skills needed at all: drag-and-drop
  • Previews changes as you make them
  • More difficult to use than other website builders, such as Wix
  • Doesn’t have all the functionality of other CMSs
Wix

(Website Builder)

  • Consistently voted one of the easiest to use website builders
  • Aimed at non-technical users
  • Limited access to more complex features
  • Users have less control overall, it is more difficult to customize templates
  • Doesn’t have all the functionality of a CMS

For reference, here is a breakdown of the market share of the 10 most popular CMSs:

Wordpress

WordPress by a landslide! (We host our site on WordPress as well).

At the end of the day, the best CMS or website builder for your business depends on your unique needs and what you hope the website will do. We recommend that you take some time to explore the options and choose which one is best for you.

Once you’ve got your site up and running, check out our article on Cascading Content to learn how to populate it with content and drive traffic.