By richard masters, Feb 12 2013 11:52AM
Lets face it, most businesses- however small- need a website these days. It is possible to debate whether all businesses need one but, on balance, the weight of evidence would suggest that most do.
The traditional approach
The traditional approach to building a website has been to hire a website designer who takes a brief and produces a website to an agreed specification at an agreed cost. Often these are little more than electronic brochures. Any additions/changes required are then made by the designer at an additional cost.
An unwelcome cost
For most businesses they represent an unwelcome upfront cost which they could usefully do without. Furthermore, they usually require regular updating which can be a further ongoing cost to the businesses P&L. They are seen as a necessary, but irritating, evil!
The changing role of websites in business
Furthermore, as most businesses are now aware, the role of websites are changing and they are now seen as being much more than simple brochures, but are the focal point for a large number their customer facing activities. The centre of their marketing ecosystem if you like.
Clearly, this poses a dilemma for a lot of businesses, they know they desperately need to invest in developing their marketing activities but they realise that this will require further significant investments from already stretched P&Ls. However if they don't do it they will potntailly be at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace.
The case for Website Builders
Over the recent years a new class of product has emerged into the marketplace- WYWYG Website Builders- these tools enable businesses to build their own websites with minimal external expertise. If you can use a basic word-processing editor, you can use these tools.
A recent article identified 15 tools that are available on the market. The diagram below shows the number of sites that have been developed using just a handful of the more common tools- nearly 50 million, so it's not untried, nor unpopular, technology
I recently reviewed the capabilities of a few of them in some depth by building a basic website for an actual business using each of them in turn. They all delivered perfectly acceptable results!
Some advantages of Website Builders
In my judgement the advantages of these tools can be summarised as follows:
1. They cover the whole range of activities necessary to set up and run a website. A one stop shop including domains and hosting if you like.
2. They are flexible and business driven, allowing web pages to be updated in real time - just like you would any other document in your business.
3. They are facilities rich in that they allow you to easily incorporate: images and videos, other documents such as PDF's, Blogs, product information, slide shows, contact forms ,forums, online shops, payment systems etc
4. They allow the ready integration with social activity systems such as LinkedIn, Twitter and facebook etc via smart "widgets", to create in integrated marketing system rather than a static website.
5. They allow multiple users to update the site, so the endeavour can be a joint one if required.
How to get started
The good news is that most of the systems ( which are web based) have adopted the prevailing Freemium business model and allow you to build a free system first to check it does what you want before committing to the approach for real! The paid for cost are then only a few pounds a month including your own custom domain name. Most take transfers, if you have an existing purchased domain.