Having a business website can increase your revenue, leads, and of course your possibility of being found on Google.
But the dilemma of setting up business websites in this day and age is the thousands of options. You have website builders like Wix and Squarespace that promise you easy to build and nice looking sites. On the other hand, website developers promise functionality and beautiful designs.
You are on the fence currently wondering which to go for. Changing platforms after spending so much can be a nightmare, so you have to get this right. That’s why I wrote this article to help Nigerian entrepreneurs and any business owner to understand the nuances involved to get a killer website.
In this article, I have explained how to choose the right vehicle – either a website builder or developer. Also, I broke down the necessary ingredients that you should look out for if you’re going with a developer and a self-hosted website solution.
Overview Of Website Builders
Website builders enable you to create websites in a few clicks. They have their good sides as well as their offsides, and I’ll give you all the objective information.
Website builders usually offer paid plans; some also provide a few days of free trial to test their juice. There are those for the basic corporate sites – Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and co. Then there are those for e-commerce websites like Shopify, BigCommerce, Volusion, and co.
When To Use Online Website Builders
When You are Strapped for Cash
You’ve spent your all on business registration, getting equipment, an office space, and now you’re almost broke, but still want to hang on.
Pro tip:Ensure that you have product/market fit before registering your business and making any financial investment that's outside your market research. Click To Tweet
Most Nigerian entrepreneurs fail to confirm their product/market fit and end up calling for product redesign when their business is crashing when a redesign might not be the solution. So, before you think of website development and registration, go into deep research for product-market fit.
Website builders come off as the salvation for small business folks. You have prices like $4 for a website. That’s about 1,400 Naira and looks like a chicken change to some.
With custom website design, you will pay for your hosting then the website development. Given that some professional website development companies charge 100k and above regardless of how low the functionalities you need, this might seem like salvation.
You Want to Build It Yourself
If you’re not a website designer, but you want to build your site yourself, then website builders might be your miracle workers. Some of them are easy to use with drag and drop builders, but others easy trap you in and leave you running after the developers you thought you escaped.
If You’re Blogging As a Hobby
If you want to run a personal blog, nothing professional, just fun and stuff, website builders are promising. Otherwise, you might be setting yourself up to fail.
Why/When To Run Away From Website Builders
So, I have given you the obvious pros of website builders; now I’ll state the cons.
They Don’t Save Money
Yes, I know. I said you should use them if you’re close to being broke. But the thing is that they hook you with a cheap plan that isn’t right for business websites. See, for example, the pricing plans of Wix:
Starting with the lowest plan, $4.50 per month is low cost but you get to be a salesperson for Wix by showcasing their ads plus you only have 500MB of storage. That doesn’t take much.
If you’ve visited those blogs relying on Google Adsense for cash, you’ll understand just how badly ads slow down websites. Also, it’s unprofessional to have ads showing on your business site. It doesn’t speak well of you and what you’re selling.
The next plausible plan is the Combo plan for $8.50 per month. No Ads. Good. Better storage. Yay! But then the bandwidth makes my eyebrow raise a bit. If you’re just starting, that might do. However, as long as you plan on growing traffic be it through PPC or SEO, you’ll need more than that.
Also, at $8.50 per month, you’ll spend about $102 per year plus about $10 or more for your domain registration fee; you should pay close to $120 every year.
Still cheap but note that with web developers, after the initial web development fee, your only costs are hosting and domain. Your recurring payments will be low-cost.
You Don’t Want Restrictions
Website builders provide limited options in terms of web design, file access, functionality, and the extent to which you can customize your website.
Except if you’re using a robust platform that allows file access, your business will feel the need for more.
Also, no business wants to look like everyone else. You have to look like you – different. Have a distinct brand identity, and the bad thing with site builders is that they give you a template that you can only tweak few parts, like the colours and a few allow CSS input, but that’s not enough.
It’s easy to bypass businesses that don’t have a proper digital brand development.
According to Ironpaper, 48% of people judge the credibility of business by the website design.
You Don’t Want Your Customers To Jump Ship Due To Slow Loading
Many hosted website builders load slow.
Wix (no offense intended) didn’t do so well. Even its website – wix.com -scored 19/100 in Google PageSpeed on mobile. Sure, many sites score that low, but as a provider of website building and hosting service, we expect more.
Sadly, you can’t improve your site load time or speed in website builders like you can on custom website development.
Of course, when you have a hard-coded or CMS-foundation site, you’ll either need to bury your head in hour upon hours of videos and blogs to learn how or hire a website developer/SEO person to optimize your speed and load time.
You Want To Give Your All To SEO
Most website builders including those top ecommerce ones have poor SEO features. Clunky codes, rigid URL structures, sitemap issues, and some don’t even have a built-in blog. How then can you work SEO?
You need to rank well on search engine result pages, and you can’t go far with website builders.
Overview Of Website Developers
Whether you’re using a freelance web developer or a website development company, designing a website for a business is never straightforward. It’s a process that differs with each brand you work with. The good thing is that when you use the right website developer, you get to have a fantastic website that sells your brand.
When To Use Website Developers
You get someone who can optimize your website for speed, better SEO work, no restrictions, and the best functionalities and design that’s tailored to your budget. These are some of the whys and whens for using website developers:
You Want To Boost Your Credibility
If a potential customer visits your website and it looks cheap, messy, and identical with every other low-range blogger, do you think they’ll feel pressed to contact you for your service?
Put yourself in their shoes, especially if you sell on the website. No one in their right mind will enter their card number or trust that you don’t sell fake and low-quality products/services if your website doesn’t give off the sleek, professional look.
You Want Codes Or Custom Tweaking With/Without A CMS
CMS is a content management system. They help with the foundation for your website which your developer will build on. Alternatively, your developer can write codes without using any CMS.
The advantages of CMSes (WordPress, Magento, Drupal, etc.) is that you have a background boosting your visibility, SEO, and functionality.
Tweaking a CMS is not something that a tech newbie can easily do without breaking the site. In that case, you’ll need a developer. Also, if you’d rather have your website built from scratch with code, you’ll need a dev.
You Want Tech Support
One pro of using a website developer is that you continue to enjoy tech support. Now, I’m talking about good devs, not the $5 devs you get from freelancer.com that aren’t sure of what they are doing and run off on you.
Good devs stay with you and when/if any problems arise in the future, they will be there to help you solve them.
When Not To Use Developers
You Want Your Website up in Less 36 Hours
You want it NOW!
No developer can get you a custom website in such a short time unless they tweak the codes of another site and give you something that’s almost alike or if a large team is working on it. Even then, it should take a bit of time, at least 2 weeks.
Also, they’ll need time to study your business, understand what you want to achieve, and spend time laying the bricks for the best solution.
You Don’t Have Money
Some business owners want an online presence to boost their conversion rate but don’t have up to 10,000 Naira to take care of hosting and domain.
I’m not going to discourage your drive to achieve more despite having less. In this case, you might have to take a monthly plan of $4 for a Wix website and go from there.
How to Build an Amazing Website
This section of the article is not going to be on using website builders. That’s on various other articles.
Also, this section is not going to teach you frontend or backend coding. I doubt if you can learn that from only one blog post. You could learn from YouTube videos, online course marketplaces like Udemy or w3schools to get that.
Here, I’m going to tackle getting an amazing website even with a low budget. That means, choosing the right host, domain registrar, and platform.
The First Component – Domain Name
Step 1 – Pick A Domain Name
Picking the right domain name is easy – use the name of your business.
If your business name is Hyperlink Village, use Hyperlinkvillage.(com, com.ng, ng, etc.) or put together components, for example:
If you haven’t fully decided on your name, you can put some thoughts into what your website will be about. Is it business support? Engineering? Or you still need to figure out a great idea.
What every idea you choose, ensure that you understand the factors necessary for business success in Nigeria. You wouldn’t want to spend time and energy on an idea that shouldn’t see the light of day.
Step 2 – Have Variations Of Your Domain Name
After picking the perfect name and domain suffix, it’s time to check if your name is available online. That’s not hard, but you might hit issues.
The reason is that most English combinations, especially for .com are taken. A few weeks ago, I was with an Entrepreneur who wants to build a website that helps Nigerians check out reviews on houses to ensure that they don’t pick the wrong one. He had a long list of names – all were taken.
It took hours of brainstorming on our part before we ended up with Sharptenant – a big gap from our initial ideas that were mostly English words.
Another entrepreneur we worked with at The Brand Ally – Inkgeniusng faced the same issue. He wanted inkgenius.com. That was taken. .ng was taken as well. .com.ng was too long for him. In the end, he had to add Nigeria to his business name, and we worked with inkgeniusng.com.
Ensure that you have variations of your business name. Also, some domain name generators can help you out. Some of them even show you if the name is registered and give tons of unregistered variations that you might like. Namemesh is one of them.
Step 3 – Pick A Domain Registrar
A domain registrar is where you’ll get your name registered. These days many web hosting company offer that service together with hosting so you have both at the same place, but just in case, you’d rather have your domain from separate registrars and hosting from the other top web hosting companies, you’ll need to know this.
Domain registrars tell you if your name is available or not before you can go ahead to purchase it.
Some of the best domain registrars are:
They generally work the same but cost may differ.
Step 4 – Go and Register Your Name
Go to your domain registrar and type in your name.
Beast mode allows you to search for more names at the same time with the addition of Namemesh functionality – generating domain names.
For this article, I’ll stick with the standard search because that’s what most people use. So, after typing in your name and preferred TLD (top-level domain or what many laymen call domain suffix), click on the search icon.
Yay! Our name is available. Add it to your cart, see the add-on fees, if any, and pay.
The Second Component – Hosting
Choosing the right web host is critical to breakthrough your market online. That’s where your files will stay. See it as your office space, but online. To pick right, have these factors in mind:
Any uptime guarantee that’s lower than 99.95% doesn’t look good. Even that is low, we need 100%, but that is hardly, if ever provided.
Don’t just go with the figure on the hosting features. Instead, check if they have a service level agreement. If the uptime is backed by SLA, the web host will strive harder to achieve top uptime to ensure that they don’t have to refund money back to their customers.
Certain features depend on what your web developer is going with. For example, many web hosts offer only Linux OS with shared web hosting, but your developer might need Windows OS.
Some only support PHP, no Python, and your developer might need to use Python to achieve what you need. So, you’ll have to consult with them on that.
Then, having automated backups is excellent. Some apps like Softaculous help with that or your web developer might have to create cron jobs or connect an application to your hosting control panel for that. SSD is also nice to have and better than HDD.
If you’re going to use a shared hosting space, you should look out for CloudLinux and CageFS. With those, over-use of resources or malware from other customers using the same server as you wouldn’t affect you.
Also, check out the location of their servers. That has a role in website load time – not much, but a bit. If it’s so far from your target audience and there are no network connections to any closer to you, check if they support CloudFlare CDN or have the plugin in the control panel.
If they offer free SSL certificates and domain name (first year or forever), that’s nice but not a top priority. But it should help you cut down cost, especially for the first year.
Choosing a web host with terrible or no support will end up in a nightmare. 24/7 support is great because you might be using a web host in a timezone that doesn’t favour you. So, live chat, email, a help center, all nice to have.
Picking Your Web Host
So you have found a list of web hosts offering those, but you have to pick one.
Critical tip – Most bloggers that “review” web hosts do affiliate marketing and most of those “top” web hosts that they review offer 50% to affiliates so of course, the bloggers will sell them.
You can read bloggers’ “reviews” to get a view of what they offer but also go to web hosting forums and customer review sites like Yelp to really get a picture of how actual customers feel. Also, your web developer would have worked with a few and should know which works and which was hell to work with.
If Your Domain Registrar and Web Host are Different
So, if your web hosting provider and domain registrar are different, you/your developer will need to point your domain name to your hosting account. It’s not hard; a simple Google search can help you with that.
Go to your domain registrar, and update your DNS servers to that of your web host. That’s all. The exact spot where your DNS settings will be differs for each web host.
So, depending on you and your web development team, you might either be given a hard-coded site or codes built on a CMS. Either is fine, but if you plan on doing a lot of content marketing, I’ll advise that your developer integrates a content system to your website.
Branding and Your Website
Just like your brick and mortar office where you decorate with your branding, your digital space should speak of who you are.
Look at banks, regardless of how they might redesign the shape of their buildings, their branding stays consistent. Ensure the following are representing you on your website:
If you don’t have one already, you can get a freelancer or a graphic design/branding company to do one for you. If you already have one, get the files from your designer.
Your website copy is all the text that’s on your website. Your home page, about us, and services pages are critical (for basic corporate sites). For ecommerce – your home page, product pages, and about us.
Those are messages that your visitors will see and decide if they’ll buy your product or use your service. You can write it but get an expert copywriter or company to review it and ensure that it actually sells.
Other content will include privacy policies, terms and conditions, etc.
The world is visual and only the right visual tactics can power-surge your business.
Most people will skip most parts of your text. You’ll need images and videos. You can get flat designs, actual pictures of you and staff, and videos too. It all depends on what you want to portray.
After all that, hand the graphics and texts over to your web developer or if you’re one and wish to do it yourself, set it up.
Your website is online, now what?
It’s not enough to have a website online; you need a solid marketing strategy if not, your site will collect dust rather than draw in revenue for your business.
So, plan your marketing strategy. If you’re going to use PPC, dig deep into profitable keywords. If you’re combining that with content marketing, you’ll need to understand how to work SEO, the content marketing hacks you need to have at the back of your mind, what tools to use and all that.
Also, ensure that Google indexes your website. Submit your sitemap. Even if you don’t Google bot will still crawl it, but it’s better that you give Google what you want it to crawl.
So, go to Google search console. Add a property.
Use domain prefix so that all subdomains and domain variations will be added. Verify your property, then submit your sitemap.
Also, set how often your sitemap will be updated from your website and if a major update happens before that time and you want Google to update it immediately instead of waiting for a week, then submit your map again, even if it’s the same URL.
Building a great website takes time. It’s not just picking any platform or template and voila! It takes some weeks of hard grinding. After that, marketing is much harder.
Don’t expect magic results the next day. The best SEO value might come months after you started working consistently on your content marketing. Also, look into marketing automation tools that will help streamline your content strategy.
By now, you should have all the relevant knowledge and what to look out for to lay the foundation for an amazing business website.
If you have any questions or have a contribution, reach out to us in the comment section, we’ll reply.
Ps. we offer web development and content marketing services, so hit up our box through [email protected] and let’s discuss.
The Brand Ally is a web design and digital marketing company. We provide great website designs, mobile app development, SEO, social media marketing, and Google Ads.