Good question, actually there are good reasons for each of the above options. I encourage people to use low cost template solutions all the time even though I am an “expensive designer”.
It really all comes down to business priorities related to the following two items
A well designed, custom website really goes a long way towards establishing you as a successful, professional business, while a template website always looks like a template website.
Sometimes the custom designed website is out of your budget, and in that case a template based website is better than no website at all.
We can approach this question from the other side as well and ask “when would a template based website be the best solution for me and my business?”
Top 5 Indicators That a Template Based Website Is For Me.
- I print my business cards on my desktop printer using perforated sheets.
- I have been known to show up to business meetings in flip-flops.
- My business is just starting out and we barely have enough money to turn on the lights.
- Our competitors strive to be the best, our goal is to be the cheapest.
- My 12 year old designed our logo in MS Paint.
Okay, that was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the point I am making is that sometimes business image takes a backseat to other, more important priorities like budget. Many very successful businesses never think twice about business image and who am I to argue with their success? But if you are interested in standing out from your competition and making the best impression possible, then a custom designed website is the way to go.
When you put it in perspective the price of a custom designed website is not so much for an item that you buy once and own forever. The cost of the average custom designed website amortized over 5 years comes out to around $60 a month, many businesses spend much more than that every month for print advertising.
Feel free to use our “Get a quote” tab above to see how our prices compare to a template based website. There is no obligation or high pressure sales tactics involved.
In order to have your website available online 24-7 it needs to be on a computer that is connected to the internet at all times, this computer is called a web server. You could have your own web server in your office, and larger companies often do this, but there are security and maintenance concerns to think about so it is usually cheaper and more worry-free to pay someone else to use their web server.
Web hosting refers to paying a web hosting company to rent space on their web server or “host” your web site.
All web sites need to be hosted somewhere and there are a lot of web hosting companies to choose from. Here are the top things to look for in a web hosting company.
- Bigger companies are better. There is something to be said about shopping locally but you want a web hosting company that is big enough to have the infrastructure to support your website (data redundancy, backup generators, big internet pipes, etc)
- Good support. Ask around and read reviews online to make sure the company you pick for web hosting will offer timely support when something goes wrong.
- Price. This goes without saying, but like anything, remember that the cheapest is not always the best.
A custom designed website is not for everyone. A person would want a custom designed website for the same reasons you might buy an expensive suit for business meetings or for the same reasons you might work hard to make your office clean and presentable, because you want to present a professional, successful business image.
Template based websites always tend to look like templates and are often rough around the edges. For a small business just starting out, or when marketing budgets are extremely tight or nonexistent, one of these free or low cost websites is probably the best solution.
For the growing business looking to make a good impression on potential customers, a custom designed website is among the best, and certainly among the cheapest, marketing investments you can make.
CMS stands for Content Management System, basically it’s software that allows you to manage your website without any technical knowledge. If you had a CMS on your website you would have a special part of the site where you could login and change text or add images as easily as if you were writing emails.
A couple of good reasons why you might want a CMS include:
- Save money over time not paying a web designer to handle changes to your site.
- Keep your content fresh by making frequent changes easily thereby encouraging repeat visits.
To learn more about content management systems see our article 5 Advantages of a Content Management System
Aside from having an e-commerce website there are several things you can do to make your website more profitable or at least pay the hosting fees.
Ads – Google and others allow you to place ads on your website and pay you for clicks from your site, a good starting place is https://www.google.com/adsense/
Affiliates – Many sites have affiliate networks where you are payed every time a paying customer originates from your website. Some good starting places are https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/ or http://www.cj.com/
Sales – You can create and sell unique items through Cafe Press, all you need is artwork, once you upload it you can apply it to a wide number of products from mouse pads to t-shirts and coffee mugs. http://www.cafepress.com/cp/info/sell/
Donations – If you have a good cause you can add a PayPal donate button and get visitors to donate online. https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donate-intro-outside
For the small business with an even smaller budget there are a few free and very low cost options that will at least get you a web presence. Remember that you get what you pay for.
In the free category I would recommend Tumblr which offers a very nice free blog. They have some nice looking design templates to choose from and you can attach your account to your Facebook and Twitter account which is nice.
In the low cost paid category I would recommend Page.ly which for $14.98 per month offers a quick 2 minute setup, your choice of some nice looking templates and a free domain name. Also because Page.ly is powered by WordPress you have the ability to install any WordPress plugin so you have an almost unlimited ability to customize and add functionality.
One word, labor, designing a good website just plain takes a lot of time.
To break the process down a little bit. First we create a nice looking design that represents your business well, then we have to code all the pages into HTML, the language that your web browser reads, make all the graphics and images and optimize them to download quickly. Then we need to make sure that all of our work will look good no matter what browser or operating system someone is using by testing and making revisions. We also have to make sure our work will perform well on search engines. It all adds up to a lot of hours in front of the computer. The average website we develop takes between 40 and 80 hours of labor and that is why websites are so expensive.
There are some low-cost, template based alternatives available to the budget conscious business that I will discuss in a future installment here.
SEO stands for search engine optimization and it is a process by which a website is made more competitive in the search engines. It involves various procedures like researching and selecting competitive keywords, building those into your website and cultivating inbound links among other things. SEO cannot guarantee a certain position on the search engines, but it can help you stand out from the thousands of other websites on the internet in your industry. One thing to be careful of when buying SEO services, there are certain practices known as “black hat” SEO that can get your website banned from search engines, be careful and buy from a reputable business.
It can take weeks for a new website to appear in the search engines and often many more months before you are in a reasonable position as regards search engine results pages. Even if you paid a lot for SEO services you will have to be patient before you see results. We often expect to get results on the internet instantly, but I am afraid that in this case change happens at a snail’s pace.
So chances are if your website isn’t showing up in Google it’s probably just too new. However if your website is not new then it is possible there is something wrong. Websites can be blocked from Google because they contain malware or can be banned from Google for engaging in black-hat SEO techniques.
Contact iLab New Media for a free consultation and we can run the problem down and let you know why your website isn’t showing up in Google with no obligation and no high-pressure sales.