What Kind of Website Do You Need?
Before diving in, it’s best to ask yourself what sort of website you’ll need.
Depending on the type of business you operate, the kind of website you need will vary. While all websites have many similarities, your business site will require certain features that others don’t.
If you own a restaurant, for example, you’ll likely want to display a menu on your website. In contrast, a certified public accountant (CPA) likely will consider an easy-to-use contact form essential.
Below we'll explore different business categories along with recommendations on what website building software makes the most sense for these types of businesses.
Examples of local businesses include restaurants, CPAs, plumbers, real estate agents, flower shops, tanning salons, you name it. Think of any corner store or market you might find when driving down your main street as a perfect example of a niche business with specific website needs.
While these businesses generally don’t require large or complex websites, their sites must provide basic information about them while helping customers solve their problems.
Some local businesses need extremely basic websites, which feature just one page that displays their contact information and hours of operation. Others will need sites with greater functionality, such as ordering systems, chat responders, or even internet data exchange (IDX) integrations. Ultimately, your website needs will depend heavily on the type of business you run.
Remember, it's not enough to simply have a Facebook page, a Google My Business account, or a Yelp profile for your business. While all of these will help promote your brand and increase its visibility, a website for which you have complete control represents the first real step to becoming a legitimate business.
Large companies or brands include the businesses most people already know by name. All the companies who put items on the shelves of your local grocery store, for example, also need a business website.
Surprisingly, they often create much simpler websites than you may expect. Many of their sites are just blogs on a much larger scale. While a large business website may include hundreds or thousands of pages, the technology required to create it is actually no more complicated than what you need to build a small, simple blog.
For large businesses and brands, we recommend WordPress. There’s a good chance that a large business will already employ a few technology people or web developers. This means your business absolutely has the internal capabilities to build and run a proper WordPress website.
Online Service Business
A few examples of this type of business include software-as-a-service (SaaS) firms, membership sites, social media companies, and forums. Similar to businesses that need a blog or portfolio site, an online service business’s website takes center stage in promoting the company. The major difference, however, is that these businesses need sites with advanced functionality and technical integration.
Unless you’re an experienced web developer, you’ll almost certainly have to hire or contract with technical experts to create a website with the level of flexibility and expandability your online service business needs.
For online services businesses, we recommend WordPress or a custom-built website. If you need to build a technical tool for your clients to interact with, then off-the-shelf tools likely won’t prove robust enough. But, if you have a team of developers or engineers, consult with them first to determine the software that will best suit your business's needs.
If you want to sell products directly to customers online, you will absolutely need an ecommerce site.
The ecommerce sector has undergone a significant boom during the past few years. This includes those selling physical and digital products as well as those using a dropshipping model. Much of the fuel for this massive growth came from new software products that simplified the entire online selling process and lowered the cost for small businesses and entrepreneurs to enter the market.
While slightly more complex than a standard blog or portfolio site, ecommerce websites are simple to build and operate thanks to software specifically designed to serve this need.
For ecommerce businesses, we recommend Shopify. Specifically designed for online sellers, Shopify is one of the world’s most popular website builders for this type of business. Given its strength here, the Shopify platform provides the most robust tool on the market for new online stores.
Generally, a blog or portfolio website suits people who want to have a personal, online presence or artists who need a place to showcase their work.
In the case of a blog, the website is the business rather than a support feature of the business. This will influence the software you use to create the website. Because you’ll “live” in that software on a daily basis, you’ll need to ensure it’s a comfortable place that provides all the technological features you need.
If you’re interested in starting your own blog, check out our free blogging course. It’ll walk you through all the required steps to get your blog off the ground.
For other types of content creators, from those who produce video essays to podcasters, having a website that can house your in-depth content, as well as link it to all the other platforms for users to engage with it, is vital. Not all website builders come equipped with this capability or make it easy to navigate. Making sure you find the right fit is essential.
If you want to create a portfolio website to showcase your artistic work, then design control may play a more important role when choosing software. Most web building software platforms make design simple by offering a wide variety of templates from which to choose.
For blogs, portfolios, and other content-focused websites we recommend WordPress. An extremely popular website-building platform, WordPress powers almost 40 percent of the world's websites. Its popularity stems from its flexibility. You can build almost anything you want on WordPress.
Choose a Website Builder or Platform
Considering everything we’ve recommended so far, you may start to wonder why we suggest some tools over others. This section will provide a bit more context to help you make a better decision on which web hosting or building platform to use as you create your website.
We’ll begin with the WordPress platform as WordPress can be a bit tricky to untangle and understand. WordPress is not a website builder, per se, but more along the lines of a content management system (CMS) that can also build websites. Tricky, we know, but stick with us!
Then we will dive into a general overview of traditional website builders, what they typically offer, and how to find the right one for you.
We will also discuss important requirements and resources that will largely impact your final decision. The major decision factors when choosing the right website builder or platform include:
- Required Skill Level – How much do you know about building websites?
- Required Resources – How much time, money, and patience do you have?
- Flexibility – How complex are the needs of your website?
- Sustainability – Will the complexity of your website grow as your business grows?
WordPress is an extremely flexible, open-source, website-building platform. Since its launch in 2003, WordPress has improved and expanded many times. Its massive plug-in marketplace — a collection of more than 50,000 third-party applications — makes WordPress an even more adaptable platform. Overall, WordPress powers almost 40 percent of the world’s websites.
So, why would anyone choose not to use WordPress?
Because with all that flexibility also comes much complexity. In order to begin creating your website using WordPress, you must:
- Register a domain name (URL) with a domain registrar.
- Find a suitable web hosting provider to store and serve up your website’s data.
- Choose a WordPress theme that offers the design and functionality your business needs.
While these steps aren’t particularly difficult, you should understand that building a WordPress website is a modular process. Each time you want to add something to your site beyond the core functionality of WordPress, you must either install a third-party plug-in or find a custom-coded solution to make it happen. Even something as simple as getting started usually requires two to three purchases from separate companies.
- Required Skill Level – Medium. You should have some web experience before creating a WordPress website.
- Required Resources – Medium. You’ll either need quite a bit of time and patience if you plan on doing it all yourself or a significant cash investment to have an expert build it for you.
- Flexibility – High. You can build almost anything you want on WordPress.
- Sustainability – High. If built properly, your website can scale to infinity on WordPress.
WordPress isn’t for beginners unless you have a substantial amount of time to learn how to use it properly. If you aren’t a beginner or if you have a business that requires much more flexibility, WordPress is probably the right choice for you.
Unlike WordPress’s complicated feel, these website builders offer an all-in-one solution for building your business website. Generally, you select an available domain name within a website builder’s platform and then the tool will lead you through a series of questions about your business. After answering those questions, you’ll have a working shell of a website — all within about five to 30 minutes.
The trade-off for this colossal boost in simplicity is reduced flexibility. But, this only matters if you need complex features in your website. Ninety percent of small businesses won’t miss that expanded flexibility, which can sometimes slow the process of getting your site up and running.
Website Builder Summary
- Required Skill Level – Low. You don’t need any prior web development experience, but basic computer operational experience will come in handy.
- Required Resources – Low. Website builders charge extremely affordable monthly fees. Plus, because you won’t need to hire a developer, your time represents the main cost.
- Flexibility – Medium. Depending on the platform, you’ll probably find the options you need to operate your website. But, don’t expect to see a simple solution for every wild feature you can imagine.
- Sustainability – High. Website builders can sustain almost all websites built using their software for the lifetime of the site. If not, you can always migrate your site elsewhere.
Choose a Template or Theme That Suits Your Business
After selecting the software platform on which you’ll build your website, you must choose a template or theme to give your site a design and layout that fulfills your business needs.
WordPress uses themes to change the look and feel of your website. The best and most useful themes come from third-party companies. These themes control not only the design of your site, but also its back-end functionality in many cases. Check out our article on the Best WordPress Themes to learn more.
Website builders use templates, which mainly control your site’s look and feel. Your template choice won’t impact your site’s back-end layout or capabilities.
Your choice of theme or template will vary, depending on the type of business you operate and your style preferences. Use the following attributes to help guide your decision on which theme or template to choose.
Functionality and Simplicity
The most important attribute of a theme or template is its user-facing functionality and simplicity.
If people visit your website and can’t figure out how to navigate its pages or find the information they seek, then your site becomes a liability instead of an asset.
We’ve all been “trained” over the past few years to recognize some key elements of a well-designed website. You should, for example, find navigation bars and buttons in the expected locations so visitors don’t have to hunt around for answers to their questions. Well-designed websites also avoid crazy color combinations that make their text difficult to read on a variety of screen sizes.
Most themes and templates don’t stray too far from the median, so you should easily find one that satisfies all of these functions.
Brand and Visuals
Once you ensure your customers will find your chosen theme easy to use, you should look for an option that conforms to the visual elements of your business branding. Many new businesses actually derive their brand visuals from their websites instead of the reverse.
If you’re unsure about your business’s overall brand or style, just use your logo as a starting point. If you don’t yet have a logo, check out our free logo maker tool.
Create the Pages Your Business Needs
Websites consist of a carefully curated set of pages. Each page should have its own value and reason to exist. Without overcomplicating things, all websites need certain core pages while you’ll also want to add other pages specifically tailored to your type of business.
Pages Every Site Needs
Here are the five pages every website needs:
- Home Page: As the front page of your website, this should briefly describe your business’s purpose and how to interact with your business. It also should provide any other information you deem important for your customers to know.
- About Page: This page should provide an overview of your business, its people, its vision or mission statement, and any other identifying information you want to share with your customers.
- Contact Page: This page tells customers how best to contact you. Many sites feature contact forms, but you also should give customers direct ways to reach you. In addition, you may choose to include your hours of operation and business address on this page.
You should find it fairly easy to create your site’s Home, About, and Contact pages on your own. If you need some inspiration, check out these beautiful websites built with GoDaddy.
On the topic of lowering liability and protecting your business, if you haven’t started a limited liability company (LLC) for your business yet, check out our guide on How To Form an LLC in any state.
Pages Specific To Your Business
Along with the pages that every website needs, you may want to add a variety of other pages tailored to your specific type of business.
While not an exhaustive list, here are some page types that may make sense for your business website:
- Product Page: This type of page describes a product you sell. If you run an ecommerce store or have a physical shop, then a product page can help your customers understand the product and may offer them a chance to purchase the item.
- Pricing Page: Popular among businesses that sell services, a pricing page describes a company’s different service level offerings and their related prices. You’ll typically find a link to a pricing page on a website’s top-level navigation bar.
- Menu Page: If you operate a restaurant, then you absolutely need to create a menu page. You don’t want your customers to only find blurry images of your physical menu when they look for your menu online.
- Service Page: If your business offers more than one type of service, a service page provides a great place to provide a detailed list of these services.
- Blog Page: Every type of business can have a blog. In most cases, people start business blogs to help with their site’s search engine optimization (SEO).
Whether or not you choose to add these pages to your site will depend on what type of business you operate. You also can get creative and combine or add any of these page types as you see fit. Just remember that internet users expect to see certain patterns so stepping too far outside the norm may do more harm than good.
Calls To Action
While not a specific page type, calls to action are an extremely important part of any properly functioning website.
A call to action (CTA) is an element or object on your website that tells users what action to take next. A CTA could take the form of a “Buy Now!” button, a “Fill Out This Form” heading, or a “Click here for more details” link.
If you’re wondering if this type of action might make your website appear slightly deceiving, just know this is a necessary component of providing a good user experience. Offering these types of actions helps point site visitors in the direction they are supposed to go. Look at it more like offering help than running an advertisement.
Besides, sites without strong CTAs can end up encouraging customers to travel elsewhere to find what they need.
How To Create a CTA
Creating strong CTAs really depends on the action you want customers to take. Different situations call for different tactics, but, in general, effective CTAs take the form of a button or link that moves a customer further down the purchasing funnel. Here are some examples:
- A brightly colored button that reads “Buy Now” or “Add To Cart” can provide a strong CTA for customers visiting your product pages.
- Text that reads, “How To Reach Us” alongside a phone number or contact form can make an effective CTA for customers on your contact page.
- A button that reads “Schedule an Appointment” can spur action from customers who land on your services page and want to book an appointment.
As you can see from the above examples, creating strong CTAs isn’t rocket science. Almost every page on your website should have a CTA. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and try to anticipate what action they should take next to make them happy.
Review and Publish
After you determine and build the pages your website needs, it’s time to go live.
You only need to follow two key rules when publishing your website for the first time:
- Test Everything. Go through each page you created for your site. Read all of the text, press every button, and fill out every form. This quality control review will ensure your site works properly when your first users visit.
- Don’t Wait for Perfection. The most important feature of your website is whether or not it’s live. Creating a website for the first time is a learning process. You’ll inevitably find something about your site you don’t like. You may want a button to appear six pixels to the left, for example, but can’t figure out how to move it there. You’ll also likely find broken links you thought you already fixed. But, perfection doesn’t exist so there’s no point in waiting to publish after you complete an initial round of testing.
Maintenance, Updates, and Optimization
Successfully launching your business website doesn’t mean your job is done. Throughout the lifetime of your business, you should continue to look for ways to improve your website. Even if you choose not to make large enhancements, you must still ensure the site remains current.
The level of hands-on maintenance required will differ based on the software platform you used to build your website. In most cases, WordPress’s modular architecture will require more consistent input than a website builder platform.
You’ll need to perform other types of optimization tasks no matter what platform you use to create your site.
Remember to consider the items discussed below as you plan for the future of your website.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization is the practice of making your website’s pages rank higher in search engine results pages. Depending on how you market your business, improving your Google rankings and increasing your online visibility could have a monumental impact in your success.
SEO is a major topic much too large to cover in this article, so check out our beginner’s guide: SEO 101.
Plug-Ins and Updates
If you choose to build your site on WordPress, you must ensure your theme, plug-ins, and core WordPress software stay current with all relevant updates. While this involves a manual process, it’s generally as simple as logging in and making a few clicks.
Due to the modular nature of WordPress, each plug-in will have its own update schedule. While some will have more updates and patches than others, you’ll need to update all of them from time to time. These updates generally fix bugs and prevent security issues, but also can add new features and functionality.
If you choose to use a website builder to create your business website, you generally won’t need to worry about updates.
The all-in-one structure of these tools enables their developers to work behind the scenes to update your site with almost no input from you. This is one of the major advantages of using a website builder.
Start Your Business Website
Building a business website is easier than ever before. The availability of high-quality, easy-to-use tools should make your job much easier than you may have thought.
Based on our recommendations above, you should now have a good idea of which software platform will best suit your business.
If you’re ready to learn more about the different tools themselves, check out these other articles to get started: