Are you one of the 40% of US small businesses that don’t have your own website platform? Making the decision to invest in your digital hub is a big one and it’s vital that you understand your own needs before committing to the software that will run your website.
Know What Your Business Needs Are – Before Talking To Anyone
Sit down and map out exactly what you need to achieve with the site, what functionality you need from day one and how you might expand upon it in the medium term. For instance:
- Do you want to sell products/services?
- How many products/services do you need to upload?
- How frequently does your stock change?
- Do you need to include digital downloads?
- What payment gateways are you going to use?
- Are you going to be running a newsletter?
- Is it going to be a membership site?
- Do you need a forum?
- Do you want to include live chat?
- What type of content do you want on the site and what will you be adding in the future?
- Will you be blogging?
- Do you need multiple author support?
- What type of search functionality do you need?
- How much traffic do you envisage visiting the site?
- How much data needs to be stored.
- How many people need to access and transfer data to and from the site?
Look at other sites and write down every piece of functionality that you need to meet your business goals.
Even if you only want a brochure or business card style website now don’t build or have a static website built. Make sure that the site is built using the Content Management System (CMS) software that supports your needs.
Retaining Control and Ownership of Your Content
I’m an advocate of self-hosted blog and website solutions. A self-hosted platform is one where you buy the domain name and then host the software and content for your site using shared hosting or a dedicated server. The main reason for going down this route is YOU retain control and ownership of your content. Retaining this type of control ensures that you are not placing your business in someone else’s hands.
You find that website designers/developers tend to prefer one CMS to another. So, some specialize in Drupal, Joomla! or WordPress, and they’ll advise you to go with the one that they’re most comfortable working with, but you need to make the decision on the platform with your designer/developer based on your business and personal needs – not theirs.
This can’t be emphasized strongly enough… the CMS that’s chosen MUST be the one that works for your business needs.
Why Open-Source Software Is Likely the Best Solution
In most cases, an open-source solution is likely to be the best fit for your purposes as a small business. Open-source applications make their code publicly available meaning that developers can dig into the code and develop it to meet your specific needs.
The three open-source CMS mentioned above all have amazing communities built up around them that continuously improve the main functionality of the platform as well as offering a variety of additional plugins, themes, extensions and support to help you to make the most out of the platform.
The Final Decision Comes Down To
Each of the solutions that I’ve mentioned so far all have very different strengths and weaknesses, and you’ll need to look at your shortlist of platforms to make sure that you evaluate each one for flexibility, scaling, costs of implementation and maintenance, and training. As a rule of thumb, you’d use the three CMS that we’ve mentioned in this article in the following ways:
- Using Drupal for a small site with little data would be like attempting to open a walnut with a sledgehammer. It’s a heavy-duty enterprise level solution. It’s also the most complex of the three platforms and requires expertise to build and maintain.
- Joomla! is a step down from Drupal in that it suits midsized ecommerce websites well. The learning curve for using the software is easier, and it’s more intuitive than Drupal. It’s the closest rival to WordPress. It has great community support and is a highly flexible solution, and I’d have no problem recommending it for medium to large sized projects.
- WordPress is the go to solution for small businesses. It’s flexible, scalable, easy to install and easy to use. Most small businesses owners and staff seem to find the interface much more intuitive and easier to use on a daily basis than Joomla!
There are other solutions for you to research, and this infographic gives you a head start in that direction. There are also a range of solutions that provide you with a platform for your business as well as integration for your sales and marketing processes. We’ll look at some of those in my next article.
Have you found the ideal CMS for your business? Share your comments and experiences with us in the section below.