Just about everyone agrees that a website of your own is essential to your business in the 21st century. But what approach is best to build a website? The answer to this conundrum will depend on your business or needs.
Very rarely, you might want to build a website from scratch. This is so rare that we’ll cover this case first:
Why You Might Build From Scratch
- You’re a web designer, developer, coder, etc. Naturally, you want to show off your elite design skills.
- You’re a small local-based business. For example, say you’re a roofing repair company in Des Moines Iowa. As long as your website pops up when somebody Googles “roof des moines” or some such, you’re happy. A couple of static HTML pages can do that.
- You’re an artist of some medium that is not text-focused. Visual artists may want gallery software while performing artists may be better suited to a page of embedded videos showcasing their craft. Web game developers may want a virtual arcade page.
- Your website exists to sell a specific widget. A “sales page” is a typical one-page sales pitch with a link at the bottom and a shopping application, which is one common set-up.
Alternatively, your needs may be more technical than what a plain WordPress install can provide. In those cases, other content management systems include Joomla and Drupal, both requiring far more elite web skills than the average webmaster possesses, but provide support for more advanced uses such as setting up a web-based application or service.
In the case of building a site from scratch, you have the daunting job of manually providing everything your site’s setup is going to need – that can include Apache, MySQL, Java, PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby on Rails, and other web platforms and frameworks. It could also mean installing specialized software packages like gallery and shopping cart apps. One of your best bets here is to install Softaculous, a one-click auto-installer that drops in these packages a la carte.
If you’re sure you want to live without WordPress and you’re not a web developer, you’re better off hiring a freelance web designer from websites such as UpWork. Have a reasonable budget, be very clear and specific as to what you want, stay in communication, and you should be able to work with a web developer to get the custom set-up you need.
For Everyone Else, There’s WordPress
WordPress is so ubiquitous on the World Wide Web that it’s pretty much established as the Internet’s standard. The whole point of being on the web is so other people can find your content, and the best way to showcase that content 99% of the time is with a blog. WordPress has become the blog standard, used by more than 60 million websites including one-third of the most-trafficked websites.
Here are a few use-cases where a blog helps promote your business:
- You’re a sole proprietor professional, such as a lawyer, consultant, freelance journalist, film director, or agent. Use your blog to establish yourself as an industry expert, posting your thoughts on where your industry is headed, interesting case studies, accomplishments you’d like to highlight, and so on.
- You’re an artist, crafts-person, creative producer, or tradesman. Use your blog to showcase your works, announce upcoming gigs, hawk your latest published work, publicize your next gallery exhibit, and so on.
- You’re trying to set up ad revenue and affiliate links, treating the blog as a business unto itself. So pick your niche and review products, or set your stall up as an “influence marketer.” This can include book reviewers, “mommy bloggers,” or hobbyists such as gardeners or collectors.
The concept of blogging for business purposes is part of a wider practice called content marketing. Beyond straight-forward selling, content marketing is useful to increase brand awareness, expand customer bases, and attract attention. One famous case of offline content marketing is the Guinness Book of World Records, started by Guinness Breweries, who noticed that people in bars often discuss matters of trivia. Inspired, they set about composing the ultimate reference to settle bar-stool debates – with their company name cleverly attached!
Just because your needs extend beyond mere blogging doesn’t mean that WordPress can’t fit the bill. WordPress can create stand-alone pages as well, and for that matter it’s possible to edit a WordPress page in plain raw code, allowing custom page creation anyway. If you need simple features like pages for “about us,” “our staff,” “our mission,” or even a menu for your restaurant, WordPress is more than capable.
However, pushing WordPress too far to create other kinds of websites tends to be an inefficient solution. It is designed to be a blog platform first and primarily. So then a custom website is the way to go. Check out other websites in your industry or niche and use their example to inform your web strategy.