What sort of website do I want?

Ok, so you need a website. That’s step one.

Trouble is, there are as many different varieties of websites as there are chocolate (well, nearly…). And websites are slightly more expensive than chocolate, so you probably want to make the right decision first time around. What you’ll find here is an overview of the more common types of sites – which will hopefully help you decide what it is you actually need…

Static Brochure Sites

Content Managed Sites

Blogs

E-commerce Sites

Bespoke Database Sites

A static brochure site

This has nothing to do with electricity. Or chocolate. By a static site, I mean a website which is made up of a number of pages created, updated and maintained by your web designer. For example, you might have a home page, a page listing the services your company provides, an ‘about’ page, and maybe a contact page with your full contact details and a contact form. There might be more pages, there might be less.

The important thing to note is that you won’t have the ability to update the site yourself – all updates will go through your website designer.

Upsides:

  • this is pretty much the cheapest option you have (short of building your website yourself)
  • you don’t have to get involved with updating the site – your website designer manages this for you
  • if you hate computers, this is probably a good option…

Downsides:

  • all updates have to go through your web designer, potentially meaning increased cost/timescales for updating
  • if you’re a control freak, this might not be the option for you 🙂

A Content Managed Site

CMS. It stands for Content Management System. Essentially what that means is that you take the site I’ve just described above, and add the ability for site owner (and anyone else you’d like to give permission to) to add, edit and remove content.

Think about this relative to your situation. If you want to regularly refresh the the information on your website (TIP: Users and Google like regularly updated content), a Content Management System allows you to control this quickly and effectively.

How? You log on via your internet browser, and update pages via an interface somewhat similar to Word. I use WordPress for many of my Content Managed Sites these days – it’s a great open source platform, originally developed as a blogging tool (see below), but brilliant as a Content Management System too. All my clients are given full training/a user guide (and my telephone number!!) to help make the process as painless as possible.

Upsides:

  • you have far more control!
  • your site gets updated when you decide to update it, not when your web designer has time…

Downsides:

  • slightly more expensive in terms of initial outlay

A Blog

One way to look at a blog is as an online diary. But it’s not just that. It’s somewhere where you can post information and articles that will be of interest to your users (hopefully like this post is of interest to you :)). A blog can be standalone, or integrated into a Content Management System (much like the Hexagon Webworks site).

The big plus of a blog is that it allows you regularly publish relevant content, making your site of more interest to both users and Google. Share the knowledge and resources you already have within your business, and become known as an expert in your field.

Upsides:

  • An easy way to provide up-fresh content and insight to your users
  • Start to establish yourself as an expert in your field
  • Publicise blog content and use it to attract more visitors to your website

Downsides:

  • It needs input from you! There’s nothing worse than a blog with just one ‘Welcome to our new blog’ post…

An E-commerce Site

By an e-commerce site, I mean a site which allows you to sell products online. In terms of what the user sees, there might be several product category pages, each listing products, leading through to individual product pages with product details, prices, availability, etc. The user has the ability to add products to a basket, and is then taken through the ordering process and makes payment.

There are a whole raft of things to think about when considering an e-commerce website, outside the scope of this post (maybe the subject for a later date?). But in summary, if you want to sell online, you will need some kind of an e-commerce site.

Upsides:

  • Allows you to market and sell products to an online audience
  • Far less overheads than renting a traditional bricks and mortar shop!

Downsides:

  • The most expensive type of site out of those listed so far, and you’ll also be paying out monthly payment gateway/merchant account fees
  • Product details and images need to be pulled together and maintained – this can take time and/or money

A Bespoke Database Driven Site

Sometimes you just need something a bit special. Maybe you’re a recruitment company and need a searchable jobs database with an easy-to-update interface. Or maybe you need to give your users the ability to book training courses online. Maybe something completely different.

There’s a solution to most web needs. It’s just a case of finding it and getting it implemented. By commissioning a bespoke, database driven site, you’ve got the best chance of a website that will fit your requirements perfectly.

Upsides:

  • You get to specify exactly how you want things to work (within reason!!)
  • Rather than shoehorning a product to ‘fit’ your requirements, your website is created to match you and your business.

Downsides:

  • Can get expensive!
  • You’ll need to work closely with your web developer to ensure your requirements are accurately documented and understood.

That’s it for now – it’s a long post, but hopefully one you’ll find useful. Pick up the phone and talk more about what sort of site it is YOU need – 01235 834556, or e-mail me at [email protected].

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