You’ve decided your business needs a new website. Perhaps you have a new business, or perhaps your existing website needs a complete overhaul because the design and messaging is outdated. Making this decision is one thing, but the next steps can feel very overwhelming. Do I build the website myself? Do I hire someone? If I hire someone, who can I trust? What kind of website do I even need?

Take a deep breath, and let’s focus on first things first by answering “What kind of website do I need?”

To figure out what kind of website you need, define the purpose of your website. Here are some common goals for business websites:

1. Legitimize business: Having a web presence tells your buyer that you take your business seriously enough to be found online.
2. Build reputation: A website legitimizes your business and builds on your company’s reputation. A website that features testimonials and reviews builds your business’ reputation and trust with your future customers.
3. Drive conversions: Does your website serve as a vehicle for a desired result (example: “Download Our Free Guide,” or “Contact Us”).
4. Drive product sales: Do you need your website to serve as an online store?
5. Brand awareness: Does your website need to tell your story, explain your brand, and build brand awareness?

Once you define the purpose of your business’ website (which may be a combination of the things listed above) you are ready to determine what type of website you need.

Here are some examples of different types of websites:

Digital business card

We visit with lots of small businesses that have been in business forever. Most of their business comes from word of mouth. Still, they recognize that when their business gets recommended to a new customer, that new customer is going to want to validate the recommendation by checking out the business’ website. These types of websites tend to be simple, clean, and without much navigation. It’s important to feature FAQs, testimonials and reviews, and contact information.

Who should build the website? A digital business card website is a good candidate for the DIY website builder. The website only needs to be 1-3 pages, shouldn’t need much functionality, and is achievable through the use of prefabricated templates. If you decide to take on a website of this nature yourself, be warned that there are still technical components that you may need to research, DIY websites take a tremendous amount of time no matter how simple they are, and you will be tied to the design of the template (you won’t be able to make design changes to fonts and colors without CSS). Be warned this type of website may not rank well in search engine results, but if you are using it as a digital business card, maybe you are OK with that.

Don’t spend a dime on a new website until you can answer these questions >> 

Homepage website

A “Homepage Website” is similar to a “Digital Business Card” website. These types of websites can be useful for businesses that have a very specific service, no products, and no need for additional navigation. An example would be a dog-sitter. The website would need to feature your contact information, testimonials from pet-owners you’ve worked with, and cute images of dogs. Maybe as the years go on, you expand your services into pet exercising and grooming. That may be a good time to get a more substantial web presence. But to start, a single homepage website may do the trick.

Who should build the website: Like the digital business card website, you can take a stab at building a one-page website yourself using Wix, Square Space, or WordPress. You should be able to get a simple website without too much trouble. The same warnings apply though – it will always take more time than you think, you will likely need to do some research along the way (YouTube has great tutorials for assisting with building a simple website), and you will be restricted from a design standpoint unless you know and can implement CSS.

Optimized website

An optimized website is typically a professional website that has been optimized out of the box and is designed with the intent of ongoing optimization. These types of websites are really important for businesses that are in competitive landscapes like plumbers or personal injury attorneys. If you are in a competitive market, it can be incredibly difficult to stand out online. That’s why a professional website that is optimized for search engines is vital. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is crucial for mature businesses that want to stand apart from their competition.

Who should build the website: Unless you are well versed in SEO, have the time to stay on top of SEO trends, and are able to constantly update your website, it may make sense to call around and get some pricing on what it would cost to have a professional build your website. Here are some questions to ask a web developer, to get the most value from a new web project:

1. How many web pages are included in the price of the web package?
2. Will the website be optimized for search engines out of the box?
3. Will there be ongoing optimization analysis, reporting, and implementation of best SEO practices?
4. Is domain registration covered?
5. Is web hosting covered? What web host does the developer use and why?
6. Is an SSL Certificate part of the web package?
7. Will you be trained on how to make updates to the website yourself without having to pay the developer each time to make updates?
8. Does the web package include any copywriting (or other digital agency) services?

How do I keep up with SEO trends? >>

Ecommerce

An e-commerce website is a website that has products for sale, a shopping cart, and some sort of payment portal. These websites are incredibly important, especially if they are the sole means of generating sales and revenue for your business.

Who should build an e-commerce website: Trust us when we say that you DO NOT want to take on building an e-commerce website yourself. Yes, we know what you are thinking, “Of course a web developer would say that” – but even WE don’t tackle e-commerce websites. Why? They are incredibly labor-intensive and are not a fit for our particular set of packages and services. That said, many web developers do build e-commerce websites. These types of sites are not only labor-intensive, they require strict alignment of products and the apps used for shopping carts and payment portals. They also require a solid library of images and product content. And because they are a crucial means of generating revenue, they must perform technically without a hitch. Call around to get pricing from professional developers for an e-commerce website, and brace yourself for a healthy sum. They take a tremendous amount of work to do correctly, but if you choose the right developer, your investment will pay off in the long run.

A glossary of web developer terminology >> 

Database

A database website is a website that renders results for a specific type of search. An example may be a website that helps you find a physician based on a town or a zipcode. Database websites, like any other website, typically have several other pages that need to be built out, need to be mobile-friendly, and need to create a solid experience for the end-user.

Who should build a database website: The technical nature of a database website requires a full stack developer, who is capable of building custom databases. Like an e-commerce website, the technical and custom nature of these types of websites makes them more costly than a regular website. Ask to see example database websites from any web developer prospects, and use the databases they’ve built to make sure they function properly. Test out their database websites on both a desktop and a mobile device, so that you can feel confident that you will get your money’s worth when hiring a full stack web developer.

What are your online marketing goals?

In order to figure out what type of website you need, you will need to dedicate some time figuring out what your online marketing goals are. Is it just to validate and legitimize your business to online prospects? Is it to drive leads and conversions for your sales team, is it to host an online store, or a combination of all of these things? Once you take this important first step, you can make an educated decision on what kind of website you need, and then you can decide if you should build the website yourself, have someone do it for you, or if you should search for a professional web developer.

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Kat Hobza is First Call Web’s Marketing and Sales Manager. She holds certificates in HubSpot Inbound Marketing, Social Media, and HubSpot Software, as well as Google Ads. She helps First Call Web clients build their online presence through strategic web development, copywriting, and pay-per-click advertising, as well as meets with small business leaders regularly to determine if First Call Web is a fit for their online marketing goals. When Kat is not weaving her online magic, she likes to write, fly-fish, golf, goof around with her family, play in the sun, stare mindlessly at the Bitterroot mountains from her deck, and binge watch Netflix.