By Lina Martinez

Small businesses need a professional look no matter their size. Business cards, advertising and even the offices can indicate the seriousness and viability of the business. You deliberately match your marketing to what you wish to portray of yourself and your image. If you don’t think image is important, you might have a hard time defining your market space.

No matter how you define yourself, a high quality website is important. Regardless of whether you are a discount outlet, a high end retailer, a service provider or even the second hand store, a quality website matters. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many high quality websites among small businesses. Now Is the time to set yourself apart and create a better value in the process.

Many businesses in need of a website will often hire someone to put a site together. It goes without saying that the results can be mixed. Not only are results often inconsistent, the cost can be prohibitive. It is hard to justify paying someone a premium for what might not be representative of what you want. One of the main problems is that a web designer for hire doesn’t know your business or the feel that you are trying to convey. A web designer might also just be someone who knows how to construct a website but doesn’t necessarily have any marketing savvy.

Surely there are people you can find with the appropriate recommendations or you can attempt to do the job yourself. A do it yourselfer can be really tricky and time consuming. Currently, Wordpress is the most used platform but trying to figure it out and construct something with a polished look can take a tremendous amount of time and patience. Much more than you have.

You need something really good and you need it now. The new generation of platforms with customizable templates are coming to the rescue.

Weebly, Vix and Squarespace tend to be the most well-known. Plans can run anywhere from $12 / month to $26 / month for the professional tools your business needs. If you are selling over the Internet, these sites already have an e-commerce platform in place. The best part is that they produce great results in a very short time frame. Months of toil and refining can be reduced to a week or less.

A customizable template site doesn’t mean you will have a site that looks like others. The amount of changes that can be made in the basic template are endless and ensure you originality. No coding experience is required to add and change things on the site. Learning time is minimal and each provider will have tech support available should you need it.

Most businesses will spend $20 / month on these platforms, which seems like a fairly high markup to just basic hosting which starts at $4 / month. It isn’t. When you consider the cost of outsourced development and the ongoing cost of paying someone for updates to the site, these can be a bargain. Add in that you are in control, can make the changes you need right now, have secure and consistent hosting and a guaranteed professional look in just days, and it is a bargain.

One drawback can be if you need multiple email address under your domain. Whereas webhosting with GoDaddy and other providers will include them, many platform sites may not, in which case you could end up paying other sites as much as $5 / year per email. Keep that in mind while shopping providers.

Your web guy certainly didn’t want you to hear this.

zenruption was designed on and is hosted by Squarespace. The basic site was designed and adding articles within 4 days. An occasional tweak here and there has happened since, but for the most part, the results you see now are still from the original design. Is there a point where this design might not suffice? Sure. But that is talk for a much larger and more sophisticated company.

For small businesses, you can’t go wrong with looking into the new design platforms. If anything, you can sign up for a free trial and see what you produce. It is very likely that you’ll get something better than what you could pay someone else thousands of dollars to do for you.

 

Lina Martinez is a contributor to zenruption’s money, business and life sections. She likes easy with good ROI and seeks it out. We are super proud of her money expertise and contribution. Certainly, a few of us will by her a couple drinks this weekend and wait for the less serious topics to come out.

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license