Before you jump straight into building your site, take a few minutes to make sure you’re using the right method to build it.
Believe me. I’ve done a few site migrations, and I dread them with every fiber of my being. It can cost you months of revenue and time.
Luckily, there are only three good ways to build a website. Just three.
Get this decision right, and everything else will be cake.
By answering just two questions, you’ll know exactly how to build your site.
- Are you going to be selling physical products from your website?
There’s only one way to build ecommerce sites and that’s Shopify. More on that below. (We also have a very detailed, completely free guide on how to create an ecommerce website that will walk you through every single step of the process.)
- Are you SERIOUS about getting lots of traffic to your website?
I’ve spent my entire career in online marketing. Building sites, getting traffic, optimizing funnels. It’s what I do.
A lot of sites don’t need tons of traffic. All the fancy traffic strategies are overkill.
For some businesses and projects, all you need is a basic website that gives relevant info for people looking to learn more about you.
Restaurant websites are a perfect example. They need to have the name, menu, hours, phone number, and location. That’s it. No fancy SEO strategies, no lead funnels, no viral growth hacks. None of that stuff matters. A basic, informational site is more than enough for a restaurant.
If you fall into this category, you’re in luck. You can skip a ton of the extra stuff that I always have to do and get yourself a super easy site. There’s a bunch of site builders these days that can get you a brand new site that looks fantastic within minutes.
Now let’s say you do need a boatload of traffic. Then what?
Well, you’ll need to get your site built on WordPress. It’s still easy to set up on your own, you won’t need to code anything yourself. But it’s not quite as streamlined as the site builders. It does come with extra features that help you build traffic though. So it’s worth the effort in that case.
If you need traffic, you’re going to want the extra control from WordPress.
Here are your two options:
- If you business needs lots of traffic, use WordPress. Our free guide on how to create a WordPress website will walk you through everything.
- If you need a basic informational website, use a site builder like Squarespace. This guide breaks down all the the best website builders for you.
Let’s go through all these options in detail.
Creating an Ecommerce Website For Your Online Store
If you sell physical goods, you only have one option for creating your website: Shopify.
Yes, there are technically other options that you could consider. But Shopify is so good that there’s no point in choosing anything else.
When you build your website on Shopify, you get:
- A super easy ecommerce site builder
- The flexibility to change your site however you want
- Built-in inventory and shipping management
- Payment processing that only takes a few minutes to set up
- A deep marketplace of apps to give you any extra functionality that you want
Get all the details from our in-depth review on Shopify.
There’s really no downside to going with Shopify. They’ve built a high quality product at a fair price. If I was building a website to sell physical goods, I would sign up for Shopify immediately. I wouldn’t think twice about it.
If you’re not selling physical goods, Shopify won’t make much sense. For other types of websites, there are easier, cheaper, and more valuable ways to build your site.
Also, I’ve met several people that have worked at Shopify over the years. They’ve all been amazing people. Shopify has not only built an incredible product, they’ve built an amazing company. That means the product will continue improving for years to come. Visit Shopify to try it for free.
WordPress Vs. Website Builders
Now you have a choice to make.
Website builders like Squarespace make things extremely easy. Simply go to their site, pick a domain that’s available, and use their software to put everything together. They walk you through every step.
Website builders are absolutely perfect for:
- Local businesses
- Hobby sites
- Student groups
- Community projects
- “Resume” sites
- Short term projects
Sites like these don’t need to get serious with traffic building strategies. They simply need a site that has a few pages when people want to know more about the business or project.
Website builders do have a downside. They don’t handle large sites and lack the advanced features you’d need for building large amounts of traffic. Most businesses don’t need this anyway so a basic website builder is more than enough. You’ll get more value out of the simplicity and won’t notice the lack of advanced features. You won’t need them anyway.
What about WordPress?
When does it make sense to go the more advanced route?
If you plan on building a large website or your business depends on lots of traffic visiting your site, use WordPress.
WordPress literally powers a third of the internet and for good reason. It has everything you want when getting serious about your website:
- Easy setup so getting your site live is fast.
- Ongoing dev maintenance from the company that maintains WordPress, this means less development maintenance and lower costs for you.
- Complete flexibility and customizability. Over time, you can build your site however you like.
- Easy enough that many people on your team will be able to make basic edits to your site with the help of a developer.
- Great built-in SEO. Since many large sites depend on search engine traffic to some degree, they usually pick WordPress for the SEO features alone.
- It’s completely open-source so you own your website and can do whatever you want with it.
- WordPress itself is free. All you have to do is pay for web hosting.
So WordPress is free, has all the advanced features you need to build large amounts of traffic, and is completely customizable. That’s why it’s so popular.
But compared to website builders, WordPress is more complicated. You have to set up web hosting, get WordPress installed, then configure your site using WordPress and find the right theme.
Sometimes you can easily make the change that you want to your site. In other cases, you might need to edit your website’s code or have a developer help you.
It all comes down to the goals that you have for your business.
If you simply need a basic website that has info on your business, use a website builder since they’re so much easier to use.
If you’re building a large website, use WordPress since it’s completely customizable and has the advanced features that you need.
WordPress Vs. Other CMS Systems
The other day, I went to a brewery with a friend of mine. He had recently sold his media business which had millions of visitors per month. It had a great brand, a huge site, and tons of traffic.
At one point, he mentioned “You know, we built our whole site on Drupal.”
I almost spit my beer all over him. “You did what?”
“Yeah, our whole site is on Drupal. That was one of my biggest mistakes.”
About a decade ago, WordPress had a few big competitors. Drupal and Joomla were the main ones.
This was around the time I got started with my career, I did a fair amount of freelance migrations from Drupal to WordPress.
Even back then, WordPress was clearly the superior choice. Every other option was less user friendly, more feature limited, and not maintained as well. This gap has only widened over the years.
These days, there is absolutely zero reason to even consider any other CMS beyond WordPress. Every other option is worse. My friend chose Drupal and he deeply regretted it, don’t make the same mistake he did. I wouldn’t personally touch a site built on Drupal or Joomla, I’d walk away on the spot.
What about WordPress.com?
It’s a bit confusing, there’s WordPress.com and WordPress.org. They’re both managed by the same company.
WordPress.org has all the free, open-source stuff. When you sign up for a web host and install WordPress, you’re using code from WordPress.org.
WordPress.com, on the other hand, is the commercial side of the business. You can use WordPress.com to set up a website for you. It’s like getting WordPress and a web host at the same time. They offer free sites that comes with restrictions and paid options.
This used to be a great option for people that wanted an easier option than setting up their own web host and installing WordPress. But over the years, two major things have changed:
- Every web host offers a simple WordPress installation now.
- Website builders now offer easier ways to build websites and they’re easier than WordPress.
While WordPress makes websites a lot easier to manage, it can be too complicated for some folks. The biggest complaint from users is the difficulty that some basic tasks require. Website builders, on the other hand, have completely solved this problem.
So if you want an easier way to create your website rather than getting a web host and installing WordPress, you should use a website builder instead of WordPress.com.
The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Pro
What about hiring someone to build your site for you?
It’s certainly an option.
My main piece of advice is to pick the right tool yourself. So make the decision on whether you need Shopify, WordPress, or one of the site builders. Don’t let someone else make this decision for you.
And once you’re on the right tool, you’ll be able to look for someone that has a lot of experience with the tool that you’ve chosen. Whether you’re working with a freelancer or an agency, find someone with experience in the tool that you’ve picked. Folks that have a lot of experience with WordPress tend to not have as much experience with Shopify. And vice versa. The quality of your site will be higher if you find someone with plenty of experience on that tool.
All of this is completely optional though.
If cash is tight, skip all this and do it yourself. Both Shopify and WordPress have tons of themes that you can use. They might not be perfect but they’re more than good enough to get your site off the ground. These days, themes that cost $30-150 are often just as good as sites built by hand. Even many of the free themes are indistinguishable from top-tier sites.
When picking a freelancer or agency to work with, ask to see their portfolio of live sites. Pick someone that has built sites that are pretty close to what you want. Most likely, you’ll get a site that’s very similar to their past work.
If you’re using a site builder, you don’t need to pay someone to put it together. Since there isn’t much to customize or configure, you’ll be wasting your money. The site builders are designed for complete beginners, you’ll be able to get everything live within an afternoon by yourself. They also produce sites that look fantastic without any extra customization.
Time to Build Your Site
There are only 3 ways to build your website.