You are ready to take your business online. It might be an established business in the community. Or it could be a brand-new venture. Or you might be moving from selling just over social media to setting up your own website.
You have choices to make.
The first three are multiple choice: the business name, the domain name and the web host. There are so many options for each.
Then come the “toggle choices”. A toggle choice is a choice between two options; you can toggle either way.
You have to choose between hard coding and a content management system (CMS). For most people this is easy. Hard coding gives you absolute flexibility. But it is also a lot more work to code a website from scratch. And new businesses don’t like a lot more work. They like shortcuts. Most companies these days go with a CMS, which is like a shortcut. Most of the coding is already done; it just needs to be customized for your business.
The choice of CMS is technically a multiple choice decision. There are dozens of them out there. But for most people, the choice is binary. Go with WordPress or go with Joomla or Drupal. I like WordPress for the simple reason that there is a huge development community. Somebody is always building pretty much whatever is needed. And what they build is often free. But each CMS has its advantages, so it’s worth comparing WordPress vs Joomla vs Drupal before making the selection. I’ve worked in all three at one point or another.
Before coding begins, there are a couple more toggle choices. The first is between http and https. The “s” in “https” stands for “secure”. While there was debate on the value of https for several years, that debate is over. Web browsers are showing users when a website is not considered secure. Google Chrome will be marking pages “unsecure” in its search results soon. If you don’t want to scare away nervous prospects, get https.
The second toggle choice before coding begins is responsive design versus accelerated mobile pages (AMP). A responsive website is one that changes placement and size of page elements to fit the user’s screen. This means that your pages look different on an iPhone than they do on a wall screen or a laptop. AMP is a stripped down version of your website, stored by Google for quick loading. Although there might be future advantages to AMP, for now I am sticking with responsive. AMP is proprietary technology and offers you less control.
You might also want to choose between search engine optimization (SEO) and advertising, such as pay-per-click (PPC) early on. SEO affects so many aspects of a website. I don’t like this choice. Even though it is often presented as a one-or-the-other choice, there is no reason you can’t use both. Unless your website is very temporary, SEO should be part of every plan. Over the long run, it’s almost always a great investment.
However, SEO does take time to mature, just as fruit takes time to ripen. To avoid starving while waiting for SEO to bear fruit, advertising can fill the gap. Once search engine rankings start to improve, you might not want to give up the paid advertising that reaches a different market.
Another toggle choice is delayed response versus instant contact. Delayed response includes:
an email address
a feedback or query form
a phone number for prospects to call
Instant contact would be on-page chat, so that people can ask questions even as they browse. This can be very effective at pushing more sales. But on-page chat might cost more than you think. A Google search for chat pricing or for budgeting for live chat will tell you only how much the software subscription costs. Nobody mentions the cost to have people constantly on standby, which can be huge for a small company just starting out. A good approach is to start with delayed response until you can afford a 24/7 chat presence.
Life is about choices and so is business. Although there are some multiple choice decisions to make, many are toggle choices. You go one way or the other. These four toggle choices will make or break your online success.