Every business needs a website, there’s no way around that.
And you don’t just need any website, you need a professional website that looks good and is effective at persuading your visitors to want to work with you or shop from your online store.
Your website is the main face your business will have online, and the web is one of the first places people will turn when they’re looking for the kind of products and services you sell. It’s also the main place a prospect will look to confirm that your business is legitimate and trustworthy, when deciding whether or not to work with you.
In short, creating a professional website is important to the success of your business.
But if you’re a business owner unfamiliar with coding and web design, you may not know where to start. Here are the main things you need to know about how to create a professional website.
Two Ways to Create a Professional Website
Option 1: Use a Website Builder
The first and easiest option is to use a website builder like Gator Website Builder. This is an option that’s become available in the last few years and puts the ability to create a professional website in the hands of anyone—no matter your skill level.
Using a website builder to create the site for your online store has some specific benefits, as well as a few downsides. Let’s review them.
Pros of Using a Website Builder
For many small businesses, a website builder will be the best option for a few simple reasons:
- It’s cheap – While the cost of different website builders varies, generally speaking, you’ll spend a lot less upfront on a website builder than you would hiring a professional to design your website. If you have a limited budget for building a new professional website—and keep in mind, some of that budget will need to go to web hosting and registering your domain name—a website builder is an affordable option.
- It’s easy – A good website builder is designed to be easy for anyone to use, no matter how skilled they are in website design. Features like pre-designed templates and drag and drop functionality ensure that you can start working on your website right away, without having to spend time training in how to use the tool. Website builders allow you to create a business website or eCommerce store literally within minutes. Once you have the foundation of your site, you can then begin to customize it with website templates, plugins, different layout designs, and other helpful tools.
- It’s fast – Using an intuitive website builder, you can get a simple—but professional— website up fast, even within hours. If you’ve been dragging your feet on creating a website for your business because it seemed like a big and time-consuming project, banish that excuse from your mind.
- A good website builder can create a professional-looking site – You may worry that a site made with a website builder will look cheap, but most good website builders hire professional designers to create the templates they offer. That means you can create a website that looks professional, without having to spend a significant amount of money on it.
- Modern website builders will make your website mobile friendly – A majority of web users now do their browsing on mobile devices. That means building a professional website that’s mobile friendly isn’t optional. But that shouldn’t be a problem as long as you choose a website builder equipped with responsive templates.
Cons of Using a Website Builder
While many businesses will benefit from going with a website builder, there are some cases where it’s not the best choice. The main cons of using a website builder are:
- There are some limits on what you can do – If you have a specific vision in mind for your website, a website builder may not be the right choice for you. Because you’ll be working from a template and within a structure provided by the website builder, there are some limits on what you can do visually and the features you can include on your site.
- Your website may resemble other sites made with that same website builder. Templates make the website design process much easier, but they also mean you’re starting from the same basic design other customers of that web builder are using. While you can make changes to the template to make it your own, you may still end up with a website that looks similar to others out there.
5 Tips for Using a Website Builder for a Professional Site
If you choose to use a website builder for your website, there are a few important tips for finding the right one.
- Make sure it offers responsive options. As mentioned, your professional website must be mobile friendly. Creating a responsive website is the best way to make sure it works well on both mobile and desktop. A website builder with responsive templates is therefore your best option.
- Look for a website builder that has SEO features. Search engine optimization (SEO) is how you increase your chances of showing up in the search engine rankings, which makes your website easier for potential customers to find. Consider if a website builder has features that make it easier for you to optimize your website for search, such as an easy way to customize page URLs and fill in meta descriptions.
- Consider the number of available website templates. If you can find a website template that comes close to what you want, creating your website will be faster and easier. The more template options you have, the more likely you are to find one you really like. (Gator has over 100 mobile-friendly templates for you to choose from!)
- Check the number of pages it allows. Some website builders place a limit on the number of pages you can add to your website. For some small businesses, a simple website with a few pages will be plenty. But if you’ll need more, make sure you choose a website builder that can accommodate your needs.
- If you need them, make sure it offers eCommerce features and an image library. If you’ll be selling products through your website, your website builder needs to offer eCommerce features or be compatible with software that does. And if you don’t already have original images, access to an image library will make creating your site much easier.
Option 2: Hire a Professional Web Designer
Your second option for creating a professional website is to hire someone with the skills to build a website for you from scratch. This can either be a freelance graphic designer or a design agency that specializes in building professional websites. Either way, you can expect certain pros and cons from this option.
Pros of Hiring a Web Designer
As long as you pick a good designer for your needs, there are some unique benefits to going this route.
- You’ll benefit from their experience – This is their job, which means they should have a solid understanding of web design best practices and what works best for a professional website. If they have years of experience seeing what works, they bring that to the table when creating your website.
- You can pick a designer whose style you like – You can spend time browsing samples and make sure you hire someone whose designs are in line with the kind of aesthetic you prefer.
- You can have your website built to your specifications – You won’t have any of the limitations of a website builder. If there’s something specific you want your website to be or do, a skilled web designer should be able to make it happen.
- Good designers will know how to make your website responsive – Any professional web designer worth their salt knows the importance of mobile. They should have the skill to create a responsive website for you without problem.
- You save time not doing it yourself – A website builder may be fast, but if you’re creating a website with one yourself, you still have to spend time building it. When you hire someone else to do the work, you’re outsourcing the job and don’t have to make time for it yourself.
- They can help you with basic on-site SEO – Most web designers have an understanding of SEO. If you hire the right person, they can make sure that your website checks all the boxes for SEO-friendly web design.
Cons of Hiring a Web Designer
For anyone particular in what they want, the benefits of hiring a web designer are clear. But there are a few downsides to be aware of as well.
- It takes time to find a good graphic designer – You’ll have to spend time doing research to find the best designers in your area to work with, and more time reaching out and interviewing them. If you try to cut corners at this stage, you could end up hiring someone that doesn’t do good work, so it’s best to get it right.
- It takes longer to design a website from scratch – While you can get a website up within hours with a website builder, building a website from scratch inevitably takes more time. While you won’t be spending that time on it yourself, you’ll likely need to wait longer before your website is ready to launch.
- It’s more expensive than using a website builder – Professional web designers have a unique skill set. Those that do good work charge professional rates. In order to hire a talented designer, you need to have a budget for it. It is worth noting that hiring a designer to build a website is a one-time cost, while a website builder usually involves an ongoing subscription.
- You may have issues with reliability – If you find the right person, this won’t be an issue. But when hiring a professional designer, there’s a risk of ending up with someone who struggles to meet deadlines or doesn’t do a good job of working to your specifications. With this option, there’s a real possibility you’ll end up spending more money and still being unhappy with the results.
4 Tips for Hiring a Web Designer
How well hiring a professional to create your website works out depends entirely on who you hire. Here are four things you can do to increase your chances of getting that part right:
- Ask for recommendations. The best way to find a professional with a proven reputation is to ask around amongst people you know. If a friend or colleague had a good experience with a designer, there’s a good chance you will too. Start your search by talking to other people to identify a few options to consider.
- Pay attention to testimonials. A recommendation from someone you know and trust is best, but if you don’t have that, you can still learn a lot from what past clients of a designer have to say. Look at the testimonials and case studies on their website, and see if they have recommendations or reviews on sites like LinkedIn.
- Look at their samples. A designer can be talented, but still not be the right fit for what you want. That’s why it’s crucial that you take time to look at their samples to get a feel for their particular style and skill set. If you like what you see and they have a strong reputation, there’s a much better chance that you’ll be happy with the website they design.
- Communicate clearly. The best designer in the world won’t be able to deliver what you want if you don’t do a good job of telling them what that is. Before you interview a designer, take time to think through what your priorities for the website are. What pages are you hoping to have? Do you have a color scheme in mind? What specific features do you want to include? The more information you’re able to provide them, the better a job they’ll do of delivering a website that matches your vision.
Get Your Professional Website Up
Creating a professional website can seem intimidating if you don’t know where to start. But as this post makes clear, the hardest part is making the decision to get started. Whether you decide to go with a website builder or a professional designer, you can make the first move toward creating your website today.
If speed and affordability are your priorities, you can sign up for Gator for less than $4 a month, and have a website up within hours. And that includes a hosting plan from one of the most respected web hosting providers entirely for free.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.