How do you choose the best website development platform for your business?

Lucy Railton

11/22/17 2:28 PM

Today businesses have many options to choose from when it comes to launching or improving, their online presence. However, how do they choose the one that is best for them? How do they select a website builder that will support them now and continue to do so as they grow?

Finding feature comparisons with a quick Google search is easy. But, do you know what features and functions are most important to you and your business?

G2 Crowd is a great place to start comparing software applications, including website builders. They use product-specific research and validated user reviews (approximately 275,000 and growing) to help you “get the right software & services for your business.” To do this, they need to use a standard set of features. Currently, G2 Crowd lists three website builders as the leaders in their category (HubSpot, Wix, and Squarespace).

G2 Crowd Website Builders Quadrant

To compare widely disparate platforms, G2 Crowd uses 12 standard features (in three categories):
Customization
1. Templates
2. Drag and Drop
3. HTML Input
4. Domain Name

Growth
5. SEO
6. Site Analytics
7. Marketing Tools
8. E-Commerce
9. Hosting

Growth Content
10. Email Integrations
11. Content Managemen
12. Permissions

Each feature is broken out below to describe what it is and why it matters to give you a better understanding of what to considerso you can make a decision that works for you today, and in the future. Because there’s nothing worse than creating and launching a website only to realize a year later the platform you have chosen doesn’t keep up with your changing needs.

Templates
What it means – All leading website development platforms use templates. Templates make it easy for businesses large and small to maintain a consistent and coordinated look and feel throughout their website. It is also often what ensures that websites are responsive (aka mobile device friendly). Responsive websites are essential as Google has made it part of their search ranking algorithm. Some templates (like those in WordPress and HubSpot) will still likely require someone who is technically inclined and knows basic HTML or CSS coding.

Why it matters – The more templates you have to choose from, the more options you will have when selecting a template that meets your needs and your brand style. Flexible templates mean that you will be able to customize it with your brand elements (for example, logo, colours, and other elements like background textures, product/service icons). The simplicity of templates should also be a consideration if you are not technically inclined and do not plan to engage a professional to help design your website. Lastly, if your site is not responsive, you will likely not rank as highly, on search engine results pages (SERPs), as you could with a responsive website.

Drag and Drop
What it means – Drag and drop website builders allow users to pick elements they want to add or remove on their template and just drag them into place. It is an indicator of ease-of-use for website design.

Why it matters – If you are not technically inclined and do not plan to engage a professional to help design your website then this feature could be important to you.

HTML Input
What it means – There are many other reasons why you may want to be able to edit the HTML (or CSS) code of your website, but typically, HTML input gives you the ability to edit your website code to customize it to your exact requirements. It also means you can add code to help you track the performance of your website (via Google Analytics and Webmaster).

Why it matters – Depending competitive your industry is a very distinct and unique website (in comparison to your competitors) could be an advantage. It is also important to consider HTML input for future growth. If you plan to scale your business, you may need to make changes to your website in the future. HTML input could mean the difference between updating and a complete redesign.

Domain Name
What it means – Your business domain name is the website address people use to find your website. Some free versions of website builders will often include their business name in the Domain.

Why it matters – If you plan to pay for the package that removes your vendor’s branding then your website builder should either make it easy to purchase a domain name. If you already have your domain name, your website creator should make it easy to point it to/connect it to your website.

SEO
What it means – SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Optimizing your website for search engines means that your business will show up on search engine results pages.

Why it matters – How well, and thoroughly you optimize your site has an impact on high you rank on search engine results pages. A website creator that limits your ability to optimize your website (for example, header tags, meta descriptions, page title text, and image alt text) will do you no favours. Other considerations are website builders that help you do keyword research or provide a wizard to help you through the process (if you do not plan to engage a professional to assist you).

 Site Analytics

What it means – Site analytics allow you to view information on your website visitors. For example, how many visitors your website received within a specified time-frame. Alternatively, how long were they on your website, how many pages did they view, and much more. However, website builder analytics, often differ slightly from the information you may see if you use Google Analytics.

Why it matters – It is always a good idea to use Google Analytics. However, if your website builder, also provides analytics and this information stays with your visitors as they convert into leads and customers, then you will eventually have valuable information about your leads and customers which will help you develop personas and marketing campaigns based on their typical behaviours and buyer’s journey.

Marketing Tools
What it means – Marketing tools can range from email marketing to social media publishing, management tools for Google Adwords and social media advertising campaigns.

Why it matters – If you plan to promote your website and it is content, run pay-for-click campaigns, or engage with your converted website visitors (leads and customers) with email marketing then a fully-integrated system will make your job that much easier in the long run. Having an all-in-one system also allows to the tracking of campaign performance and additional information and insights on your website prospects and visitors which will enable you to edit your marketing to continuously improve results.

E-Commerce
What it means – eCommerce features and tools are essential if you want website visitors to purchase items (or services) directly from your website.

Why it matters – If you need ecommerce then you must decide if the ecommerce solution provided by your website builder is sufficient for your needs. You must consider the ease-of-use of the ecommerce solution separately from that of ease-of-use of the website creator. You should also consider whether or not you would prefer to use a leading ecommerce solution (for example Shopify) and if so, how easy it is to integrate it with your chosen website development platform.

Hosting
What it means – Not all website development platforms include the actual hosting of your website.

Why it matters – If your website development platform (for example WordPress) does not include website hosting, then you will have another vendor research and choose (web hosting provider) and another step in publishing your website. The leading website builders, as identified by G2 Crowd (HubSpot, Wix, and Squarespace) all include website hosting in their packages.

Email Integrations
What it means – Email integrations means your website can be set up to use your business email address to communicate with website prospects and customers (for example automatic blog updates, automatic thank you emails, automated email reminders, and much more).

Why it matters – Without email integration you may not be able to automate some communication, or if you can, the from email address may differ from your business email address. Different email addresses can confuse recipients and dilutes your brand exposure.

 Content Management
What it means – Content management features make it possible, and easier, to publish and promote content (for example blogs, ebooks, or videos) as well as analyze how well the content and its associated call-to-action buttons and landing pages are performing.

Why it matters – Content is King, but we are not all royalty. Content development is hard, and time-consuming work. If you plan to develop content that your website visitors will want to read or see, then your website builder should make it easy to publish and promote it.

Permissions
What it means – Permissions are settings that determine what a user of your chosen website builder can view and/or edit. The types of permissions you will want will depend on the size and scope of your team today, as well as what your team may look like tomorrow.

Why it matters – Very basic permissions are the ability to add users and allow users to edit everything or nothing. However, larger teams require permissions that are more specific. For example, a junior team member may be able to promote content via social media, but you may not want that person to be able to alter your search engine settings or edit your website design templates. Alternatively, someone on a sales team may be able to view the history of a website visitor who has converted to a lead, but not edit that information. Nor would you want the sales representative to publish and promote content.

In addition to all the features listed above, you should also consider price, ease of use, and consumer ratings. Lastly, do not forget about your future business plans. Think about your current needs as well as what your needs might be in six, twelve, or eighteen. The website development platform you choose should be as useful to you next year, and the year after, as it is today.