Beyond templates: Building a better business website

By Vangie Beal, CIO |  Small Business

This probably seems obvious, but it's worth stating: These days, it's crucial to have a website for your business. From brochure-based sites that provide your contact details and store hours to full-fledged ecommerce carts and customer self-service, your website is important--it tells customers what to expect from you. This article offers several tips for building a better business website that will engage existing customers and help you find new ones.

Templates Offer Easy, Professional-Looking Sites for Business

Many businesses begin with inexpensive template sites. Here a service provider offers layout and design choices, hosts the website and provides updates and technical support when required. Businesses typically turn to a template site, and "find it to be a quick way to get a professional-looking site," after trying to do it themselves but failing to get the results they want, said David Rose, CEO of clearString, a Web development software company.

If you're going to use a template site, look for a provider that offers templates for specific vertical markets. While that means any business like yours, using the same base website template, will have a similar site, it will give you the basic features that customers expect to find on a website in your area of expertise.

The obvious reason for using a template site is the lack of IT requirements to get it online. A business can have a template-based site online in no time. In addition, experience with HTML code and website development is not required. Finally, template sites are a low-cost option and can usually be had for hundreds -- not thousands -- of dollars.

Maciej Fita, search engine optimization (SEO) director for Brandignity, a Web marketing company offering custom website consulting services for business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies, believes that budget is the biggest obstacle businesses face when developing a website.

"Great design, branding and development typically has some cost behind it, but those who believe in the Web like we do realize that the expenditure will come back if the site is properly leveraged after launch," he says.

Hard to Make Template-Based Business Websites Flexible, Customized

While templates can serve the basic purpose of having a brochure-like business website, you will probably outgrow a template site eventually. Your website is a first-stop destination, and template-based sites often lack the unique features and design elements--what Fita calls the "wow factor"--which will attract customers.

Originally published on CIO |  Click here to read the original story.
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