Navigating the world of websites and content-management systems can be overwhelming for any new or established business. WordPress or Squarespace? Custom or template? DIY or hire a professional? With so many options out there on the market, it’s a common mistake to get caught up in the what before answering the why. The key to any successful website build is to have a strategy-first approach, so you can make well-informed and timely decisions that guide your project across the finish line. Below are 5 questions we use to help clients determine what kind of website they might need, and we promise you don’t need to be overly tech-savvy to answer them! 

1. What is the purpose of my website? 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked this question in a kick-off meeting only to be met with a blank stare in return. And no, the answer isn’t “we just have to be online”. Dig in and really ask yourself, how does this website fit into my customer’s buying journey? Is it used as a first touchpoint for research? Is it being used to facilitate direct purchases through e-commerce? If your site requires a lot of heavy lifting on the e-commerce side of things, then something like a Shopify platform may be right for you or a custom WordPress site with a Shopify plugin functionality. If your business is service-based or you are looking to use your website to showcase your portfolio and brand, then possibly a Squarespace or WordPress templated theme is right for you as a starting point. 

2. How many pages do I envision my website having?

Another key step to take when thinking about your website is writing out a list of what kind of pages and content you think you’ll need (home, about, blog etc). If your list is above the 15 page range, you’re flirting with the possibility of needing a custom site to accommodate a larger site architecture that is customized by a professional. If you need just a basic website to get started (maybe you’re a startup or this is your side hustle) then a basic Squarespace or WordPress theme is a great option for you too. 

3. Am I picky about design?

This is a biggie. If you know you like to have full autonomy and control over the layout of your website, the way it’s designed and the way your user experiences it, then a custom website will  definitely be the way to go. Templates and themes are customizable but only to a point, oftentimes it’s more headache than it’s worth trying to utilize the theme’s code to make custom adjustments. Alternatively, if you’re not as married to the layout of your site or the fact that it may look like other websites out there on the web, then a Squarespace template is probably right for you. 

4. What kind of experience do I envision for the user? 

User experience, simply put, is how your users feel when navigating and consuming content on your website. A good user experience is determined by a few key components: speed, efficiency and success rate. In other words, did I find what I needed, in a timely fashion, and was it successful in helping me achieve the next step I wanted to take. How the user feels also leans partially on the ability to customize animation, transitions and movement. If you like the idea of animation or interactivity on your website, then custom may be the route to go. If not, a free template on Squarespace or a WordPress theme will likely do the trick. 

5. What is my time frame and budget?

The elephant in the room. 100% I’m telling you right now you need to set a budget for your project, and a realistic one that won’t break the bank. Is this website for a business you’re working in full-time or is it a new side passion? Do you need it up and running in less than 2 weeks or do you have more time to work with? You’re probably not surprised to hear custom sites require more time and a higher budget. Our average custom WordPress website timeline at White Canvas sits in the ballpark of around 8 weeks with client budgets in the $10K minimum range. Alternatively, working from a Squarespace template for clients, sits in the ballpark of 2 weeks turnaround with budgets in the $1,500 range. Both options come with a comprehensive training tutorial at the completion of the project, so you feel empowered to manage updates post-launch.

Deciding on your website route isn’t going to be answered by just one of these questions. Ask yourself each one, weigh out the options, do your due diligence. Reach out to companies for more info or take them up on those complimentary consults. Ask your network or put it out there on social media for some recommendations. Knowledge is power, but even more powerful is knowledge with a clear strategy in place.