The big question I get from wedding vendors, photographers, and really, any business, is how to pick the best website platform. For service providers particularly, making a decision on a website platform can feel overwhelming.
If you’re an e-commerce brand, the answer is pretty simple: Shopify. But when you’re a service provider, and you’re passionate about both look and function, the answer isn’t as quick. I myself have hosted my website on three different platforms over the last three years and finally settled on a platform I love – we’ll cover that soon.
Related to this list are several popular builders for WordPress, including Elementor and Divi. Of course, there are many more website platforms to choose from, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a lot of designers who are experts in them.
I’m just going to be really honest here: all websites are not created equal in the design department. Sure, a great designer who’s an expert in a platform can make a website look good on their platform. But there is still some variety in quality of design on each platform.
For example, Wix websites can tend to have a more corporate feel unless customized by a designer. Squarespace, for all its amazing capabilities with CSS code, can feel a little basic unless you purchase a template or customize it with code. Showit, while one of the easier platforms to customize and make really unique, may not provide as many features for animations.
It can be easy to skip this part if you don’t work with a strategic designer. Before I start on any website design project, I like to help my clients think through how most of their potential clients find them as well as what they want the end result(s) to be from their website.
How potential clients find you is important because not every business gets a lot of traffic through Google, and not every business owner wants that anyway. Some businesses go really heavy on their Instagram or Pinterest strategy, so their potential clients find them through one of those platforms, then go through the user experience on their website. Thinking through how you want your website to get found can help you strategize what matters most about your website. For example, if you use Pinterest for marketing, you might want your website to have a really strong blog so that you can link a blog post to each pin. In that case, your best bet for a website platform might be Showit or WordPress since their blogs are so powerful.
The “end result” of your website matters because it’ll determine a couple things: your call to actions and what platforms you potentially need to invest more money in. You need to think through how most of your potential clients will enter your website, such as on your homepage, a blog post, or your pricing page. From there, what action do you want them to take? If you want to drive them to downloading a freebie or lead magnet, you may want to think about investing in a platform that includes email marketing in its subscription, or think about the total cost of hosting your website and investing in an email marketing platform.
A website platform like Wix includes email marketing capabilities in their subscriptions, while a platform like Showit or WordPress would require you to get a subscription to an email platform like Flodesk, ConvertKit, or Mailchimp. If you’re an e-commerce business, the easy answer is to sign up for Shopify and then use Klaviyo for your email marketing.
For some reason, not a lot of people are talking about this. For small businesses, one of my top priorities is designing a site that is easy to manage. Too often, I see small business owners end up with a beautiful website designed by a designer, but they have no idea how to update their own content, like images or copy. Or, maybe they need to change their pricing or a service, and the website layout ends up getting messed up.
Probably my least favorite aspect of website design is the customer service. Inevitably, I end up dealing with customer service every now and then with each platform, and some representatives are much kinder and helpful than others. It’s obviously all based on personal experience, but I noticed that Squarespace and Wix customer service was not nearly as responsive as Showit’s team. I found that Showit was quicker to respond and helped explain details better than Wix or Squarespace. For example, when I struggled with transferring a domain, Showit looked at my unique problems and a live agent responded.
There was an era when WordPress was considered to be the best platform for SEO, but we live in 2022 and even SEO experts disagree on this now. If a designer or SEO expert tells you that ____ is the best website platform for your SEO, take it with a grain of salt. Also consider looking at what website platform they prefer, because in my experience, the experts who recommend WordPress are the ones who prefer to work with clients who use WordPress. Most designers don’t enjoy working with every single platform, just because it’s very overwhelming to keep up with updates, trends, and technology on every platform at once. So, to be honest, we all have at least some agenda to help clients gravitate toward our platforms of choice.
If you’re looking for basic SEO, you’ll find helpful support on just about any website platform. And if you’re looking to outsource longterm SEO support (because it is a longterm investment), focus on finding an SEO expert who has helped other clients get top ranking results on the platform you choose.
SEO, to a certain extent, is also a game of content. So, at the end of the day, a great way to build SEO on any platform is to continue to provide fresh content like blog posts.
I saved this for last because, while I am budget conscious myself, a website is really one of the most important investments for service-based businesses. The costs associated with websites are also tax write-offs, so I try not to stress too much about this expense. Generally, even the more expensive platforms are worth the cost because of the additional features, customization, and tech support they provide. For example, Showit is more expensive than Wix, but I’ve found their customer service to be much more responsive, and they help you with setting up your blog at the time of launch.
In general, unless you have a LOT of blog or e-commerce content, most website platform subscriptions and domain subscriptions will run you less than $60 per month (or much less).
Once you’ve thought through these factors, it’s easier to pick a website platform. To be honest, each business’s needs are unique, so it’s hard to give a quick answer. Everyone’s answers to these questions will be different, so it’s really up to your unique combination of needs to determine which platform is best.
My short answer for creative service providers, including wedding vendors and photographers is: Showit. It’s one of the easiest website platforms to use and gives you a unique look and feel, without having to add any or that much CSS. It has a WordPress blog which is great for SEO when you use the Yoast plug-in. A professional designer will be able to help you create an amazing look, and Showit is easy enough to use that you can update images, copy, and other details yourself.
Behind Showit, I would recommend Squarespace or Wix, although Showit is the big winner for wedding vendors.
Still conflicted on choosing a website platform? Feel free to reach out with any questions. If you think you might need to work with a professional designer, we can set up a free call to talk through your unique business goals.
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Brand photography by Enliven Photography except where otherwise credited.
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