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Technology for the Tech Challenged

Is a website builder robust enough for your business idea?

There are a lot of website builders out there, and some of them are some really good. Wix is good for SMB websites, as they have a ton of different pre-made designs and layouts that work great for local and/or small brick and mortars. Squarespace is great for portfolios–design is paramount to the core of Squarespace sites, and almost any website built with one of these templates looks beautiful. There are, of course, dozens of website builders out there–such as the familiar, simple, and sleek Sitelio and Weebly, among many others.

If you’re currently in pre-building mode, you’ve likely considered using one of these sites to build out a basic proof of concept website–or MVP. When we work with clients, we typically build some custom options for an MVP, but we’re also very cognizant of the fact that an initial build shouldn’t be super robust. Spending a ton of time building out a robust database, creating operational automations, and building a ton of customer features from the get-go can be a huge waste of time. You never know if you’re going to need to pivot the product, and you can’t tell at the outset what you’ll need to track in a database. And importantly, at this stage, you should be bootstrapping your operations (hint: Excel is your best friend!) But how do you know if a builder would support your MVP? Here are four questions to ask yourself.

1. What’s on your product roadmap?

This is the best place to start. If you’re in the beginning stages of building your web product, you might want to take a step back and make a plan for building out your website and/or app. This will help you plan what you need, what you don’t need, what you need right now, and what can wait. At this stage, everything you build should be bare bones–which means nothing super complex or fancy. So many companies spend thousands (or depending on size–hundreds of thousands or even millions) of dollars building product features that never get adopted. Begin with a basic idea, and let your product support that and that alone. You can always add onto it later after you have proven your concept.

Alternatively, you may discover a need other than your initial product plan. At this stage, pivoting is not a huge deal because you haven’t sunk a ton of money and time into building features that will never see the light of day.

2. What are your must-haves and nice-to-haves?

If user adoption is dependant on them having individual user accounts, consider asking these questions about the process:

  • Is there really a reason for this at this stage?
  • If you’re building an ecommerce product, do you need to save buyer information in an account? If yes, does the customer need to be able to access this account or can you manage this as an admin?

Take the user experience down to the most basic level from the technology standpoint, and build that. If these features are supported by a website builder, then you can likely get away with using one for a very basic MVP.

3. Is your product web supported, or is it truly an online product?

What does this mean? Basically, if you’re building a product where online experience IS the business, you most likely won’t be able to use an online builder. But if you’re building an ecommerce site of some sort, or even an online database or marketplace, there may be options out there for you to not have to custom build–at least not yet. You may need some customizations, but hiring a web developer right away to build from the ground up may not be necessary.

4. Does your product truly need to be web or app based?

There are lots of alternatives right now for non-web based (or app based, for that matter) businesses, such as an “Invisible App.” Some businesses can be SMS based, which actually makes user adoption simpler as well. We’ve personally built a business of this type memms–which is a wedding and event photography sharing “app.” We built it without building a robust custom app. It’s just a simple website with instructions on how to make the product work, and that’s it. The rest is handled via SMS. Depending on your idea, an invisible app might make sense for your business too.

After you have assessed your needs and taken them back to the basics or “need to have” features, you can begin to compare builders. We took the top website builders and compared features most needed in a startup MVP.

Wix Squarespace Weebly Web.com Sitelio
Well Designed Themes
Mobile Responsive
Ecommerce Enabled
Membership Creation
Mobile App
Ability to Export
SSL Installation

Which one wins? Weebly in our opinion. You can track inventory, create memberships, install a pretty decent ecommerce site where you can closely manage taxes, keep it secure, and even do some custom coding if needed. If you’re looking to build something slightly more robust than this, then we recommend Wordpress–and we’d be happy to help you build it. Get in touch!