There was once a time when building a website or landing page for your business required pesky webmasters, pricey agencies, and potentially months of creative agony — now, you simply log in, drag, drop, and publish. Code-free drag-and-drop web page builders have empowered entrepreneurs like never before. But with so many sleek-sounding software pitches, it’s hard to sift through what’s hype and what will actually help your business thrive over the long term.
Madeline Blasberg is Director of Marketing at Leadpages (opens in new tab)
Whether you’re testing a new business idea, transitioning to an online revenue stream, or scaling an existing business — the software you choose to get online and grow your business is a critical choice. Not to mention that switching costs are high: learning a new platform takes time (and patience), and migrating from one platform is rarely automated and often turbulent.
So when you’re just starting out (or starting over), how should you choose? It’s about filtering out the noise and determining what you need, what’s nice to have, and what to avoid. Let’s see what that looks like.
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1. Define your most important measure of success
How will you know that your website is working? Simply being published and looking polished is not enough to keep your business afloat. Your website is likely your one and only sales person—it must transform anonymous web traffic into leads and sales, or your business will not survive.
Define your most important metric and evaluate any website or landing page builder for the functionality that supports your primary objective.
2. Rethink your requirements
Every business needs a website — right? Eh, not necessarily.
Introducing your brand, collecting leads, and selling products can be done on far less real estate and far fewer resources than you might expect. A 25-page website is nice, but what if a micro-site or single-scroll landing page could deliver the same or better results (for a fraction of the cost)?
The scrappiest, most successful entrepreneurs are the ones that test their assumptions and let their customers lead the way. Once you’ve established the viability of your business idea & the requirements of your customer journey, then you’ll know what content you need. Until then, focus on conversions & keeping things simple.
3. Create a cohesive customer journey
There’s a marketing proverb that says: when you confuse people, you lose people.
And nothing is more confusing (or suspicious) than an inconsistent customer journey.
You want to create a seamless and cohesive experience across everything your customer will engage with: from ad, to landing page, to website, and beyond. And while you can try to cobble together a website here, a pop-up plugin there, and landing pages from somewhere else — there will always be inconsistencies. By keeping your key web content publishing all under one roof, you’ll minimize your monthly software subscription fees and reduce the number of platforms you have to master, you’ll also create a seamless journey with consistent branding from point A to Z.
4. Look for ‘all you need’ vs. the ‘all-in-one’
That being said, the allure of the ‘all-in-one’ solution can backfire in a big way. As email platforms turn into website builders turn into ad managers, the danger becomes having half a dozen mediocre tools tacked together.
Instead, focus on understanding the core competency of each platform and not straying too far from that center. Is a platform founded on email marketing excellence? Rely on it for that. Is a platform founded on high-converting web content? Rely on it for that.
Platform feature sets will all attempt to dazzle you with bells and whistles like heat mapping, dynamic text replacement, and conversion-killing interactive content. Avoid being upsold into flashy features that you’ll pay for every month and may never use.
5. Scope out the specifics
So with your larger objectives and your customer journey in mind, what else do you need to consider? Here is where you can drill down into more specific things you’ll need.
Testing and tracking: If you want to improve the performance of your site or pages, you will need the ability to perform A/B testing or multivariate testing. This essentially means making small changes to a page and testing it (or them, if there are multiple things you want to test) against the original to see what’s helping your conversion rate vs what may be hurting it.
While many building platforms offer this, some are limited in what you can test, or how many tests you can run in a billing cycle. So be sure any limitations align with your testing needs.
Mobile responsiveness: This is a non-negotiable for any website or landing page. Recent data suggests that more than 60% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. Look for a builder that offers mobile responsiveness right out of the box and requires minimal (if any) additional refinement before publishing.
Many software platforms promise out-of-the-box ‘mobile responsiveness’ but in fact require many manual adjustments to be made. Spend time evaluating this feature before committing to a platform and look for a platform that offers device-specific display options so that you can have more granular control when it’s required.
Page load speed: Page load speed is one of the most important features of a builder, especially with ad platforms prioritizing things like Ad Rank and overall user experience. Google's core web vitals update means it's also a ranking factor in SEO. But perhaps most importantly, every fraction of a second in page load speed impacts your conversion rate.
In fact, website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42% with each additional second of load time (between seconds 0-5).
Third-party integrations: Are you using an email automation service or payment processing platform? Make sure the platform you choose plays nice with the tools you're already using. That will make it easy for you to do things like manage your email lists to contact leads, and of course, accept payments online.
Customer support: Every platform says they do customer service well, but so few actually deliver on that promise. To get to the truth, test out various customer service channels while in the free-trial period, and read third-party review sites such as TrustPilot or Capterra to learn from the experiences of other users.
Pricing model: Website and landing page builders most commonly base their prices on access to different features, setting limits on how much a feature you can use within a billing period, and charging a commission on top of e-commerce transactions. What’s most important to fully understand any hidden fees or potential overages and to consider is how well a platform’s pricing model aligns with your most important metric.
So are there other things you need to consider? Sure. But as a small business owner, you should focus on finding the features that will help you create the best possible user experience and easily convert clicks into customers. Remember—at the end of the day, you’re not building a website, you’re building a business.
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