The Best Websites for Small Businesses

An open sign hanging in a window
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Note from the writer: I wrote this piece back when I had first discovered static website generators and was convinced they were the way of the future. To be clear, I still feel they’re a great option, but I also see the value in more traditional options more so than I did when I wrote this. — Ben

If you’re a small business owner, picking the right platform to host your website on is confusing. You’ve seen or heard advertisements for services like Wix or Squarespace. You’ve talked to people who use tools like GoDaddy Website Builder. You’ve consulted with a web designer who recommended using WordPress. Or you haven’t done any research at all.

In my experience, most small business websites today use WordPress. I haven’t conducted a scientific analysis of why this is, but I can make some assumptions. WordPress has great brand recognition, and every web designer is familiar with it. It’s easy to use and has a ton of available themes and extensions. It’s useful for things like plumbing companies, photographers, and even full-blown e-commerce stores. You can even use WordPress to run an online forum or a small social network.

So far it all sounds pretty good, right?

While I’m not bashing WordPress or saying that it shouldn’t be used, it does have its fair share of drawbacks. These boil down to three things: speed, security, and simplicity. Because it uses a back-end database, there is some overhead that slows down page loading. Its code is complex which gives hackers more things to target. Extensions add to the problem. These things can all be mitigated, of course.

But here’s what I’ve observed:

  1. The web designers that small businesses hire are often lacking experience in the optimal way to set up WordPress (including what hosting to use, what CDN to use, what extensions to avoid, etc.). I’m not saying this applies to all web designers out there. There are some awesome ones out there, but there are also some terrible ones and a whole bunch of mediocre ones.
  2. Many small businesses don’t pay their web designer for maintenance. This means the site sits with no real maintenance for extended periods of time. Security updates aren’t applied, and certain things may stop working.
  3. A lot of small businesses never update their WordPress site on their own. Oftentimes this is due to a lack of time or a lack of training.

There’s a better way.

The vast majority of small business websites are basic “brochure” sites. They contain information on the company, the services it offers, and contact information. They may contain a blog, but it is likely rarely updated. There isn’t anything wrong with this. Most small businesses only need a simple site with optimizations for lead generation. The fact is, these sites usually stay the same for long periods of time.

There’s been a resurgence of static sites in the web design and development community. They will load faster than a comparable WordPress site. Their security is far stronger. They are simple and easy to maintain. In other words, they are perfect for the average small business website.

You’ll experience three benefits if you choose to use a static site instead of a WordPress site:

  1. Performance. Your site will start out fast and will stay fast.
  2. Price. You won’t need to keep a web designer around to make sure your site has the latest security updates each month. Some static site hosting (like GitHub Pages) is also free.
  3. Peace of mind. Getting hacked hurts your site’s search ranking and your reputation. Static sites are virtually impervious to hacking. You can rest easy knowing that your business’ website won’t start serving up malicious code.

To recap, most small business websites today use WordPress. It’s well known, well supported, and powerful. For some use cases, it’s the perfect tool for the job. But for most small businesses, a static site will be faster, more secure, and cheaper in the long run.

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I help technology companies succeed through the power of engaging storytelling. benjamingilstrap.com

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Benjamin Gilstrap

Benjamin Gilstrap

I help technology companies succeed through the power of engaging storytelling. benjamingilstrap.com

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