What, exactly, is a “Small Business?”
In case you didn’t know, the term “small business” is not an indication that a business is so small it can barely be seen under a magnifying glass (although this may certainly be the case). What it indicates, according to Vangie Beal of Webopedia, is that it is “a privately owned and operated business that typically has a small number of employees.”
This leads us to the fact that “small” is a relative term, and can mean having as few as one employee or (according to the SBA), as many as 1,500 employees. The SBA also says that a small business must “be organized for profit, have a place of business in the US, operate primarily within the U.S., is independently owned and operated and is not dominant in its field on a national basis.”
Wherever your particular business falls within these criteria, the most important thing to know is whether you actually have a small business and whether WordPress is the best choice when you decide to create a website for it.
What is WordPress and why is it so popular?
Chances are you’ve heard the word “Wordpress” before and you know that it is the name of an amazing software that many, many people use to design websites of every kind. But in case you’re just not sure what WordPress is, here’s the scoop:
iThemes defines WordPress as “a free online, open source website creation tool written in PHP that has become the easiest and most powerful blogging and website content management system (CMS) around today.” That’s right—it’s free. And it is so flexible that you or your designated WordPress design professional can create almost any type of website for your small business that you can think of. Once your small business website is up and running, you’ll find that WordPress software is so flexible that it is easy to customize the site to your own taste.
One of its best features is ease of content management. If you’ve ever tried to write posts, revise written information, change a layout or upload images via FTP, you know what a nightmare it can be. In this case, you’ll definitely appreciate WordPress’ admin panel, with its step-by-step customization tools, wide selection of plugins, easily accessible menu and widget options, and the way it plays nicely with membership-, event-, and even geo-location plugins.
Here are a few more statistics you need to know about WordPress: As of December, 2016, there were approximately 76.5 million WordPress blogs in existence. An additional 50,000 WordPress sites are launched every day, and 409 million people (give or take) view over 19 billion WordPress pages each month. Large and successful companies like the New York Observer, the New York Post, TED (TED Talks), USA Today, CNN, and more all use WordPress.
Every month there are at least 37 million global Google searches for “WordPress.” According to John Rampton of Hostt, as a CMS (content management system), WordPress is nearly 12 times more popular than Drupal; and in the US in 2014, WordPress was preferred by 50% of all users, with Drupal at 17% and Joomla at 6.44%. In fact, ManageWP.com says that WordPress.com gets more unique visitors (126 million per month) than almighty Amazon.com (96 million per month).
If you think that’s a mouthful…there’s more: CodeInWP.com’s Ultimate List of
WordPress Statistics says that “major versions of WordPress are released every 152 days—which is great news because it means WordPress is always improving. WordPress.org features tens of thousands of plugins in its directory, and that number is growing all the time. There are multiple WordPress camps (called WordCamps) held in at least 29 countries (as of 2014), and hundreds of WordPress meetup groups that cover everything you always wanted to know about WordPress.”
This myriad of facts and statistics may be overwhelming for you. If they are, never fear. All you really need to know about WordPress is that it’s easy to learn (which means a smaller learning curve for you), it’s free (meaning you get to reserve your spending money for other business items), and it’s always improving (meaning you won’t have to worry over-much about it going out of style).
What can WordPress do for your website?
Matt Mansfield of Smallbiztrends.com say that “WordPress really is the best site builder for small businesses” like yours. First and foremost, it’s a great blogging tool, because that is what it was originally built for. No matter what type of business you have in mind, you’ll need a blog page for the site so that you can keep your visitors up-to-snuff about the latest news or goings-on in your business. In addition, you can make it easy to find out what your customers are thinking by allowing visitors to vent, leave comments on your posts, or even make suggestions.
Mr. Mansfield also says that WordPress gives small businesses room to grow by offering fast and easy setup and launching, and the option to use a Hosted Website Plan so that a professional team takes care of the technical side of the website while you take care of the content side. Of course, if you don’t like tight restrictions on the look and feel of your website, you can forego the technical side and “do-it-yourself” instead. This means that you can decide on color, layout, content, options and many other features you want to offer to your customers.
WordPress has many other features that will benefit your small business. But one of the best benefits is WordPress’ massive amount of users, developers, and software fans. Many times, a novice or fledgling WordPress user can surf over to a free forum and get his or her question answered in no time.
Other obvious ways in which WordPress can help your small business website is that the easy admin panel and content management features will save you lots of money because you won’t have to send every single change to your webmaster. Its B2C (business-to-customer) format allows fast communication (via email) or even instant communication (via live chat). It’s also social network friendly, SEO friendly, has a fast learning curve and unlimited growth potential. In addition, the layout, flexibility and features inspire repeat customers…and what could be better than that?
Should you choose to use WordPress, all the above advantages and more would be at your fingertips. Remember, as mentioned, there are over 37 million global Google searches for “WordPress” every month, and WordPress is said to be more popular than other CMS software like Drupal and Joomla. It’s practically a no-way-to-lose scenario.
What types of websites can you build with WordPress?
You can build a myriad of small business websites with WordPress. Here are a few of the more popular types of business themes:
1. Affiliate. If you’re thinking of starting a small multi-vendor business, an “affiliate” site where various vendors can become members and sell their goods on your site may be just the answer. One excellent affiliate theme example is REHub – Price Comparison, Affiliate Marketing, Multi Vendor Store, Community theme..
- A blog is a type of journal page that is written in an informal or conversational style and which you update regularly. Since this article pertains to small business websites, it is assumed that you will be interested in creating more than just a blog; however, most business WordPress themes already include a blog feature, so we’ll forego any examples here.
- Business/Corporate. This includes everything from photography to medical to university or college. Whatever type of business you have in mind, there’s a theme out there for it, or if there’s not, such a theme can usually be built by a WordPress design expert. Some great examples of business WordPress themes are Enfold Responsive Multi-Purpose WordPress theme, and UDesign Responsive WordPress theme.
- A directory theme is also a “business” theme, but because it is rather unique, we’ve listed it separately. You can create any kind of “niche” directory you want, including business niches, job boards, restaurants, or city listings. Two great directory theme examples are Directory WordPress theme and Business Finder Directory Listing WordPress theme.
- Digital download. Sites like iTunes, Amazon MP3, and Spotify are excellent examples of the types of digital download sites you might create with WordPress. One great WordPress example is Marketify Digital Marketplace.
- If you want a site that allows you to accept payments through your website, use a shopping cart, and categorize and manage your inventory, WordPress can manage it! Two great examples of ecommerce themes are Flatsome Multipurpose Responsive Woocommerce theme and The Retailer Responsive WordPress theme.
- There are some excellent WordPress themes out there that will allow you to start your own online learning school “in-an-instant.” These sites feature online enrollment, paid memberships, online quizzes, printable certificates of completion, etc., and include universities, colleges, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), and so on. There are many WordPress themes that can accommodate this type of small business website. Two excellent WordPress education theme examples are WPLMS Learning Management System and Academy Learning Management theme.
- Knowledge (Wiki Websites). Nowadays, WordPress theme developers use accompanying Knowledge Base sites that act as “Question and Answer” sites for the most frequently asked questions about the themes they create. Two excellent Wiki themes are Woffice Intranet/Extranet WordPress theme and KnowPress Knowledge Base/Wiki for WordPress.
- Magazine/News. If your business is a print magazine that offers news and celebrity, political or other activity, and if you want to add an online presence to expand your exposure, WordPress can handle all your online publishing needs. Two great examples are Newspaper and Sahifa Responsive WordPress News.
As we have mentioned about other lists in this article, this is not an exhaustive list. Many more kinds of sites, small and large, can be created with WordPress. All you have to do is imagine the type of site you want, and then search for examples via Internet—or hire a WordPress design expert to make your dreams come true.
What features should be included in your WordPress Small Business website?
Whatever theme you choose to use—or whatever design you adopt via your WordPress design expert, you’ll need to include the appropriate content to make your site easy and fun for your users. We have covered the topic of what to include in some of our earlier articles, and are covering it again here as a courtesy. However, for the sake of brevity, we will only use a sentence to explain each concept. We encourage you to read the other articles in our series for more in-depth explanations of what to include in your WordPress website.
- Puts users first. This means to put your own likes, quirks, wishes and desires aside and think like your user. Think of what might make the site easier to use, more pleasant on the eye, and more fun overall.
- Understand the way a user should be interacting with the site. What exactly is it that you want your user to be able to do on your site? What do you want him or her to take away from it? That’s what you should focus on.
- Use white space, color and other visual elements correctly. In other words, your site should be easy on the eye. It should not make your user’s head hurt.
- An intuitive navigation bar. No user should have to fumble around to find what he or she is looking for on your site. Your navigation bar is your map. Make it a good one.
- A clearly-visible contact box. Your users should never have to hunt for how to contact you. There should be a contact box on the site’s footer or at least in every sidebar so the user can contact you whenever the thought crosses his or her mind.
- Visible call to action button. Every website owner wants to inspire their users to “do” something—even if it’s only to join the newsletter . Be sure to include an easy-to-locate call to action button.
- Use the appropriate font. Don’t make your users squint by using a font that’s too small, and don’t make their eyes water by using a fancy font or a font with a bright red or bright yellow highlight color. Times New Roman 12 or Georgia 12 always display well.
- Your business’ mission. Your user will probably be very interested to know why you started your business and where you want it to go.
- Your bio. Most users are curious about the founders of various businesses. Don’t be shy; tell a little about yourself.
- Try to think of all the questions your users might have and then create a “Frequently-Asked-Questions” page to answer them. This saves both on your part and on theirs; it also eases any frustrations they might experience if they had to wait for you to reply to their email before they get an answer.
This, of course, is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a great starter list to help you make your small business WordPress website better. You can add to or take away from the list as you see fit.
When is it time to call in a WordPress Web Design Professional?
Even though there are hundreds—perhaps thousands—of quality WordPress small business themes out there, and even though you may choose to purchase one of them, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should try to upload, lay out and launch the website yourself. Most of the themes out there can be configured to meet your needs, but “configuring” is rarely as quick and easy as it sounds. You may need to experiment with colors, font, page layout, and plugins that extend functionality like “Events,” “Memberships,” “Price Comparison,” and so on. Although configuration is possible, this doesn’t guarantee that you can make all the tweaks and changes you desire at lightning speed. Yet you need to get everything up and running as quickly as possible, because the fact is, you need to spend your time being CEO and primary decision-maker of your small business and not fumbling around with a WordPress theme. In this case, you’ll probably want to call in a professional.
On the other hand, let’s assume that you find a fantastic premium WordPress business theme that has practically every feature you could ever hope for. It just needs a few minor tweaks—which you can do yourself. In this case you still may be better off calling in a professional WordPress developer. Why? Because as we mentioned above, WordPress is always constantly improving. As it does, themes and plugins need to be updated. Unfortunately, updating themes sometimes overwrites any tweaks or core file changes that may have been implemented (unless you’re using a Child Theme – but that’s another story). This means that in lots of cases, a simple “update” can throw your business website in chaos, and you may have to start over from scratch to get your site looking like it once did.
Perhaps the best solution to this and other “details” problems is to hire a professional WordPress developer to help you launch your site. You may not need them in the same capacity after the launch, but you can always keep them on retainer so that they can come to your rescue quickly if anything goes wrong.
If after reading this article you decide to use WordPress for your small business website…congratulations! You’ll love WordPress’ creativity and flexibility–and you’ll love seeing your very own website making its mark on the web even more.