When it comes to building a website for your small business, choosing the right “web stack” is one of my favorite topics to talk about with fellow entrepreneurs. If you’re someone who considers themself “not techy” this topic might sound totally overwhelming or scary. But friend, it doesn’t have to be. Yes, there are a lot different options to choose from, and sure that can be overwhelming. The good news about there being lots of different options is that you can find the stack that works best for you and your small business, for right now… and you can always change it later.
What’s a “Web Stack?”
In the world of coding, a “website stack” is the collection of software needed to develop a site. This includes the languages, servers, operating systems, etc..
For us as small business owners, our “web stacks” are the collection of components (think website building platforms, plugins, widgets, etc.) we use to deliver our online experience to our customers and potential customers.
I’ve borrowed the term “web stack” from the web development world because I think the concept of “stacking” the online tools you use to deliver content and engage with potential customers is a really good one.
Just like a house needs a strong foundation, you need to choose the right primary platform for your website and build upon it with other components to deliver the best online experience for your customer.
You’ll use your “root domain” (aka main domain name) for your primary platform. For other platforms you might utilize a variety subdomains or even associated domains.
Your web stack might be very short (that’s okay), or it might also be very tall.
Check out the example below to see various examples of different potential “stacks.” The complex example on the far left shows the current stack used by britelime to deliver online content.
The more complex your online needs become, the more complex your web stack will get.
Maybe right now, your stack is on the far left of this example. You’re using a single solution for your website. That’s okay. Or maybe you fall somewhere in the middle. That’s okay too. Finding the right web stack for your small business (or businesses) is important for multiple reasons.
Choose the Tools that Work RIGHT NOW for You
First, there’s no point in expanding your website expenses until you’re ready to utilize the “expanded” tools. As an entrepreneur, the bottom line matters, and these monthly or annual expenses add up! So don’t feel you have to “upgrade” or take on additional blocks in your stack until you’re actually ready to use them.
Second, you are better off to use a tool that you know and understand than you are to get in over your head and be overwhelmed by your tech. That’s not to say you shouldn’t stretch yourself. Stretching is good… but you can overdo it! Don’t expand beyond what you can manage just because everyone else is doing it. Take your time and when you’re ready, add another block to your stack.
Some of the Most Popular Website Building Platforms
If you haven’t decided already, the first step is to choose the right website builder for your main domain. Here’s a very quick rundown of four of the options I recommend to my clients:
Squarespace is a great place to start, especially if you’ve never built a website before. They offer a variety of free templates, and there are LOTS of options for paid templates from professional designers as well. It is a fairly easy platform to navigate and doesn’t require any prior website design knowledge to get started.
Squarespace also has the added benefit of additional services like Ecommerce and blogging. However, it’s important to keep in mind that while Squarespace offers these additional services, you may find them somewhat limiting. See the section below on No One Platform Does it All Perfectly for an explanation as to why you might find Squarespace, or any other platform to be limiting.
Showit is my personal favorite. In fact, I used to work there! Showit was originally built as a solution for wedding photographers who needed a way to showcase their big beautiful photos edge-to-edge on the screen. Over time they have evolved to market to a variety of creative professionals… but don’t worry, it’s a great platform for farmers, ranchers and rural small town business entrepreneurs.
Showit is a true drag-and-drop platform. Yes, there is a learning curve, but they offer lots of tutorials for using their website builder (as do I).
One of my favorite things about Showit is that if you can dream… you can do it! You really can drag-and-drop to create just about anything without having to know any code. I also love that Showit has the most incredible WordPress integration EVER. You can drag-and-drop your WordPress blog inside of Showit and blog inside of WordPress. If you know how hard WordPress is to hack, you know how magical it is to be able to change the size, colors and fonts without scrolling endlessly through piles of code looking for the single line you need to change.
But just like Squarespace, Showit can feel like it has it’s limitations too. There is no built in Ecommerce service, but you can integrate almost any solution into it. My favorite is Thrivecart – it’s what I use to sell my Showit website templates on this website in my shop.
If you are going to sell a physical product online, there is truly nothing better in the realm of Ecommerce than Shopify. Thanks to the endless number of apps that can be integrated into a Shopify account, it truly does put the power at your fingertips to do all sorts of things! From drop shipping custom printed products to perfecting your shipping practices, Shopify really is a shop-girls best friend.
What’s not so great (yet) about Shopify is the actual web design portion of their builder. They’re meant to be an Ecommerce solution, so you might find the website builder to be a bit limited and frustrating.
What About Wix, Weebly, Square and all those other builders?
To be totally honest, I don’t have a lot of experience with those builders, so I can’t really speak to them. I have built several sites with Webflow, but found it overall to not be nearly as user friendly as Showit and Squarespace… so I ended up cancelling my Webflow account.
But here’s the thing… having a website is better than not having one at all. If you have put all your “eggs” into the social media basket (aka Meta – Facebook) then I think you’re walking a dangerous tight rope.
We don’t own our social media platforms and the rules can be changed at any time. So if your budget, brain power and ability has you thinking that Wix is the place to start… go for it! Don’t wait!
I firmly believe that a good website is a good website regardless of platform. Yes, some platforms have more bells and whistles than others. Yes, some platforms are incredibly limiting. But having any website (in most cases) is better than having none at all (or just a Facebook page).
No One Platform Does it All Perfectly
Maybe you’re starting to notice a theme here… no one platform does it all perfectly. Friend, let me say that again so it really hits home. NO ONE PLATFORM DOES IT ALL PERFECTLY. Yes, that can be frustrating, but I’d rather think of it as an opportunity.
By carefully selecting your web stack you can create a hybrid solution for your online presence where at every turn you are delivering your content, products and services to your ideal customer using the best possible tech for that particular part of the experience.
If you think about it, we don’t expect website building platforms to also be awesome email marketing services. Instead we utilize an app (actually a SAAS – Software As A Service) to serve up the fantastic emails we send our clients. We create an account with something like ConvertKit (my personal favorite) or Flodesk to send our email list updates, offerings and check ins.
So why do we expect our website builder to also be our Ecommerce solution?
In some cases, for some small businesses, it is better to go with a “single stack.” If that’s you… you’re doing just fine. But, I’m willing to bet that over time you will want to expand from that single stack into a hybrid solution and before you know it, you’ll be adding more blocks to your stack.
Tech Tends to Get Better with Time
Want to hear some really great news? Most tech improves with time. So if you’re not ready yet to add a new element to your web stack, by the time you are ready, you may have even more options to choose from and those options will have likely improved.
What’s In Your “Stack” Right Now?
Now it’s your turn. What is your stack right now? What do you want your stack to be in 12 months? This is an opportunity for you to aim high. Think about stretching yourself. Think about what platforms if integrated into your web stack could help you to achieve goals you’ve set for your small business.
And if you’d like, you can download the Web Stack worksheet and fill it out with your current platforms and your project platforms. In the case of this exercise a “platform” is any stand alone or integrated solution that is part of your overall website experience. This includes elements like digital marketing (email/newsletter), e-commerce, quiz integrations, etc.. If it’s part of your current or your projected plan for your site… add it to the list.
Choosing Your “Web Stack” for Your Small Business
April 4, 2022