Finding Alternatives to Building a Web Site

Over my last two columns, I’ve discussed how not to hire a Web developer and how to build a Website you love. But for some small businesses, there are other options — alternatives to building or refreshing a Web site.

One option is a one-page site. This is a specialty of Carbonsquare, a design shop that builds business sites of up to 10 pages using customized templates on the Weebly platform. One of Carbonsquare’s clients is a fashion-accessories retailer, Debra Wood, who has a mobile fashion boutique, DebiFashion. Ms. Wood decided a one-page site worked best for her side business. “It was so much work to constantly change my shopping-cart Web site, so for a $249 investment, I can make the changes I want and not break the bank,” she said.

For a basic 10-page site, Carbonsquare charges $549 plus a monthly hosting and maintenance fee that runs about $30. “We decided to use the Weebly system because it’s a simple drag-and-drop system,” said Christopher Rippie, founder of Carbonsquare. “We want to help our customers understand smart design. Too many people over-design their Web sites. We did not use the WordPress platform, because it takes more time to build a Web site, which drives the cost up. We are trying to eliminate the sticker shock in Web site design and give people something they can manage themselves after we build it.”

Carbonsquare does have some drawbacks. WordPress plug-ins won’t work with the Weebly platform, search-engine optimization functionality is not built in the way it is with WordPress, and if you are blogging heavily, the system has limitations. Mr. Rippie suggests building a blog in WordPress and integrating it with the Weebly Web site.

Another option is to use Tumblr, a very easy-to-use blogging platform, as your Web site. With more than 100 million bloggers, Tumblr has an active community of users who search for content based on keyword tags. This can make it easier to build an audience quickly. It allows users to post text, photos, quotes, links, music and videos from a desktop or phone and from a  browser or through e-mail. A Tumblr page works best for visual businesses, such as retail, design, food, or fashion. Some small businesses use Tumblr in addition to a WordPress blog. Tumblr allows owners to link back to e-commerce sites with coupon codes, QR codes and links to other social media accounts. Its templates are easy to use and there’s nothing to download to get started.

Diane Souter of Absolutely Fabulous Unique Gifts and Décor in Huntington Beach, Calif., uses a Tumblr page to highlight her latest products and attract a younger audience. “Tumblr is so easy to do that I could do it,” she said. “I’m able to take a photo with my iPhone and upload it to Tumblr with the hashtags and keywords, within seconds literally, and it links to my Web site.”

Ms. Souter said that while the traffic from Tumblr leads to some sales, it mainly drives buzz. “It would be great if people could click on the picture and the price comes up with the ability to make a purchase through Tumblr,” she said. That might be a way Yahoo will attempt to monetize the site, now that it has bought it for more than $1 billion.

Three months ago, Innate Family Chiropractic, based in Pasadena, Calif., started using RebelMouse to host its Web site. RebelMouse allows companies to display the latest updates on their social media accounts on the company home page; in fact, those updates can be the homepage or they can an embedded addition. Users can customize a RebelMouse site or choose from previously designed theme pages. They can also post a full-text blog post directly to RebelMouse and then add an image or a video. And they can add RSS feeds from their own blog or from other blogs they read frequently.

Paul Berry, former chief technology officer of Huffington Post, says he created RebelMouse to save small-business owners time and frustration. “We just so saw so many people struggle with their Web site almost to the point of giving up,” he said. “We knew there was a simple solution that didn’t involve developers or designers. We wanted to make people’s content shine and amplify their social media efforts.” The service costs $10 a month and integrates seamlessly with MailChimp, the e-mail service.

Innate Family Chiropractic picked RebelMouse to save time with its Web marketing and because it wanted a central place to share content on pediatric chiropractic care. The three-year-old family wellness and chiropractic center uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest to share and generate health-related tips and articles. “I used to spend so much time educating clients and putting our content on all our social media accounts,” said Christopher Vargas, a chiropractor and owner of Innate Family. “Plugging everything into RebelMouse just made things easier.” The company pays $19.99 a month to use the service on two Web sites..nytimes.com

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