Sports Facility Web Site Guide Part 3: Build it

Now that you have a better idea of what you’d like on your web site, it’s time to choose who will build it, and how. These four factors will affect your choice:

  • Budget – Don’t start seriously looking into web site development before you’ve figured out how much you can spend on it. Use your business plan to get that number.
  • Branding – Do you want a flashy, design-heavy web site to establish your brand or out-do your competitors? Many upscale sports facilities prioritize design and are willing to pay for it to make a lasting impression.
  • Custom features – I listed the standard features I’d suggest for a basic sports facility site in the last post (click here to read it). If additional features are important to you, you won’t want to use a simple web site builder.
  • Comfort level with computer programs – Do you like diving in and learning new web applications on your own, or would you rather have someone else do it for you? Your answer will be a big factor in how you choose to build your site.

There are plenty of people and companies out there whose main goal is to help small businesses get online. Here are your main options.

Option 1: Use a Turn-Key Web Site Builder

A web site builder program lets you build a site on your own without any programming knowledge. This is usually the best option if you have a very limited budget (under $30/month) and are comfortable learning new computer programs. 

With a website builder, you’ll choose a template, then drag and drop text, photos, videos and more onto the template to create your website. The cost of hosting is usually included in the price of these tools, and hosting-plus-web-builder combo packages can start at as little as $4/month. Some programs, like WordPress, even offer free or ad-supported versions.

Pros of Web Builders: Basic support is included with most paid accounts, and everything stays updated automatically.

Cons of Web Builders: It will take you several hours to put a web site together by yourself, even if you learn the new system quickly. Your web site probably won’t end up looking as impressive as one that was designed by a pro, but the results will vary depending on your eye for design and the quality of the program you choose.

Suggestions: If you decide to use a web site builder, check out all your options. Many people just buy the website builder that’s suggested when they buy their domain name, but you’ll probably be better off with programs that have specialized in web site builders, like WordPress, Wix, Weebly or Squarespace. Here’s a comparison chart I found.

Option 2 – Hire a Freelancer or Design Company to Build Your Web Site 

If you can afford it and want a more customized site, you can hire someone to build it from scratch. This is usually the best option if you want custom features and a fancy design and are willing to pay for it, or if your are uncomfortable with computer programs and would rather outsource the entire project.

You might already have a friend or relative in mind to build your web site, but you should still explore all your options. Getting quotes from multiple sources will give you a better idea of what’s available. Look for other small business web sites you like and find out who designed them.

Finding a freelancer is typically more affordable than hiring a web design company, but the ongoing support may be less reliable, depending on your contract. You can find freelancers via word-of-mouth, as I mentioned, or even via a Google search (such as “freelance web site designer Cincinnati”) or through a website like Elance or oDesk. The main thing to check is whether they’ve already built the type of web site you’re looking for. Don’t hesitate to ask for references.

You can also hire a web site design company, ad agency or other creative company to build your site and handle your marketing. Agencies are often able to do everything you need for marketing, including writing copy, taking photos, shooting videos, running social media campaigns, analyzing your web traffic, and on and on. However, most small, local sports facilities don’t need this level of professional service and the high price tags that come with it.

Suggestions: Whether you use a freelancer or a creative company, you’ll want to understand how changes will be made to your site (you’ll definitely need to make text, menu and photo changes and want to make sure you can make them easily) and how you’ll receive support if you need it. Also, ask about search engine visibility and backups in case of a problem that compromises the web site.

Option 3: “Deluxe Web Builder” Companies

Some companies offer something in between a very basic web-building program and a completely custom web site. I’m calling them “deluxe web builder” companies because they offer some custom design on your template, and you still have full access to make many changes yourself.  This great option for people with budgets of at least $700 who would rather outsource their website work.

Many of these deluxe companies are even specialized to various industries. For example, Jam Spirit Sites is popular in the cheerleading community, and Infinity Pro is another option for sports leagues and organizations.

I consider my own company to fall into this category, as well; we have programmers and designers on staff, and our basic design web design packages that are built around the features that we’ve identified as the most helpful for sports facilities. Right now, we only offer these discounted packages to our scheduling software clients, but it usually works out because sports facilities need both web sites AND scheduling software (and ours can handle memberships, packages, lessons, classes, rentals and more).

Good luck launching your new sports facility site. If you have any other suggestions, please comment below.

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