Occasionally, when people find out I am a programmer, they ask me if I will build them a website or an app on the side. As I spend all day programming at my work, I rarely have motivation to continue programming after work.
However, talking to most people, I realize they don’t need a programmer; most of their needs can be met by a simple SaaS solution. Recently, I directed a few friends to WordPress.com, SmugMug, Shopify, etc. They all were happy with the results and ease of use. Also I am glad they talked to me because one guy was ready to spend a few thousands on a developer for a WordPress-based site.
Here is my recommendation for various SaaS solutions for various business needs:
A website to show business information
This is my number one recommendation when the goal is simply to show simple business information. Sites hosted on WordPress.com as opposed to self-hosted version cannot install custom themes or plugins. But in exchange you get one of most stress-free website for as low as $36 per year.
This is my second recommendation especially if you want visually modern looking website. Its visual editor let anyone customize beautiful themes. Highly recommended if you have large beautiful pictures of your place of business.
A website for photographers
For a photographer, I recommend SmugMug. Though you can also use SquareSpace or even WordPress.com if your goal is to only show off your portfolio.
But SmugMug provide additional photographer centric features such as private galleries, ability to order prints, and even sell digital prints.
A website to sell
It seems that Shopify is gold standard when it comes to ecommerce SaaS solutions. Also it provides beautiful templates and a lot of customization options. And when your business grows bigger, there is a huge community of Shopify developers who can help you integrate your online store with your back-office systems such as ERP, CRM, etc.
Personally, if I was selling something online, I would start off with BigCartel, mostly because it is cheaper and seems to provide as many options as Shopify for new online businesses.
Email Collection for Marketing
Email is still one of most effective marketing medium. You should be collecting email addresses of visitors to your website. Mailchimp provides very clean and easy to use interface for collecting emails and sending out newsletters.
Good news is that Mailchimp has integration for all of above SaaS website solutions except SmugMug.
When You Really Do Need a Developer
Ok sometimes you really need a software developer or developers. Here are some reasons when you should look to contracting or even hiring developers:
- Your product is a software, a website, or an app. If you are selling such a product you probably already know that you need programmer or multiple programmers.
- You want to build iOS or Android app. A lot of people in service industry have asked me for a simple apps for their businesses, such as appointment schedulers for a hair salon, or a simple app to show special menu for little mom n pop restaurants. Personally, I haven’t found any easy way for business owners to create their own.
- NOTE: Most businesses don’t need a simple app to show just information about their business. Instead focus on a good website that is equally useful on cellphones as on desktop.
- You want to integrate your website with ERP, CRM, accounting software, etc. I have worked on Magento integration with various systems. Let me tell you, it is not easy or simple. Even as a developer, I was pulling my hair out.