Best business website in a box for an absolute beginner?
April 9, 2013 5:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm finally taking the plunge and starting a business. We want to get a website up and running, but I've never really done anything like this. Can you recommend where to go, what to do, and all that stuff?

We're starting a business based on cured meats, catering, serving food for events, and eventually online sales. At first, we need to have a general website that has information about the company, as well as an updatable events page so people know where we'll be and what we'll be doing.

Later on this year, if things start to take off, we're going to want to have a shopping cart type storefront where people can order meat products and game from us. That probably means credit cards (which scares the hell out of me) and a secure website. I have absolutely no idea what to use, or where to get started. I'm not likely (thank god) to be the person in charge of the website, but I figured I'd at least see what people here think is a good idea and pass it on.

For bonus levels of difficulty, the business is going to be based in Japan, so we'll need to have a bilingual website. Any advice or help you can give me will be greatly appreciated.
posted by Ghidorah to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
This sounds like a job for your friendly local web designer. As in, if you want this to look professional, you will probably need to have it done professionally.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:47 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wordpress seems to have come out on top as the best solution for your present needs (getting simple sites up fast), but I don't know how hard it is to expand a Wordpress site to have shopping carts etc. From a client point of view, this comes to hiring someone who specializes in customizing Wordpress templates to suit you, rather than hiring a designer who builds you a bespoke site from scratch.

A need for dual languages is called "localization" in web site jargon, and I am pretty sure that Wordpress supports it.

Deciding if something like that will work for you, or if you do need a completely custom site, can get tricky as you grow and your web sites needs become more complex. But it's a good place to start for a site with just information, events, contact, press, etc.
posted by thelonius at 5:51 AM on April 9, 2013

Squarespace, squarespace, squarespace.

I'm not sure how bilingual you can get, but it's dead simple to make, easy to customize and they have a shopping cart module where (apparently, I haven't used it myself) you just enter some basic bank details and they handle all the credit card processing.

Eventually you should hire a designer or design team and have something custom, but that's for when things take off. Getting off the ground should be frictionless, and you don't want to deal with design decisions when you're trying to launch a business, unless design is a major part of your business.
posted by brentajones at 5:52 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding Squarespace. Easy to get a glossy site up fast, the commerce element is pretty great, and you don't have the constant need for updates to plug security holes (or worse, to root out malware because you got hacked) that you tend to find in anything built on Wordpress.
posted by Andrhia at 5:59 AM on April 9, 2013

Squarespace covers your technical requirements (and their marketing blitz is huge, so it's easy to find a 10% discount code... just listen to any tech podcast for more 15 minutes, really), but it looks like supporting multiple languages is hackish at best.
posted by Kosh at 6:10 AM on April 9, 2013

In addition to offering domain names, Yahoo Small Business offers Website building tools. I've never used them, but I just wanted to throw it out there so you have some more options to review.

Good luck in your business endeavour!
posted by bitteroldman at 6:38 AM on April 9, 2013

I've moved a couple of clients off of Yahoo. Don't go there.
posted by COD at 6:43 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Another vote for Squarespace (though the commerce service is US only for now, so I can't use it). I work pretty closely with dozens of ecommerce business owners, and I have heard many a WordPress horror story.
posted by third word on a random page at 6:45 AM on April 9, 2013

My brother uses and loves Shopify. Looks like the front end can be in any language, but the administrative dashboard will always be in English.
posted by sa3z at 7:20 AM on April 9, 2013

Hi - I do e-comm. No personal experience with Squarespace, but either go with something like that from a reputable company that can offer a PCI certified solution, or use something like PayPal buttons for online payment. DO NOT let a friendly neighborhood web dude rig you something up to accept credit cards and hand-wave the security issues. They're fine (some of them anyway) at making web sites look and perform okay cosmetically, which is really all you need for a small business that just wants to put brochure/menu style info on the air, but the variety and type of insecure practices I've seen is horrifying. I've seen everything up to and including E-MAILING CC info from a web form to the owner's in-box. If you're not an expert in these issues, you have to go with a solution that's based on a major company's expertise, end-to-end.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:54 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you are not going to budget for a web developer, then I'd say Squarespace.

I don't know if they have templates for bilingual sites but you can check.

Wordpress would have templates for bilingual sites but adding stuff like a shopping cart in later would take hiring someone.
posted by gen at 7:55 AM on April 9, 2013

I think for an ecommerce solution, you have to consider what tool your customers customarily use. I'm guessing you'll be targeting expats rather than Japanese folks, and they do not use PayPal for example.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:38 PM on April 12, 2013

Rakuten seems to be *the* ecommerce provider in Japan, by the way, and it also has an international presence. The UI/layout/design looks (customarily, in Japan) terrible.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:39 PM on April 12, 2013

Response by poster: Actually, the goal is just to make money, so we are definitely going to be targeting Japanese people. Aiming to sell to expats only seems to be one of the fastest ways to fail, so the goal is to get a solid website up for Japanese people, and yeah, they don't seem crazy about PayPal.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:15 AM on April 13, 2013

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