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Launching a surf-related business isn’t for the faint of heart.

There’s an almost overwhelming number of things to do before you get off the ground. That’s in addition to the “regular” job you’re probably working on the side.

If its apparel brand you’re starting, there are meetings with designers and manufacturers to schedule. If you’re a surf photographer, you’ll be organising trips and trawling through your database of images for the cream of the crop.

Not matter what you do or the service you provide though, there’s one headache we all need to address:

Picking the right website platform.

I’m not going to waste your time espousing the benefits of having a website. They’re more obvious than a toupee resting on Kelly Slater’s shiny dome.

Instead, the purpose of this article is to break it all down (without getting overly technical).

From the most popular website platforms to my pick of the bunch, we’re going to figure out together which website platform will best suit your new surf business.

The goal is to make the whole selection process easier. But keep in mind that choosing the right platform is only one piece of the puzzle.

You’ll still need to think about things like marketing, email newsletters and blog articles down the track.

Let’s start from the beginning though.

What is a website platform or website builder?

Back when I was just a wee lad, the essential tools for building websites were a large pair of thick-rimmed reading glasses, a copy of HTML for Dummies and a whole lot of patience.

Thankfully, the internet (and reading glass styles) have evolved.

Now there’s no need to learn coding or hire an expensive designer to create your own website.

Website platforms or website builders are online tools that allow you to build and manage your own website without any coding or technical know-how.

They provide templates, drag-and-drop functionality and customisation options so that you can create a professional-looking website in a matter of hours.

No longer do you need to be a Bill Gates-level computer whizz (see: nerd… jokes!).

The majority of website platforms are user-friendly and intuitive, making them accessible even to those with limited technology skills… or surfers who’d rather spend more time surfing than building a website.

What are the options out there?

There are literally hundreds of website platform options available. Here are a few of the more well-known brands:

  • Dorik
  • Wix
  • WordPress
  • Shopify
  • Webflow
  • Squarespace
  • Bubble
  • Zyro
  • Jimdo
  • Carrd
  • Square Online
  • Dude
  • Go Daddy Website Builder
  • Sheet2Site
  • Unstack
  • Webydo
  • Namecheap Site Maker
  • And 100s more…

Ok… but what are the BEST options?

Out of the plethora of options available, some platforms have emerged as clear favourites among users.

  • WordPress: One of these is WordPress, which powers more than 40% of all websites on the internet. This popularity could be attributed to its flexibility and wide range of plugins and themes that allow for customisation
  • Wix: Wix is another popular option, known for its ease of use and drag-and-drop functionality. It also offers a variety of templates to choose from, making it ideal for those who want a simple and visually appealing website
  • Squarespace: Squarespace is another popular choice, with its sleek and modern designs. It’s great for those looking for an aesthetic-focused website that showcases their products or services in a visually-appealing manner
  • Shopify: You might as well throw Shopify into the mix too. It’s designed specifically for e-commerce businesses and offers a range of features to help you manage your online store. It also integrates easily with other apps and has a secure payment system

The most popular website platforms for surf businesses in 2024

WordPress

Free plan: Yes

Pricing: Free

WordPress continues to reign supreme among surf enthusiasts and business owners in 2024, primarily due to its versatile and robust nature.

This platform not only offers unmatched flexibility in design and functionality but also a vast repository of themes and plugins geared toward the surfing community.

Whether it’s integrating a booking system for surf lessons, showcasing a stunning portfolio of surf photography, or setting up an online store for surf gear, WordPress makes it possible without requiring users to have in-depth coding knowledge.

Its open-source framework means that it’s continually evolving with contributions from developers worldwide, ensuring that it stays ahead of web technology trends.

Additionally, WordPress has a vast support community, making it easier to find help or advice on tailoring your site to meet your specific needs.

However, as with any platform, there are considerations to weigh:

Pros:

  • Highly customisable with thousands of themes and plugins
  • Strong SEO capabilities to help your site rank well on search engines
  • Large, active support community
  • Flexibility to create any type of website, from e-commerce to portfolios

Cons:

  • May require a learning curve for those new to website building or who desire complex customisations
  • Keeping the site secure and updating plugins/themes can be time-consuming
  • Hosting is not included, so you’ll need to arrange and manage this separately, which can add to the cost

Wix

Free plan: Yes

Pricing: €11/month to €149/month USD

Wix has firmly established itself as one of the most user-friendly website builders on the market, making it an excellent choice for surf businesses that wish to carve out an online presence quickly and with minimal fuss.

Unlike more complex platforms, Wix offers a genuinely intuitive drag-and-drop interface that allows users to place elements anywhere on their website, providing unparalleled freedom in design without needing to understand coding.

This is particularly beneficial for creative professionals who want to showcase their surf photography or custom surfboard designs in a unique and visually appealing way.

The platform comes with a wide selection of templates that are not only modern and stylish but also fully responsive, ensuring that your website looks great on both desktop and mobile devices.

For surf businesses, this means that customers can easily browse and purchase products or book services from any device, anytime.

However, Wix is not without its drawbacks.

While it excels in design flexibility and ease of use, this can sometimes come at the cost of website speed, particularly for sites with a lot of content or high-resolution images common in the surf industry.

Additionally, while Wix does offer SEO tools, businesses looking to seriously compete in search engine rankings may find these tools somewhat limiting compared to other platforms.

Pros:

  • Extremely user-friendly with a drag-and-drop interface
  • Wide range of modern, responsive templates
  • No coding knowledge required
  • Good range of features and apps for adding functionality

Cons:

  • Can be slower to load, especially with high-resolution images
  • SEO capabilities might not meet the needs of more competitive businesses
  • Less flexibility than platforms like WordPress when it comes to deeper customisations

Squarespace

Free plan: No

Pricing: €15 to €42 per month

The darling of the drag-and-drop website world, Squarespace continues to seduce surf business owners with its unparalleled blend of functionality and aesthetics in 2024.

Renowned for its stunning, designer-quality templates, Squarespace has become the go-to platform for surf photographers, boutique surf shop owners and professional surfers seeking to build a compelling online presence.

Its templates are not just visually appealing; they’re also fully responsive, ensuring that websites look flawless on both desktop and mobile devices.

This is particularly crucial for surf businesses aiming to engage a visually-driven audience.

Squarespace stands out with its integrated e-commerce capabilities, making it simple for businesses to sell surf-related products, from custom boards to apparel, without the hassle of third-party integrations.

Plus, its built-in SEO tools help ensure that your site is discoverable, driving traffic and boosting online visibility.

Pros:

  • Beautiful, designer-quality templates that are fully responsive
  • Integrated e-commerce capabilities, suitable for businesses of all sizes
  • Built-in SEO tools to enhance online visibility
  • Intuitive interface, requiring no coding knowledge for a professional-looking site

Cons:

  • Limited flexibility compared to platforms like WordPress, particularly with third-party apps and plugins
  • Higher price point, which might be a consideration for new businesses
  • Some users find the SEO options to be less comprehensive than those available on more customisable platforms

Shopify

Free plan: First month for €1

Pricing: €24 to €289 per month

Shopify is particularly favoured by surf retail and product businesses looking to expand their online storefronts.

Custom-built for e-commerce, Shopify offers a comprehensive suite of tools designed to support businesses at every stage of their online sales process. Its user-friendly interface ensures that even those with minimal technical knowledge can set up and manage their online store with ease.

Furthermore, Shopify’s robust infrastructure is specifically tailored to handle high volumes of traffic and transactions, making it an ideal choice for surf businesses anticipating growth in online sales.

For surf shops, the ability to seamlessly integrate inventory management with a visually appealing online storefront allows them to showcase their surfboards, apparel, and accessories effectively.

Shopify also offers a range of e-commerce-specific features such as secure payment gateways, efficient order processing, and advanced analytics to track and optimise sales performance.

Pros:

  • Tailored specifically for e-commerce, offering a range of sales-focused features
  • Highly scalable, capable of supporting businesses as they grow
  • Offers a wide array of themes and apps for customisation
  • Secure payment processing built-in

Cons:

  • Monthly fees can add up, especially with added apps and features
  • Limited blogging capabilities compared to platforms like WordPress
  • Some customisation requires knowledge of Shopify’s own coding language, Liquid

How do I choose the right website platform for my surf business?

Ultimately, the right website platform for your surf business will depend on factors. These include the following.

Technical knowledge

The level of technical knowledge you possess will heavily influence your platform choice.

For beginners, intuitive platforms like Squarespace and Wix that don’t require coding offer a smoother entry into website creation.

Conversely, WordPress, with its vast array of plugins and themes, is ideal for those with some technical acumen or willing to invest time in learning.

Time constraints

Time is a crucial factor when selecting a website platform for your surf business.

For those looking to launch quickly, platforms such as Squarespace or Shopify, with their user-friendly design interfaces and out-of-the-box functionality, can significantly reduce development time.

On the other hand, a customised WordPress site, while offering greater flexibility and scalability, may require a longer development period, especially if bespoke features or significant customisation are involved.

Budget

Your budget is a critical consideration in choosing the right platform for your surf business.

If you’re operating on a tight budget, platforms like WordPress or Squarespace could be more viable, offering free or reduced basic plans and affordable premium options.

These platforms provide a balance between cost and functionality, although the trade-off might be less customisation and scalability.

In contrast, investing in a more bespoke website might initially be more costly due to development and hosting fees. However, it could offer better long-term value through greater flexibility, customisation and the ability to scale as your business grows.

Anticipated growth

Speaking of scaling, anticipating the growth of your surf business is fundamental in selecting a website platform that’ll adapt with your needs.

Platforms like WordPress offer remarkable scalability, allowing for the addition of new features and functionalities as your business expands.

Conversely, while simpler platforms such as Squarespace or Wix provide ease of use for beginners, they might prove limiting for a rapidly growing business looking for complex customisations or specific e-commerce capabilities essential for scaling.

Customer support

Last but not least, one very important consideration (especially if you’re just starting out) is customer support.

Having a reliable support system in place can be invaluable when encountering technical issues or needing assistance with platform features.

Platforms like Squarespace and Wix offer 24/7 customer support through various channels, while WordPress relies on community forums and third-party support options, which can be just as good or even superior in certain instances.

Choosing a platform with excellent customer service can save you time and frustration while ensuring a smooth and hassle-free website management experience.

Other considerations when choosing a website platform for your surf business

  • Ease of use: How user-friendly is the platform’s interface? Can you easily navigate and make changes without needing coding knowledge?
  • Mobile responsiveness: With more people accessing websites through mobile devices, it’s essential to choose a platform that can create mobile-responsive websites.
  • SEO capabilities: Does the platform offer built-in SEO tools or integrations with popular SEO plugins for better search engine visibility?
  • Integration options: Can the platform integrate with third-party tools and services, such as booking systems or email marketing platforms, to enhance your website’s functionality?
  • E-commerce capabilities: If you plan on selling products or services through your website, does the platform offer robust e-commerce features, such as payment gateways and inventory management?
  • Design flexibility: Are you limited to pre-designed templates, or can you create a unique design for your website?

Final thoughts

Deciding which website platform is right for you requires some deep-diving into your needs, both present and future.

In my opinion, deciding which website platform to go with is like choosing a new surfboard.

A lot of people with zero surfing experience go for the easy-to-use entry level surfboard. The fat, chubby, brightly coloured foamie.

This makes sense.

If you don’t know how to surf, you pick the least complicated, most user-friendly board, right? (They’re often cheaper too, which is a big plus).

The problem with going for the most accessible and/or cheapest option is that it won’t take long before you outgrow it.

You figure out what you like and don’t like about the board, start improving your skills and soon realise that you need something more suited to your abilities.

Choosing a website platform for your surf business is more or less the same. Consider not only your current needs but also where you want to be in the future.

A website platform like WordPress is my top recommendation for non-retail surf businesses as it offers the most flexibility and scalability. Shopify, on the other hand, is best if you’re running a retail website, online store or ecommerce brand.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of technical experience or want a more straightforward solution, then platforms like Wix and Squarespace are excellent options to get your site up and running quickly. Just remember that there’s a ceiling to this websites, and as your business grows, you may need to look at more long-term solutions.

No matter what platform you choose, you’ll need well-crafted, emotionally driven copy.

That’s where I come in.

Get in touch if you need help and/or direction regarding website copy for your surf business.

Oh… and don’t forget to enjoy the process. Building a surf brand is f*$cking hard… but it’s also fun!