How to Start a Website as a Service Business without Coding Knowledge

Welcome to the No-code movement.

You might wonder what that means and why it is the first thing I am bringing up. It is the first thing I’m bringing up because it is the deal-breaker.

For years, tech companies have typically been founded by people with coding knowledge who can build their own products by writing programmes. Until recently, startup funders like Y-combinator only sponsored companies with technical founders. However, everything is changing with the rise of the no-code movement.

In simple terms, the no-code movement is for those who don’t know much about coding but have always wanted to create software products, such as websites or mobile apps. The movement’s ultimate goal is to bridge the gap between the ever-increasing demand for website apps and the scarcity of skilled software developers.

The citizens of the movement use various no-code software to build applications. John Everhard defines no-code software as a visual integrated development environment (IDE). “Within this environment, users (the citizen developer) drag and drop application components, connect them, and create a mobile or web app. Using this software, staff can design and build powerful applications that can scale for any organization—without writing code.” 

It is worth noting that there is still coding involved in no-code, but the entire code database is built-in so that you won’t see any of it in the front-end. While adding and modifying blocks in a simple visual builder, the code is automatically generated in the background.

There is a variety of no-code software for a variety of applications. Traditionally, to build a web form, you have to code it from scratch. In contrast, nowadays, you have to use tools like Typeform and Google Forms, which are built to be integrated with other no-code tools for collecting and sending email campaigns like Mailchimp and SendInBlue. There is also more complex software like Retool and Zapier for building expansive custom functions and automation. No matter what the tool is used for, they all have one thing in common: they allow non-technical visionaries to build apps in a fraction of the time.

What is Website as a Service (WaaS)?

Now that we have a basic understanding of no-code tools, let’s learn what Website as a Service is and what setting up a Website as a Service business entails.

The term Website as a Service is a spin-off of the wider known term called Software as a Service (SaaS). Website as a service is a simple business model whereby an entrepreneur builds a platform for people to create a managed website, usually without having to write code (hello, no-code 😉 and without having to go through the traditional route of installing neither the website’s script nor its compiler on their personal machine. 

For better understanding, Canva is an example of a “graphic-as-a-service” software that allows people to effortlessly create graphical photos and video content without having to install traditional graphic creation software on their computer. So also, website as a service software will allow users to create websites without having to install website development software of any kind on their own system.

Both Graphic-as-a-Service systems like Canva and Website-as-a-Service systems like Wix are the creative forms of a wider family of an online business model called Software as a Service system. We have other names like Asana, which can be classified under another form of the same business model family. 

Software as a Service system usually provides easy-to-use templates as a starting point for users to make the creation process easier. Even amateur users with no professional or extensive educational background in the field will be equipped to build solutions. Similarly, a Website as a Service will provide ready-made website templates and tools for users to easily plug and play, drag and drop for quick but solid results.

Types and Examples of WaaS Systems

There are several kinds of websites as a service system. Some let users create micro websites – usually one-page websites that contain important external links. Others let users create advanced multipage websites.

It is important to know the various kinds of websites as a service system to know what you want to build. For this article, we’ll describe how to build an advanced website as a service software; however, let’s take a moment to review some popular examples of each kind of website as a service (WaaS).

Examples of Micro WaaS: Linktree is a tool that allows you to share multiple links on social media. It’s a personal micro web directory of important links that either individuals or organizations can see. LinkInBio is similar to Linktree, but the former is like a replication of your Instagram field but with clickable links. Selar lets you sell digital products (ebooks, courses, etc.) on your page. Disha is another example of micro WaaS software. It looks similar to Linktree, but it has more customization options. While Linktree and LinkInBio only let you add links, Disha enables you to add media files to your page.

Examples of Advanced WaaS: WordPress is arguably one of the biggest website development tools on the internet today. It allows users to build full-functional websites, from a simple blog to an e-commerce store and discussion boards. Edublogs is a spinoff of WordPress that lets educational institutions, teachers, and students create websites and blogs. It is built on WordPress software but niched down to focus on education. Wix lets you build multi-paged websites in an instant with a drag-and-drop interface. Wix can be used to build any kind of website, but Format another WaaS that is strongly niched, targeted at photographers. Shopify is also niched for e-commerce stores. It helps business owners build stores for the sale of their products.

How Viable is WaaS Business?

Website as a service (WaaS) is a suitable option for companies that need a website but have limited resources. WaaS simply makes technology easier for businesses. It’s difficult to keep up with all of the new technology and improvements to web development best practices. Therefore, companies find it important to seek a provider to keep track of technical requirements such as the website while working on other ways to improve the business. 

Not all business owners have the time or skill to manage their website, nor do they have enough budget to hire a resource person internally. Here is where using WaaS comes in as the right solution for many growing businesses across various industries. 

WaaS, like other kinds of SaaS, is a high-potential market. Gartner predicts the software-as-a-service (SaaS) market to grow to USD 145.38 billion by 2022. One good pointer to profitability is that paying customers represent long-term revenue streams, as they pay for a subscription to the software.

WaaS is viable because the same phenomena happen in other areas of life. We have subscriptions to entertainment like Netflix and Hulu and other more mundane things like a razor blade and wine subscriptions where a new or fresh product is sent to you each month. Amazon even does it with groceries. Some people will argue this isn’t an improvement, but many will say it has improved their lives. They have fresh new products or completely updated software, no expensive upgrades, and many great features centred around cloud storage and collaboration. WaaS is just like that – websites on subscriptions.

Things You Need to Start a WaaS Business 

Starting a website as a service business requires a lot of things beyond the technical, and it is important to consider and plan for these before embarking on the business. Here are some of the most important things to consider.

Developing A Business Plan

Like with every other business, a business plan is essential to help you draw out the roadmap to effectively manage your website as a service (WaaS) business to profit. Besides being a roadmap of activities, a well-formatted business plan can also be used to pursue funding, forecast financials, and regularly realign your direction as your business grows. You can start with a lean business plan, which should take about 30 minutes.

One major section of your business plan will be the marketing strategy section. You should design the marketing strategy for your website as a service (WaaS) early to have a clear idea of how to achieve your growth targets, taking into consideration some important metrics like customer acquisition, retention, and churn rate.

Ultimately, your business plan will be a written document that explains in detail how your website as a business (WaaS) company sets its goals and how it intends to achieve them. From the marketing, financial, and operational aspect, a business plan lays out a documented path for the business.

Consider Getting a Co-founder

This article discusses important technical skills and tools to start your website as a service (WaaS) business. However, this is not the only thing needed to succeed. You need a range of other soft skills, including sales, negotiation, communication, and even writing skills.

It is very likely that you do not have all the necessary skills to build a successful business. However, this is not the end of the journey for you as you can easily get someone who has the skills you lack, in the form of a co-founder. Alternatively, you can outsource various aspects of the business, like writing and social media management, to a freelancer or agency. You should take the time to compare the options before concluding.

Whichever option you end up going with, the bottom line is that going on the business journey alone is hardly a good strategy.

To Niche or Not to Niche: What’s Best for Your WaaS?

One important question to ask while planning your website as a service business is whether or not to niche. WaaS providers like Edublogs for educationalists and Format for creatives are examples of niched-down service providers. Niching down your service to an industry like this helps you build brand awareness and loyalty and spreads the word amongst the people operating in that industry.

For Edublogs,  educators, teachers, and students communicate with each other. Edublogs has put together a fantastic package and gives amazing service. The site’s popularity grows as a result of word-of-mouth among educators. Edublogs currently hosts about 4,500,000 sites as of this writing. That’s a massive number because their customer base is strictly people in the education field.

There are many websites-as-a-service businesses focusing on the general market, and with the right marketing strategy, you can join them. However, picking a niche will help you refine your message, concentrate your outreach efforts, and set you up as the authorised provider in that sector in the coming years.

Hosting Your Website as a Service (WaaS) Platform

You want to consider the hosting package to set up your website on. A website as a service business requires a robust disc space and bandwidth hosting platform. Your hosting goes a long way towards determining your users’ experience, especially in terms of the speed of their website, so it is important to consider speed while deciding on your hosting. Although shared hosting will work for testing, you’ll need a more powerful dedicated or VPS hosting option when you officially launch.

Setting Up Your Website as a Service (WaaS) Platform

Anyone can set up a website as a service business and charge people to create their websites. You just need the correct tools to help you build even when you do not have any technical knowledge.

The traditional way to set up your website as a service business is to either be someone who knows how to code or get a cofounder who knows how to code. However, this is changing as you can now use tools to set up your WaaS network without any coding knowledge.

You want to get a tool that comes packed with all the requirements to ensure the success of your Website as a Service. From user registration, site registration and templating recurring payments handling, and custom domain linking to the various access restrictions that let you set tiered pricing for your business.

WPMUDEV used to have a tool that let you do all of these. However, it is no longer maintained and has since been displaced by a new, more extensive tool called WP Ultimo, a website-as-a-service system creation tool built on the WordPress website software. WP Ultimo is arguably one of the few tools that make setting up your business easy and quick.

Here I will outline how to set up your Website as a Service platform.

Installing WordPress

Step 1. Once you’ve gotten your hosting account, the first step is to set up your website and download the WordPress files from wordpress.org/download. The package comes as a compressed zip file. Unzip it and move to the next step.

Step 2. Upload the unzipped folder named “WordPress” to the public_html directory of your hosting account. It is advisable to install the WaaS platform into the public_html folder and not a subdirectory.

Step 3. Create a database to store your platform data. To create the database, you can use CPanel’s MySQL Database Wizard. Remember the database name, user name, and password, as you’ll need them in the next step.

Step 4. Input the platform information into the configuration file. Navigate to the public_html folder with the File Manager and locate a file titled wp-config-sample.php and rename it to wp-config.php.

Step 5. Right-click on the new wp-config.php file and click edit. When the edit screen opens, do the following:

  • Replace database_name_here with the database name you created earlier.
  • Replace username_here with the database user name you created earlier.
  • Replace password_here with the database password you created earlier.

Save the file.

Step 6. Open a new browser tab and type https://yourdomain.com/wp-admin/install.php (remember to change the yourdomain.com to your own domain). The next screen will allow you to select the default platform language, the site name, admin username, email, and password. Once you have finished inputting this, click on Install WordPress and you’re done.

Activating Multisite

Now that your website is up, you need to turn it into a network that allows multiple websites to be created by your clients worldwide.

Step 1. Login to your admin dashboard https://yourdomain.com/wp-admin with the username and password you created in the previous section. Then navigate to the Settings > Permalinks and select the Post Name option. Then save your settings.

Step 2. Open your CPanel file manager and edit the wp-config.php file we mentioned earlier. Then search for the following line:

/* That's all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */

Once you locate it, paste the following immediately above that line and save the file.

define('WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true);

Step 3. Log in again to https://yourdomain.com/wp-admin and navigate to Settings > Network Setup, where you can configure your platform.

  • Choose the desired address structure. Do you want user websites to be installed as a subdomain (user1.yourdomain.com) or as a subdirectory (user2.yourdomain.com)? The subdomain option is recommended.
  • Enter the platform name and then the admin email and click install.

Step 4. You will then be presented with two pieces of code. The first code will go into the wp_config.php file just above the line you added earlier, and the second code will go into the .htaccess file in the public_html.

Now, we are ready to go to the final section.

Setting Up Your Network

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