7+ wise solutions on how to build your first awesome website
In this article I am going describe and compare most popular ways on how to build your own online presence and explain common pitfalls that many people usually facing with. If you are a tech person you may find this article too descriptive but the main goal of it is to help those readers who have limited knowledge in this area.
Being in WEB Industry for already a decade I may say that a lot has changed. This includes technologies, design trends, market demand, corporate influence and many other less significant aspects. If you are reading this article I believe that you are in a high demand of creating a website but there are certain moments or areas that might be unclear to you. Before we begin I recommend you first ask these questions to yourself:
- How fluent you are with everyday computer work comparing to other people around you? (For example, can you install an app yourself, update drives for printer, build formula in excel etc)
- What is your budget or do you have any?
- What is your final goal in creating a website?
- What for you create a website and how you see your target audience interaction?
- Do you need to sell something?
- Is blogging your primary target?
- Do you plan to scale and serve large audience groups in future?
- What for you need your own hosted website?
Keeping these questions answered in your head while reading this article further may help you catch pro and cons of solutions described below. The list is not comprehensive though but these are one of the most popular solutions for website builders:
Your own hosted website
Your own hosted website assumes that you have a hosting or cloud company that hosts your website. In addition to that, unless you plan to have a static HTML page you most likely need a content management system (CMS) that will easily allow content publishing, formatting and modification. The most popular CMS of this year are:
But having just a CMS does not mean you already have a great website. This is where a so called themes or templates (depending on the CMS brand different definitions are used) come into scene. In the world of web design themes and templates are a whole new massive trend. Based on this fact lets define what does it mean.
According to WordPress definition:
“A WordPress theme changes the design of your website, often including its layout. Changing your theme changes how your site looks on the front-end.” https://developer.wordpress.org/themes/getting-started/what-is-a-theme/
According to Joomla:
“A template is a type of Joomla! extension that changes the way your site looks.” https://docs.joomla.org/Template
Themes and templates are probably one of the most important aspect in the process of self-hosted CMS website creation. They define the visual appearance of your website, unique feel and look, drive interactivity, have great impact in lead generation transforming visitors into returning customers . The most popular places for commercial theme and template selection are:
- Mojo themes
Whereas free themes are provided within CMS itself or distributed across different small websites online. You can read this guide about theme selection.
Advantages of having your own hosted website
- The main advantage of having you own hosted website is probably the fact that its your website.
- Usually you have 100% control of customizing any part of your website.
- Freedom of migration between different hosting companies.
- More unique visual appearance and style using commercial themes.
- Endless functionality extension possibilities with the help of plugins that can be integrated into your website.
Disadvantages of having your own hosted website
- Its more expensive. Even if it seems that hosting could cost as low as $3 USD per month, Top Level Domain with .online or .tech extension $0.99 per first year and a theme can be downloaded for free or for only $40-70 from a professional web design agency the overall procedures of doing it yourself without having a sound technical background might be very challenging. This is usually due to the fact that you may need to configure a whole bunch of settings to make your site up and running but doing it wrongly may result in failures and a necessity to finally hire a developer.
- Maintenance. Web is always transforming, the stack of technologies that make your website operational is being constantly updated and thus at some point you may require to adjust certain configurations or even modify certain parts of website’s code. This is the most trickiest part as may people think that if not doing anything to your website will require no technical attention but this is not true. Updates or malware may require additional technical involvement in order your website can continue running.
- Customization. While themes and plugins can ensure endless amount of possibilities. Combining everything into one solid element may require additional configuration or even coding. This is where you may need to hire a developer one more time again to make such basic things as changing offset of your logo in case theme does not support it, adding contact details under footer area of your website, replacing custom icons etc. Because there are so many theme and plugin vendors available on market today, their products have their own unique functionality advantages and disadvantages, customization possibilities and limitations. The rule of thumb here is unless you are searching for a simple blogging magazine buying a theme even from a reputable vendor does not guarantee that everything will work out of the box as advertised.
Find the list of statements below. The more “matches” you have the less you need to build your own website.
- If you are limited on time;
- If you don’t want to spend money and even hire a developer;
- if you need a hassle free solution that does not require any technical background;
- If you need a temporary solution;
- If you are at the stage of performing basic market test;
- #goal definition
- If your final goals are still not clearly defined.
WIX templates and pagebuilder.
Wix is not the only one but probably one of the oldest and largest IT companies that specialize on website creation within their platform. Because there are certain disadvantages when creating and maintaining your own website there is natural demand for a solution that is more simple and straightforward, and what is more important does not require any technical knowledge.
With the help of Wix one can not only create a static page but also sell products, attach booking calendars, embed contact forms and use many other useful extensions. You can also have an ability to customize any piece of the website by easily changing text color, font style and size or, with the help of intuitive page builder add any necessary element to extend functionality on demand with 100% no coding involvement.
Wix is not the only company that shares page builder ideology and the concept of keeping things as simple as possible, weebly, squarespace and even WordPress.com have many things in common. Nevertheless it does not mean that only Wix or Squarespace is the best. It all depends on your needs and final goals.
In my personal opinion Squarespace is more stylish while wix templates look more dated. Running ecommerce website in South East Asia with Squarespace may result in billing issues or slower loading speed as their servers are located in another continent. Some may find that Weebly pagebuilder is more intuitive.
WordPress.com might be best for blogging with new Gutenberg coming into scene article formatting and markup is more productive, user-friendly and beautiful. WordPress.com does not support commercial themes which means you may only have websites with basic functionality and not the top-notch design.
Advantages using Wix, Weebly, Squarespace and other platforms
- The main advantage creating online presence with one of the platforms is its simplicity.
- No scripting or web development skills are required.
- You can start for free and even have first website running before any payment made.
Disadvantages using platforms
- You are restricted to the platform and its hosting facilities. You can not migrate or easily import/export website data to any other platform or self hosted website site;
- Unless you want something more that what platform offers you have no access to the code thus you have no possibilities to modify something from the backend;
- Platforms do provide templates but usually they are not as rich, beautiful and unique as commercial themes are. Moreover, when you use page builder you will quickly realize that making your webpage look really cool and beautiful is not that easy. This is because web design a pixel-perfect science where every single element and its position should be exactly on place regardless the fact wether its desktop, tablet or mobile screen. Think of professional designers. They still design in Photoshop or other graphical editors. Choosing page builder is like choosing simplicity over professionalism. Therefore comes the result its more pragmatic rather then professionally beautiful.
If its its more about selling your goods online and less about blogging or you find WooCommerce (popular WordPress extension for e-commerce) plugin not attractive I recommend you to check Shopify. A company that has been on the market already for a decade makes it incredibly easy to set up your online store without any technical complications. In addition, they have custom designed themes same like WordPress but with less variety though. In the end you may have a nicely running online shop that is ready to collect payments over popular billing systems like PayPal or credit cards.
You do have to pay slightly more for the provided simplicity and even more when you grow from $29 to $299 per month plus transaction fees which 1-3% depending on the pricing plan.
If Shopify is mentioned here Magento should be as well. Same like Shopify Magento is an online “e-commerce veteran”. But what is the difference? Unlike Shopify Magento is a standalone CMS like WordPress or Joomla but mainly focusing on retail and shopping. While Shopify is hosted within its system Magento needs a separate hosting and a lot more time on configuration. The main advantage of Magento is its flexibility and customization freedom. No one restricts you on how things can be configured and you can always exceed default boundaries. This is why many developers like it considering it a more professional approach for more serious business. In fact if no one of these solutions fits your needs you may check Gumroad for digital goods, Storenvy, Big Cartel, Volusion, E-junkie if you already have a page but need a simple cart.
Google sites might be also a good solution for those who need a very basic website with an email address linked to your domain name.
I really hope that after reading this article it became more clear which direction to chose. With so many solutions and technologies available online it might be confusing what will suit best in a given situation. So whatever you choose you will get a valuable experience that will help you in future and pay off should current road taken is a mistake.