Have A Website Yet? Here Are 4 Options
|June 14, 2011||Posted by Louise under How To Build A Website|
You’ve done all of the research and decided on your business niche, your unique selling position, and your product or service. Now you are ready to set-up your online headquarters where you will meet with your target market. In other words, you need a website. So where do you start? And do you need to know HTML code?
You actually have 4 main options when it comes time to set up a website for your business; some will involve using HTML, others not at all. The one you pick depends on your time and budget as well how you want your site to perform.
1) Build Your Own Website
If you are building your own website from scratch, you will need to know HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). In plain English, HTML is the coding web browsers use to display web pages. Essentially, you write the code that tells web browsers how to layout the page, what images and fonts to use, etc. so that your site has the look and functionality you want.
Sounds easy? Well it is if you already know the language and have experience. Otherwise, you have to take the time to learn this skill on your own, which is challenging and time-consuming (I know, I did it), or you can enroll at a local college for the course. In Ontario Canada, that would cost you 20+ weeks of full-time classes and around $8,000.00. This is a good option only if you are already accustomed to building sites or you have lots of time and money to burn.
That said, knowing how to design and build sites provides you with the capability to make your site do potentially anything you want. Despite the free labour, you will have to add to your costs the price of a domain (site’s address & name), hosting as well as other features like professional images, headers, and other design features.
2) Get A Free Hosted Site
The other extreme to building your own site is to use a free hosted website. You don’t have to pay for hosting or domain names and can assemble a website as easily as piecing together a toddler’s jigsaw puzzle. These free services use templates to help you customize the layout of your site and add some personal style. Some companies that host a website for free include www.weebly.com, www.wordpress.com (not the same as www.wordpress.org), www.blogger.com, www.webs.com, and www.yola.com.
This may sound like heaven if you have no experience with website design. But in fact, it’s not the wisest choice for a long-term online business. Firstly, the limited number of templates offered cap your customization capabilities.
Secondly and most importantly, you give away the control of your site’s content and capabilities to the service provider. For instance, WordPress.com does not allow you to advertise; Webs.com will display third party advertisements on your free site; any provider could crash and lose all of your content; the provider such as blogger.com could decide you have violated some rule and ban your site, in which case you lose all your work and your “face” with the public. Those are just some examples of why you shouldn’t go this route. A big portion of your business remains in their hands, which should make you break-out in a cold sweat and run for the hills. I strongly recommend against using this option.
3) Hire Out
Money may not buy happiness, but it sure can make life easier. If you have the money, you can always source out the design and maintenance of your website to someone else. I won’t go on and on about this option, because it’s just like anything else you may be shopping for: do your due diligence.
Getting your site designed by someone else can cost hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars. The final bill depends on who you hire and on the complexity of your site. Shop around. Compare pricing and what you are getting for the stated price. If someone offers to build your website for a few hundred dollars, be wary. Why so cheap? A good designer will take time, which costs money, to question you and then consult you on what they think you need. She will also design your site with the future in mind, so that it grows with you and your business. Oops, I think I went on a little. Sorry!
4) Open Source Blog and CMS
First of all, CMS stands for content management system. A web CMS in particular manages the content on your site, allowing you to publish, to add information, and manage its contents without having to learn HTML. Yay!
Secondly, Open Source refers to using a product’s source materials for creating something better, more suitable to you for free. So for example, Microsoft products like Windows 7 or Word are NOT open source software. You should pay to use these and will be penalized if you modify them or get caught using them without the proper license.
Firefox search engine on the other hand, is an open source software that you can download and use for free. Plus, you can also use tons of plugins and add-ons created by the general public to enhance its capabilities. Open source allows for growth and ingenuity in a collaborative way.
So to get to the point, Open Source blogging and CMS software like www.wordpress.org (not the same as wordpress.com), www.joomla.org, and www.drupal.org all provide internet marketers like us with an easier website solution. They supply us with a basic site at no charge, which we can then customize by using free templates and add-ons. And due to their open nature, new templates and add-ons for these software tools are constantly being developed and offered online for free or at a price.
Although free, using these options does impose some extra costs. You have to sign-up with a host to actually publish your site on the Internet. Luckily, you can find hosting services for under $10 per month. You must also purchase a domain name (name of your site), which can also be rather inexpensive, on average $15 per year. Once you have a domain and a host account, you install the open source software of your choice on the host’s server.
Of the three options, many internet marketers prefer WordPress.org for its ease-of-use. Originally designed as a blogger platform, it has evolved over the years to include CMS capabilities and can be used as either a blog or a website. You can easily add content as often as you like as well as optimize it for search engines, important characteristics for getting noticed by potential clients (and search engines).
Alternatively, many developers and designers accustomed to programming and designing choose Drupal or Joomla! respectively over WordPress because of their greater CMS capabilities and possibilities for customization. Goes without saying, these two software products are not as user-friendly as WordPress.
If you are just starting online, are not super-crafty with HTML and web design, and on a budget, then use WordPress.org (NOT WordPress.com). You can build a powerful website without spending hours upon hours designing and coding. If you stick with the default settings (and don’t mind a bland look), you won’t have to do any building. But if you love designing, you can go to town and configure a fully customized site. (As you may have guessed, Louisemandar.com is a WordPress.org site.)
Get Your Domain Name and Hosting First
If you picked-up on my subtle hints, you have already chosen an option other than a free hosted site. But before you start building, make sure you purchase and register a domain name and get yourself a hosting account. If you’re not sure how, read about how to get a domain name and how to get hosting.