This summer, TECODE has spent time helping clients develop websites, DIY-style. Ideally, companies and nonprofits would do well to have a dedicated web developer and in-house designer, or by outsourcing the work to professionals, but with little capital, many entrepreneurs end up building their websites on their own.
The good news is, it really isn’t hard, and don’t let anyone throwing around jargon tell you otherwise. You don’t need to understand the whole Internet, coding, or all the rules of design to be able to run a smooth website for your company.
What do you need to know?
The Domain Name
Every website has an address, which is what you input at the top of your web browser when you want to visit a website. They normally start with http:// or www, followed by the desired name, forming a “url.” This “address” or “url” is referred to as a domain name. While Internet analogies only go so far, you could think of a domain name as the numbers on the outside of your home, identifying your address.
If the “domain name” is compared to the address written on the outside of your home, the home itself might be compared to what is called “hosting.” All the of the information your website contains, such as images, text, and layout, needs somewhere to live. Thus it is “hosted,” usually by companies who have servers where information can be stored.
For example, think of the website you are currently at. It’s address, or the url, is http://tecode.org. You might have arrived here by clicking on a link, perhaps in Facebook or Twitter, that took you to our address, or you could have typed in the domain name in your web browser. You were then shown a page with all of our content, which is being hosted by a company.
With an address (url, or domain name) and a home (hosting), all that is needed is for the website to be created! There are professionals who specialize in this – web designers focus on how the website looks, and coders and developers focus on building the website with various languages that are just for the Internet, such as html and css. You can think of them as the architects and engineers building the house that is your website.
If, however, you are building the website without the help of these professionals, there are web builders that have pre-made websites. It’s as if you were going to be moving in to a house that was already built. You shop around until you find one you like, and move in and personalize it to your needs! Some of these are called WYSIWYG website builders, standing for “what you see is what you get.” These are almost like creating a website in Microsoft Word, letting you edit the website by dragging and dropping, and typing directly on the page. Others, such as the famous WordPress, have a back end, often called a dashboard, from which you edit content.
What sort of website builder will work best for you?
It depends. Do you want to have an online store? Are you interested in a blog? Here we’ve made a list of some of the top web builders on the Internet, along with their prices, pros, and cons. “Transaction Fee” refers to whether or not a fee is charged when someone buys something on your Internet store, if you have one. Some web builders include everything from hosting to a domain name, while others will require you to bring your domain name and hosting provider to them.
Click on the tab to view more information about each web builder.
- Personal: $8
- Professional: $16
- Business: $24
- Very good blog integration
- Accept donations
- Express Checkout
- PayPal is not supported
- Not as easy to use as other tools
- Free: $0
- Starter: $4
- Pro: $8
- Business: $25
- Easy to use
- Sell digital goods
- The themes, while some are beautiful, don’t appear as professional (typography, et cetera).
- Page limits for free and starter plans.
Themes can be beautiful
- eCommerce: $16.17
- VIP: $24.90 (only US)
- Nice display options
- No confirmation emails
- Quite expensive
- Very limited features
Often looked down on in world of web design and development.
- Starter: $14
- Basic: $29
- Professional: $79
- Unlimited: $179
- Customer login functionality
- Large number of payment options
- Difficult to adapt for multilingual stores
Appears to be one of the industry standards, especially for stores.
Using Woo Commerce would mean no transaction fees.
- So widely used, this web builder is most likely not going anywhere.
- Its hugeness lends to flexibility.
- There is something called a plug-in for almost anything you need on your website.
- Many, many templates.
- Very easy one-click setup with various hosts.
- If you need help, you must go to the forums.
- The editor is not WYSIWYG.
Stable, can be relatively cheap, huge range of options for a “look.” Would need hosting, but there are various one-click-setups plus a free domain name.
From this review:
- Easy start-up.
- Very streamlined dashboard, made to be simple and understandable.
- Good features such as SKU support, if you are doing a store.
- No integrated SEO (this is what helps you get noticed in web searches), from this web page.
Not on review of common website builders.
- Standard – $29.95/month, unlimited storage, products, and bandwidth, 1.5% transaction fee.
- Plus – $79.95/month, no transaction fees, abandoned cart saver, real-time shipping, advanced analytics.
Transaction fee of monthly revenue x 1.5 or 2%
- Straightforward setup wizard.
- Strong marketing features.
- Automated e-mails sent to visitors who abandon their carts.
- Wide range of discounting / coupon tools out of the box.
- Built-in Blog
- Templates are responsive, meaning your site will display nicely across a variety of devices.
- 24 hour phone support, even on its cheapest plan.
From this review:
- Price of starter plan is on the higher side.
- Its entry level plan involves transaction fees.
- Because Bigcommerce is a hosted solution, if it shuts down or changes its feature set radically, you might find yourself in a position where you needed to migrate your store to another platform.
Not on review of common website builders, most likely because it is more comprehensive.
This summer, I have enjoyed seeing the ease with which our clients have been able to create websites in a matter of days using WordPress, and would highly recommend the platform, given the flexibility and pricing, and especially the freedom to be able to move to another platform if you ever need. However, as we have seen, there are many other good options! I would encourage you to Google the pros and cons of a website builder you are considering to see what users have experienced.
Much of this information was obtained from: