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Let me guess – you want to have a website built, but don’t know where to start. Today, websites can fill almost all types of business needs. If you are looking to sell items or services, or display portfolio about yourself, share information on a blog and more, there is a way for you to do it.

However, it’s a little confusing when there are so many options to choose from – which is why I’d like to give you the low down on the various choices you’ll encounter when navigating these waters.

First, it’s important to understand what makes up a website. In my article 3 Basic Components of a Website, I detail that there are three essential things that work together to deliver your site:

  1. A domain
  2. Hosting
  3. Content Management System (CMS)

We’re going to be focusing primarily on the third part of this, as it’s the most critical decision you’ll make in this process of having a website built. If you aren’t confident in your understanding of what these 3 things mean, this article is essential to read so that you can easily understand the following conversation. But for those of you that have a grasp on them and simply need a refresher, I’ve included an image and excerpt from the article below.

Content Management Systems are a huge deal in today’s online world, but most people generally don’t have an idea as to what they are.

A CMS is the interface between you and the code, so that you can manipulate your site without knowing how to code (for the most part).

This is a critical component of your website today, as without it, the task of updating and managing your site rests with your developer – oftentimes someone who doesn’t speak marketing or design.

Plus, if you’re a small business or startup, sometimes you may need to make urgent updates to your site, and with a CMS, it’s easy to do so. The platform you choose to use determines a lot about the design process and what you can do.

In my previously mentioned article, I describe this a little further:

“There are now many different Content Management Systems to choose from, because the demand for them has steadily risen over time. Originally, you had to have a great deal of knowledge about HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and all the other languages that make up the online realm to simply make edits to a website.

However, business owners quickly tired of this as they had to hire individuals to do this for them, and many small business owners did not have a sizeable enough budget for this. Thus, Content Management Systems have come in handy to increase workflow and streamline businesses to a degree that was not possible before.”

So, now that you know what a CMS is, let’s move onto the details.

While it has been standard to purchase your domain, hosting, and content management system separately, many companies offer a different solution.

Platforms such as Wix, WordPress.com, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify bundle hosting and their proprietary interfaces into monthly and yearly plans, designed with the non-tech-savvy in mind, so DIY site creation is easy.

Although, when purchasing a bundle from these companies, they typically comes with a number of limitations.

This is why they are typically suggested for DIY use first and foremost.

But wait, there’s more! There’s another, more robust choice that stands apart.

WordPress at a glance:

0%
of the internet is powered by WordPress
0%
free to use & open source
0 mil
visitors to WordPress.com per month

We’ll go deeper into detail about this platform at the end… But, if you want to cut to the chase and see why it is my choice, click here to scroll to that section. However, we’ll investigate the other options first.

Wix

Over the past few years I have seen a number of Wix sites and have come to the conclusion that this is the least appealing platform out of all.

With Wix, once you choose a design template for your site, you are stuck with it, unless you want to recreate the whole site.

And while the element editors are extensive on Wix, this can also slow your site down.

There is also no export feature with Wix, so if your site goes down or Wix closes their doors, you’ll have to start from scratch.

Would not recommend.

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a free blogging platform that offers upgrades to use your own domain at $4/mo, making it the cheapest solution for a website.

This is a great place to start as if your business grows beyond needing something very basic, it will be much more seamless to transferring your site to the self hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.org, talked about further in this article).

WordPress.com plans go up to $25/month, although at the latter price, using WordPress.org is a much better solution.

This would probably be my go-to for a very cheap site, as I was even able to teach a class of 30 middle school students how to build a site through WordPress.com.

Best for? Free or DIY websites on the smallest of budgets.

Weebly

This CMS is the second cheapest option is by default, drag-and-drop editor based.

With Weebly, like WordPress.com, you can create a site with free hosting and a free subdomain (will look like mysite.weebly.com), or go onto one of their sliding scale plans that includes the option of using your own purchased domain, from $8-$25/month.

This is typically the place most people start when they want a cheap, easy option that doesn’t necessarily have to look good – and if they don’t foresee growth that requires a robust solution anytime soon.

The element editors are very limited on Weebly, however they provide an HTML and CSS editor, which could technically negate a lot of the limitations – although that’s only practical if you are tech-savvy, and in that case, you’ll probably want to go with WordPress.org anyways.

Best for? Second choice for DIY websites on the smallest of budgets.

SquareSpace

SquareSpace has presented itself as a great option for creating a quick site with a store that can be set up with no knowledge of web building at all.

You choose a theme, pop in your text and products, and you’re done. They offer probably the most limited editing choice, however they have set up the themes to look nice out of the box – just don’t be dead set on customizing your website to look a specific way.

SquareSpace plans range from $12-$40/mo. Although they display a monthly cost up front, you’ll pay annually or the monthly cost rises about $5/mo.

Best for? A hassle-free option that doesn’t need updating or managing – just a simple, good looking place to put a little bit of info about you and what you have to offer, this could be an excellent choice.

Perhaps if you’re a huge fan of the Matrix, you’ll be captivated by their advertising campaign featuring Keanu Reeves, embedded below.

Shopify

Shopify provides something similar, although it is much more robust for online stores – because that is solely what they do.

The price is the main separating factor ($9-$299/mo), however they truly bill per month, not annually. In short, they don’t raise the cost if you decide to pay monthly, they simply give a discount if you pay annually.

Interestingly, their cheapest plan isn’t actually a website – it simply lets you sell products from social media platforms such as Facebook.

It doesn’t have any limitations on bandwidth or storage, and you can customize it with little knowledge, although not as easily as the former three CMS.

While WordPress.org, discussed below, has a free extension that allows you to create a store that may even look just as beautiful as a Shopify one, it may not be as easy to manage as a Shopify store if you are not tech-savvy, simply because Shopify was built to support those with the average level of computer skills.

Best for? Easily selling and marketing products without having a designer on hand, especially if you have a large variety of products.

Etsy

One outlier I wanted to mention before we move on is Etsy. Etsy is a popular marketplace to sell handmade or vintage goods, however it should not be mistaken as a personal website because it is not a CMS – it is could be likened to a crafts-centric version of eBay.

It costs about $0.30 per listing for 3 months and you simply have a space on their site. It offers virtually no customization, however it is the cheapest option for e-commerce if you are making your own products.

Now that we’re through with the differences between platforms, let’s talk about the limitations I mentioned earlier.

For all of these options, you rely on free themes provided by the company. And usually, if you want a nice theme, you’ll have to pay for it.

When you go with Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace, you have a lot less of an allowance of everything compared to when you purchase hosting and set up a website with WordPress. For example – most of the monthly-fee-based systems have limited bandwidth, instead of unmetered bandwidth.

While you may not need to have all the bandwidth in the world, if you only have 1GB a month, that could run you into some problems. When a person loads a page on your website, that gets tallied up, until all of the page loads and etcetera are added up to equal the amount of bandwidth used that month. 10 GB is safe room for your site because most people, especially now, like to host moving images or images in sliders, and as backgrounds, and for product images!

We’re moving from high-text sites to more images and videos, because it’s faster to interpret than reading a page of text. Doing this, however increases the amount of data loaded per page, and the page size can get quite large. Another thing that is usually limited is storage – you have all of those nice files in your hosting account, but can only put so many because of the cap on your storage size.

A lot of design limitations can be overcome with the use of CSS or cascading style sheets. This is an external sheet of code that overrides the HTML of your site, although much easier to manipulate than the HTML. To leverage this, you can use the developer console on your browser to find the element name to reference in the code. For instance if there is a box on your page that is named “container” you have you can reference this in CSS by using “.container”. To change the color, add a clause like “color: #000000”. This color code is called a hex code. You will use hex codes all throughout your site and for graphic design to reference the specific colours you want to use.

WordPress.org

So, now we have covered nearly all of your CMS options – except for the big one – WordPress.org.

As mentioned briefly before, there are two versions of WordPress. One one hand, you have WordPress.com, which is a free blogging service where you can get a domain like “mysite.wordpress.com” to post articles, or use your custom domain for $4/month. On the other hand, however, there is WordPress.org, a free, open-source software for building and managing websites. For more on the differences between the .com (blogging) and .org (software) versions of WordPress, this is a more in-depth article on them.

WordPress has virtually no limitations in design because you can always expand the software’s capabilities through plugins, so your website can evolve no matter what the future holds. 30% of the entire web runs on WordPress.

That’s billions of sites – nearly an entire third of the web! Companies from Disney, to the mom-n-pop store down the street use WordPress.

Its interface is easy enough for almost anyone to learn, and flexibility is its name. Also, WordPress is perhaps the cheapest, most robust option for starting an e-commerce store, as the most used extension, WooCommerce, is free as well.

WordPress is really the most flexible solution for an all-around choice – as many businesses want a great mix of features, intend on growing, and usually want to come up with creative solutions.

As WordPress is free and does not come in a package with hosting, so if you go this route, you’ll have to purchase hosting somewhere. Yet, it’s still much cheaper than any of the higher-end CMS packages – coming in at around $60/year for hosting, and a one-time theme purchase of $60.

Tips on Purchasing Hosting for WordPress

When purchasing a hosting plan through a company like GoDaddy, for instance, there are usually two options: Managed WordPress hosting or Regular hosting.

With Managed WordPress hosting, WordPress comes pre-installed, although you do not have access to a file manager, just the essentials.

Regular hosting comes with a dashboard called CPanel, and while it doesn’t have WordPress pre-installed, all it takes to add it to your account is a click on the one-click installer.

CPanel lends you access to a file manager, which makes it easy in case you ever need to do so.

This option is the same price as the former, which is why I generally recommend it over the former.

In a Nutshell

DIY without a budget? WordPress.com or Weebly are for you.

Looking for a simple site that looks great out of the box? SquareSpace has your back.

Setting up an e-commerce store and want things streamlined for selling? Shopify was literally made for you.

Anything else? WordPress is the champion of almost all other reasons to have a website, which is why so many people use it. The sky isn’t even the limit – interactive image maps, landing pages, event calendars, stores – you name it, and it can be done through this platform.

2018-07-16T18:04:27+00:00

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