Building a website: What options are out there?
So you’re ready to invest in building your website for either your new company or you want to redo your existing site. You have a list of requirements, a budget and a desire to create a beautiful site in order to attract new customers and to bring you new business.
There are many different options out there when choosing the type of website you want to invest in and it gets confusing. What is a CMS? What are open-source platforms? What are those online website builders?
CMS (Content Management System)
Most websites have a lot of content. This content usually changes and gets revised and updated accordingly the type and style of the business. If you have a portfolio website, you’ll want to keep updating your new work to show the world. If you have a team of people working at your business, you’ll want to add/remove them from your site as they come and go. If you have news to update, new information to share or to simply blog your thoughts, then you will want to perform these updates on your own time and without the need to pay someone else to do it.
In the past, there were “static” websites that had the content “hard-coded” into the file and only people who were code-oriented could change them. So as a website owner, you would have to contact this developer, send him/her the content, review the changes he/she made, possibly make revisions to the changes and finally approve them and make them live. All this at a cost of a couple hours of work. So, lots of time and money have gone into adding a new project to your portfolio. Isn’t this a waste?
So today, we have CMSs that make your website “dynamic” and by using this system, you can make those changes yourself, at your own time and of course, for free. This makes life easier for you and gives you the freedom and save you the previous time to do so.
There are many open source platforms out there: Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal to name the 3 most popular ones. I won’t get into the differences between them, but their main “selling point” (they’re actually free) is that you can very simply install the platform, add a theme (themes aren’t free, but are usually very cheap), add any plugins of specific functionality that you want and launch your site. It really is easy - well, at least it sounds easy. Doing it alone, without any knowledge can be difficult but you can find someone who can do it for relatively cheap…
...BUT (there’s always a ‘but’!), you aren’t going to just choose a theme and activate it. You’re going to need to change the appearance (i.e. colors, logo, etc.) to make it fit your company’s branding and look-and-feel. You’re going to want to add your own content (and who will write the content?), choose proper imagery to complement your textual content, and of course, there are always the “small” changes that you want or need to perform in order to better display your content and your company. No theme hits the nail right on the head with everyone. There are always changes and customizations to be made. So, in theory, you can do it alone, but in reality, it’s not a good idea. You want someone who knows what they’re doing.
There are many different things to take into consideration with open-source platforms, but I won’t get into them now. In general though, there are many drawbacks to using these systems which include lack of uniqueness, very messy code which results in slow, hard to manage websites and a lack of good and personal service due to the low cost and minimal work by developers and studios. Of course there are benefits also but let’s leave this for another post. :)
Online website builders
Have you heard of SquareSpace, Wix, Weebly, ...? Those sites give you the freedom to build websites easily and quickly and at a very cheap price. Basically, they give you a bunch of themes to choose from and then give you the ability to fill in your content and get a site up and running very quickly. The interface is supposedly easy to work with and very visual so you “see what you get”. Sure, if you want a very basic site, that looks and behaves just as millions of other sites, and you have very little money to invest, this may be your option. You are very limited to customization and to adding in your own plugins and code and most probably will be doing things on your own.
Customized website & CMS
If you want very specific details on your site, a unique design that is memorable to it’s visitors, in-depth examination and execution of the website and its needs and requirements, then you need to hire a website design studio/agency that will build you the perfect website. Even if the site is a basic one, wouldn’t you want to have a unique website that will stand out from the rest of your competition? Wouldn’t you want a personal touch from professionals who know what they’re doing? You’ll have a fast website because of clean and minimal code, an easy to use CMS that is customized exactly for your needs and for the content that’s on your site and the confidence that your website will perform. Plus, you’ll have someone there to allows assist you with future updates and improvements.
So don’t forget that although there are many options out there, some very cheap and very tempting, you are investing in a website for your business - not for your fun and pleasure. If done right, you will definitely get a return on your investment.