So, you are thinking about building your own website. Congratulations! This means you are going to take a new step in your business development. Great news!
Now please let me help you on your online journey. In this article, I discuss thoughts based on my experience working with hundreds of people looking for websites. I also include some tips on how to be more efficient in your decisions in this area.
To start, I would like to introduce the following comparison: each website is like a building. It might be a one-story building or it might be a skyscraper. It might be an industrial building like a toy factory or a daycare center for children. It might require smart communications like a hospital or more basic like a bookstore.
There are three basic ways to build your website:
1 Do-It-Yourself builder (Weebly, Wix, Squarespace or other)
DIY builders are like a construction set for children. You select some features for your website then drag and drop them onto a screen. This embeds them into your web page. Easy, intuitive, simple—like building blocks!
But understand such builders can offer only predefined functions. Thinking of something original? You might need a more sophisticated solution.
2 Customizable content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or others
A customizable CMS is a good alternative for DIY builders. But it is not that simple. A CMS provides a premade website construction (like a concrete frame). You can add your content, set up functional modules, and manage website parts. This requires a bit more training and understanding than DIY builders. (Think of a constructor set for grown-ups:). Still this is a great variant.
WordPress is currently the leading CMS platform with a great market and community of developers. Because of this, there are functional modules for WP. You just need to find and install the right one(s) for you.
- Stripe Payment Block – Stripe Payment Block allows creation of dynamic PayPal Donation Buttons on your website.
- Akismet Anti-Spam – a plugin based on a global spam database defending website contact forms from spam. It also allows management of all suspicious messages from the admin panel.
- bbPress – a trusted forum software suggested by WordPress.
3 A fully custom solution from the ground up
Building a custom website solution is like constructing a building: exclusive plan to fit the terrain, personal design, and functional preferences. You have much more freedom and flexibility choosing features to implement than when using premade functions suggested by builders (altho’ they are very good).
I contend that a company can build a custom website better than a single freelancer. Why? Because one person cannot be an architect, a mason, and an assistant at the same time. A qualified team normally includes designers, programmers, testers and also a software analyst who talks—and listens[!]— to you to understand your needs and requirements. . Each team member is dedicated to a specific area. This guarantees the job is done correctly.
We have defined the basic ways to build a website. Now it’s time for you to choose the variant that suits you best. Follow the steps below and make your decision now!
Step #1: Define purpose of your website.
As you know, the purpose of a building defines everything: footprint, number of floors, internal infrastructure. Building a factory differs from installing a shop on wheels, right?
The same with building websites.
If a one-page, online business card would be sufficient, explore the possibilities of DIY builders and self-hosted solutions like WordPress or other customizable CMS.
The great advantage of DIY builders is that they undertake the whole work of website setup and installation—including hosting.
Please note: With DIY, your website link might contain an extension like “wix” or “weebly” if you choose basic subscription packages. Visitors understand your website is built on those platforms. The website might also contain ads. Don’t any ads? There is an additional fee to get rid of them.
The table below compares the basic features suggested by DIY builders and WordPress.
|DIY builder name||Weebly.com||Wix.com||Squarespace.com||WordPress.org|
|DIY builder cost per month||0$ – $22.3||$4.6 – $24.50 from basic to VIP||$12 – $26||0$ – $41.27|
|Good for||Blogs, online stores||Blogs, personal pages, portfolio, online store, commercial websites||SquareSpace positions itself as an all-in-one platform for small businesses, artists, photographers, restaurants, musicians, bloggers.||From blogs to online stores.|
|Disadvantages||Wix ads for a basic subscription plan||WordPress manuals are not as easy as DIY builders. To start working with it, you must have a definite level of technical knowledge|
|Domain name||Suggested for a separate price||Suggested for paid plans||Free for the first year||Suggested for paid plans|
|Hosting||included||included||included||included. Bluehost and Dreamhost are suggested by WP.|
|SSL certificate||Not included||Included just for own domens||Included for domains purchased with Squarespace||Not included|
|Visual Design||Suggested as templates and design tools||Templates are provided. It is also possible to create design from the ground up with Wix design editor. Design optimization for mobile screens.||Premade themes are suggested||Free themes for all plans. Advanced design tools for paid plans|
|Content Management System||suggested||suggested||suggested||suggested|
|Marketing tools||SEO tools, business tools, analytics||SEO tools, email marketing tool, statistics||SEO tools, email marketing tools, analytics, banners and promotions, social media tools||Free plugins cover most SEO, marketing, analytics, banners, statistics and social networks tasks. Paid plugins are available for uncommon goals.|
|Others||Mobile application to manage your website is suggested||Additional coding tools are provided (Wix Corvid).
Wix ADI (artificial design intellect) allows an automatic creation of website based on your answers to some questions.
Explanation for the table:
Domain Name – this is your website name displayed in the browser window. You must register your domain name to keep it for yourself. There are different services online to help you find available domain names: 1) free domain name generators like NameMesh, Nameboy, LeanDomainSearch, and 2) help with registration (domain name registrars, e.g., Domain.com, Bluehost.com). Prices for a domain name registration starts from $0.99 per year and might go up to $22.99 per year depending on the chosen domain name extension. That is, if you do not choose something like VacationRentals.com that costs millions of dollars. Hosting companies might provide a free domain name registration as a part of their service.
Hosting – this is the physical server where your website is stored and serviced. There are many hosting companies in the market offering different calibrated hosting packages depending on hosting space and functions. Good examples are Bluehost.com, GoDaddy.com, HostGator.com. You can choose from a shared hosting $3.84/mo* or €2.64/mo*, a virtual private hosting (VPS) hosting $29.95/mo* or €16.97/mo*, and a dedicated hosting $119/mo* or €71.47/mo* depending on your website size and requirements. Some hosting companies diversify their marketing proposals for websites built with builders and with WordPress.
SSL certificate – this is a secure socket layer that encrypts sensitive data on your website. This certificate is a must for commercial websites where data, such as customer name and credit card info, are processed. SSL certificates are provided by special certification authorities on a paid basis (GeoTrust.com, NameCheap). Pricing starts around $7.88 per year per certificate. This website gives a good overview of SSL pricing by different providers: SSL2Buy. Some hosting companies might provide free SSL as a part of their service.
Visual design – this is the visual output you see on the screen—all those images, buttons, menus, scrolls. It is important the design complies with the technical features of your website (for example, to look good on the mobile screens). It is possible to get the visual design in 3 ways:
1.purchase a ready-to-use design theme and use as-is (this variant is usually available for DIY builders and for customizable CMS, WordPress). There are several free design themes you may use, especially for WordPress. Paid themes start from $2! Check out Themeforest website to see examples. WordPress is the only CMS that has a really great number of free and paid themes.
2.purchase a ready-to-use design theme and customize it as you wish (you can use it for CMS and for a custom solution – though a bit of a challenge). In this case, pricing would include purchase cost and designer work—or your time invested in theme customization. In case of a CMS, the customization work includes functional changes. Charges might start from $1500 for WP and up.
3.create a custom design from the ground up. This variant is available for CMS and custom solutions (preferable for custom solutions). This variant includes the cost for graphics and for their integration into the code. It is defined individually for each website. Also, pricing depends on the contractor. Charges might start from $700 and upn.
Content Management System (CMS) – CMS allows you to manage the whole content on your website pages: text, images, videos, ads. It also allows managing your customers and subscribers from a secure back-end panel (for example, to block or activate users, delete or add, assign rights, manage emails, etc.). There are many popular CMSs on the market. We strongly recommend WordPress CMS as one of the most developed and advanced systems.
Marketing tools – there are several tools you should use in order to be visible on the internet and get in touch with your potential clients. Marketing tools include: search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click advertising (PPC Ads), conversion rate optimization (CRO), attractive and interesting content, social media marketing. If you decide to use some marketing tools, you are going to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars yearly, because investing in marketing continues to cost as long as you use it.
You could also arrange one-time marketing campaigns, but you also must do this regularly in order to get results.
|Item of expenditure||Cheapest variant for a few pages of personal static website or a blog||Portfolio website (for a photographer, model, artist, service provider), professional blog.||Entrepreneurs and freelancers||Small Store||Medium to large online business|
|Domain name||A free subdomain based on the website builder domain name or a free custom domain name for a limited time||A personal domain name:
– from $4.6 per month on Wix (though with Wix ads),
– free for the 1st year on Squarespace,
– $5-$12 per month on Weebly
|Domain name is included in premium subscription packages||Included in subscription package or might be connected||Included in subscription package or might be connected|
|Hosting||Free, included in website builder platform||Free, included in the website builder platform except for WP.
For WP: from $2.59/mo
|Free, included in the website builder platform except for WP.
For WP: from $2.59/mo
|SSL certificate||Not needed||Not needed||From $7.88 per year||Included||Included|
|Design||Simple design from options provided by website builder||Design tools included in basic subscription package||From $8.41 at WP
Efficient design tools for DIY builders
|Unlimited premium themes, advanced design customization tools||Unlimited premium themes, advanced design customization tools|
|CMS||A basic set for free, included in website builder platform||Management tools included in subscription package||Management tools included in subscription package||Management tools included in subscription package||Management tools included in subscription package|
|Marketing tools||A basic set for free, provided by website builder platform||Marketing tools included in subscription package||Management tools included in subscription package||Advanced marketing tools||Advanced marketing tools|
|Ecommerce||Not available||Not available||Not available||Basic payments, shopping cart, product management||Advanced ecommerce:
Unlimited products and services, international payments, Integration with shipping providers, tax and delivery calculator, etc.
|Total cost||0||– 0 for the first year for Squarespace
– From $4.6\mo for DIY builders
– From $5.47\mo for WP
|– From $14\mo for Wix
– From $12\mo at Weebly
– From $11\mo for WP
PLUS, SSL from $7.88 per year
– From $12\mo for Squarespace (with SSL)
|-From $18.45\mo for Wix
-From $18\mo for Squares- pace
-From $12\mo for Weebly
-From $22.9\mo for WP
|– From $27.97\mo for Wix
– $18\mo for Squarespace
– $25-$38\mo for Weebly
– $41.27\mo at WP
Decision time.If you intend to create an original concept of an online business, I strongly recommend skipping DIY builders and customizable CMS. Consider a custom solution instead.
If you go with the most expensive subscription plan at WordPress for $41.27 per month, you will end up with about $500 per year. This is just a “bare-bones” price without design customization and plugins you might want to integrate and without payments to developers to help you integrate all the parts together. With a custom-built solution, you invest thousands of dollars at the beginning, but you get a scalable and customizable tool for your business for years, tailored to your ideas, plans and needs, without compromises between quality, requirements, and prebuilt pieces you might use.
Step #2: Define your website growth plans.
For example, the growth plan might foresee adding new functions to the website in the future. It also might foresee growth of expected number of visitors to the website.
When planning a building, it is necessary to understand how large the foundation should be and what kind of load it must carry in the future. This is crucial to prevent construction overload and destruction in the future.
When talking about websites, it is always better to base your website on a scalable and reliable platform from the very beginning. Adding some heavy pieces afterwards presents problems. You should understand whether or not a DIY builder allows everything you need. You might find out if WordPress or the CMS you choose provides the plugins you need in one year.
But if you expect a very heavy load from users and content, you might like to consider some special platforms and custom solutions after all.
For example, if you are looking to create a web service working extensively with “heavy” content like videos or pictures, you might need to consider dedicated servers, clusters of servers or special clouds to host your website. High user load creates the same necessity.
Step #3: Define your resources: time + skills + money.
When planning a building, you normally prepare a construction estimate to understand how many resources should be involved in your building project. The same applies regarding your website. At the website planning stage, you might evaluate how much of your time, skills and money you will be able to invest into your website development services.
A Skills and time for learning.
In order to be able to erect a building, you obviously must study architecture and several related disciplines So, too, websites from the ground up.
DIY builders, you need no technical skills at all. Simple and intuitive interface, easy instructions. All you need is some time and attention. A few hours to read the manual and FAQs would be enough to start.
Customizable CMS (WordPress) require a bit more understanding of the World Wide Web. Their manuals are longer and more complicated. Weeks or months of learning and training might be needed to master the CMS up to advanced level.
Fully custom solution, you need no technical education and skills. Your contractor undertakes the whole technical background and explains any related questions to you when necessary or when you ask.
But it is strongly recommended you understand your business purposes and requirements well; i.e., you know what result you want and can provide guidance in the form of requirements, vision, product specification.
But you already know this, right? With a hired team, you will invest your time in explaining your ideas to the analyst and in providing feedback during the development process. Your team will help you understand what they need. Sure, this variant is the most expensive in terms of money vs. builders and CMS. Using the building analogy, DIY is ground level, CMS is a few levels up. But with a custom-built website (and plenty of funds in reserve), you are building a business skyscraper.
There are several experts in every solution who help you understand the process and undertake all the technical questions, such as setting up a CMS for you, up to building a fully custom website.
If you decide to proceed with a technical helper, you will need to invest your time to find the right one. This might be someone local or a contractor based in another country (a freelancer or company).
Software development experts in the USA and Europe could charge $150-250 per hour, in Eastern Europe and Russia – $25-50 per hour, Asian companies – from $15-50 per hour. The question is still about quality (that has never been cheap), and communication.
Sure, it is more comfortable to communicate with someone local, though in the age of globalization and the internet, borders are gone and talk by Skype is no longer an issue. Many foreign companies try to be closer to their clients and establish representatives in Europe and USA, where you can talk to an expert directly, while the development work is done overseas, in Eastern Europe or Asia. In this case you benefit from close communication and a lower price at the same time.
To find the right partner, you could try Google. (Why not? Those guys know everything about web marketing,) Or check out the acknowledged listings like Clutch, online markets like UpWork, business social networks like LinkedIn. Or—the best variant—try to get a reference from someone you know directly.
Now the solution is up to you!
By the way, our team includes experts in WP and custom websites. We will be happy to give you advice on what would suit you better. Please, feel free to get in contact with us for any questions!