WordPress vs. Website Builders
People often ask me about WordPress – can it be used to build their website? is it better than a website builder? well, it depends…
WordPress is a free platform that was developed originally to allow people to easily create blogs. Over the years, as it gained popularity (and become the number one platform to manage websites) WordPress morphed into a content management system for any type of website. Thousands of programmers write apps (plug-ins) that add muscle to WordPress – shopping carts, carousel photo galleries, SEO tools, calendar and scheduling, etc. Many designers create skins (called themes) to WordPress that allow you to change the look of the whole website in seconds, at least in theory. Editing pages is easy and can be done with styling buttons that work like Office products – add a photo or video, underline, bold, change font type and color, bullet points, etc.
So far so good. The downside is that WordPress requires some HTML knowledge if you want to make certain things on the page look good and accurate. From my experience, even when I created WordPress websites for clients and trained them on how to use it to modify pages, they end up frustrated with the alignment of photos or with tables on the page and ask me to help them with coding to make the page look more organized and coherent. The bottom line is that WordPress is not very friendly for people who have a very specific sense of style and do not have the programming skills to support it.
WordPress is also not ideal for e-commerce – since it was developed as a blog management system, all shopping cart plug-ins that were later added do not have all the advanced functions that systems like Shopify offer – track shipments, returns, automated email communication with customers, advanced coupon options, etc. You will also need to pay separately for the plug-ins, SSL certificate, and a PCI compliant hosting account to let users shop on your website. One last issue – most WordPress templates do not look good on mobile devices – except the new responsive themes which automatically adjust the size and amount of content on the page to match your screen size.
Website builders, in general, offer a simplified experience to website owners. You do not need any knowledge of programming to pick a template and adjust it to match your taste. Many themes were developed to specific industries – so if you own a restaurant, a photography studio, hair salon, or a pet shop you are likely to find a template that looks like a well-established website and does not require too many adjustments. In addition, some of the better website builders, specifically Wix, allow you to drag and drop items so you can control the placement of each photo, text box or video on the page and make sure that all elements are aligned exactly as you want them to be. Oh, and you do not need to pay for web hosting or anything when you start a website on most of these platforms.
In conclusion, for most people who start a new website, website builders are a better choice. If you want more sophisticated functions, or if you have some coding skills or budget to hire a coder, you should consider using WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and other content management systems to create your website.
I need a website now! What to do?
If you are starting a new business or need a website for an existing activity / organization / company / for any reason in the world, here is a quick guide. If you don’t have any knowledge of HTML or other internet programming languages, it is best to use a system that will let you design your website visually, pretty much like using Word or Powerpoint.
Take a look at the list of website builders we prepared and visit their websites to learn more and in most cases try the systems for free. Once you settle on a system, look at established websites that are related to your business/project and try to decide on your website’s different sections. Some popular pages are the home page, of course, as well as about us, products / services pages, photo galleries, and contact us (can contain address, phone number, email address, map, directions). The website builder will also host your website’s files on their server, so ou don’t need to pay for this service separately.
When you have your future website’s structure in mind, start using the website builder you chose to create the different pages and the navigation that will allow visitors to easily find what they are looking for. Try to use top navigation (as on http://www.godaddy.com/) rather than a left-side navigation (as on http://www.cambrianhouse.com/) that often limits your ability to grow the website by adding more pages.
Home Page & Important Considerations
You should try to have somewhere around the top part of the page your phone number (if you are interested in using the site as a lead generation tool) or a contact us button. If you have nice/active profiles in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twiter, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest etc – consider having a button that links to them in a visible part of the home page and possible all other pages. If this website is for a physical location, have the address either on top or in large font at the bottom. Have a link to Google Maps to allow people to easily find you.
The home page is like the front window of your business – anything you put there has the highest chance to be seen by visitors, therefore think carefully about the layout you choose and the content you see as most important. The top are of the page, before users need to scroll down, is called “above the fold”. 80% of the users will never scroll down so put your best marketing messages and materials on top. Remember that many visitors will come from tablets and mobile devices and find a template that will adjust for different screen sizes.
When you work on other pages / sections of the site, try to use nice large photos (either use your own photos or buy cheap ones from iStockPhoto – don’t grab photos from the internet since you don’t have the rights for them and you may get in trouble) to decorate the pages. Many visitors will prefer photos and videos over text so make sure you have your content embedded in photos – you can add captions and text within photos – and in videos. YouTube lets you upload a video and add little notes that are displayed as the video is played. You can “embed” a box on the page that will play the video from YouTube and will look as if it is a part of your website.
In order to establish your website as a reliable, stable source of information or if it represents an actual business, you should think about buying a domain name so that your web address will look like “www.mybusiness.com” rather than “mybusiness.wix.com”. All top website builders allow you to buy a domain name and they will also set it up for you.
You should be ready now to start sharing your website with family, friends, clients, and the rest of the world.
How to get people who don’t know you to find your website? SEO, social media and PPC – more on that later.