The year is 2001 and you want to build your own website. Problem is, to accomplish this, you will need an incredibly talented website developer and the financial flexibility to invest thousands of dollars to hire this individual. Luckily for many of today’s small businesses, the evolution of the internet has spawned a slew of do-it-yourself website builders that make web design easy, affordable, and even fun!
Though there are hundreds of options to choose from, I’m going to walk you through two of my favorite website platforms: Wix and WordPress. Both of these platforms let you visually design your site without writing a single line of code, and allow you to build a fully functional website…all for less than $15 dollars a month.
Wix.com is the ultimate web design service for beginners – if you can point and click, you can build a website. The interface is 100% design-oriented and includes hundreds of premade templates to choose from in a variety of industries. Once a template is chosen that fits your business, all you have to do is fill in the content to have your own small business site up and running in no time.
For the adventurous entrepreneur, you can also begin building your own site from scratch. If you choose this route, the learning curve is steeper but you gain flexibility from this custom design.
Designing your site won’t cost you a dime. Wix offers free hosting, but entrepreneur beware – it comes with a catch (of course). If you choose the free option, you won’t be able to choose your own domain, and there will be a small advertisement bar at the bottom of your site. Still, this is a great option while you are learning to build and manage your website. If you decide you’d like to create your own domain name, Wix.com offers plans for as low as $4 a month. Additional plans offer more advanced (nerdy) features, such as custom favicons, unlimited bandwidth, and even e-commerce features for accepting credit card payments through your site.
Here’s an example of a wix.com website: www.sbcmarketinggroup.com (shameless self-promotion for this author!)
A note of caution: Wix.com sites are designed in Flash, which means they are not compatible with most mobile devices (iPhones, iPads, etc), and are not crawled as well by search engines. I recommend using Wix.com if you are an absolute beginner, and just need a web presence to get started. As you grow, you can always move on to another provider…
WordPress is one of the most popular and dynamic website builders on the internet. WordPress is a little more complex to learn and use, but once you get the hang of it, the possibilities are endless. In fact, Get Busy Media is built on WordPress, as well as other prominent sites such as CNN.com, The New York Times, and TechCrunch. Below are a few features that make WordPress extremely special:
- Content Management: WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS), meaning it’s designed to give you the freedom to add and refine the content on your page with ease. You can easily write blog posts, edit your home page and add new product pages without writing a single line of code.
- Customization: The power is in the plugins. WordPress plugins are only a few mouse clicks away and can be nifty additions to help increase the functionality of your website. Need social media sharing added? There’s a plugin for that. Looking to add contact forms? There’s a plugin for that too. In fact, if it exists on the web, there’s most likely multiple plugins available, and a majority of them are free.
- Templates: With billions of web pages in existence, the chances of you creating something absolutely unique and game-changing is slim to none. And there is no reason to reinvent the wheel when you can choose from thousands of WordPress templates (known as themes) floating around the web. Many of these templates are free, and the ones that do cost money are typically under $80. To compare, many of the themes would cost you an upwards of $4,000 if you had them built from scratch by a professional web design company.
- Search Engine Friendly: It’s a safe assumption that you want to get found on the internet (duh!). WordPress is search engine friendly, which enables your customers to find you faster and easier.
For beginners, we advise building your website through WordPress for free. If you’d like to add your own domain, you can upgrade your account for only $17 per year. For more advanced users, you can self host your WordPress site, but that’s a topic for another day.
There are many other free and affordable website building portals out there to help small business owners create a meaningful web presence. How did you build your website, and what challenges do you face establishing your business online? Leave your stories in the comments section below.