Today’s article is the first one in a series that answers common questions on getting started with a website. I have heard this so many times that not knowing how to get started with a website is actually the biggest obstacle for many, but particularly for those who are not a natural tech person at all. One of the major decisions that needs to be made is choosing the right platform for a website.
But how are you supposed to know?
Making an informed decision
With today’s article I want to help you to make an informed decision. We will be tackling the question of what platform your website should be running on.
What website platform should you choose for your new website?
Which is the best?
There is no perfect platform.
When looking for the right platform you first need to look at what you need for your website. To evaluate that, my first question to you would be:
What are you doing? What will your website be about?
Are you a musician and want to sell your products, publish your tour events and capture your fans details in an email list?
Maybe you are a book author and want to offer digital downloads of your book, showcase sample chapters, run a blog, put out video promotions and run a membership site?
Or are you an artist or photographer and want to publish lots of beautiful pictures of your work and tell stories in a blog of how they came to be?
As you see, there are many different features a website could contain, such as:
- A blog
- An event calendar
- A download section
- An online store
- An online course section
- A membership site
- A video platform
- A photo gallery (and many more)
Answering this question is your first step in identifying what platform will be the best for your website. You must consider what kind of platform can offer you all the features for your website that allow you to shine in the best possible light.
Which way can you go?
Let me introduce to you two main directions you could take when building a website: You could either use
- a website builder, or
- a content management system.
A website builder is a platform that enables you to create beautiful and functional websites without knowing how to code. They are easy to use as they work by drag & drop, but they cannot offer the more complex features that websites sometimes possess. Because their emphasis is on ease of use, they do fall short in the variability of design options or website maintenance features.
Examples of popular website builders are Weebly, Wix, SquareSpace, Shopify or Strikingly.
A content management system (CMS) is a collection of internet tools that are designed to handle a multitude of functions. By its very nature, it can publish differing content and is designed to handle a variety of commercial features. The most popular CMS today is WordPress, an open-source platform that currently already runs 25% of all websites on the web.
Other examples of popular CMS are Drupal, Magento, Joomla, MODX or WebFlow.
Is a Website Builder the right platform for your website?
Website builders are often the first choice for non-tech savvy and web-inexperienced folk because of their ease of use. If you want to find out whether there is a website builder that suits your purposes and requirements, I can recommend you take this quiz on the Website Builder Expert’s Website. In this quiz you will have to choose a set of options; at its end you will get presented with options which website builder(s) would be a good fit.
But website builders are not the Holy Grail. They come with limitations, and I feel that it’s a really good idea to weigh what features are most important for you. Some limitations that apply to some website builders are for example,
- Limitations in available payment provider
- Limitations in the variability of design options
- Limitations in responsiveness (in other words, can the website be displayed on mobile devices)
Speaking of their limitations, I want to make it clear that I think website builders are an awesome invention. You can create great websites with it and gain valuable experiences that may help you later to up level your website into a more advanced system with more features, like a CMS.
With WordPress, the most popular CMS today, one can create and customize a website in any imaginable way. As of October 2015, every 4th website on the Web was created with WordPress. I think that is an astonishingly number, and really speaks for itself!
Getting to know WordPress comes with a steeper learning curve, but the Web community is great and there is a huge number of resources available to make that manageable.
So, as a result of today’s tutorial on website platforms, I would like you to do some research:
First and foremost, write down every features you wish your website to have. Write everything down that comes to your mind. Secondly, make an evaluation of your situation: how comfortable are you moving forward from here? Do you think all of this tech stuff is a number too big for you at the moment, and you’d rather go with the most easiest solution and learn slowly over the next few years? Or do you feel confident enough that you can manage a slightly steeper learning curve and can deal with a content management system right away?
Be assured, both ways are okay. It is way more important that you get started in the first place at all, and I applaud you for your commitment.