So, you now have:
- A company name
- A company brand
- A bit of a marketing / business plan
- A domain name
- And web hosting.
Congratulations! You are well on your way to creating your online presence.
So, now we need to decide how you are going to create your website. In other words, what platform are you going to use on which to build your site.
There are a few choices, and it depends on what you are comfortable doing, what your server supports, and how much you are willing to spend.
You can build a straight-up HTML website. HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the set of basic build blocks for any website. It consists of encapsulating content with “tags” to sell the browser or other web client how to display the content. Content can be described as text, images, audio, and video.
Most of the time, you will also want to incorporate CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to make your web content display in a certain way (i.e., you want your text to be a certain size and color, you want your image positioned so it’s wrapped around text, you want certain elements to be displayed as buttons, etc.).
Sound complicated? It can be.
I started building websites this way… from scratch. I don’t recommend it. I’ve also used Dreamweaver by Adobe to build websites. I don’t recommend that either. Part of the issue with Dreamweaver is that you have to have the program on the computer on which you are working. Your web builder being based on a program on your computer is not only inefficient, but it’s a pain when you need to make a change on someone else’s computer without that program.
There are better ways.
Proprietary Website Builders
Many hosting providers such as Bluehost, SiteGround, GoDaddy, offer proprietary site builders. These are systems where you can create a dynamic website that is able to be updated on any device pretty much anywhere.
My hangup with website builders is that they don’t always seems to adhere to best practices in terms of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and you are really beholden to the hosting company to continue your website. You cannot really migrate your site to another host… if you want to change, you’re pretty much starting from scratch.
I advise people to consider other options.
Website as a Service
So, there are a few other builders out there such as SquareSpace, Weebly, HubSpot CMS (Content Management System… more on that later), Wix, Shopify (for eCommerce), etc. You’ve probably seen a lot of commercials about these. There are free tiers (often requiring that you have their brand and logo on your site… pretty unprofessional), and there are some pretty inexpensive offers.
Again, though, you are stuck with that website builder. They are your hosting company, your website, and a whole bunch of other things. Plus, as with Square Space, some of their out-of-the-box themes aren’t very user friendly… at least not as of a few years ago (the last time I used something like that for a client).
Moreover, you really can’t scale the website easily. You can’t add new software/plugins. Changing themes (the look and feel of the website) can be daunting.
If you go this route, proceed with caution. I won’t be going further down that rabbit hole in the future.
Content Management Systems (CMS)
When it comes to CMS, you can choose from a few types of programming languages including:
- net (a Microsoft framework)
- Ruby on Rails
There are some systems which use ASP.net. I feel like you really need to know this language or you need a agency that knows this well. Some systems include Sitefinity. These tend to be enterprise-level offerings, and I think they are best suited for companies that use Microsoft business solutions as the driver of their business… I’m not that guy.
I’ve worked with a few companies who use Ruby on Rails CMS systems such as Refinery. However, again, I’m not very well versed in these systems, so I generally steer clear.
But, PHP systems… ah, yes. I’m a fan of these. The top three I can think of are:
Going forward, we’ll be concentrating solely on WordPress, my weapon of choice! WordPress began as a blogging platform, but it’s blossomed into a full Content Management System used by large and small organizations all over the world. WordPress, like other CMS, leverages a dedicated database to store the content of a site. Basically, your site consists of:
- Folders on the server to store the content such as images, page files, plugin files, etc.
- A database referencing the location of those files.
- A content system which writes content to the database, and receives that content back to display on the page.
WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal are open-source, which means that they are free to use and are supported by a community instead of a company, unlike the other systems. Luckily, there are many agencies, freelancers, and consultants who are well versed in WordPress and available for hire at competitive prices. But, you can still do all of the work yourself, as we’ll see in the upcoming segments.
That’s all for now. Pretty soon, we’ll have a fully-functional WordPress website we can call home!