Building A Value Added Website: Finding Your Ideal Platform
When it comes to building a website, choosing your tools will be some of the most important decisions you can make. Not only will it determine how your website looks, performs, and is maintained, it will also take up a large portion of your resources, especially if you realize you’ve made the wrong mistake sometime down the line. The goal of this blog post is to give you some strategies and techniques to minimize this risk and pick the best toolkit for your site, regardless of your budget.
If you’re new to this series,I strongly recommend taking a look at our first post: Planning and Payoff as it will help provide some of the information you need to analyze these tools.
Tools vs Platforms vs Hosting
When assembling your website’s toolbox, there are 3 main technologies to consider: platforms, tools, and hosts. Platforms are what you’d consider the backbone of your site, think Squarespace, or Wordpress. Often, they can be all you need to create your website, but depending on the platform on hand, you may need additional Tools to build customized or complex features. This is especially true for DIY centered platforms such as Wordpress or Drupal where the platform only includes the bare essentials for a website. Once a site is built, it will need to be published by a host. Much like tools, some platform providers include this in their services, while others require you to find a separate provider for hosting.
In this post we’ll primarily focus on the types of Platforms you can purchase since the tools and hosting you go with will largely depend on your platform.
While every site has some monetary cost, that cost varies based on 2 other factors: time, and flexibility. What tools you’ll want to use will depend on all three of these costs: how much money you’re willing to spend, the amount of time you have available, and just how flexible you need your website to be. Some platforms are catered to those who are willing to put in days or weeks worth of work in order to shave monetary costs or to bring their very specific vision to life. Others may have a higher bill but take care of time consuming tasks such as finding a host, or third party features not included in the initial package.
Types of Platforms
In general, you can categorize platforms into 3 different groups based on their costs and the services they provide: Do-It-Yourself (DIY) platforms give you a high degree of freedom for little (if any) monetary cost; All-in-One platforms bundle all the tools and hosting you might need into one simplified service accessible, regardless of skill level; finally, commissioning a web agency allows you to offload most if not all work involved in the site. All of these platforms provide a valid strategy for building your business’ website, so what you choose will largely depend on how you want to budget your site. A comparison of these three options is provided to assist you in selecting which is best for your current needs, recognizing that as your business grows, you may want to change the approach.
Money: Varies (Low)
Potentially the most inexpensive option for platforms, DIY solutions are built around flexibility. Exemplified by solutions like Wordpress and Drupal, they are often packaged as an open source (read: free) Content Management System (CMS) with extensive support for third party add-ons should you want more complex features. Though they usually support options for those who are experienced with web development and coding, they use templates or simple drag and drop options for those without programming experience as well.
A DIY platform is a great option for those who have a clear grasp on how their website needs to function and are willing to trade monetary costs for the time it takes to gather all the necessary tools their website needs. When looking at DIY piecemeal solutions, it’s crucial to keep a tight list of the features you need to add. While the platform itself may be free, the plugins and hosting can be costly. To avoid these surprising expenses, source what host and third party plugins you want to use before committing; this way, you can more easily compare your options before committing to a solution that is expensive in both time and money.
Getting Started With A DIY Platform
Decide what features you need
Find a CMS or framework you like (such as Drupal, Wordpress, Joomla, and more)
Do research on any extra tools you need to build your features (web builders, e-commerce, forms, seo)
Research and find a hosting option, many have instructions or specific packages/support for your CMS systems
Though they offer less flexibility than a DIY platform, All-in-One platforms such as Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly also offer less time investment both in researching and building your website. Like a one-stop-shop, they supply everything you need to build your website. They supply both tools and hosting though some will also offer third party add-on support in addition to this. Most All-in-One solutions use drag and drop or other “What You See is What You Get” UI options for building your site. Some have advanced features for those who are coding inclined, but they are not this platform’s demographic.
If you aren’t comfortable with the concept of hosting, or don’t have the time to spend sourcing third party add-ons or figuring out other configuration options for your site, All-In-One platforms are a good option to consider. Though keep in mind, they’ll likely be more expensive than the DIY options. Be sure to check exactly what features you get with your price plan as they’re often hidden until you need them. It’s also a good idea to make extensive use of any free trials offered as most All-in-Ones operate with year long commitments and you don’t want to find out you chose the wrong one after two months.
Getting Started With An All-In-One Platform
Decide what features you want
Make a list of potential platforms that offer these features
Check that they have the needed features for your desired price point
If offered, take the free trial to validate the platform will work well for your needs. Be sure to test as much as possible during this trial period.
If you don’t want to deal with platforms or hosting at all, you can look into finding a web developer. Though usually the most expensive option, commissioning your website often comes with a lot of flexibility without a lot of time commitment besides finding a web developer or development agency that best fits your website.
Finding a professional web developer is a great option if you don’t have the time to deal with your website at all, if your website is complicated, or if it is particularly important to your business model. There’s a wide range of services offered, both from agencies and freelancers so be sure you understand how they’ll build your site, how (or if) they’ll maintain your site and what their services include.
Getting Started With A Commissioned Platform
Decide what features you want
Research different freelancers and agencies
Interview those that interest you
Follow their procedures to get started with their services
Now that we have a platform selected we can truly start building our website. In the next post of this series, we’ll go over how to structure your site’s informational architecture: its content layout, and navigation. In the meantime, if you have any questions about planning your site or choosing the best platform for your budget please give us a call or email.