So, one of the questions I get asked the most is, "which website builder should I go with?"
And that depends a lot on how will the website builder be used.
If you plan on performing the maintenance and updates to the site, then you should make your selection based on your tech experience and comfort level, and the features that come included with the website builder.
The first thing you probably need to know is that not all of these programs are created equal. Some require much more technical knowledge on your end to work with effectively.
It is really a lot like comparing apples to oranges. So, check out their sites and poke around a bit. Check out their FAQs or the help forum, a lot of good information can be gleaned here, to help make your decision an informed one.
Most folks are looking for an easy solution to the website builder question, and its for that reason that I start with talking about open source programming here. and perhaps the best part is, that open source is typically free. Since I got your attention with free, let's talk about what "open source" programming is.
Open source means that the programming language used is not proprietary to a company or individual. These web builder programs are the product of a consortium, or community. And updates and new features are constantly being added by developers.
There is no need to wait to get the latest add-on or plug-in. The best way to explain this is with an example, so here we go.
Chances are you have heard of "Flash", and this program has been used to build thousands of sites on the internet. But Flash is an Adobe product, which must be purchased by the user, before it can be used. The updated features and versions are created by employees of Adobe, and then sold/offered to the users. Typically, updated versions are available on an annual basis, but at some point you will need to spend more of your money to get the latest version. Word, PowerPoint, and Excel are also proprietary product examples.
On the other hand, open source programming is typically free to acquire, and the updates and add-ons are created by the people who actually use the programs (the developer community). These add-ons and plug-ins are also typically free, but the developers do offer upgraded/expanded versions for a reasonable cost. The beauty here is, if you do need to spend money, you only pay for exactly what you need. Some open source program examples include Mozilla Firefox browser, HTML, CSS, PHP, and MySQL.
And cost is always an important factor to consider whether you are a small business or non-profit.
This leads me to my recommendations for selecting a website builder for you. I have narrowed the field to two options, the first is open source, and the second is a proprietary product that is very affordable, which uses open source programming.
So let's start with the open source website builder option:
Wordpress - this is a great, easy to use program for building a site. The only thing that you will need to spend money on is your hosting and domain registration as they are not included with the program. : (
Originally, Wordpress was built as a blogging platform. That is, instead of having pages, new content was added as posts, a few paragraphs in length with an image or two. This allowed for fast scanning of the pages by the visitor, and quick adding of new content by the owner.
As time has gone on, Wordpress now has options to add any number of pages, and a typical left or right hand navigation column. Add photo galleries, contact forms, calendars, affiliate marketing links, social media links, basically anything you need for your website can be done in WP now.
I just read an article that states that 19% of the active sites on the web are using Wordpress, and that is a lot of websites!
This website builder comes with several site templates included with the download. Once you have activated the program by installing it onto the server (your hosting service), you can search through thousands of templates that are available from not only Wordpress, but numerous other template galleries on the web. Most are free, but some of the templates do have a cost involved, because the designer added a lot of features in while he was creating it.
You are able to search using filters such as color, two column or three column, custom headers, by template category such as technology, nature, outdoors, holidays, etc. Trust me, you will find a design that works for your site/business, it may take some time searching, but its out there. And if find something close, but not quite perfect, I can make the changes you need to get it perfect for you.
Wordpress has a very nice user interface, and you can make changes easily with just a few mouse clicks. You can also add users to the account, and set their privileges for what they can and can't access inside the program. This controls who can make/edit a page, or section of the site.
As employees, they can easily perform their work at the site, but can't affect any other section. Peace of mind is built right in, for you the owner or manager.
The other option is for a program called Solo Build It, or SBI. This was the program I started with in 2004, and I still use it myself. In fact, SBI is also a class that is taught at colleges and universities around the world, and yours truly is a certified instructor for the class.
SBI is not an open source program, per se, there is an annual fee of $300 to purchase, but it comes with some very cool features. It uses HTML, PHP, CSS, which are open source programs.
And its the packaging of all of these, into one all-inclusive program, that is the reason for the cost. But it works out to less than a dollar per day for your site, and that seems pretty do-able for any small biz or non-profit.
It's a server-side application, which means there is nothing to download on your side. So you don't fill up your hard drive with programming. You also don't lose anything connected with the website, should your computer suddenly burst into flames, get stolen, etc.
I could go on about SBI, but you can read all about the tools and features here, if you choose.
This is by no means the complete list, but its a start. Both of these programs allow you to build a one-of-a-kind website, by simply pointing and clicking your mouse.
If building it yourself still seems like a daunting process, I am more than happy to assist with whatever elements are beyond your comfort level, or time constraints, just let me know!
All total, there are about sixty different website builder programs available now between the online and offline versions, so you have plenty of choices. But sifting through all sixty would take a great amount of time and energy.
Perhaps the best option is to sit down with your web designer, and have a discussion about what you need now for your website.
You should also discuss where you see your small business or non-profit group being in a couple of years, and plan for that growth now.
Starting with a website builder now that can grow with you will avoid any costly and time consuming changes in the future, just makes sense, dollars and cents that is.
I am also happy to answer these questions for you, simply use the Contact Us form, and let's start the conversation.
We can follow up via phone, Skype, Go To Meeting (where I can share my desktop, and show you the differences live), to help you make the most informed decision for your biz/non-profit group.
I'll talk to you soon,
Your Freelance B2B Copywriter