Socrates once said “Speak, so that I may see you.” It has become one of the most quoted phrases throughout history. In the digital world, the equivalent to these wise words would be “Show me your website, so that I may see you.” Nothing makes a statement like a neat and a professional website. It is now a natural thing for any business, a project, a public figure, or an influencer to have a website. In the beginning, building a website was a mission that only those with a solid technical background could accomplish. As more and more non-tech savvy people needed to build websites, a website builder became the perfect solution. In the upcoming pages, you shall find out the answers to all your questions about a website builder. In other words, we will go through all the steps to set up a website for your business from scratch, regardless of your technical skills.
The Traditional Method:
The Web Development Business: Code, Design, Test, and Repeat
Code: Meet the Web Developer
Design: Meet the Web Designer
Test: Meet the Software Tester
The Three Musketeers of Front-End Development
Is There an Alternative?
- What Is a Website Builder?
- What Does a Website Builder Offer?
- The Pros and Cons of Using a Website Builder
- Is a Website Builder the Rich Choice for Everyone?
Portfolio and Small Business Website
We always love to start by clarifying why we think this topic is important. Before talking about how to build a website, one needs to know: why does a business need a website?
Websites VS Social Media Business Pages
Ever since social media marketing became a trend, many businesses have relied on different social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, as alternatives for having their own website. Many businesses now use their business social pages as the main channel of communication and brand awareness. The reason why that happens often is due to the simplicity and effortlessness of managing social media pages. Creating a business page on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn literally takes minutes. Unlike a website, even a user with zero technical background, he/she can still manage to run the page without a trouble. That makes many companies believe that a social media page can replace a website.
5 Things a Website Has that Social Media Does Not
#1: The Full Range
Social media pages are designed to suit the quick scroll. Users do not go to social platforms to find products or services. For that reason, business pages on social media are meant to give your audience a brief about your business, but not the full range information. In fact, many businesses have more to offer than their customers realize. Your own website allows you to showcase all your products and services, main ones and side ones.
Your House, Your Rules
In addition, your website is the perfect channel for creating long and valuable content. Social media users are not into long posts, they like their content straightforward and short. Sometimes you will have to sandwich your content to fit the busy newsfeed. On the contrary, on the website, you would never have to compromise. There is no limit to the amount of content you want to share or specific dimensions and restrictions. In other words, creating a business page on social channels is like setting up a booth at a busy neighbor’s house, at the end of the day, you are merely one of the guests. Meanwhile, having your own website is like being in your own house.
#2: A Stronger Brand Image
All business pages on different social platforms share the same design and look. That is why it is harder to establish a unique and distinguishable brand image on social media, especially among your competitors. On a website, however, you will have control over design, user interface, and navigation process. Everything you use in your design has something to say about your business. Therefore, a website gives you more capacity to display the identity of your company boldly. There are much more ways to express your brand on a website: fonts, colors, display, loading time, and the friendliness of navigation, especially on mobile devices. Social media limits those options, and therefore, your own website is the ideal way to make a brand statement and tell the world what your company identifies itself with.
#3: Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing is an essential in the marketing game today. Opposite to social media platforms, users go to search engines looking for products, services, content, and answers to their questions. It is highly likely that a user searching for “running shoes prices” purchases a product if it meets his/her needs. Meanwhile, it is less likely for someone scrolling the newsfeed randomly to purchase something, even if the ad is relevant. For that reason, Google AdWords, for example, have a higher conversion rate than Facebook ads. Ranking your website on Google through proper search engine optimization techniques can open doors for your business. To reach these great results, your business needs a website. Advertising your website on Google AdWords has a high ROI which is why these ads are in high demand
If your business is a product-based one, then you have all the right reasons for creating a website that functions as an online store. This expands your market and opens up more opportunities for nation-wide, or even international, sales. We shall explain later the best website builder for creating an online store.
#4: Refine Your Clients
Your business page is for everyone, your website is for the best calibers. Think about that as a good reason why you need a website. Let’s say someone found your business page on Facebook, he/she liked what he/she saw and wants to know more. If you do not have a website, the only option for them would be either to comment or message you a question and wait for your reply. In either of the cases, you may find yourself bombarded with random comments and messages on different posts that may eventually get lost and your potential leads end up as lost leads. Even if you manage to reply to every message and comment, the information provided will never cover all the details. They must be brief and short. In very rare cases, one of your audience on Facebook ends up calling you to get the full details.
Do Not Miss a Lead
Building a website allows the refinement of your social media audience. Following the last scenario, if the announcements lead to your website, the outcomes could be much more efficient. The biggest percentage of your audience on social media are window shoppers. By designing your announcements in a way that leads those interested to your website, you can separate between window shoppers and those willing to act. Think of the website as the destination for interested customers who are ready to walk with you for an extra mile.
There Is a Better Scenario
Instead of leaving a comment or a message, they can give you their contact information and schedule a call-back. This will help you organize responding to each one to minimize the number of lost leads, and to avoid any miscommunication which often happens on social media. It will also help you create a database for those who get in touch with you. You can use that information later for email marketing in the form of newsletters and new offers. Moreover, it will personalize the way you communicate with your audience which will keep your business unique and memorable.
#5: Be Wherever Your Customer Is
People are spending a bulky amount of time on all digital platforms. More online presence means more chances for your business being found. A website also has the benefit of potential customers finding you at their own pace, instead of you interrupting their route. It gives them more time to build their trust in a business. Moreover, a website saves them the hassle of finding information about your business. All your contact information, your portfolio, your products, and everything they need to know in one place. A website makes your customers’ lives easier.
Now, you already realized that a website is crucial for your business. Assuming you are someone who does not know a thing about building a website. We shall explain first how websites are built the traditional way. Then, we will explain how a website builder is a savior for those who cannot afford the traditional way. It is good to understand how the traditional way for building a website goes, even if you will not use it at the time being. It gives you an idea about the bigger picture and can be useful to help you make the choice of whether a website builder is suitable for your business.
The Traditional Method:
Web Development: Design, Code, Test, and Repeat
A web development process is a set of well-defined steps which organizes the way a team works to create a website. It starts with understanding the requirements of the website. “Requirements” are the website’s functions and its intended use, these are fundamental for the execution and planning of the web development process. The requirements vary according to the nature of the business; its goals, target audience, and features. A personal website, of course, has different requirements than those of a bank’s website. The bigger the project/business, the more complicated the development process will be because it will include more features. Throughout that process there are three main phases, and for every phase there is a specialist with a specific role to fulfill. Sometimes, the roles intertwine; a specialist could have more than one role. However, bigger corporates usually have specialists for each role.
Design: Meet the Web Designer
The Design phase involves transforming ideas suggested in the planning phase into a well-structured and tangible visual representation. The goal of the design phase is to establish a shape and an interface for the website. While the features, content, and most other functions will still be missing, one can still identify the site’s visual outline.
What Does a Web Designer Do?
Basically, a web designer starts with a pen, a paper, along with his/her imagination and experience. Using information gathered from the client (the website owner in this case,) the designer should create the best shape for the website to meet the objectives. This shape is called a Wireframe. A Wireframe lacks typography style, color, or graphics, as it only focuses on shape as a concept. At this point, “shape” is like the skeleton of the website; its bare bones. The next step is creating a mockup via Adobe Photoshop. A mockup is “used to represent the structure of information, visualize the content and demonstrate the basic functionalities in a static way.” Unlike wireframes, mockups provide visual details, and this is their advantage. They help the designer identify any errors and allow him/her to view the design from the user’s perspective. Then, a cycle of reviewing, editing, and tweaking follows until the client and the web designer reach the most satisfactory outcome. Once the design is ready, it’s coding time.
Skills a Web Designer Should Have
A web designer’s job involves a lot of creativity pumped up with technical skills to be able to know how the suggested shape will serve the function. The web designer also needs to master using design programs such Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. In addition, a web designer must understand the basics of coding languages such as HTML and CSS. We will give definitions for those later. After all, a web designer is a part of the development process which includes both the technical and creative aspects. Market research is also a good source of inspiration for the designer. Keeping an eye on the latest trends and the competitors’ websites keeps the designer updated with the latest user perceptions. As mentioned earlier, the website is aims to deliver a strong brand image. The more appealing a website is, the more professional the brand looks.
Code: Meet the Web Developer
Developers are the backbone of the web development process. They are the geeky brains who write code for a living. Most of the work done in this phase involves programming and creating code templates for the several pages a website has. A website usually has different pages: home, general, content, blog post, form, careers, etc. For each one of those, a template should be created. Obviously, the tasks and the amount of time needed to program vary according to the nature of the website and the number of developers working on the project. Filling the website with content is also a part of the development process. Although developers do not write the content, they are the ones responsible for inserting it to the website. A useful remark here to mention is that developers are in continuous communication with designers, software testers, and even the client in some cases. If anything needs to be fixed, the developers are the ones for the mission.
Skills a Web Developer Should Have
Test: Meet the Software Tester
The testing phase is the one is the last before launching the website. Now that the design, the code, and the content are ready, the website should be ready for hosting visitors. Before real users come to the website, the development team must make sure that there are no bugs, errors, or any mistakes whatsoever. The software tester’s job is to assess code and to fish for bugs. To do so, a software tester must come up with different user scenarios, design testing plans, run manual and automated tests, write bug reports, and document results to the development team. There are different scales to measure a website’s efficiency such as stress testing, performance testing, functional testing, and security testing.
Skills a Software Tester Should Have
A software tester is the eye of the hawk in the web development process. He/she must be detail-oriented, problem-solving, and methodical. From a technical point of view, a software tester needs to be aware of using coding languages and programming. A software tester is also prone to work pressure, especially while working with huge and multinational projects. An undiscovered bug may cost a company millions of dollars. Therefore, software testers are always looking for and purifying bugs throughout the project. In addition, testers must have analytical skills and an ability to document and communicate issues clearly and precisely.
The Pre-Launching Phase
The goal of the testing phase is to ensure that the website is in the most perfect condition before it launches. Therefore, the tester works with the developers to fix any software issues. Once they reach the final outcome, deployment and training starts where the development team hands in the project and explains how the website is used. Of course, if the website is a basic one, those who use it will need almost no training since most of the functions will be obvious and easy to use. Deployment and training takes more time in case there is an entire system built or a larger website.
Non-specialists who want to build a website, whether through a website builder or the traditional way, often stumble upon terms that make them feel discouraged. That sometimes leads them to abandon the idea of having their own website altogether. While some people teach themselves programming and coding languages, most people find it difficult to do so. Today, we will not be discussing coding, however, we will highlight some frequently repeated terms surrounding the web development process. That will give anyone a clue whenever one of these terms are mentioned.
This is probably the first term you may face once you mention building a website. The domain name is the address that people type in their browser URL bar to visit your website. A good question is: how does the Internet work? The Internet is a giant network of computers connected to each other through a global network of cables. These computers can communicate with each other and each one has a specific series of numbers called an IP address for identification. The problem with an IP addresses is that they are hard to remember. Domain names were made to solve that problem. It is much easier to remember a domain name like profiletree.com than a series of numbers. To build a website, you must buy a domain name. Domain names are sold by many companies, called domain name registrars, for varying prices. Two popular domain registrars are GoDaddy and Namecheap. Furthermore, domains are available in different extensions; the most popular one is .com which is used by most business websites.
This one usually goes hand in hand with a domain name, yet they are not the same thing. Web hosting is another must have for building a website. In the simplest form, if a domain name was like the address of your house, web hosting would be the actual house that the address points to. That brings us back to the question of how the Internet works. All the data, content, and files of your website are stored on special computers called web servers. Supposedly, these web servers belong to your web hosting companies. Once a user enters your domain address to his/her browser, the browser translates the domain name into the IP address of your web hosting company, that is where your website’s files are stored . The user’s computer needs to connect to the web hosting’s server to be able to view your website. In other words, web hosting is like booking a hotel room for your website’s files and data to be stored, so that users may eventually find them.
The Three Musketeers of Front-End Web Development
Those three musketeers are the pillars upon which the front-end part of the website is built. Front-end development comprises the parts that visitors see in a website; how the website looks like and functions. In other words, these are the three languages that websites speak. A web browser is the tool that translates these three languages into the real website that a user deals with.
HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. It is one of the core technologies for building a web page. Meaning, it defines the structure of the website. Put simply, HTML provides a way for the web designer to tell your web browser how to treat a piece of content. HTML is the type of text that a browser’s software understands. According to Lifewire, “It is the primary markup language used to write content on the web. Every single web page on the internet has at least some HTML markup included in its source code.” Your browser reads a website’s content in HTML, and then translates this HTML language into ordinary, readable language. It is one of the easiest languages because most of it is human readable. The building blocks of HTML are called tags. Tags comprise words or acronyms surrounded by brackets. HTML tags look like this:
While HTML constructs the structure of a web page, CSS constructs its visual layout. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets and it is the language that defines to your browser how the website will look like. That includes color, font, and layout. It was created to allow web professionals to separate the content and structure of a website’s code from the visual design. Before CSS was created, both aspects were written in HTML. That separation between design and content has allowed more flexibility during the web development process. However, there is quite a lot to learn about CSS, it is more complicated than HTML. Even though it is rather complicated, the results were surely worth the trouble. Therefore, CSS is now a widely used standard in web design and you would be hard pressed to find anyone working in the industry today who did not have at least a basic understanding of this language.
CMS stands for Content Management System. That is defined as a web-based application that provides capabilities for multiple users with different permission levels to manage web content often without the need to have HTML knowledge. In some cases, depending on the website’s nature, some HTML knowledge is still required to use the CMS. Capabilities to manage content include creating, editing, publishing, and archiving pages, articles, press releases, blogs, etc. For e-commerce websites, content management involves adding and editing inventory, description, product specifications, prices, and photos. All different tasks done on a website on behalf of the business such as: adding reports, viewing orders, creating slips and invoices are done through the content management system. The CMS is a major part of a business website since it is the basic system which defines the process of continuously updating and creating new content for the website.
PHP is the parallel equivalent to HTML. While HTML is the builder of front-end development, PHP lives on the opposite side; the back-end. They both share the same role, yet they perform it in two different parts. PHP is called a scripting language that allows “web developers to create sophisticated business logic that can interact with a database, conduct complex data operations and provide information back to the browser.”
Is There an Alternative?
Now that you have understood how the traditional web development process evolves and the terms which frequently surround it, it is time to introduce website builders. What does a website builder do? What role do they play in the web development process? And for what purposes were they created?
A website builder is a tool or an application that lets users build a website quickly and without needing to know any coding, or site design skills. That means that a website builder is a shortcut, or an alternative way for non-specialists to get around the dilemma of web development. Although teaching yourself coding in order to build a website is a noble act, to be fair, it is quite a long task. Furthermore, mastering all the skills needed to create a website requires resources and time. Hiring someone to do the job for you is a great option, however, small and medium-sized businesses may not afford it. Why can’t building a website become as easy as creating a Word document? Well, it can. That is a website builder’s job. In the beginning, a website builder produced amateurish websites which did not qualify to be presented as business websites. Over time, website builders have become more reliable and more advanced.
An Offline Website Builder
An offline website builder comes as a software program to install on your computer. It allows you to entirely build your website and save its files on the computer. Once it is ready to be launched, all you need to do is upload all the website’s files to a web host. Although an offline website builder gives flexibility to build a website without needing an Internet connection, it also compels you to purchase a web hosting account, in addition to purchasing the website builder itself. Moreover, it requires a tiny technical experience to be able to upload your website to the web host.
An Online Website Builder
An online website builder, on the other hand, lives and dwells on the Internet. It is a web-based tool which means that your website will run on the provider’s service. This gives you the flexibility to work on your website project from anywhere and on any device. There is no need to download the website builder. Seriously, all one needs is an Internet connection and a web browser. For these attractive reasons, an online website builder is a darling to non-specialists who have always been intimidated by the traditional web development process. Using a drag-and-drop editor, an online website builder is the wizard which makes creating a website as easy as moving icons on your desktop. No coding, no designing skills, just click and drag.
Domain Name and Web Hosting
Remember when we said that these two are the first must haves to build your own website? Nobody can escape that rule. But fortunately, many website builders can help you get that done.
If You Do Not Have One
Website builders offer different packages for providing a domain name. Some providers allow you to use a cheap domain name, such as yourname.websitebuilder.com, instead of yourname.com. Meanwhile, another website builder may offer one year of free domain name registration if you choose to subscribe for an annual plan with them.
If You Do have One
Then you are one step ahead, nobody can steal away your name. Of course, if you already purchased a domain name, you can still register with it to any website builder. That gives you two options: 1) You can replace your old domain name provider with the website builder’s. 2) You could stay with your current domain name provider and forward the domain to your website builder account. Your current domain registrar can help you set this up.
Next, you need to shelter your files in that “room” called web hosting. That means you need a web hosting service. Luckily, most website builders come packaged with one or more web hosting plans, so you can select the one that suits your needs the most.
Templates are ready made designs for how the visual structure of a website will look like. Think of them as the fast-food solution for the designer’s job. Each website builder has a collection of different designs and shapes ready to be used. Moreover, these templates are anything but rigid, you can always change your mind about the template you choose. This can be done at any time, even after you have launched the website and filled it with content. The content you added will be reshaped to fit the new design. If your company has a logo and a specific color palette, you can easily merge them with the templates. That way you would not have to sacrifice your brand’s identity. What if none of the designs are worthy of your admiration? That is no problem. You can create your own custom-made template style, however, that will require some HTML and CSS skills.
Tip: Use the design template that matches the nature of your website. For example, if your website will have exceptional visuals, make sure you pick the design which highlights them the most.
Pages and Sections
Websites differ in the size and number of their pages and sections, yet even the smallest website needs some standard pages. Standard pages are those found on almost every website: home page, about us, contact information, and services. Some businesses include some extras like a portfolio, careers, products, case studies, FAQ, and much more. Using a website builder, you can easily add as many pages and sections as you want.
Excuse me? Hint: Look at the Profile Tree logo at the corner of this opened tab. A Favicon is the picture that shows at the corner of a visitor’s tab once he/she opens your website. This makes visitors distinguish your page if they have many tabs opened on their browser. It also makes a unique bookmark on the list of saved websites. A website builder does not even miss those small details to build a website that stands out.
Tip: Most businesses select their logo, or something strongly associated with their brand.
Whoever created a website builder knew that e-commerce is the latest shopping trend worldwide, and its popularity will only increase in the future. While a website builder will not be able to create a website like Amazon’s, we will explain why later, small and medium sized businesses can still build a reliable website that serves their smaller circle of customers. An e-commerce website must contain specific items that other websites do not require. A shopping cart, payment tools, and a checkout page are all essential for the visitor to make an order online. On the back-end, an inventory management is essential for you to know the products in-stock, those on backorder, and the sold-outs. A website builder has all those elements to support your budding online store.
Images and Video
Every website builder delights itself in presenting those two. Images and videos gives a website its glamour and style. One always finds the best and most appealing web designs full of motion, color, and images. 360 images are also the new thing to make a website stand out. Therefore, your website builder should have a library of high quality images that you can use as headers and backgrounds.
Tip: On your side, you should prepare an HD video, a 360 photo, or a virtual tour for your business if you have a unique one and embed them on your website. Videos for products tutorials, events, or customer reviews are a great way to market your business online. In addition, they also enhance your SEO score, so your website ranks higher in Google results.
We have mentioned earlier that social media business pages should go hand in hand with your website. None of them alone is enough to establish a strong brand awareness. For that reason, a website builder allows you to connect your social media page to your website. It goes without saying that you should later add your website to all your pages on different social platforms. Combining the two helps achieve the marketing goals we mentioned earlier when we drew that comparison between a business page and a website.
SEO and Analytics
SEO is the lifeblood of your website. This is the channel that will get you the best visitors with the highest purchase potential. It is a fact that effective SEO does not rely solely on the website builder you are using, however, it does play a part. Any website builder empowers its users with the right features for better SEO results. A good website builder will provide you with features such as: SEO title, meta descriptions, page level heading tags, backlinking, and mobile optimization. Some of them give you the benefits of connecting to Google Analytics and Google Search Console. SEO is an essential ingredient in the recipe of building a website. If you give enough attention to your SEO, it will have a great impact on your number visitors, and sales.
The editor in any website builder is the tool that allows you to edit or add new content whenever you like. It is as easy as using a Microsoft word document. You do not need to write text in HTML. It gives you the same options of linking to another page, and reshaping your text differently.
A treasure that people simply fail to notice. Choosing to build a website through a website builder means that you do not have enough technical experience to do the whole thing on your own. Now the best part is: with a website builder, you would not have to be alone. Website builders have a team of tech support that you can contact for questions and inquiries. They also have FAQs and articles on how to build a successful website. You get to share experience with people who have gone through this process successfully before.
So, is a website builder perfect? No. We will later give examples of the best cases where a website builder makes a great solution. Let’s go through the pros and cons of a website builder in brief.
Pros of a Website Builder
- Easy to use: no technical or programming skills are needed from you to build it, or even from your staff to work on it or update it.
- It is the Walmart for building a website. Your domain name, hosting space, email address, etc. all in one place.
- Cost efficiency: a website builder is much less expensive than hiring a web designing team.
- Security updates: your website builder will automatically install all the necessary security updates. You would need to worry about security which is a great feature.
- You will not waste time dealing with bugs, compatibility issues, or broken functionality.
- Tech support: as mentioned earlier, if you face any issue, you can easily find plenty of support and tips.
Cons of a Website Builder
- Not suitable for large business websites: website builders are simply not designed to support a complex web design. Businesses who need full-functioning websites that perform difficult tasks must stick to the traditional web development process.
- Limited flexibility: some people cannot give up flexibility. After all, a website builder will only provide you with a limited number of layouts to pick from. Depending on the nature of the business, some cannot sacrifice to limit their choices in return for ease of use.
- Relying on one provider: building a website through a website builder means that their business is your business. If the website builder is unstable or, for any reason, shuts down, then your website will go with it too. Some businesses cannot tolerate being independent.
- Website would not be able to handle higher levels of traffic.
Perhaps now that we have stated valid pros and cons, it may sound a little more confusing. The question is not of “which is better: the traditional method or the website builder?” It is rather about the objectives of your website. Here, we will demonstrate some website objectives and how a website builder works for them:
Portfolio and Small Business Website
Let’s say you are trying to build a relatively small online portfolio for your work, a basic website for your business, or a simple online presence for an event or a project. A website builder will be the best tool for that mission. With little to no experience needed, a website can be a lifesaver for beginners. It guarantees that you website will have an amazing appearance, and it will take the least amount of time to launch. In addition, you will be able to adjust the site’s SEO scores to reach more relevant audience.
Recommended Website Builder
With an insightful drag-and drop editor, Weebly and Jimdo are the best choice for beginners. Their simplicity and broad range of features, they can be the oasis for creating a portfolio or small website to introduce your business. For photographers or businesses relying on captivating visuals, Wix is known for its artistic touch.
Like we said, having a website that functions as an online store has its features that differ from a regular website. For that reason, a website builder is a great way to start a small to a medium-sized e-commerce platform. Traditionally, a big content management system, such as Magento or Prestashop, is required to create an e-commerce focused website. In that case, a website builder is a great alternative since the traditional method is technically demanding and expensive.
Recommended Website Builder
Shopify is a powerful e-commerce builder that combines all the features to create a functioning e-store. It allows you to process online payments, take orders, display products, and manage tax options without a hassle. Weebly is another good option. While it offers less features than Shopify, its advantage is that it is much simpler to use.
Compared to professional blogging platforms, such as WordPress, a website builder can have its limitations. Although a powerful blogging tool, beginners find WordPress too complicated. Therefore, it is not always a suitable choice for all. On the other hand, the best website builder will allow you to schedule posts, enable comments, create post categories, and tweak SEO.
Recommended Website Builder
Squarespace is the best website builder for blogs. It provides all the needed features to make a good looking blog which engages your audience. Compared to Weebly, which is known for being the most straightforward website builder, it is slightly complex. However, it is still less complex than WordPress and it puts your blog on the right path.
Directory websites are those dealing with lists and catalogs. Usually these are associated with real estate websites where people search for properties, or job advertising ones where many parties share data and forms. For that amount of data, these websites require a proper database system. Unfortunately, a website builder is not made to handle similar websites, they require a more advanced management system.
To create this kind of project, you had better look into more traditional web designing methods. Meanwhile, WordPress is a fairly good option if you need to minimize your expenses. WordPress is a powerful platform that can do the job while needing the minimal technical assistance. Yes, you may need to hire a developer for some customized tasks, but it is still a flexible tool to use.
Social network websites are huge projects. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have army of the best developers, designers, and testers in the world to achieve these enormous networks. A website builder would not be able to have your back in this case.
BuddyPress, a plugin for WordPress, would be a reasonable solution if your goal is to create a smaller social network. Like its cousin, it needs a degree of technical knowledge. Yet, it does a good job building a small social network.
There are many medium sized businesses which serve more than one location across the globe, or sometimes, one multilingual location. They all find it crucial to build a multilingual website. Online stores precisely need to be multilingual since e-commerce often targets customers beyond borders. This is another area where a website builder may fall short. Most website builders ask you to create separate websites for each language you want to translate to. It is quite expensive and not as efficient as having all your visitors in one place. While there are workarounds to get over this issue, a website builder remains a less appealing option for this mission.
Recommended Website Builder
Duda is a website builder which gives you the ability to create a “built-in” multilingual website. So, if your goal is to build a website with more than one language, Duda is the right builder for the mission. However, Duda cannot create a multilingual online store. For that, you will have to go back to Shopify. Shopify cannot build a built-in multilingual store, however, a third-party app interferes to save the day. Other than website builders, a more traditional alternative would be WordPress’s plugin: WooCoomerce.
We have demonstrated the pros and cons of a website builder, and what it can and cannot do. The cost is one of the factors that affects your choice of a website builder. That is why, we will go through a quick review of the cost of some website builders. The traditional web development process has a reputation for being expensive, long, and complicated. Meanwhile, the rule where you get what you pay for applies. Endless features, functions, and a unique website that truly stands out come with a price. On the other hand, a website builder is much more efficient when it comes to cost, but it gives you less control over the website. It is possible to get a completely ad-free site, with a proper domain name and email account for 5-8 dollars a month. Here is a brief about the packages different website builders offer:
Wix is the Master of Design. Therefore, often recommended for businesses relying on visuals such as fashion, photography, and restaurants. Prices start at $5.00 monthly for the Connect Domain plan. It goes up to $25.00 a month if you opt for the VIP upgrade. As the price goes up, additional features are added. When creating an online store, Wix’s fees are at least $17.00 per month. Wix also has a free plan where you can use a subdomain. A subdomain is, for example, profiletree.wix.com instead of profiletree.com. Of course, a subdomain is less professional than a stand-alone domain.
Weebly is known for being a diverse website builder fit for many project types. Its tools are also affordable and easy to understand. Similar to Wix, Weebly’s free plan restricts you to a subdomain, and also displays an ad at the footer of your website. To get your own domain, you must purchase a plan. These are their paid packages and each one’s best function:
- Starter costs 8 dollars and is great for basic projects.
- Pro costs 12 dollars and includes extra features such as video and audio players, and phone support.
- Business costs 25 dollars and is the perfect plan to run a smaller online store.
- Performance costs 38 dollars and it is suitable for a bigger online store with better options and higher stability.
Jimdo is known for its simplicity and good SEO features. For that reason, we have recommended it for small projects and portfolios. The free plan is similar to that of Weebly and Wix, it restricts you to a subdomain. The paid packages are JimdoPro and JimdoBusiness. JimdoPro is for websites which do not need an online store and it costs 7.5 dollars. JimdoBusiness is for relatively larger websites and e-stores and it costs 20 dollars.
Duda is the website builder recommended for multilingual websites. Although more expensive than the others previously mentioned, Duda is a problem solver to multilingual businesses. Duda is also unique because its creators were visionary about the importance of mobile websites. When they created this website builder, they made sure it builds responsive websites. Responsive websites are those where visitors will see an optimized site whether they are looking at it on a computer, a tablet, or a smartphone. Duda has a free trial plan with a subdomain and limited support which you can upgrade to Business+. Business+ costs 14.25 dollars per month. Uniquely, Duda offers a Site for Life package where you can purchase a lifetime subscription to Business+ for 299 dollars. To build an online store with more than ten products, you should subscribe to the Business+ Ecommerce plan for 22.5 dollars per month.
Shopify is the one stop for online retailers. More than 500,000 retailers rely on the platform to reach their target sales. For a business with the objective of building an e-commerce website, Shopify is the best website builder for the task. Well, unless you are aiming for a multilingual store, in that case, Duda would be your friend. Shopify has all the tools to build a robust online store, it is even unfair to compare those built by Shopify to those built by Weebly. Shopify gives you more features and higher quality. Surely, quality comes with a price. The first look at Shopify’s price list may give the impression that it is overpriced. However, keeping in mind that it is designed specifically for e-commerce functions, Shopify assumes that all its users are established retailers who are willing to invest in their business. That resonates with the fact that it does not have a free plan; only a free trial. Here is a list of Shopify’s prices:
- Starter costs 14 dollars.
- Basic Shopify costs 26 dollars per month. It will allow you to sell unlimited products and charge a 2% transaction fee unless you use Shopify Payments.
- Shopify costs 71 dollars. It has more e-commerce features like gift carts and abandoned cart recovery. Transaction fees are 1% unless you use Shopify Payments.
- Advanced Shopify costs 266 dollars per month. That one gives you advanced reports and automatically calculated shipping rates with transaction fees about 0.5%, unless you use Shopify Payments.
Squarespace is the only website builder that qualifies to be a rival to WordPress. The platform introduces itself as the hub for all creatives: photographers, musicians, artists, and designers. Although it is not the easiest website builder to use, it has fresh and dynamic features that make a blogger’s life easier. With Squarespace, it is possible to edit content live, without switching back and forth between the site manager and preview mode. It also has good SEO parameters and great templates to choose from. Moreover, you can build an online store through Squarespace if your creative business sells products. Four different packages are offered by Squarespace:
- Personal costs 12 dollars per month. If you do not need an online store, then this package is good enough to create a good portfolio.
- Business costs 18 dollars. It offers an online store with a transaction fee of 3%.
- Online Store (Basic) costs 26 dollars where you can build an online store with no transaction fees.
- Online Store (Advanced) costs 40 dollars and is only recommended for those who need advanced e-commerce features.
So, now you have gathered all this information and decided to build a website, you will be wondering: “Where should I start?”
This is your starting point. Good planning is key to success, especially when building a website. In fact, this phase should take more time than the execution phase. That is because the decisions you are going to make during planning will be the basis for the final outcome.
#1: Set Goals
This is the scale which will measure your website’s success after it is published. How can you determine that a website is a success if you do not know what it should achieve? Ask yourself: what do I want my website to achieve? The more precise your answers are, the more successful your website will be. Besides, you will never get lost in the process if you know exactly what you want. A business website can have different goals to achieve depending on the nature of the business and its position in the market. It could be set to attract new customers, increase the number of customers during quiet seasons, or create a new stream of online sales to boost your profit. Meanwhile, a portfolio’s goals may putting up presentable samples of your work to encourage managers/clients to hire you. These goals are called “business requirements” in the web development dictionary. Each goal corresponds to a solution or the means to achieve it. These requirements will be translated into features, pages, and sections on your website.
#2: Come up with Original Ideas
An average website means an average business. That is a problem, because nobody on the web is looking for an average business. Every user starting a search query wants to find a trustworthy business that meets his/her needs and fits the budget. To stand out amid thousands of businesses, you need to build a website with a story. In other words, a strong brand that gives an unmatched vibe of trust, creativity, and professionalism. To build a website with these qualities, you need to establish a personality for it. The tone, the design, the sections, the pages, and the titles all should express one theme which is relevant to your brand. It should all be consistent and exclusive. You must consider all those aspects in advance to have a clear vision of how your website will look like. That will make the execution phase more organized.
#3: Look for Inspiration
Where should you find inspiration? Other business websites, in particular, your competitors’ websites. Your competitors and other impressive websites are a great source of inspiration. From their pages, sections, titles, and designs, you can get great ideas. You can choose to add those ideas as they are, or do some tweaks and touch-ups to make them match your theme. This review also keeps you updated with the latest web design trends. It is worthy to mention that we have intentionally listed that step as the second. Many people rush into that step before creating their own vision. They may end up copying ideas from here and there, and that makes their website less genuine and unoriginal. While it is beneficial to keep an eye on businesses who have a strong online presence, you should not let that limit your own version. Look for inspiration, but do not copy-paste concepts.
#4: Create Mind Mapping Samples
Mind mapping is a brilliant way to boost creativity during brainstorming and planning. Mind maps are often used in the web development process. They are useful when it comes to filtering the best thoughts about how you want the website to look like. As shown in the picture, mind maps start in the center of the page with the central theme highlighted. This is the cornerstone that all other elements will revolve around. Surround that theme with the all the website’s categories, menus, pages, gallery, subpages, and sections. Create this mind map after the first two steps in the planning phase, then as you review other websites, add new ideas and refine your website’s mind map. Remember that your mind map should cover all the requirements you have set for the site.
#5: Select the Right Solution to Your Business Requirements
Once you settle for the best outline, it is time to select the right method to build a website. If you realize that a website builder will not be sufficient to fulfill your website’s requirements, then you should go for the traditional web development process. On the contrary, if a website builder is good enough to meet your needs and at the same time, minimizes your expenses, then it would be wiser to go for website builders. The best website builder is the one that fulfills all, or the most important goals. By now, your goals would have been translated into qualities and features. Here is an example:
Attract new customers
|– A website builder with strong SEO features to increase your website’s visibility on search engines.|
Increase the number of customers during quiet seasons
|– A website builder that makes newsletter subscription easy and appealing|
– An online store with advanced e-commerce features, like gift cards, and promo codes.
A portfolio with a gallery of photos of your previous work.
|– A website builder with a visual appeal and amazing graphics for high quality photos.|
The right website builder should be the one that offers the best solutions for your requirements.
#1: The Building Process
Design: Design is the silent soldier in any website. Think of the website as if it is a real store, how do you want a visitor to feel when they step inside your store? Comfortable, friendly, and hyped? Formal, professional, and classic? That all depends on your business’s vision, the kind of product you sell, the audience you target, etc. Choose the background and font type, size and color under your website builder’s layout or style menu. Try out several ones until you find the perfect one.
Navigation: Navigation is creating menus for your visitors to move from one place to another. From your mind map, you should be able to know where these menus will lead to. A website usually has a main menu and sub-menus. Make sure the navigation menus are clear and easily understood by all typed of visitors.
Outlined Pages: After the structure is built, it is time to add bullet points and short sections to each page. These are called outlines. Outlines do not comprise content yet, only the main headers and sub-headers. You may also add image ideas, even if you do not have the actual images yet.
#2: Content Creation
Content is like cheese; everyone loves extra cheese on their plate. You can add it to almost any dish and it would taste great. Content starts with filling the blank spaces under all sections, bullet points, footer, and headers with text. For bloggers, this will be the deal breaker of your website. You need to show off your style throughout your blog. For others who know that writing is not their strong suit, consider hiring a copywriter for that project. Content makes all the difference. In addition, creating content only starts before publishing, but it is the one aspect that you should always be updating and enhancing all the time. By that we mean adding more valuable posts, articles, news to your website regularly. This is the way to gain loyal visitors to your website.
#3: Test, Test
Now everything should be ready for publishing. The last thing you should do before publishing is go through every detail on your website.
- Proofread your website for spelling and grammar errors.
- Make sure all the pages and buttons are working; there are no bugs or broken links.
- Test your contact form and make sure it is working properly.
- Make sure you have included relevant keywords in your titles and descriptions.
- Open your website from different devices: computer, tablets, iOS and Android devices
- Make sure you fulfill all the legal requirements by clarifying your site’s policies. Those legal requirements differ from one country to another.
It is now ready to become part of the World Wide Web. Register you website with search engines: Google and Bing. Search engines are like the stage for an artist. If an artist has never been on stage, his/her art will never come to the light. The same rule applies to a website. Secure that with good SEO techniques to guarantee a good flow of potential customers. On a side note, installing Google Analytics would be a good advice. It’s a free tool that gives you insights about your website’s visitors. These statistics are important to determine what is paying off, and what is not. Google Analytics tells you the number of visitors, page views, and where your visitors are located. One great insight that the tool gives you is the number of people who have come to your website via search engines. That gives a good indication of how well your SEO is doing.
If you have finally reached this part, then you got a great deal of information about building a website. You have understood why it is crucial to have a business website, and it can be a huge milestone in your business’s progress. It is also clear that social media pages and your website, go hand in hand and should build each other up. The question of whether to go for the traditional method, or choose a website builder instead, all comes down to the business requirements of your website. Large businesses prefer to select the traditional method since it offers the best and most stable websites. However, it is recommended for start-ups to start their web project using a website builder since it is faster, easier, and cost efficient.