Thursday, November 8, 2018

I Want to Build My Own Website But Don't Know Where to Start

I get people who ask me all the time about websites for business or churches. That's probably because I work as a church and small business website builder, but also because people love free advice. Once you determine the purpose of your website, then it's not all that hard to build it. Here are some quick tips.


Blogger
If you're looking to create a blog like this one, then Blogger is fine. It's easy to use and works on mobile. As of 2018, it's finally considered https secure. You don't have to know anything about html. Of course, it's very basic, and blog posts can get lost in the feed. If I'd imagined I would write this much about Jacksonville, I probably would have gone with something a little more robust. Then again, part of the reason I am able to write so much is because Blogger is so easy to use.

Some of you are thinking that your social media posts work just fine. That's true to some extent, but six months from now, your thought-provoking post is pretty much gone. You can probably get more instant response from Facebook than your own website, but it needs to be directed somewhere. I don't know that I'd use both Blogger and social media, as they are kind of similar, except with Blogger, at least you own the content.

Host-Provided or Free
These template websites are probably OK if you just want to have a basic online business card. They are a little boring, and usually not great for adding new articles, but they work just fine if all you want is some photos of your business and a phone number. You don't have to be a web genius to figure them out, but I even have some trouble getting these sites to do what I want. You're not allowed to change as much as you might want, but I have spent several hours deciding on menu text color, so sometimes lack of choice is fine.

CMS
The next level up, and probably the last level you'd want to go is a CMS. That's Wordpress for most of us. I use Joomla, and there are plenty of others, but they are pretty much the same idea. These are free, open source scripts that run on your hosting provider's server. The best host most of the time is Siteground, but almost all hosts offer these scripts for free.


Initial installation of a CMS script isn't terribly hard, but then you need to add a template. Paid ones are usually better than free ones, and you can have a very professional BLANK SLATE for under $100. Then you need to add all your categories and menu items. Again, not hard, but time consuming. Adding images to the sliders and whatnot can be a challenge.

Thoughts
You can do it yourself, and I think everyone should try at least once. You might hire me after you try, or you might be satisfied with your results. I'd say a Blogger site might take you four hours of work to get going the way you want. The free template sites might be more like 10 hours of your time. Finally, the CMS (especially your first) will probably run you close to 30 hours to get right. Lots of tutorials and forums for all those small problems, but it's nice to be able to fix them. It doesn't really make sense to code an entire site anymore, even though it's fun to play around with the code and learn how it works. There are simply too many add-ons freely available to bother. However, setting up your own website is a lot of work, and you also have to consider that the most important aspect is really the writing you end up adding after all the design work is done.