How hard is it to make a website? What your options are and how to get started

It’s 2017 and time for new challenges! Are you ready for your first website? Or finally decided it’s time to upgrade? Yes!? Well, whether you want a website for your hobby or small business, this guide will help you to consider your options and decide on the best way forward.

A simple guide to getting a website

Your Options

When you first start thinking about getting a website, there are lots of routes open to you that you may not know about.
The 3 routes I am going to cover in this short guide are:

  1. Using a site-builder yourself
  2. Building the website yourself
  3. Hiring a professional

 


 

1. Using a Site-Builder

A site-builder is a tool offered by a company to help you build a website yourself – DIY style!

Popular examples include:

  • Wix – perfect for design-orientated websites
  • Weebly – known for being the easiest site builder to use
  • WordPress.com – great if your site is based on a blog
  • Squarespace – made for small businesses

If you decide that using a site builder is the option for you then make sure you do more research as there are many different companies out there.

Pros

  • No technical knowledge (except basic computer skills) needed!
  • You will have a good choice of templates to start from – these are the styles your site will use to base its “look” on.
  • You can control all the layout of the site
  • Lots of site-builders come with stock imagery ( a collection of photos) you can use.

Cons

  • Not as flexible or customisable as working with open source systems (which your other two options will utilise).
  • You will never actually own the website you make on a site builder – they have all the rights to it
  • You are not protected if the company goes bust, your site will be gone too
  • You will constantly be bombarded by “sales” and “upgrade” information.

This option is perfect for showcasing a portfolio of work but if you have a business you value and want to grow, then it’s not recommended.


 

2. Building the website yourself

The process of making your own website has varied levels of difficulty, based on the requirements of the website and the skills you have.
The process can be split into the following different stages: planning, designing, development and testing.

Stage 1: Planning

 

Set out your goals:

What do you want to achieve?
How long do you have to spend on various elements?

Make some decisions:

Are you going to be doing any coding?
Which software/ programs, if any, are you going to use?
Which providers will you get a domain name and web hosting from?
Make a website “sitemap” – this is a diagram showing all the webpages you want to have on your website. This will get you thinking and making decisions about navigation around your site and hierarchy of information.

Consider your target audience and learn the basics of user experience to help them get the most from what your site has to offer.

Hmmm how does that sound? Too tricky? You may not be ready to make a website yourself, you could keep researching or hire a professional.

Stage 2: Designing

 

Start by checking out what others are doing. Look at similar people / businesses to yours and see what their websites look like. Is there anything you like and are inspired by? Is there anything you want to avoid? Use this information to help you design your website.

Make a website wire frame

This is your chance to get all your ideas down and see how they are working, at this stage you will consider all the content on your website and how it looks together.

You may have heard the term “Responsive Design”, this is an important part of website design now because of the rising use of web on mobile devices. Responsive Design basically means your design is responsive to different screen sizes, so it adapts to whether it is being seen on a mobile / tablet or on a desktop.

Stage 3: Developing

 

Get a “domain name”

A domain name is the web address of the site, for example: www.google.com

Get “web hosting”

This is the actual space on a computer that your website will be stored. Once hosted you website will be on the internet.

Do your research to get the best deals.
Domain names and web hosting can often be bought together – this can be easier to manage so is preferable.

Build your web pages

You can code from scratch or use a program such as Adobe Dreamweaver to aid you – if you haven’t already invested in software like this then check out the free options available to you as well before purchasing a paid one.

Use a Content Management System

WordPress is a CMS that will hold pages you’ve made or got from a template in one easy to manage place. Once all set up you will be able to maintain your site simply and quickly.

Stage 4: Testing

Testing a website is important because it provides you with an opportunity to fix any bugs or issues before a potential customer / user encounters them and is put off.

Your responsive website design should be tested properly, you can do this using free tools such as Google Chrome’s “inspect”. This allows you to view your site on a wide range of devices and browsers. It will also flag up any issues with your code. If you can get hold of any different devices this is worth doing – often the professionals will have lots in their studio just for testing as this is more accurate.

Do some usability testing – ask some friends and family to use the site and give you some honest feedback.
This is worth doing for any website you get, whether made yourself, from a site builder or a professional.

Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer are all internet browsers that you can download for free and should definitely check your website on. There are lots of variables for testing but checking these on desktop and mobile should be the minimum you do.

If you have used any Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques or tools during the build of your website you may not be indexed by search engines for a few weeks after the website is live so don’t worry about testing to see the results of that work straight away.

Pros

  • Can be really fun! Get stuck in and dedicate some long evenings to this and it could be a great hobby.
  • You own everything and control everything.

Cons

  • You need to be prepared to make mistakes that a professional wouldn’t.
    Especially if this is your first time the process is going to be a bit of trial and error.
  • It may be harder to get help with your site or get someone to take it over
    as they might want to do things “their way”.
  • You are responsible for any issues that may arise and will have to update any plugins used.
  • Get ready to spend weeks of your time on this!

Making your own website is tough, if you get stuck it’s often costly to get help but its perfect for the ambitious business owner that wants to control the whole website and know it like the back of their hand.


 

3. Hiring a professional

There are lots of reasons people hire professionals to build their site, it could be because they have limited knowledge of technology, don’t have the time or interest in the area or realise that in such a fast-pace industry to make the most of having a website they need an expert.
Professionals have to keep up with the latest technologies and your website will get the full benefit of their knowledge.
Get it built with a Content Management System (CMS) which allows you to maintain the site with no technical knowledge – this could potentially mean you don’t need anything further from your professional and can be the master of your sites destiny.

We can’t speak for every agency but here at Marketing Signals, everything from deciding what you want your site for and how much money you want it to generate can be discussed with us, we want you to succeed.

Pros

  • Gives you more time to do other things.
  • You’ll be able to get expert advice on all things web.
  • No need to worry about the latest technology and new things coming out – that will all be sorted for you!
  • Hiring a professional agency means you get the benefit of many brains for the same price as a freelancer!

Cons

  • It’s going to cost more than a DIY job.
  • All websites need maintaining and yours will too so you need to be prepared to pay for this in the future.

Perfect for … a busy person looking for a reliable, top of the range solution.


Hopefully this guide has given you a good idea of where to start and things you should be considering when you decide to get a website.
Do more research and ask some more questions!

If your time is worth a lot to you, then hiring a professional makes the most sense.

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