Where do I start when I want to build a website? Is a question we’ve been getting a lot lately. So, we’re here to simplify how to go about it, based on what you need in a website.
Generally, you either build the site yourself using any number of DIY platforms (e.g. Squarespace, Weebly, WordPress, Wix etc) or you use a web designer. Firstly, if you’re not overly computer literate, we suggest heading straight to option number two… The DIY platforms are great, and with a little SEO knowledge, some copywriting and design competency, you can be up and running with a shiny new website really quickly. Of course, if you’re after a very complex or bespoke website solution you’re also best-off working directly with a web designer.
What are the key considerations when deciding how to build a website?
Cost vs performance. It’s as simple as that. Most of the DIY options are quite cheap and whilst they’re perfect for a lot of people or businesses, they’re not going to be the best performing websites. Please don’t confuse performance with aesthetics. Many of the DIY options, such as Squarespace, are known for their amazing designs and great user interface (UI). Don’t judge a book by its cover though… In most cases, they’re not amazing from an SEO perspective. With a little help from an SEO expert though, this might still be the right option if you don’t want to spend a few thousand dollars on a website.
How to build your own website
If budget is a key factor, you’re going to want to build the site yourself. Please note; we have no incentive for any of the below options – we’re simply sharing our experience. Each of the DIY platforms allow you to buy your domain name (i.e. www.example.com) directly through them. Likewise, if you’re after a custom email address (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org) this is again, something that can be set up directly through them. With most of the options below, you can actually build the site for free before paying to connect the domain name and ongoing licensing. They all have a tonne of resources to help you learn how to use their platform and if there’s anything you can’t find in there; you’ll find it in one of their forums as it’s no doubt been faced before.
Here’s a quick rundown of some key platforms:
GoDaddy: Probably the easiest platform to build a website in, so if you’re after something quick and easy, this is for you. We generally don’t love the site designs and you’re quite restricted in how much you can customise them.
Squarespace: Great for artistic professions – i.e. photographers, designers, etc. Consider using Squarespace if you’re after a beautifully designed website but don’t need a great deal of changes to their templated designs.
What Wix lacks in the design aesthetics of Squarespace (marginally), it makes up for in: a. The ease of the site builder b. The ways in which you can chop and change your site to suit your needs
Shopify: If you’re going to be selling online, this is an easy choice. This is the best all-in-one e-commerce platform. Simple.
WordPress: is not as user-intuitive or exactly an ‘out of the box’ solution as the options above. However, if you’re prepared to roll up your sleeves and spend a little longer making your site exactly as you want it, this is the right option. There is an enormous array of free templates and plugins that you can use to customise your site – including some great SEO options (such as Yoast). Just be wary that many of these templated designs tend to be a bit code bloated [read: includes stuff you don’t need] that can slow down your site. We suggest a plugin such as W3 Total Cache if you’re seeing performance issues. WooCommerce is a plugin designed to turn your WordPress site into an online store but we mainly recommend this route when you’re either familiar with and want to stay on WP or if you’re adding an e-commerce option to an existing WP site.
How to brief a custom website build
If you’re not comfortable building a site yourself or if you require some advanced features, you’re best off working with a web designer / web agency to build exactly what you need. For the most part, web designers will still build sites using the above tools – i.e. Shopify or WordPress but they can either use existing templates or build custom solutions to suit your needs. We recommend shopping around as website prices can vary a lot depending on how comfortable developers are building specific solutions. For example, if they’ve built something similar previously, they will be able to repurpose that existing code rather than writing it from scratch. Very few websites are built from scratch these days as there’s really no need unless you’ve got your heart set on something super specific or want the absolute pinnacle of performance.
Regardless of whether you use a developer or you build the site yourself, it is incredibly important that SEO has a seat at the table when it comes to website development projects. It can be extremely costly if major changes need to be made to the website once it has been designed and developed. Ensure that you’re working with an SEO expert to feed these considerations into the site build from the start. Considerations like Information Architecture and keyword research can be the difference between an average and a great website.
Need help building a website? Get in touch.