| 05 August 2019

Website on a budget

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Written by Laurence Abbott

Support for Businesses - Choosing a website

If you want to grow your brand and your business, then you will need to make sure your business has a website that looks professional and is easy to use for your customers.

 

Building a website these days is a much easier task, due to the number of website builder platforms and supporting communities available for creating and designing websites.

 

Some benefits of having a website:

 

  • It won’t cost you much money to get started
  • Your online presence is not restricted by business hours
  • It’s a means of free advertising
  • It will give potential customers a chance to scope out your business
  • You can add value to customers without actually spending time with them

 

Let’s take a look at the basics and what you need to get started

Domain names

Your domain name is what you will need to get started. This should be related to your business name or trading name and will be what your customers will use to find you online. The purchase of a domain name can vary depending on the name you are looking to purchase, but prices can start from as little as 0.99p. You can usually purchase domain names from website builders as well, so if you are using a product like Go Daddy, Google website builder, Squarespace etc. they will give you the option.

Hosting solutions

Website hosting is simply a computer connected to the internet which stores the files that make up your website. When users visit your website the server delivers the files to the remote computer. Normally, these servers are purchased from third parties (Amazon and Google are major players) and sold on by the hosting providers.

 

There are a wide range of hosting solutions available, ranging significantly in cost. With hosting, you generally 'get what you pay for', basic packages will simply provide a location to store and server you website from. As you increase your budget, additional features are added, such as backup, free SSL certificates, control panels and other tools. One key consideration is the speed of delivery from the hosting providers infrastructure; the premium hosting providers are able to offer faster networks and therefore faster delivery of your website.

 

With the introduction of the GDPR regulations, companies based in the UK must ensure that their data is held within the European Union geographic area; most hosting providers will allow you to select where the servers holding your website is stored.

Websites have developed significantly since the start of the internet. The most popular choices for developing websites are as noted above, website builders or CMS. Depending on a number of things, such as your budget, technical know-how, business ambitions and complexity of website, will depend on which option you use.

 

Website builders are out of the box solutions for developing a website, they provide the tools necessary for building a website, but do have limitations on what can be done. If you are looking for an easy to use, visually pleasing frontend site then this is an ideal solution.

 

CMS can give you a much more powerful website in terms of usability and tools, but you will need more technical know-how, potentially some knowledge of coding. The functions and limitations of CMS such as WordPress are limitless.

You will probably have seen adverts for website builders, but not realised what they are or what they are offering. They offer a cheap and professional alternative to CMS, and make it easy for you to create a website on the builders hosting platform. Website builders have limited functionality and you usually only use tools that are available on the platform. In some cases you can get third-party plugins, that need to be added into the code of the site, but they will still have their limitations.

 

The focus of website builders is the ease of use. They are designed so that anyone can build a website and if you are in any doubts most will have a beginners guide, added to this they usually have a community based forum where people will have experienced issues or need help in solving some functionality which you are currently facing.

 

You can choose from a number of different options with Website builders from a number of different providers. These include, pricing plans, features, hosting, maintenance, analytics, help and support and many more features.

 

The process is designed to be simple yet effective and you can have a site up and running in under an hour, although the content will need to be added.

 

The operation involved to build a website is typically:

  1. Choose a website builder
  2. Create your account
  3. Choose what subscription you need – low/mid/high tier & annual/monthly subscription
  4. Choose a theme – these can be edited
  5. Buy a domain or map/add your domain if you have bought this elsewhere
  6. Complete additional information – analytics setup/SEO/Keywords etc.
  7. Add/edit content

Website builder overview

 

When choosing a website builder, be sure to investigate that the platform will be able to handle all of the functionality that you want in your website, if it doesn’t this could be a costly mistake and mean that you will need to move from one website builder to another.

 

Each platform will have its own unique interface, but they have been designed for ease of use and simplicity. Below are a few examples of the interfaces you will encounter.

 

(Insert some pictures of interfaces)

 

When choosing a theme for your site, you will want to make sure you choose the right one, as switching themes is not always possible or can mess with layout of content already in the site. Themes are customisable in terms of layout and colour, this includes backgrounds, font, font sizes etc. If you have already added content to some of your pages and you are editing the theme, be sure to check that this does not impact on any other content on any other pages. Although you can modify and customise themes to a certain degree, you may notice that your website looks similar to others that have used the same theme in terms of layout, so your website may not stand out from the crowd.

 

In some platforms you will have access to the code functions, which will allow you install code within headers and sometimes the body of the site. These operations may be limited, or you may even receive a warning to inform you that by adding code it may alter the theme. You will want to add extra code for functions such as Google Analytics or third-party plugins.

 

When you have made changes to the site, you’ll be able to see a live preview and changes to the live site can be instantaneous.

 

Ultimately, if your website will not have huge amounts of content and you want an easy and quick to use solution then a Website builder is probably the option for you.

CMS’s such as WordPress or Drupal are ideal if you want complete freedom to create a website the way you want it. They have practically unlimited options of what can be included and functionality is not limited to the built-in interface like a website builder. In addition plugins are widely available and there is a larger community of developers who have made or developed CMS sites, but the drawbacks come if you do not understand coding or need to amend any conflicts with third party plugins.