Stage 2 – Choosing a Website Builder
Stage One of the article here.
So you’ve chosen your host, now you need to know what website builder you need to use. Website builders are useful tools which allow you to, quite obviously, build your website yourself. Website builders come with ready-made tools and easy layouts to help people with even the smallest of understanding of how to build websites. How it works is that when you move something onto the screen such as an image or a textbox most website builders will automatically implement the code needed for whatever you put onto the screen for it to show how you want it to. This saves a lot of time and effort, and the best part is that the majority of website builders allow you to fiddle with the code to get it to exactly the way you want it if the templates are not to your standard.
We suggest you use WordPress as it’s highly easy to use. Even people who don’t have a background in computing can easily configure it and set it up. Their help team are very useful, and you can typically get your website setup within a day. WordPress is also the world’s most popular website building platform with over 34% of websites on the Internet being powered by it! There are two versions of WordPress which can lead to some confusion of what to use and can sometimes cause people to go for the wrong package and not have everything available to them. The two versions are WordPress.org and WordPress.com which is actually owned by a company called Automattic.
WordPress.org is the self-hosted version of WordPress meaning that it is open-source and free for anyone to use. With WordPress.org users have full control of their websites and can customise it to how they want it exactly. On top of this, the user owns the website built on it and all of the data that comes with it. Also, a site cannot be taken down because somebody has striked it as against their terms of services as long as nothing illegal has been or is being done. WordPress.org also supports custom plugins and apps to be added to a users website which also includes free and paid options for them. There are also plenty of themes to choose from that can improve the look and layout of your website and to get it to suit your intended audience. There are themes that you can pay for but for the most part, they are free and readily available. Best of all, users can make their own custom themes and modify anything to suit their needs and if they so wish they can upload their theme for others to use.
WordPress websites can actually make money too, even though the builder itself is free, and this can be done by running ads and keeping the profits. WordPress.org comes with tools like Google Analytics which can be used to track traffic to websites and to see where other sites are doing well and how to replicate it. Self-hosted WordPress is especially good for selling items on as it allows for the selling of digital and physical items and will even accept credit card payments and then ship/deliver to the consumer meaning that no third party has to be involved. It is also good for creating sites that require memberships that you can sell and build a community around.
With all of these great features, you might be wondering why it is free and what the catch is. Well, for one there is still the cost of web hosting which is where all the files for your website will be stored on the Internet. Usually, the cost is around £3.50 – £10.00 depending on who you host with, however, when traffic to your website increases it could slow down the website, and could also affect all the other people being hosted on the same server; so it would be best to invest in a dedicated server later down the road which will mean the cost of hosting will increase.
Also, WordPress doesn’t update the sites for you, you must manually do that by clicking the update button. This isn’t too much of a hassle, but it can be annoying – especially if you don’t see the notification right away and are wondering why some features aren’t working. WordPress doesn’t back up any of your data, you must do that yourself, or you could install one of the WordPress backup plugins that you can set to automatically backup. Overall, WordPress.org is a great tool for anyone building a site to blog, create a portfolio, sell goods online and much more.
WordPress.com is a hosting service that was created by Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress, which is another factor of confusion to users who don’t know the difference between WordPress.com and the WordPress.org software. There are five different plans that the hosting service offers which are as follows:
- Free – this comes with 3GB storage space and access to free themes along with the essential features of WordPress.
- Personal – this costs £4.00 a month and comes with all the features from the free version as well as 6GB of storage, a free domain for a whole year, Email & live chat support, basic access to advanced design customisation and removes WordPress.co ads.
- Premium – This costs £7.00 a month and comes with all the features from the personal plan as well as unlimited access to premium themes and advanced design customisation. It also allows for advanced social media sharing and for your site to accept simple payments and monetisation. VideoPress Support is also available to people who purchase this package.
- Business – This costs £20.00 a month and comes with all the features from the premium plan as well as access to SEO tools, Google Analytics integration, personalised help, installation of plugins, uploading of user themes and even removes the WordPress.com branding.
- eCommerce – This costs £36.00 a month and includes all the features from the business package with extra features including the ability to accept payments from 60+ countries. It also includes integrations with top shipping carriers, unlimited products or services for you to sell, eCommerce marketing tools and premium customisable starter themes.
WordPress.com updates and backs up your website for you so that you don’t have to manually do it. This really is the only advantage to using it as opposed to WordPress.org, however, as the user has much less control over their website as a whole and has access to fewer tools and features on the free version compared to the one provided by WordPress.org.
There are many disadvantages to using WordPress.com as a free hosting site, as they place ads on all websites; and you are not even allowed to sell ads unless you apply for an advertising program called Wordads where they then share the revenue from your ads.
People who have purchased the premium, business or eCommerce plan have instant access to Wordads but this isn’t useful for people just wanting a cheap and easy to make a website. You also can’t upload plugins or upload custom themes on the free version, you must choose from a small selection of free templates meaning your website will look similar to other people who use the same themes. Google Analytics cannot be used as well as other tracking platforms and they can delete your site at any time if they believe it violates their terms of service. WordPress.com will advertise themselves and display a link that can only be removed when upgrading to the business plan.
To conclude, if you are wanting to build your website using a free service then make sure you are using WordPress.org as opposed to WordPress.com as it offers much more for independent business people and others who just want a website created fairly quickly and without hassle.