This blog post was written by Holly Pryce, a web developer and valued member of The Independent Girls Collective. If you’re a member and would like to contribute a post to the IGC blog, email email@example.com.
So you want to start a website, but you have no idea where to start.
Creating a website for the first time can be overwhelming as there’s so much think about. In this post, I’m going to share 5 things you should consider when choosing a platform to build your website on.
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a website platform is the cost. Most website platforms require a financial investment, but there are options if you’re just starting out and have no budget whatsoever.
Squarespace currently starts at £10 a month if you pay annually and this includes a free custom domain (i.e. the URL of your website) for the first year. After the first year, you must pay for your domain on top of the usual Squarespace fees.
Wix currently starts from £3 per month but unlike Squarespace, this doesn’t include a free domain for the first year. However, they do offer free custom domains for the first year with their more expensive packages that start at £6 per month.
If you opt for a self-hosted WordPress website then you will need to purchase both your domain and hosting. Your domain is paid for annually and hosting can usually be paid for either annually or monthly. Depending on which hosting provider you choose to host your website with WordPress could work out as the cheapest of the paid platforms.
There are free hosting options for WordPress available online, but as someone who once used a free host and then had my entire website deleted for no apparent reason, I’d advise you to steer clear of free hosts!
As I previously mentioned, if you have no budget at all then there are options for creating a website for free, however, you will find that free platforms are more restrictive.
For example, WordPress.com has a free plan which is great if you want to create a very basic website, but if you want more flexibility over the design and functionality, or you plan on monetising your website, then you would need to upgrade to one of their paid plans.
Alternatively, Wix has a free plan, but the downside to this is they add branded advertisements to your website that you can’t remove unless you upgrade.
Everyone has a different level of technical knowledge. Some people feel really confident around computers and pick things up easily, but for others, it’s a lot more challenging.
The beauty of Squarespace and Wix is that they both have drag and drop functionality that allows you to easily create a beautiful website with no coding knowledge required. All you need to do is select one of the pre-made templates and start customising.
WordPress comes with a bit of a learning curve, and while it is possible to build a WordPress website without touching a single line of code, there may come a time when you hire a developer to help you out.
But regardless of which platform you choose, you are going to need to invest some time into learning how that platform works. There are many blog posts and YouTube videos out there with tutorials on using all of the major website platforms, so definitely make sure you check these out when you are just starting out on a platform.
Integrations and functionality
Something else you need to consider is what your website is actually going to be used for.
Is it just going to be a fairly static website with pages about you and your services, or do you also need blog functionality? Are you going to use your website to sell physical or digital products? Do you want to create a members-only area? Do you need a portfolio? Or a booking system? Or a client portal?
Not all website platforms will come with these functions, so it’s important to make sure you choose a platform that will meet your needs. Sometimes you will need to install plugins or extensions to add the functionality you require, some of which you might need to pay extra for or hire a developer to set up for you.
I recommend creating a list of all the components you require for your website and then research the platform you are thinking about using to make sure it will work for you.
Right now, you might just want a basic website with a couple of pages. But when setting up a new website I encourage you to think about the bigger picture and consider what you plan on doing with your website in the future.
Maybe you have plans to start a membership site in the future, or you may dream of opening an online store to sell physical or digital products in the next couple of years.
If you select a platform that can’t accommodate your future requirements then you may need to migrate to a different platform later down the line. Some platforms like Wix are extremely difficult to move away from, and if you aren’t confident with carrying out a website migration yourself, you might need to outsource this, thus costing you more money in the long run.
So try to consider your where you want your website to be in 1 year or even 5 years time when choosing a platform, rather than just thinking about what you need right now.
Security is something you should really care about as a website owner. You’ve worked so hard to create your website and all the content on it, you don’t want to lose it, do you?!
When you choose a website builder like Squarespace or Wix, you don’t have to worry too much about security as this will be handled for you. But it goes without saying you still need to make sure you use a strong password, change your password regularly and don’t give access to anyone you don’t know or trust.
However, if you decided to go down the self-hosted WordPress route, you are going to have to take responsibility for the security of your website. Generally, WordPress is a secure platform to build your website on, and being hacked is a rare occurrence. But most WordPress websites that get hacked are hacked via plugins, and it’s usually because website owners install plugins from an untrustworthy source, or they fail to keep their plugins up to date.
So as long as you keep on top of maintaining your website, you should be fine, but just be aware that keeping your WordPress website secure does require a little more work than websites powered by other platforms.
Holly Pryce is a web developer and co-founder of Snug Designs, which provide bold and unique Wordpress themes for small businesses. She’s been building websites for over a decade and is passionate about the technical side of websites and blogs, specialising in Wordpress. Find more about working with Holly here.
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