What Platform Should You Choose?

Shownotes:

When starting a business, getting a website is often one of the first tasks to take care of but where do you start? In this episode I talk through the 3 main options available and also I offer my advice on how to choose the right one to suit you and your business. I take a look at the following:

  1. Drag and drop websites
  2. Content Management Systems
  3. Custom coded

Deciding what platform you should choose for your business website is not a big decision; think of it as the next positive step in meeting your business goals.

Transcript:

INTRO: Hello there! You are listening to the second episode of Help! My Website Sucks.  I’m Amy Gumbrell your host and a freelance web designer at Two Cows Web. I’m here to help you sift through anything and everything to do with websites and I’m so grateful you could join me. If you would like to listen to future episodes and I really hope you do, make sure you hit follow and do pop over to social media and say hi. Just search for @twocowsweb and you’ll be sure to find me. You can even leave me a review and share the podcast too if you like.  I would very much appreciate it!
In episode 1 I shared my top 3 reasons why you need a website so now I’d like to have a chat about how you get started.  In this jam-packed episode I’m going to talk about the different platforms you can build your website on AND I’ll even talk about how to decide which is the best one to choose for you and your business. So let’s get to it.

MUSIC FADES

So you’ve decided to get yourself a business website. Congratulations! Great move. However, your thoughts have probably now turned to ‘Oh my goodness how am I actually going to build my new website?’ You’ll probably ask other business owners, your friends, your family or simply crack on with a Google search of ‘how to build a website? which is absolutely fine as a starting point. But  wouldn’t it be more helpful if someone could just walk you through your options? That’s where I’m going to jump in and break it down into 3 ways of building a website so you can be a little clearer on what’s best for you and your business. For full transparency I build most of my clients websites using WordPress but I do work with websites on the other types of platforms. I’ll tell you more about why this is the case another time – I’ve got a whole episode planned about it so don’t want to ruin the surprise too much! Ha ha

Number 1: Drag and drop websites

The name is a bit of a giveaway but if you’re still not sure what I mean by a drag and drop website platform, let me explain. To build a page on a website, you simply select key elements such as an image or a text box and then you ‘drag and drop’ it to wherever you want to on the blank page. They are set up for making life easier and even offer full page templates with fully customisable designs. You save time, energy and for some of you even money too.  You don’t need to worry about how it ‘gets’ to the internet or worry about if it’s secure or updated. It just happens as part of your set up with whichever drag and drop website provider you’ve chosen.
Talking about providers, perhaps you’ve already heard of some of them before. We’ve got Squarespace, Wix and GoDaddy but have you heard of web.com, Gator by Hostgator and Weebly? In fact wordpress.com works a bit like a drag and drop website and could be considered as a cross over platform although the name is very misleading.  This is not the wordpress I was talking about earlier – I build with wordpress.org! I’ll talk about this more in the second type of website platform. Ah yes web design full of delightful confusion. So before you go rushing over to one of those drag and drop platforms, I should probably tell you that there are a few limitations that may make you stop dead in your tracks. Although you can create a basic website for free, your choice of design and functionality is going to be limited. To get more features, they offer payment packages usually on a monthly subscription basis and of course if you pay more, you get more.  Ultimately a drag and drop website is a turnkey solution. For example let’s talk about Wix. They offer a completely free package but will display their name within the website address and they will show ads within your website. Their basic paid for package starts at £3.50 per month if you’d like your own website address but will still display Wix ads and then it will jump up £6.50 per month if you want to get rid of the ads and have your own website address. Those prices were correct as of November 2021 – please do double check Wix’s website for the most up to date pricing.  If you do decide that a drag and drop website is for you, make sure you have a good look at all the things they include and more importantly any they don’t!

Number 2: Content Management System or CMS

A CMS allows you to build and manage a website without having to use code at all. Very much like a drag and drop website but with an added bonus of being able to  ‘manage’ your website – you are much more in control.The most popular CMS platform is WordPress and as I’ve stated earlier, it is my specialism but you may have also heard of others such as Joomla, Drupal and Webflow. If you haven’t heard of WordPress let me hit you with a fact:  (According to https://techjury.net/blog/percentage-of-wordpress-websites/#gref) In 2021 there are 455 million websites on the internet that have been built using WordPress. And by WordPress, I refer to both WordPress.org and WordPress.com. They both use the same software created by a company called Automattic but there was a fork in the road in around 2005, when wordpress.com was created as a standalone service to help build a website using the WordPress software much like the drag and drop website providers  and then wordpress.org became the software itself and became a way to build and maintain a website on your own i.e. as a CMS.Building the website with wordpress.org  becomes a much more flexible process allowing you to choose exactly how to design your pages- the world of web design is truly your oyster. Starting from scratch for some people can be a tad overwhelming. For those people there are plenty of options out there to help including templates and software to allow you to drag and drop texts and images. With wordpress.org, you manage all aspects of getting your website onto the internet as well as the security of the website. This means you have more choice over hosting packages, domains and security features.
However that could be seen as one of the key drawbacks of CMS websites. If you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to updates and backups, often the maintenance side of a CMS website is neglected. This poses a major security risk unless websites are regularly updated. This can also lead to websites that suddenly stop working or pages that load at a snails pace. Another drawback is that the learning curve can be steep. You need a lot of patience and skills and feedback I’ve had over the years about WordPress in particular is that it isn’t very intuitive. Finally a CMS uses plugins and themes to add design features and functionality. Sometimes these can cost a lot more than expected and can quickly add up. I will add a little caveat here that you can build a perfectly functional and beautiful looking website without putting your hand in your pocket and spending a single penny. This being said though for many, the freedom and flexibility of the CMS website far outweighs any of the negatives which is why so many love to use this platform. Myself included!

Number 3: Custom coding

When I think of a custom coded website, I think of the phrase ‘the skies the limit.’ the design can be completely unique and tailored to your business. You write the code so if you ever need to update it, you know exactly what you need to change. There are no plugins, themes or drag and drop functionality with a custom coded website. It is pure code – the starting point is html or if you love a good acronym we are actually talking about Hyper Text Markup Language. You may have also heard of something called CSS – this controls the way html looks and maybe some of you have heard about Javascript (this one is for making web pages interactive)  but for many I am now officially speaking gibberish and will stop with the tech talk. I don’t wish to overwhelm you nor scare you off custom coded websites.  If you don’t have the skills, it is not something you would even consider. However there are many businesses out there that want a fully bespoke website and that can often mean that a custom coded website is for them. They can decide every aspect of their website and it can fit their exact requirements. Custom coded websites are considered more stable and often perform better than other platforms. This is because as you have built your website with only the features and design that you need, it will not be weighed down by unnecessary code. This is something that can affect websites built using a CMS or drag and drop. The only real downside of a custom coded website is the cost and the time. However when you have had a website built to your exact requirements, 100% fully bespoke – you kinda expect to be paying for it right? You also expect it to take longer as you are coding from the ground up – starting with a completely blank page rather than a template.

So those are the 3 key platforms  and now all that is left to do is talk about how you actually decide between them. I’ve given a few pros and cons but it can easily be broken down into 3 key areas – skill level, budget and time. Few to zero skills, low to no budget and time poor – drag and dropDecent budget, decent coding skills and time to spare – codingSomewhere in between you’ll find CMS websites.Let me let you into a little secret…if you start out on one of the platforms, you can move your content (with differing levels of difficulty and cost) to another platform if circumstances change! Never think you have to just choose one and that’s it game over. This is simply not true. With web design there is always a solution!


OUTRO : So that was my guide to choosing a platform for your website. It is a bit of a conundrum but ultimately it comes down to you being honest about your priorities and future goals as a business. I would love to hear what you think so pop over to social media and give me a follow I’m @twocowsweb. Thank you so much for listening and to make sure you don’t miss the next episode, hit follow on your podcast app. Bye bye!

For more information visit twocowsweb.co.uk/podcast. Help! My Website Sucks is a Vibrant Sound Media production.

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