To pay or not to pay that is the question
The first thing a person usually does when they get a business idea is go online to get a website. You Google your idea, you even search for domain names to see if anyone else has it on a website. Now you are really excited about your idea, you search for domain names and even decide to purchase one. But you also need the actual website so you search for free websites to arrive with a list of interestingly named sites such as Wix, Weebly Yola, Doodlekit, etc. all offering free website builders. You figure, hey let’s try one of these free website builders and once it takes off then I’ll get something else. But you see there is nothing completely free, at some point you will have to pay. Then the dilemma begins, to pay or not to pay? and what to pay for? While website hosting is free (to a certain extent) with free website builders, and sometimes you get a one page site when you get a domain name, depending on the goals for your business it may be too limiting.
If you are a an artist and you want to display your beautiful portfolio you look for professional photographer websites for ideas. You find a beautiful laid out website with large photos that load quickly. Now you try to do it yourself. You upload photos to your new free website site and things are not aligning, your pages are not loading fast enough. You noticed you are limited in the size or number of photos you can add. Now you have to start doing research and asking questions. But you are not getting answers and you realize that with most free services you can’t call customer service. You look through their forums and submit questions in hope someone answers you at some point. Now a venture that was exciting and fun, begins to be frustrating and you start getting discouraged.
Maybe you can’t relate to that example, maybe you’re not an artist. Instead you want to sell a product or service online. For this you will need secure e-commerce service, or a way to integrate some of the already existing services like Zazzle, eBay, Etsy, etc. Maybe you want to just write about your area of expertise or interest and want to get advertisers or affiliate links. For these things that I mentioned you will need to do a lot of research to learn how to do it right. Even if you start with a free website you need to learn about the limitations and conditions of a free website. Some of those conditions can include limited pages, file sizes, load speed, ability to advertise, looks of your website site and even the ability to take your content elsewhere should you want to. Whether you’re just having a little entrepreneurial fun or are hoping your side hobby takes off, this decision will have an impact. So what do you do instead? Here are my suggestions:
Make sure you own your content. That means that you can easily take it out of whatever free service you chose and take it with you. Some free services charge you to do this export and that’s how they lock you in. They make the move so complicated that you either pay them to do it, or hire a professional to do it.
Choose a service that gives you ability to fully customize. You want to be able to make your website look how you want and change it as your idea changes or your business takes off.
Look for customer support. Many free services do not offer telephone support or immediate customer support. Instead they have extensive forums, Q&A sections, explainer videos and limited email support. Look into the response time for inquiries and support, anything within 24 to 48 hours is ideal for a free service.
Make sure any service you use online is current and updated periodically. Technology is constantly evolving and the online world is more of a universe than a world. That means you need to make sure your website is up to date because in order to ensure is secure. Nothing is hacker proof, but using outdated website services makes you a target. Think of it like securing your car, you lock the doors, have an alarm and put in a club on the steering wheel. This doesn’t mean your car can’t be stolen, it just means, it will likely be by passed for a less troublesome car.
With all this said, if you are looking to start up a business idea or just want to get your own website to see where it can lead you, do some research. My first step to almost everything is to Google it! YouTube offers a wealth of information as well, I’m not big on watching long videos but when the need arises, I take the time. I like WordPress because of the flexibility it offers, and the forums are full of answers. For price ideas some web designers offer free consultations or have price ranges on their websites. With WordPress you have the flexibility of using themes, you can get free themes or purchase a theme that may come with more functionalities to fit your needs. Also, free is never entirely free, find out when it will begin to cost you and for what.
Ultimately be realistic with your expectations. When you see an awesome looking site and you try to do it yourself, keep in mind, it will not look the same way particularly if you have no content to put on the website (pictures, articles/posts, products, etc). Just like an amazing wall unit you get from a catalog that arrives in an oddly shaped box with what seems like a million pieces to assemble, a website will have to be assembled as well. If you do it yourself (DIY) give yourself time and be patient. If you hire a website designer to create or set up your site, make sure you know exactly what you want and provide all that the website designer needs to make your website.
I started with yahoo geocites back in 1999 where I entered basic html code onto a one page website, years later I used different free blog platforms until I landed on wordpress.com (free up to 3GB) and played around with several free themes. When I decided I wanted my own domain name and hosting in order to have full control of my site I turned to GoDaddy. Since my husband entered the field of Web Design and Development I don’t do my own site maintenance anymore (which honestly I often slacked on so I had set it up for automatic updates) and I purchased domain and hosting from him (because I might as well pay into my own household). I currently use the Genesis Framework on one site, and EvoPro on another which was developed by my hubby. By the way my use of his theme drives him nuts, because I am not using “right” in order to employ its “full capacity” but it’s my site and I do what I want to.
I hope this is helpful if you are considering a Do It Yourself (DIY) website. Good luck and have fun with it!!