New year, new website? That’s a good idea. And with do-it-yourself website builders, creating a new website doesn’t have cost you a bundle.
The latest online website builders from Squarespace, Wix and the like make it easy to pull together a DIY website that looks like it cost a mint.
The best builders also offer drag & drop design, integrated graphic editing tools, and an array of plug-ins for added functionality.
You’ll also save money on what you don’t need. When you build a site with these DIY tools, you won’t need the help of pro coders, photographers or search-engine optimization (SEO) experts.
But buyer beware. Not all DIY website platforms are safe and reliable. Here’s your guide to getting started.
Squarespace: Flying first class
Squarespace is a premium option with a premium price tag to match — the basic package starts at $12 a month.
Adding more sophisticated features like eCommerce, code injection, and web analytics will push the monthly price up. For instance, the advanced Commerce subscription costs $40 a month.
You do, however, get what you pay for. Squarespace offers great support, beautiful templates, and flawless browser and mobile compatibility.
Squarespace: Slick interface, cool features
There’s a plug-in for that
The best cloud-based website builders extend their functionality with plug-ins and integrations.
These make it simple to add complex features to your site. That could include real-time shipping calculations, customer appointment scheduling, and accounting. Email, SEO, and social media marketing tools are usually on offer, too.
Sure, these features will help push your costs up — and up, and up. But before you pass judgment, be sure to look at the total cost of ownership (TCO). A tightly integrated system with a slick user interface could in the long run save you time and money.
When free really isn’t
How about WordPress? After all, you could argue the company started the whole DIY website revolution in the first place.
But you could also argue that WordPress gave the revolution a bad name.
As you may know, WordPress is an open-source website builder platform, and anyone can install and use it for free. But remember, you get what you pay for.
WordPress plug-ins can extend functionality
Free software might save you money upfront, but it could end up costing more over time. That’s because sites built with WordPress can end up plagued by malware. The open-source nature of the platform means there is no for-profit company looking out for the well-being of its user base.
For example, in November web-hosting company GoDaddy admitted that its managed WordPress hosting environment had been hacked. GoDaddy said the cybercrooks may have gotten their hands on the email addresses and other information of up to 1.2 million customers.
Is WordPress a lost cause? No, not at all. In the right hands, it can be a powerful tool.
In fact, WordPress’ design and functionality can rival those of more-expensive options. The question is, how much will those “right hands” cost you?
It’s much easier to get started with a website builder than it is to change from one platform to another.
Why? Because the convenience of an all-in-one platform like Squarespace often leads to virtual entrenchment that’s hard to reverse.
Before you know it, they’re hosting your domain name, website, accounting system, online payment gateway, mass marketing email lists, customer database, and who knows what else.
So take your time, and review the options. The platform you choose may be yours for a long while.