In the early day of the Internet websites were virtually non-existent. The Internet was a network of FTP and Telnet servers connecting various government and educational facilities. Back in my college years I remember logging into one such facility to retrieve something or other dealing with my internship for NASA. Back in the 90s that was really cool. The Internet was super nerdy, not very secure, but loads of fun. Those days of a super simple, but very difficult to use, Internet are gone.
Twenty years ago a simple website could rank quite high on Google. No marketing was needed if your keywords were right. Those days are gone as well.
Ten years ago Social Media, although important, wasn’t critical to a website’s success. Those days are definitely long since gone.
Like it or not the Internet has grown. It is not only larger but far more complex.
It use to be you could pretty much build your own website. Buy a domain. Use DreamWeaver or FrontPage. Upload a few files and BAM you were on the Internet.
Today websites require quite a bit of artistic as well as technical knowledge. Almost all websites are database driven. It requires a good domain. It requires hosting. It requires some nice page layouts. It requires a knowledge of how design decisions will affect your Search Engine Rankings. It requires knowing your way around various websites and platforms.
Even the way websites are built has changed dramatically. DreamWeaver? FrontPage? What is that, you might say? The answer is: antiquated technologies. Back then most web pages were static files. Today we use CMS, or Content Management Systems. CMSs are far more dynamic (database driven) and powerful. Users post something and the page looks different. That requires storage on the server. That’s what the database does. CMSs are much easier to use. They save you time and therefore money.
Yet one persistent problem still remains. Even when website design pretends to be simple, cheap and easy, it is still an extremely complex technology. The nerd part of my wants to start explaining how complex the Internet really is. But let’s face it, most people don’t care nor want to know.
That’s where website designers, such as myself, come it. We walk you through the process of attaining all of the various components necessary: domain name, hosting, CMS, content, graphics, server certificates, SEO, etc. You might even need a programmer. Website designers put it all together and you have a website.
So is a designer worth hiring? For 90% of websites the answer is yes. The learning curve for most people is still too steep. Yet despite this there are tons of companies advertising how easy it is to build a website. Some are that easy.
WIX is very simple. If you don’t need much power and are on a budget then I would recommend WIX as your best option. If you get stuck call a designer to help you.
WordPress is far more complex to setup, and maintain. It also tends to be more expensive because you will likely need a website developer to help you. Yet I generally recommend this option as the best in the long run. Why? You can do SO MUCH MORE with it. It will grow with you. It makes you look bigger. There are like a million plugins to help you do anything you need.
Also, if you decide to hire a website developer, don’t ask them to “build you a website” but rather to “set you up with a website.” The difference is you should ask them to put everything IN YOUR NAME. The domain and hosting should be entirely controlled and paid for directly by YOU. Why? I cannot tell you how many times a friend of a friend “helped” someone by building their website only to flake out and cause that company to lose their domain and website. It’s sad, but it happens — A LOT.
Also remember that a website can represent a huge investment in a company. So when hiring someone someone make sure that person or company has a reputation to uphold. Give them the passwords when you trust them and changed the passwords when they are done. The keys to that domain and website should be maintained by you, the owner. Period. Any other arrangement might work for a time but eventually ends in disaster.
So how much does a website cost and what is needed?
- You will need a domain name. They are around $15-$35 per year. This is just the name which people type in the browser to get to your hosting server. You buy domains from Registrars such as NameCheap, Register.com, GoDaddy, etc. Some Registrars are terrible and expensive. It pays to talk to a website designer first. Ask what they recommend.
- You will need hosting. This can be $5-$50 per MONTH and even more if you are running an eCommerce website. Hosting providers shell out the web pages people ask for when they click around your website in their browser. Without hosting your website appears to be down. Common hosting companies are HostGator, 1and1.com, and BlueHost. Some hosting providers are way to expensive or tend to upsell you. It pays to talk to a website designer before purchasing a hosting plan from someone.
- You will need some sort of CMS installed, like WordPress. Some hosting providers happily install this service for you BUT you will pay extra for hosting FOREVER. A good website designer can save you these charges.
- You will need someone to design and layout your website. Here you will definitely need a website designer to help.
- You will need your work backed up. Disasters happen. Always backup your website. Preferably, backup to your own computer. Again a professional can help you here as well.
I recommend you, the owner of the website, keep the website domain name and hosting in your own name. Pay for it with a solid company credit card which will not expire. Hire outside help setting it up and making the complicated changes. Be careful who you give access. Make sure they are reputable. Remember, in this age of social media your website is the face of your company or organization. Your website is one of your greatest assets when it comes to advertising your company. It can also represent thousands of dollars of investment, not only in replacement cost but invaluable time and social networking.
Build your market strategy. Design your website around it. Get out there. Be awesome.