Your Complete Guide to Building A Website or Portfolio

Websites are an excellent way to promote your personal brand or create an online presence for your business that keeps you front of mind or makes it easier for a potential customer to buy your products/services. Quite often though, I find people don’t know where to start or even what all is required to have a functional website. We’re going to break down the necessary components as well as the advantages and disadvantages of different platforms and web site providers.

What’s Necessary for A Website

The first step in building an online presence is to buy a domain name. These typically range from a couple dollars to $40 depending on the extension (i.e. .com) and popularity of the one you choose. Be sure your domain name is either the name you go by or is your business name. Dotcom extensions are preferable as I tend to steer clients clear of using abbreviations that make it more difficult for a potential customer to find you. Be aware of any potential discounts you are getting on your domain as well. Many registrars will provide a discount on the domain name or even offer it for free for the first year; after the first year, the price usually increases. Quite often it can be better in the long term to choose a different registrar that doesn’t offer a discount up front.

Next, you’ll need hosting for your website. This is where the files for your website will be stored until someone types your domain name into a browser and they need to be displayed. It is required for a functional website to work. Many times a hosting company can also serve as a domain registrar, keeping all of your information together in one place. Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly are examples of platforms that offer both.

Web Hosting

Breakdown of Platforms

Wix

Wix is an all-around easy to use website builder. It is often the top choice for beginners due to its ease-of-use and lower pricing tiers. They have premium plans that start as low as $11, all the way up to business & eCommerce plans that cap at $35 a month. They also have a free plan available with limited options. Wix receives high marks for their help and customer support, providing free 24/7 help over the phone and through email. Wix doesn’t offer live chat support.

The platform also has a ton of features, such as Wix Artificial Design Intelligence. According to Wix, by only answering a few questions, the feature learns about your needs, searches through billions of combinations and options, and then matches you with an optimal design with content elements in just a few minutes. Between Wix ADI and their easy-to-use site builder, Wix is clearly one of the best drag-and-drop website builders in the world.

You may also purchase a domain through Wix and all Wix websites receive an SSL certificate. This encrypts data sent through your website and is usually a more comfortable shopping experience for consumers as it is more secure. Google recently started showing warnings to any website that does not have an SSL certificate; therefore it will now affect your search engine rankings as well.

One drawback to Wix though is that they limit video hours that can be uploaded on your website. You can still get around this by first uploading your videos to YouTube and then embedding them on your pages. Embedded videos do not count towards this limit. Wix also does not allow you to export your site’s code. Therefore, choosing to migrate your website in the future could be a huge headache. Your template is locked to your site once it is chosen as well. So choose wisely.

If you are looking for a quick, easy, and affordable way to get a website up and running, Wix is an excellent tool.  If you’re looking for a long-term business solution with more customization options and flexibility, I suggest you keep reading. The low price point makes it an easy barrier to getting started and their 100s of templates mean there is sure to be one that fits you or your business’ image.

Weebly

Weebly is another easy-to-use, drag-and-drop website builder that is great for beginners. The platform has much of the same functionalities as Wix, with a few exceptions. The customization options are a bit more limited. However, you do have the option to export your site code, should you choose. This is important if you choose to move to a more advanced platform in the future. You can also change your theme at any time with Weebly and all websites have SSL security like Wix.

The quality of templates is quite low on the platform and limited styling options without knowledge of code really hinders your ability to make your site your own. Weebly has a free, limited option similar to Wix. The basic package starts at $4 per month with business plans capping at $25 per month. It should be noted that all but the Business Plan charge an additional 3% transaction fee on all sales made through your site. This is in addition to any transaction fees already charged from PayPal, Stripe, etc.

The platform is a great option for beginners due to its friendliness and ease-of-use. It’s a great platform to create an online presence quickly. The ability to export your code makes your site future-proof should you choose a more advanced hosting option in the future. However, the limited styling options mean your website will look similar to many other websites.

Standing out on the platform is a challenge.

Squarespace

What Squarespace lacks in an intuitive interface, it makes up for in elegant designs. The platform is definitely geared towards the more modern user with beautiful themes to choose for your site. With a minimalist interface and a ton of styling options, Squarespace is one of the most customizable platforms, aside from WordPress mentioned below. While customization is definitely possible, you can help but l

The lowest price package for Squarespace starts at $12 per month. There is no free option with Squarespace. The highest e-commerce plan tops $40 and comes with a ton of features including unlimited products, integrated marketing software, customer accounts, and more. All plans come with an SSL certificate.

This platform is probably the best option for individuals or businesses looking to quickly creating a web presence aside from their Facebook page. It is very easy-to-use, affordable, has a ton of personalization options, and provides many additional features for the price.

WordPress

WordPress, in my opinion, is the absolute best platform for building both business and personal websites. And it’s free. It powers 32% of websites on the internet today. The New York Observer, TIME.com, USA Today, New York Post, TED, CNN, Spotify, TechCrunch, CBS Local, NBC, and more all use the WordPress platform.

WordPress works differently than the website builders listed above though. Since WordPress is just a platform, you will need to find a hosting company for your site and buy a domain name. You may be familiar with some hostings companies such as Godaddy, Siteground, or BlueHost. Each host offers different amounts of space for files, additional features, and more. I personally recommend Siteground website hosting. It is fast and reliable and has plans built specifically for WordPress sites. The site you are on now, as well as all of my clients’ sites, are hosted with Siteground. Click here to learn more about Siteground’s hosting and more. Siteground also sells domain names at an affordable price.

Web Hosting

The WordPress platform has thousands upon thousands of free and premium themes to help you get started. Each comes with tons of customization options and styles. There is sure to be a perfect theme for any type of business or person. Sites such as ThemeForest offer even more options for changing the way your site looks and behaves.

WordPress also has a huge repository of plugins (101,000,000+) that can add extra functionality to your website. With a plugin, you can add features such as forms, booking software, social networking features, a forum, e-commerce/shopping cart functionality, website security, and more. These can be used to extend the functionality of your website in ways simply not possible with an all-in-one builder like Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly. The level of customization also allows your site to better stand out from the competition online.

Because WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world, there is no lack of documentation, help videos, and support available on the internet. With so many options and features, it should be noted that there will be a definite learning curve with WordPress. This can also be said of certain themes, as each developer of a theme may have a slightly different way of achieving things. The WordPress dashboard is very intuitive though and with so much documentation available online, you’re almost sure to find the answer to your question!

WordPress is open source software that is constantly being developed and updated with new features and security patches. Because of this, it does require some maintenance on your part to keep WordPress as well as any themes and plugins being used up-to-date. You can best take advantage of the platform if you know at least a little bit of HTML and CSS as well. Tutorials on sites such as W3 Schools or Khan Academy might be a great starting resource for beginners.

WordPress is available for download from WordPress.org or several hosts, including Siteground, offer 1-click installation of the platform on your hosting. And, did we mention WordPress as a platform is free?!

In Conclusion

There are multiple platforms available today for building websites. Each has its unique set of features and capabilities. I’ve chosen to focus on the most popular and practical platforms for the largest possible audience of this post. Squarespace and Weebly are the best options for quickly and affordably getting a website up and running. Most of the templates are suitable for individuals and businesses looking to appear professional and trustworthy on the web. I would tend to stray away from suggesting Wix, mainly due to its inability to change or alter your theme after choosing one and its lack of ability to export the site should you choose to upgrade later.

However, WordPress is the clear winner if you or your business are in it for the long term.

It offers the most versatility and styling options to set your website apart. The multitude of plugins means you are sure to find one that can add the functionality you are looking for with little to no coding knowledge. And, the platform is free. Affordable hosting plans still make this a widely popular and affordable option for businesses and individuals alike.

Designers and developers can provide custom options and features for your WordPress website. Using a professional designer can ensure that your image on the web looks professional, trustworthy, and offers the best possible experience for your customers or viewers. Quite often, a better user experience also means better sales and more money. If you are interested in custom WordPress design & development, please do not hesitate to reach out via phone at (318) 545-2600 or by email at paul@savagecreative.solutions. My full-service agency, Savage Creative Solutions, offers this service and more.

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Please note that there are affiliate links in this article. This means that I may receive a small compensation should you choose to register for the service or buy the product. I never affiliate with products that I don’t use myself and don’t 100% believe in.

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