Building your own website isn’t as hard as you might think, but it does require some preliminary research if you want to avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes that could derail your project.
Before you get started, it’s important to understand the difference between website builders and content management systems so you can choose the right one for your project. Here’s a quick rundown of the difference between website builders and CMS:
- Don’t require you to have any special knowledge or coding ability
- Allow you to choose from a variety of templates to decide how your website will look and behave
- Often have features that allow for ease of use, like drag and drop photos and page elements
- Usually require a subscription service or one-time payment to access critical features
- Often handle hosting, domain registration, and maintenance for you
- Are less powerful but easier to learn
- Examples of website builders include Squarespace and Weebly
Content management systems:
- Generally require some knowledge of coding or at least a greater familiarity with site building to use
- Sometimes can be used with templates that can then be further customized
- Are often a low-cost (or even free) option compared to website builders
- Require you to handle hosting, domain registration, and maintenance yourself
- Are more powerful but harder to learn
- Examples of content management systems include WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla
Knowing those differences between site builders and CMS, the choice will likely be an obvious one for you. Once you make your final decision, it’s time to get started. Your next steps will look very different depending on whether you’re going with a website builder or a content management system.
If you chose a website builder, you’ll need to:
- Understand exactly what you get. If you’re building an online store, is that functionality present on your website builder? Does it take care of hosting for you? Does it give you custom email addresses?
- Get familiar with the contract and fine print you’ll be signing. Make sure you understand what happens to your website should you decide to move to a different site builder or content management system in the future. Understand what the website builder is responsible for and what guarantees they make.
If you’re going with a content management system, you’ll need to:
- Purchase your own website hosting and domain name. Be sure to set reminders to renew your hosting and domain by the deadlines so you don’t find yourself locked out of your own site.
- Familiarize yourself with the code and processes you’ll need to build on the CMS you chose. Many content management systems have wikis, community-created documentation, and even books filled with this information.
- Decide whether you’ll need to hire a developer. It’s best to sign a contract with your developer up front to lay out the terms of your arrangement. It’s best if you can find a developer who will stick around for future updates and maintenance.
Ultimately, when it comes to deciding how to build a website, the choice is yours. The important thing is to think long term and be honest with yourself about your needs, resources, and abilities so you can build a site that will serve your business’s needs for years to come.