You’ve got a lot of options when it comes to starting a website, and it can be overwhelming to decide where to begin. You have three main options to choose between:
- A website builder such as Wix
- A Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress
- Code from scratch
I have tried all 3 options; in fact, I started creating this website from scratch but decided to switch to WordPress for reasons I will discuss further into the post. I will discuss each option’s pros and cons and for whom each is best and hopefully your choice will be crystal clear by the end of the post!
Examples: SiteBuilder, Wix, Shopify, Weebly, SquareSpace
These website builders create stunning websites in very little time. If you want to create a business page and want to have it up and running in no time, this is a great option for you. They are straightforward and generally have excellent customer service, and you can often purchase a domain name through their website with no hassles. However, you will not be the owner of your code so if you decide to change your platform, you will likely be out of luck.
SiteBuilder is the cheapest, with a free basic plan with ads and starting at $4.99/month with no ads.
Wix will allow you to build your website completely free and you can later connect your domain name, so you can take as long as you like to decide whether you’re happy with it. At the time of this writing they are offering their plans without ads starting at a promotional value of $7/month (with ads, it starts at $5/month). I have personally used this to set up an eCommerce shop and found it incredibly simple; however, it was missing a few features that Shopify had (such as automatic tax calculation)- however, for the price difference, I would go with Wix.
Weebly is the same concept- free to create your website with a Weebly subdomain, and starts at $8/month when you add a personal domain. For stores, Weebly starts at $8.
Shopify offers a 14-day free trial and after that charges $29/month. You won’t be charged automatically; your site will just shut down until you enter payment details after the trial period. I have set up a site with Shopify (see the comment on Wix).
SquareSpace starts at $12/month for the most basic package.
- Easy and quick to set up: if you want to be up and running within the next hour and spend very little time updating your website, this is your choice
- Gorgeous templates, comparable to the paid templates with Content Management Systems
- Customer support is excellent and generally available 24/7
- You generally get a domain name thrown in with the paid options, or at least a good value
- Don’t need to be a computer guru or know much about computers at all to have a beautiful, functional, smooth-running website. If you’re a business, this is the best option.
- Cost: the cost is much more expensive even at its cheapest compared to the next two options
- You don’t own your code, so you are locked into your choice unless you want to start from scratch
- The least room for customization of all the options- if you want to learn to code or show off your skills as a web developer, this is NOT your choice.
Content Management Systems
The most widely known CMS is WordPress- this blog is made from WordPress. It’s free to use and has a variety of templates and plugins you can use. In fact, I find it just about as straightforward as some of the Website Builders!
I started out building this website from scratch partly to practice coding, but after a week of diligently working on my website, I still had not published any content on my website and began to get frustrated. I realized that it was more important to me to share my message with the world than to spend all my energy perfecting my code (and to be honest, my website was still looking pretty terrible). So far I’ve been incredibly impressed with WordPress; there isn’t any customer service, but it’s so user-friendly there doesn’t really need to be. There’s a reason 25% of all websites are built using it! I’ll do a post later on how to get started with a domain name, hosting, and setting up WP.
- Free! You still need to pay for your domain name and hosting, but it’s less costly than the Website Builder options
- Intuitive design
- Templates that help you get started putting your information on the web in no time
- The template you want may be a premium option, and that will cost you money
- You don’t have the customer service of the other options
- Less creative freedom than coding from scratch- this is a middle-of-the-road option
Code from Scratch
This option offers you the most customization and can be a wonderful learning experience. If you’re not entirely sure what the purpose of your website will be then you should definitely choose this option, as it will be incredibly empowering when it looks exactly like you wanted it to (and it will, with patience!). If nothing else, you could start a blog about setting up a website! If you want to become a web developer you should definitely start here.
Don’t know how to code? No problem! It doesn’t take long to learn the basics that will allow you to build a website and it can all be done for free (or under $20 if you’re fancy)! I will be writing a post soon on my favorite resources to learn all about coding.
If you want to build from scratch with just a bit of help, go to http://getbootstrap.com and you can use the free themes to give you some foundation on which to build your website, but you will still have all the freedom in what the end website looks like. Google (or Bing) “html website themes” and you can find a ton of other options as well and modify them to your heart’s delight. In fact, you can search online for just about anything you’d like to add, from shopping carts to banners, and you will find plenty of people who’ve already found the solution.
- Absolute freedom in your website’s look and function
- Great learning experience that can later be turned into a lucrative skill
- Many hosting companies offer live chat, so if you need help making something work, you’re not on your own
- By far the most time-consuming option; if your main priority is getting your shop or message into the world, the first two options would be better
- Has a learning curve if you’ve never done it (but you can always switch to the other options if you change your mind!
- May not look as beautiful in the beginning as the other options
In summary, here is who I would recommend uses each type:
Website Builder: Small businesses who want to get their shop online ASAP
Content Management Systems: People who are fairly computer savvy and want to get their message out quickly and spend less
Code from Scratch: Anyone who wants complete creative freedom and the chance to develop their skills but is less concerned about getting content online quickly
Good luck and stay ambitious!