What kind of a website do you need for your business?

Well, good news is you’ve got choices!

The way I see it there are three types of websites.

1) HTML (hypertext markup language) sites- Old school, hand coded.
2) Template sites- Plug and play. Click, click, click you’re done.
3) CMS (content management system) sites- Run off a database, new school, need a bit of time to get them up and running.

Below are the break down of options with some examples:

HTML Sites

OK, so all websites run on HTML but the old school websites I am referring to here are hand-coded. Sometimes I use Frontpage or Dreamweaver to help generate the code but no matter what you use, each individual page is coded separately. I am hard pressed to think of web companies who still do this but there must be some out there…

Pros:
Relatively cheap option (in the hundreds of dollars versus thousands)
Easy to ‘throw together’ quickly
Good for a ‘brochure’ website (that you aren’t going to change much)
Can add some dynamic elements (slideshows) using Javascript and other ‘languages’ like it

Cons:
Making changes requires you either 1) know code or 2) pay someone who knows code
Can look ‘dated’
Adding some functionality is difficult
Need to change a phone number in your footer? Every change needs to be done on each individual page on the site. Tedious.
Files need to be downloaded and uploaded to make changes. No username-password interface.

Example site: www.thelaclaires.com

The LaClaires maintain their own website using Microsoft Frontpage. Front Page and Dreamweaver are two programs that do some of the coding for you while you use a WYSIWYG editor (What You See Is What You Get). That said, you still have to know some code to do some troubleshooting. You also need to make all your website edits using whatever computer this software is installed on.

By far the most annoying aspect of HTML sites for me as a web developer is how long and tedious it can be to make changes. When we wanted to add Google Analytics to their site, I had to individually add the code to each page on the site (the five page on the menu, plus internal pages). It took me an hour. Doing this in a CMS would have taken me five minutes. But the LaClaires are great people who have maintained their own website for almost ten years so they know what they’re doing… if you build a site like this, you will get to know it well too!

Template Sites

Many companies (Web.com, Intuit, Typepad, Squarespace, Weebly, Godaddy, more than we could ever write here) offer a  ‘build your own site’ tool. Sometimes this is free until a certain point (your site gets to a certain size or there is some trial period) but sometimes they charge you right off some small monthly fee.

Technically some of these are CMS websites (since some of them are database-y), but proprietary ones.

Pros:
Easy to use software- a few clicks and you have a working site
Web-based (username and password mean you can log in anywhere there is the internet and make changes)
Not so ugly templates
Whole shebang is on a database, meaning it’s easy to add things like site search, etc.

Cons:
Hey, I have the same template as 10,000 other people!
Tied into that particular company (ie, you can’t take your ball and go home)
Relatively expensive over time
Limited functionality (ex: Under Agreement A you can only have some set number of pages on your site, etc.)

Example site: www.sethgodin.typepad.com

Seth Godin is a prolific blogger. He uses Typepad as his blogging platform but you’ll notice, for example, if you click on buying one of his books, you’re sent to another website (Amazon and a few other places). If you look at other Typepad sites, you may recognize a few Typepad-y things, like the style of the sidebar (that would be the bar on the side of the screen- I love it when web terms are actually what the thing is!).

To fully be able to customize your design, you pay $30/month. But someone like Seth Godin probably makes at least $30/month from his blog so maybe he’s fine with that. If he wanted to move from Typepad though, he’d have to start from scratch, developmentwise (you can *theoretically* export the writing in your blog posts but importing them into Joomla or WordPress is a big pain in the butt- trust me!).

CMS Sites 

CMS (content management system) websites run off a database. This is awesome in terms of development (Sure, let’s add a site search for you! Want social media icons below all your posts? I can do that!) but it also means it’s easy to update on your end. For example, I can teach most people how to use WordPress in about two hours (at least the stuff they need to know).

Note: If you do get a CMS site developed by a website company, make sure they are using open source software. Joomla, Drupal, WordPress are all good. If they say they have a ‘custom’ CMS they use within their company, it means only they know how to use it and, essentially you’ll be stuck with them. Since thousands of people use Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress, that means you can have many people work on your site. You aren’t stuck with any one web development company, and that’s a win for you!

Pros:
Easy to use software
Web-based (username and password mean you can log in anywhere there is the internet and make changes)
Customizable everything (Make it look exactly how you want)
Add whatever functionality you want (ecommerce, 100 individual pages, whatever!)
Not tied to a company (if you use open source software like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla) You can take your files and move web host, etc.
Whole shebang is on a database, meaning it’s easy to add things like site search, etc.

Cons:
Most expensive option up front ($1000+)
Takes time to develop/customize

Example site: www.breakingeveninc.com

This website (and most every other site in my client list) was developed with an open source CMS (Drupal, Joomla, or WordPress). The cost up front is higher than the other two options but the good news is your site is your site once it’s done. You can make edits to it without knowing code or paying a web developer to code them, you can move your files to whatever web host you want, and you can make whatever customization to the site that you want: ecommerce, booking calendar, real estate database integration, etc.

You can do this functionality on an HTML site but it’s essentially like paying someone to take your CD and convert it to an 8-track tape. If you are going to develop something, you might as well go with what’s new and working well versus something older that people are moving away from.

No doubt this is a simplification (and clearly as a web developer, I have my bias) but there really are a lot of options out there for having a website. No more excuses, go get one!

 

Our first in-person workshop in 2+ years is happening September 24!

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