How Do You Build a Website
There are many types of websites, here are some of them:
- An informational website – a website that’s meant to provide information about a topic, organization or a business. For example, a flower shop website that contains pictures of flower bouquets, prices, address and phone number.
- An online store – some stores sell only online and some have physical stores as well (until recently Amazon was an only online retailer but they recently opened physical stores).
- A blog – a way of share information about a certain topic. There are blogs about history, cooking, news etc. Some authors update their blog a few times a week and some update it several times a day.
How do you get yourself a website?
The past few years have seen a huge development of the web design field with the help of user-friendly platforms, therefore it’s now easier than ever to build a website even if you’re not a computer wiz. Building a website is roughly composed of two parts, the first is creating content for the website and designing it in a pleasant and effective manner. The second part is storing the data files – texts, multimedia etc. – in a place that can be accessed thorough the internet.
Creating content is the responsibility of the website owner, whether it is informational, a store or a blog. Sometimes the owner will pay a professional to write the content for him but even then he would still have to decide what should be written. The most beautiful design will not help a website if it doesn’t have real content. Design has been through many changes in two ways – because the internet has become much faster than it used to be websites can be much richer in terms of design elements and multimedia files. On the other hand, it is no longer necessary to be a programmer and/or a graphic designer to achieve sophisticated websites thanks to programs that simplify the design process (details later). The next stage is storing the data on servers that are connected to the internet so that users worldwide can access the content. There are many companies all over the world that operate mega servers for the purpose of web hosting for a fee.
Web design technologies
For those who wish to build their website with the DIY approach there are 2 options. The simplest one is using a platform that takes care of the design and the storage. You provide the data and choose the design and the website is in the air. This way there is no need to deal with the technical details of storage, updates, security etc. because it is included in the deal. The main drawback of this option is that you don’t have full control on the content and the hosting company has the right to use your website for marketing purposes. Also, in most cases, you are not in possession of the content so if you ever decide to move to a different platform you will have to work hard in order to duplicate and copy the data elsewhere otherwise it will be lost.
Another option is separating between the design and the storage. The design is made with the help of a Content Management System (CMS). A domain name is purchased separately and the website is stored using one of the many hosting services on the market. Undoubtedly with this option you have to deal with technical details and it takes more time to learn to use the CMS. But the advantages are obvious – you completely own your website, nobody can (legally) use your data, you don’t have to include ads, design is much more flexible and if you are not happy with the hosting service you can switch out. You can get the CMS for free, including many addons, actually you can build the whole website for free and only pay for the domain name and storage, as little as $3.95 per month (costs go up after the beginning period but are still relatively low).
There are many platforms from the first category and I will mention two of the main ones:
- Wix – offers a very user-friendly interface, an impressive variety of designs and many addons and options. Their websites are responsive and SEO compatible. The web design process is very intuitive and easy and it is not necessary to have any technical knowledge. Those who don’t want anything to do with design can take advantage of ADI, Wix’s artificial design intelligence which, based on the user’s answers to a list of key questions, builds the perfect website for their needs but once you choose a template you can’t change it. There are many types of websites that can be built with Wix, including informational websites, online stores and more. You can get a website entirely for free if it is small enough however, the web address will be an extension of Wix (for example username.wixsite.com/siteaddress) and it will contain ads for Wix. For a small amount ($4.50) it’s possible to forward a domain name to the website. For higher fees you can get rid of the ads, increase the site of the website and more.
- Shopify – Intended specifically for the design of online stores and therefore offers a wide variety of appropriate addons. The services include logo design and branding and the websites are good looking and impressive. The starting price for a website built with Shopify is $29/month. Part of the cost is due to security requirements that online stores have (customer details protection, credit card fraud etc.). Note that the first 14 days are free so you can try it out and decide if you like it with no obligation.
Regarding Content Management Systems, the most popular is WordPress which is offered for download at no cost. This is an open source program, meaning that anyone can see the code which is used and change it according to their needs. WordPress offers a tremendous number of themes and addons, most of them responsive, and many of them for free. This is a significant advantage over the platforms we discussed earlier because for few dollars a month you can get a website that only you control with an address as you wish and without 3rd party ads. Another important advantage –WordPress is very SEO friendly and makes it easy to reach good results (although Wix has improved a lot in this category). The user interface is pretty user friendly and it is possible to change the design on the fly, which isa major advantage over Wix. WordPress is recommended also for online businesses with specialized addons which are available at no cost in their basic format.
Details you don’t want to miss
Let’s go over what we learned until now: there is a topic we wish to promote – it could be a business or a store, a collection of recipes we want to share with the world, a flower arrangement blog or any other thing. We chose the platform that we are going to use, we found a cool name, wrote interesting content, got some really nice pictures. Next we should choose an attractive design put it online and there it is! Our website is on the air! Well… not quite. There are still some details we should pay attention to in order to improve the User Experience – what the end user of the website experiences when he’s using your website. It can be the most interesting and important website, but if it takes a long time to load, the links are not working and there are annoying style elements the user will leave it and look for a different website. Another important step is protecting the website from catastrophes like cybercriminals attacks or failure in the server. Over time I have learned about a number of details that must be considered when designing a website:
- Make sure the links are working – be it internal links or external. Broken links make a very negative and unprofessional impression.
- Aesthetic design – There are some basic rules that must be kept so that users won’t run away. Flashing titles, strong and flashy colors, a hard to read font, these are all examples for elements that make user experience unpleasant and drive users them away.
- Media files optimization – A good example is image size. The pictures we get from cameras are usually much bigger than is necessary for web use, both in physical size and byte size. A large image can significantly slow down the process of loading the page onto the screen because of the time it takes to transfer the data and change the image size so that it fits the screen. The image size also makes a difference.
- SEO compatible texts – many books were written about this subject and I am not going to cover it here. An example of a basic rule is the use of appropriate key words. It pays to do some research on search terms users search for and use these words in the text, site title etc.
- Periodic backup of the website – hosting companies use the appropriate security measures to protect the data on their servers. However, mishaps can always occur whether due to human error or maliciously. This can cause damage to your website. It is highly recommended to create periodically a backup of your website to be stored on your private computer – not on the server. In case of a catastrophe you will be able to rebuild your website.
- Firewall against hacking – the basic requirement is a username and a good password. There are security measures that must be taken to protect your website from hostile parties.
- Using a secure connection (SSL certificate) – communication between your website and users happen for different reasons like signing into a user account, filling out a contact form, credit card transaction etc. Every web address contains the prefix ‘HTTP’ (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). Some of them say HTTPS, where the letter ‘S’ stands for secure, which is what the connection between the user and the website is. The secure connection is achieved through encoding of the information that is being transferred. Some browsers will show a warning when users try to go into unsecure websites. An SSL certificate is available for free or for a fee, depending on the website needs.
If you decided, for any reason, that you want to own a website you must dedicate some time to study what it takes in terms of time and expenses. You might want to try and do it yourself and you might find out that it is not as complicated as you thought it was! Your website is your virtual home and only you are in charge of what it contains, and therefore even if you decide to let someone else build it, you will still have to provide the content.