In this age of cyber presence, either you’re present online, or you do not exist at all. Don’t believe me? Well, when you’re looking for more information about the newly launched smartwatch, or if you’re trying to see if there are any comments or review about that fancy new restaurant that just opened near your office, what’s the first thing that you do?… You search for it with your preferred search engine, of course.
Now put yourself on the other side of the table – If somebody is searching for a product or service that you’re offering, wouldn’t you want information about it to be present in your own website for your potential clients to read about? Or would you rather have third-parties tell your story to the general public? Or worse, no information is available at all about your products at all, or even about you yourself on the World Wide Web?… It’s like you never existed at all…
So the question is, do you force yourself to learn to build a website on your own? Or would you rather hire a professional web developer to do it for you instead?
Hire A Pro?
This choice is pretty obvious if you don’t wanna get your hands dirty with the web development and maintenance, on top of your already very busy schedule with your business activities.
Commercial web developers come in all shapes and sizes, not to mention price range. You can hire newly graduated art college students to do it for you for nothing more than a dance and a song. Or you can hire a professional web developer, who would probably charge you an arm and a leg for their comprehensive services.
“But my friends told me that designing and maintaining a website isn’t really all that difficult at all.”
Do It Yourself?
Well, your friends are not entirely wrong… But then again, they’re not entirely right either. Setting up a simple webpage isn’t all that difficult. But once you put in all the bells and whistles, and start expanding your website with more pages and features, that’s when things get a little messy, unless you’ve already laid an extensive foundation properly before you even started.
Just imagine that building your first webpage is like decorating your own little bedroom. You start with an empty room. You’ll probably begin with deciding what colour you want to paint your walls. Then you decide what kind of door and windows you want to put in your room. After that comes the type of bed you want in it, followed by the wardrobe. Perhaps even a desk and a chair too. Not that difficult, isn’t it?
But having a commercial website is more like having a business premise, not a little bedroom anymore. Wouldn’t you want your shopfront to be aesthetically pleasing? Perhaps have your shopfront to display plenty of decorations and exciting features? And especially for your shopfront to be attractive enough to drive foot traffic into your shop?
Suddenly you feel that you alone cannot cope all the work of setting up your shopfront anymore. You contemplate hiring a professional contractor, complete with interior decorators, wiremen, plumbers, painters, furniture and electrical appliance suppliers, etc. Suddenly your small little room doesn’t seem so small anymore. This is exactly how you’d feel when you finally decide to hire a professional web developer to build your website.
Do you still think that you can handle it?… If you still think that you can handle it, then let’s proceed. First, let’s take a look at some of the overly simplified models of what building your own website is all about. There are generally three broad methods to design and build a website.
(1) Build Locally, Then Upload The Finished Product
This is one of the earliest (if not the earliest) methods of building a website. You design and build the website locally (on your computer) using a web design software. Some examples include Microsoft FrontPage, Adobe Dreamweaver, RapidWeaver, etc.
Once completed, you export the finished product into a local folder on your computer. This is essentially a completed and working website. The only difference is that it resides on your computer. So only you can access it at the moment. What you need to do next is to upload it into your server, so that it can be accessed by anybody who has internet access.
Uploading the finished website is normally tasked to a separate FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software. Examples of FTP softwares include, FileZilla, AceFTP, Cyberduck, etc. FTP softwares are essentially nothing more than a glorified “gateway” that allows the transfer of large files from your computer to a server up there in the World Wide Web. Once it’s fully uploaded, your website is now online, and can be accessed by anybody who has internet access.
Of course there also are some combination web design and FTP softwares out there, like the (now-defunct) Apple iWeb. You build your website, and then upload it to your server all using one single software. Pretty convenient, isn’t it?
(2) Content Management System
Instead of using a whole plethora of independent softwares to design and upload your website, building your website using Content Management System (CMS) requires nothing more than just your regular web browser. What you need is just the access to your hosting server. Simply download the CMS of your choice to your server, and then start building your website right there, directly on your server itself.
The advantage is pretty obvious. Everything you build is already residing on the World Wide Web. There is no intermediary steps, nor the requirement to upload the finished product to your server. Whatever changes you make, is made on the server itself. And you can literary access your CMS anywhere on earth (update – even in earth orbit), using any computer, as long as you have internet access and a web browser.
(3) Website Builders
Similar to CMS, website builders allows you to build and maintain your website directly on the server itself. However, unlike CMS, you do not have your own domain identity, and you cannot park your website under the server of your own choice. Whether you like it or not, your website has to be parked as a sub-domain under the website builder’s own main domain (unless you opt for a paid package under the host’s offerings). Website builders are essentially web hosts which allow you to design and build your own website on top of their existing platform.
The biggest attraction to using a website builder is that it is absolutely free of charge. You have total freedom to design whatever you want, and however you want (within the host’s limits of course), and not have to pay a single cent for it.
But then again, free things usually aren’t really free at all. While you don’t have to pay anything to build and maintain your website, you also don’t have your own unique web identity. And whether you like it or not, you don’t really own whatever it is that you have built on the website builder’s platform. Some of the more popular website builders include Blogger, Wix, Weebly, etc.
Very useful if all you want is to have a simple personal blog, or if you’re newly starting out, and want to get a feel of what’s it like to design and maintain your own website. However, under no circumstances should you develop a commercial website with a website builder (unless you plan to opt for one of its grossly overpriced paid packages).
If there’s one thing you need to remember when signing up for a website builder, it is that whatever you have built on it, it doesn’t belong to you. So no point spending too much time and effort to build something that you can never take away.
So Do You Wanna DIY? Or Would You Hire A Pro?
Before you make your decision on this question, do understand that if you choose to hire a pro, he or she is probably going to use one the platforms mentioned above, the same choice that you might have contemplated using when considering to build the website yourself. Would you hire a pro if he or she is going to use the same tool as you would use, to do the work that you (think) can do on your own?
Do understand that I’ve only merely scratched the surface in this article. There are more in-depth that you can find once you start digging deeper into any of the methods. So once you have made up your mind on your choice, please do more research on your preferred choice.
If you choose to build your own website, be prepared that the rabbit-hole you’re jumping into, it’s a very deep hole!… A deep and exciting hole!…