Getting Started with your online presence
1. To help you determine what type of website you are and what you need out of the platform you will use
Here's the consideration with your online presence: how will you be communicating to the world? First and foremost is your website, or your own little piece of the Internet. Here you will be selling you, or your business, or your product (depending on what you do). How will you be marketing yourself? What is going to be attracting new customers to buy your product or invest in your services? What will entice people to keep coming back to your blog? These are critical questions and we hope to help guide you in finding the answers.
Choosing a Platform
There are many platforms that can help you kick off your online website. You may have heard of Blogger and WordPress as for a long time those were (and still often are) the main two juggernauts in the battle of DIY website building. However, in the past few years, there have been a lot of runner ups worth considering depending on what you need and what you hope to grow into. Let us help you decide…
For the very brand new beginner who is legitimately starting from the beginning without previous blogging or website experience:
Both are incredibly easy-to-use with an enormous about of customization options regardless of what your needs are for your website, online shop, or blog.
- Limited plans are free. For the more popular plans that would suit small businesses and blogs not needing a commerce (shop) component, Weebly is $12 per month and Wix is $12.95 per month if billed annually.
- Very intuitive and incredibly easy-to-use.
- Wix has drag-and-drop content editor.
- Both have templates to choose from to create your website.
- Both have an app market and image galleries to choose from to enhance your website (paid and free options).
- Weebly has a smartphone app for managing your website.
- Weebly has the option to work in mobile view.
- Both have a minimal time commitment.
- We personally couldn’t find any cons to Weebly.
- Wix has an overwhelming number of options in which many people say it’s unnecessary. To the contrary, where we like that Weebly is a little more simpler, some consider that a con. It just is an individual preference.
(The reason we don't recommend Blogger is because if you JUST want to blog, that is one thing. If you want to make it like a side-business or even eventually make it a full-time business with a blog, we 100% recommend Squarespace or Wordpress. There are some successful bloggers on Blogger, but the large majority migrated off Blogger. )
for those who have some blogging or online business experience who want an easy-to-manage all-in-one experience:
We recommend Squarespace.
Squarespace is an all-in-one website builder with a little bit of a learning curve. It is a closed-source platform which means that the in-house Squarespace design team is always working on new designs, fixing bugs behind the scenes, and there is a 24/7 support service for it’s customer.
- A lot of business features are already integrated within the Squarespace platform: like analytics and managing a storefront.
- Extremely customizable templates and pages that you can mix-and-match to create your website.
- An image gallery to choose from with free and paid options.
- Drag-and-drop content builder.
- Smartphone apps for managing your Squarespace blog, managing your portfolio, accessing your statistics, and taking care of your orders and inventory.
- Automatically creates a responsive mobile view.
- Small learning curve and some time commitment.
- No access to coding.
- No way to manually manipulate SEO optimization (Squarespace does it for you).
Skill Space actually uses Squarespace. We wanted something that we could do ourselves as we prepared to have many growing phases and knew ahead of time we wanted to offer a multitude of options for those visiting our website (service listings, blog, shop, forum, library, etc). Squarespace makes this all super easy for you.
for those who have an unlimited budget, are professional designers, or have a large amount of time and really want to delve into the details of running a website behind the scenes:
We recommend WordPress.
WordPress is a heavy hitter in the blogging world and it’s easy to see why, but it has a very steep learning curve. We have actually used WordPress in the past and recognize the many advantages of WordPress, but truly believe it’s not for everyone. WordPress is for people with time, at least some design knowledge, and access to design software.
- Endless amount of options.
- Offers templates.
- Open-source platform which allows for anyone to come in and add options to your website — one of the reasons there is an abundance of plugins.
- Large community and user-to-user support system.
- Smartphone app for managing your website.
- Most third-parties create apps and programs exclusively for WordPress support.
- Must go through a domain provider to get access to WordPress.org (eg, GoDaddy).
- Potentially a large learning curve.
- Requires base knowledge for DIY set up.
- If you outsource the design, could be $$$.
- Open-source platform makes you and you alone accountable for having up-to-date plugins and design coding to ensure website flow and no bugs.
The unlimited budget aspect: many people result to paying designers (if they aren’t a coding expert themselves) for an attractive, user-friendly website. Even if you don’t pay for designers or a professional pre-made template, a lot of the great features (like analytics, SEO, having a storefront) that come standard with Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace are additional fees using third-party plugins for WordPress. All of that can add up, and we have watched it do so ourselves. WordPress does have free templates, but there is still a good amount of time commitment.
The large amount of time aspect: like we said, even using free templates requires a lot of time playing around and setting things up. But also, trying to figure out the WordPress platform can be overwhelming for anyone who is fresh to the online presence game. It’s really not ideal for beginners.
When we switched to WordPress from Blogger it took a good long weekend of diving in and spending many hours getting things set up… and we were one of the lucky ones that didn’t have issues with transitioning from Blogger. It still took a good bit of time after that to really get a good handle on WordPress and it’s endless amount of options, much less honing in on what we wanted and needed for our website, which was run as a collaborative lifestyle blog called The Charming.
The hidden fourth door: Virb
Virb is a great option for two types of people:
Those who want a super simple website or even a landing page
- Those who have shops set up on Etsy or Big Cartel and would like to have an “official” website location
Most people reading this might not fit those categories, but in case you do here is why we recommend Virb: it has a flat rate of $10 per month (plus one whole year free if you have a student email address) and — though it has more limited options than it’s competitors — it has enough options to create a simpler, no-maintenance website. For shops on Etsy and Big Cartel, Virb will automatically sync with your listings.
If you are interested in learning more extensively how we came to recommend these five platforms you can read more from this blog post here.
If you need a little extra guidance, feel free to shoot us an email and I would love to help you walk-through it with you!