So you’re in business now. Among the many tasks which await is to get a website up; depending on your business, this can be anything from an online brochure through to a full-blown, e-commerce enabled Internet shop. Let’s assume the former, rather than the latter. For such a site, you can construct everything you need without having to pay much at all. Let’s also assume that your company’s name is “Nile Plumbers”. But a caveat, right at the outset: the Internet is like many other things; you get what you pay for. A professional site with your own domain name, www.nileplumbers.com is going to be a better bet than, for example, www.nileplumbers.yolasite.com.
Get started with a search
But onwards and upwards. As usual, your first port of call should be Google or Bing: search for “free website” and you will discover that there is no shortage of options. Most have odd names, like Weebly, Yola, Wetpaint to add to the MySpace and Yahoo offerings, and many claim to provide simple website creation. Let’s tackle the challenge with Yola, www.yola.com. Signing on gets you started with a step-by-step guide, beginning with a template for your site.Yola impresses by being easy to use and mouseclick-driven. It also provides for a more professional look by offering ‘paid for’ styles and even the option to buy a domain name. Also available (at a cost) is search engine optimisation, useful to get your enterprise noticed. We went with the free option and got www.nilepumbers.yolasite.com.
Websites are all about content which must be relevant to your intended target audience. Once you’ve gone through selecting an address, it’s time to tackle this challenge. That could mean getting creative, or simply stating the obvious. We’re plumbers now, so option B it is. The site is a little on the slow side when handling this task, but provides a range of options and tools to let you create a unique look and feel. Remember this is a drag and drop environment: when you want to place text, drag and drop the “Text” widget from the right side into your page, then start typing. Getting used to this can be frustrating; take some time, however, as all the tools you need are there (you are likely to gain an understanding of why people charge for website design as you do this). We quit after designing just a (terrible) homepage; the tools offered, however, give every indication of being suitable for the design of a decent site. What is apparent is that some expertise is definitely required. Annoyingly, despite hitting what appeared to be the right buttons, Yola did not successfully publish the Nile Plumbers site (or perhaps that should be cause for relief), despite claiming to have done so.
Maintenance and management
Again, the level of maintenance and site management you will perform depends largely on your business type. Unless Nile Plumbers adds a carpentry division and is more on its way to becoming a world-dominant force, chances are changes will be infrequent. On the other hand, if you’re kicking off an online news site, you may have to update it every ten minutes. Maintenance involves the same sort of procedure followed in the original design; refreshing your site regularly with new images, news or diagrams can keep interest from your public high.
Pluses and minuses
Probably the biggest pitfall in an “own-designed” website is that it will look just like that – a home job, and therefore unprofessional. Web design is a recognised professional pursuit; paying an expert will deliver better results unless you are in fact a web designer, or have a latent creative streak a mile wide. Dealing with your own site can also be a source of frustration unless you are a tech buff. If it becomes time consuming, chances are your time could be more productively spent focusing on your operations. But the obvious advantage is that a free site builder can get you online and aware of the benefits of being online, at no charge. It is also likely to convince you that whatever it is that web designers do is in fact a service worthy of the money that they charge for it.
DIY Website Alternatives
No Yola for you? Try these options: