Building a Website

There are a lot of options available to anyone who wants to build a website. There are advantages and disadvantages of each option. Some are quick to get something published on the Internet and others are easy to maintain well into the future.

When I got started working with web pages and websites, I did everything by hand. I created each and every page of the website in a separate HTML file. By creating each website by hand, I had full control of how the website looked and functioned. I could customize anything I wanted to meet my needs. It let me create some good looking websites, but over time, it proved more of a challenge to update and maintain. Making updates to the website required me to open the source files, edit the content, and upload the new files to the website. If I wanted to add a page or change how things looked, I often had to edit each and every file for the website. As a result, I made fewer and fewer updates to the website over time.

When I built websites for others, I continued to hand code all of the websites. This gave my friends and customers good looking websites, but it also made them rely upon me to maintain and update their website. If they wanted to change out the pictures, add new content, or just make changes, they had to get me to do the work for them.

Several years ago, I installed my first WordPress blog. Since WordPress is a content management system, it was very easy to edit content or even add new stuff. Since it uses a database running on the website, I didn’t have to worry about needing to edit the source HTML files, I could log into the website from any computer and quickly make a change. But, one of the downsides was the fact that WordPress uses templates. I was limited to how much I could customize without learning a lot more about how WordPress works.

I have now created several more websites using WordPress. I still don’t know everything there is to know, but I am confident in my abilities to customize the templates and other files to make websites that meet my needs. For someone just getting started, they would likely run into many of the same issues I had when I first tried to use WordPress. There is a learning curve and it takes time to successfully figure out how to customize a website.

Many people like using WordPress and some of the other content management systems to create websites because they are free and relatively quick to install and configure a basic website. If you don’t have a background in website design, I think a good option is to work with a web designer/developer to setup your website and then learn how to make the updates yourself. For more complex changes, you can go back to the website developer for help. This gives you the best of both worlds, a professional looking website with the cost savings from doing things for yourself.

All of Your Eggs…

OK, I may not be the smartest person when it comes to the Internet and I know that I don’t always follow my own advice, but here is one important piece of advice that everyone should follow: Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

The Internet is a wonderful place and it has lots to offer for both businesses and customers. Some services are free, some cost businesses to use and some cost the customers who want to use those services. For better or worse, I know a lot of entertainers who are “cheap.” They will go anywhere on the Internet that is free, everything from free websites to free advertising. I have nothing against using free services (as long as you know both the advantages and disadvantages). I just want to remind people that once popular websites are quickly forgotten. Not too long ago, MySpace was the hottest social networking website. Thousands of people used to access the Internet using AOL. Yahoo! used to be a more popular search engine than Google.

Let’s say that you decide that you don’t need to have a website and will just have a fan page on Facebook. While that might seem like a fine solution for today, what happens if Facebook decides to start charging people to use it or people decide that another social network website is better. If you put all of your eggs on Facebook, one day, you may miss out. A better approach is to have your business information on several social network websites and have them all link back to your main website. Your goal is to drive people to your website. Too often, people drive customers away to places like YouTube to watch videos or another website to see pictures.

You don’t have to drive customers away. Most of the social networking websites let you embed your content onto your website. People can see your YouTube video on your website without having to visit YouTube. The advantage is that if YouTube goes away, you still have a website. You can find another place to post your videos.