Building a Better Website

The pros and cons of three do-it-yourself solutions

website

Today’s small business owner may be budget-conscious but he or she still wants a site that looks good, and for good reason. As it turns out, 46% of respondents from a study conducted by Stanford University commented on the design and look of the website as being one of the most important factors in determining credibility.

Understanding your website software options can seem like a big undertaking. Using a content management system (CMS) allows you to add content to your website as if you were working in Microsoft Word, eliminating the need to learn any programming code. Content management systems can be made available on the Web in two ways:

Self-hosted, where you install the software and provide the hosting space for the software to run; or
Hosted, where the service provider takes care of everything including hosting space and upgrades.

Here are three of the most popular products and where they stand in terms of ease of use, customization options, and price.

WordPress is quickly becoming one of the most popular website platforms out there, running on an estimated 12% of all websites in the world. It has all the attractive features a business owner would look for. First, it’s free because it’s open source and quick and easy to set up. It is one of the few CMS systems that come in both flavors: Self-hosted at WordPress.org where you must supply the hosting space and hosted at WordPress.com where everything is handled for you. WordPress.org also allows you to install a larger variety of themes and plug-ins. There are more than 1,300 themes to choose from.

WordPress.com has only a couple hundred themes, but it is easier to get hosted sites such as WordPress.com up and running quickly. It also doesn’t require as much maintenance. If it’s self-hosted, WordPress’s price is based on the independent hosting plan you purchase from a company such as GoDaddy.com or Rochen (www.rochenhost.com), which offer monthly hosting starting at $5/month. If hosted on WordPress.com, you get 3 gigabytes of free space or you can upgrade to premium features starting at $19.97 per year for an additional 5 GB, if you want to add video and audio files to your site.

Intuit’s website is a hosted CMS that offers a selection of more than 2,000 templates in its design gallery. After picking a design, add your logo, pages, and content. There is also an image library with more than 250,000 royalty-free images.

While this tool may be simple to use, the risk of not being indexed properly in the search engines is a cause for concern. Some websites built with this tool may not rank well in search engine results due to the lack of H1 tags. H1 tags are used by Google to identify the main topic of each page as it is crawled. Intuit’s software also makes it difficult to import existing website content from somewhere else. If you have generated a lot of pages on an existing site, this solution is probably not for you. The business package starts at $19.99/month and gives customers 5 GB of storage and 100 GB/month of bandwidth.

Squarespace is great if you want to start working on a website on Friday afternoon to launch by Monday. Squarespace will give you the most bang for your buck because the $12/month package will get you 1 terabyte of storage (which is 100GB, larger than most people’s hard drives) and 3TB of bandwidth. The big plus here is that it’s a turnkey website solution that is simple to use with impressive results. Like WordPress, it can support both a main website and a blog within the same location. Squarespace will also import photos and posts from other systems when you transition to it. There is a limit of 10 Web pages but you can get plenty done with three or four.

—Adria Richards

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