The Flow

Composing and Cogitating

Reflections and tips on tech, websites, the economy, investing, and other insights that come my way

Build Your Own Website In A Day? For Free?

Build Your Own Website In A Day?  For Free?

Sandwiched in with the typical New Year's ads for weight loss, vacations and tax services, I've noticed more advertising from website builders such as Wix, Weebly and Squarespace. These companies offer really easy, non-technical system for website creation and maintenance. But these ads have been promoting "Build Your Website In A Day!", "…For Free!" Is there a catch? Yes and no.

 

Build Your Website In a Day....

Actually, it is possible to build a website in a day with a website builder, provided you've already done your content development. What's content development?
  • Keyword selection (words that will be used to find your website on Google and Bing) Keywords need to be integrated into the text content. 
  • Tag lines (short, intriguing messages about your business)
  • Your logo
  • Brief and detailed business descriptions
  • Brief and detailed service and/or product descriptions
  • Visitor information (About Us, a blog, educational information, etc.)
  • Photos, graphics, and more photos

Writing content is a big project. If your content isn't well written, your website will clearly lack the professional panache it needs to run with the big dogs. If you want your visitors to take your website and, by reflection, your business seriously, you need to take your text content seriously.

Photos are just as important as text and can make or break a professional presentation. How you take your photos is your first concern. Some of the newer phones take great photos but use a critical eye when deciding whether your phone photos are worthy of your business' website. A good mega-pixel camera isn't expensive and it's probably worth the investment. Here are some website photo tips –

  1. Set your stage carefully. Look for extraneous stuff that shouldn't be in the photo. The beautifully orchestrated dinner presentation isn't so beautiful if there's a dirty spoon on the side.
  2. Take multiple shots of the same object(s) from different perspectives. The photo may look great on the display but there could be a blur that isn't perceptible until you view the image on a larger screen. It's so annoying to find that your favorite product image is unusable due to blur. Taking multiple shots of the same image can significantly reduce the possibility that your favorite photo composition is blurred.
  3. Once you have your subject where you want it on the camera display or viewfinder, take a couple shots, step back, take a few more shots, then step back again and take some more shots. You don't need to shoot a close-up to get a great close-up image. With the mega-pixel resolution available on cameras, you can crop to the close-up. So why step back? A photo with a substantial background margin provides more flexibility when you're cropping the image. If you take a close-up shot with a landscape perspective, but later decide you want that image for a portrait shaped space, you're toast! Give your image plenty of background margin so you can crop it for a landscape or portrait orientation.
  4. Watch your lighting. You don't want a bright light or lit window behind your subject. If you're taking photos of people and you have to use the flash, ask them to remove their glasses.
  5. Create a backup of your original photo files. 
  6. When you're editing your photos, don't hesitate to use the brighten or contrast enhancements in your photo editor .

Stock photography is also fine, if you can find what you need. In addition to the popular, well-advertised stock photo websites such as iStockphoto.com and Shutterstock.com, there are some offering free, high quality photos. You may need to provide attribution ("Photo by Joe Schmoe"). The popular commercial stock photo sites are also good resources for graphics.

Even though the resolution on the internet is low compared to print, good photos are critical and you'll need quite a few. Don't skimp on photos, especially for pages with lots of text.

What about video? Great! If you're starting out, give yourself plenty of time to climb the learning curve. Unless you're offering tutorials, keep the length to less than 3 minutes. Don't forget to cross-post your videos on your YouTube.com page.

For Free?

Wix advertises, "It's easy & free." Without qualification, I agree that it's easy. However, "free" comes with qualifications. If "it" means web development, provided YOU are the web developer, then I concur – it's free. Many website builders offer a free version of their system for development. In fact, if you're considering a system that doesn't offer a free version with no time limit, walk away. Having a free space with no time constraints to learn about the features of the system, try out templates and work on layouts is very important.

When you're ready to make your website available to the public, will it be free? Probably not. During development, your website's address will include the name of the hosting company. REAL websites have their own domain names. When you switch to a real domain name, the web builder will charge you a monthly fee. It's only fair – they need to make money or they couldn't stay in business. In addition to hosting your website, providing editing tools and connecting your website to your domain address , there are plenty of other features you'll receive with your monthly fee. There's no free lunch but this is a good deal.

 

Which Website Builder?

I prefer Wix and Weebly because they have great editing features and pricing plans. The systems are very easy to use. I have also considered trying Jimdo and, when I get time, I'll set up a free plan to give it a test drive. Some website builders, such as Webydo and Homestead, offer a singular feature that's necessary for a particular request. For most websites, Wix and Weebly have everything my clients need for a reasonable price.
 

The Bottom Line

If a website is on your New Year's To-Do List, consider it to be a major project that won't get done in a day. Chip away at it over the next couple months. Remember to take photos when you have a new creation. Jot down notes for your content. If you don't like to write, don't hesitate to hire a writer. Invest some of your evenings in web surfing for stock photos, researching the website builders and bookmarking websites that appeal to you. Get a notebook and make a plan. With a solid plan and good content, you'll get a professional looking website while saving time and money.

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Thursday, 21 September 2017