Many people are now making their presence known on the internet, but where should you start, and what are the best tools to create an impressive website?
I believe there are two main website building tools that are so versatile that between them they cover the majority of what the average user would require to build a professional looking website. One is focused on information (articles/blogs) and the other on selling goods (e-commerce). They can even be used in combination to achieve both!
The internet has, over the last decade or so, created a whole new multi billion pound industry that is freely available to anyone that is fortunate enough to be able to access it.
One of the main reasons the general populous has managed to successfully take advantage of this relatively new technology, is that there are now a number of freely available tools that remove the requirement for in depth knowledge of either computers or computer coding.
The computer coders and website designers realised that their expertise was valuable, and to offer it to the masses would be very profitable. The result of this is that there are now countless internet sites and companies that will provide simple intuitive interfaces that allow Joe Public to easily create a website (for little or no cost), to either express themselves, or sell their wares.
This all sounds great, but what’s the rub?
As there is such a large market, there really are countless website building tools open to you if you want to set up a website, and it is not always obvious which to go for. As an example here are just a few:
I could go on…but I think you get the picture.
…so how do I narrow the choices down
The first question you should really be asking yourself is: What website do I want to create?
I would say in general you can split websites into three main categories:
- Providing information or opinions (blogging)
- Selling products or services (e-commerce)
- Commercial websites which provide details of individual or business services
There can of course be situations where a mixture of the above may be appropriate, and also very specific bespoke websites.
In the remainder of this article I am going to concentrate on the first two options, as I believe the majority of people looking for a simple but effective website implementation will fit into one of those two categories.
What criteria are you using to decide which is best?
As I have mentioned above, there really are endless options open to you, from drag and drop interfaces, all the way up to complete website coding. I therefore need to set some boundaries and assumptions that I am using to pick out my recommendations:
- The interface must be simple and intuitive
- There must be the facility to expand and improve on the base functionality through either coding or add ons (apps)
- It must be free to use
- It must be scalable (i.e. if your internet traffic and success grows, you should be able to stick with the same platform, and improve it, rather than having to shift to a new product)
From my point of view (and as ever this is just my opinion) there are two choices that stick out to me given the above criteria:
I want to point out at this point that there will be many people that will disagree and have their own favourites, but I will outline below the reasons for my choices.
What are the reasons for your choices?
WordPress.org and Magento have one thing in common: in their respective sector (blogging and e-commerce, respectively) they are the biggest and most widely used
their size and success plays to your advantage
Of course this may seem like a cop out, just pick the popular ones! However, there are genuine reasons why they are so successful, and their size and success plays to your advantage. Some plus points to note for both are:
- They both have a large and thriving addon app community. Apps provide an array of additional functionality depending on what you require (some are free and some are paid apps, but due to the size of the market there are plenty of quality free apps for both)
- The basic software is completely free with no strings attached
- A large number of popular hosting providers are optimised for both platforms, and some provide one click installs from their control panel. This can make your life easier. (I currently use Hostgator for this site, and it offers quick installs for both Magento and WordPress)
- The interfaces are simple and intuitive.
- Both have the ability to grow with you. In particular Magento is available in paid commercial versions should you become a real success (don’t think this means the free version is limited, it really isn’t)
- Due to their size and popularity there are countless freelance web developers that are familiar with both platforms, and therefore should you at some point in the future require professional help, you will be spoilt for choice
…so what about the rest are they not worth considering?
The simple fact is that there is no perfect solution for everyone, and I am sure there are people out there that will swear by a particular platform or configuration. Should you have the spare time I would encourage you to research it yourself to see what fits you best.
However, if you are just starting out, and want to concentrate on the content of your website rather than the technical details, then I believe WordPress.org and Magento are ideal. As you get more into developing your website, and want to expand, neither platform will limit you in customising and adding new functionality, whether you do it yourself or through apps. Plus they are both free, so you can give them a try without limitation!
If you want more specific information on either WordPress or Magento I have articles that discuss them each in more detail here:
Let me know in the comments what your favourite web platform is and why. Do you agree with my choices?