How Should I Build a New Website?

January 13th, 2009 admin Posted in Business, Website tips | No Comments »

A few years ago, building a website was a straight forward task. You’d get a template, put in your text and upload to a web server.

Today, everyone wants to benefit from new technologies and build dynamic websites which interact with visitors. There’s a good reason too. When visitors can communicate with you, via your website, they become more involved. When visitors are active, there’s a much greater chance that they also become your customers.

Evaluate your needs and capabilities

1) Decide what you want your website to do

This seems trivial, but is often forgotten. Different website building platforms have different capabilities. These often include:

  • Static pages
  • News (a.k.a, a blog)
  • Forums
  • Members only sections
  • A support center
  • Resources for download

2) Evaluate your technical skills and how much you’re willing to spend

Do you know this saying?  – “there’s no such thing as a free meal“. It’s true today just as it was when it was last conceived – a long time ago.

Even if you use free software to build your website, you’re still going to pay for it. It’s going to cost you both time and money. We use the standard LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack to build our sites and still pay substancial sums to keep things up and running.

Evaluate correctly and honestly how much you’re willing to spend, both in terms of your own time and in terms of money before you choose a web development platform. We’ll get to that back in a minute.

3) Decide how long you’re willing to wait

Some platforms have a very active community with excellent folks that you can hire right away and get started. Other platforms are less popular, with a smaller community. You may end up with excellent results but need to wait a bit more until it’s ready.

It’s important that you come prepared with a realistic schedule.

Choose a platform

We’ve been doing extensive work on two great web development platforms:

Of course, there are other excellent alternatives, but I’d like to talk about what we’re intimately familiar with.

WordPress as a great Content Management System (CMS)

WordPress started a few years ago as a blogging platform and has evolved into a full featured CMS.

What makes WordPress a great CMS, and a great tool for building complete websites:

  1. It’s dead easy to install and use.
  2. Got thousands of free and non-free templates (see some ideas for WordPress CMS themes).
  3. Got thousands of excellent plugins (check out this list of plugins that turn WordPress into a CMS).
  4. It’s editor is probably best in kind and keeps getting better.

What’s missing from WordPress when used to build full websites:

  1. No multilingual content support (you can get around this by using ICanLocalize Translation System).
  2. No built in facilities for building usable site-wide navigation (among other solutions, you can use our WordPress CMS plugins).

Bottom line:

WordPress can be a great solution for building complete websites. It’s great for small businesses who want a great looking and highly functional website but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars creating and running it.

A single person can be in change for site maintenance and content management. For a small fee, you’ll find great web designers who will build a WordPress theme for you which will make your business website look professional.

Drupal – a top notch CMS

When people think about CMS, the first thing that comes to mind is Joomla!. Why are we talking about a less known system such as Drupal?

Drupal has been designed for heavy lifting. As such, it places an emphasis on infastructure, sometimes willing to sacrifice ease of use. Here is what makes Drupal great:

  1. It can do anything you’d ever dream from a website.
  2. It never breaks or wrinkles.
  3. Once set up, running a Drupal based site is as smooth as it gets.
  4. There aren’t any shortcuts, meaning, everything is always in place. If you hired a developer to set up your Drupal site and then changed developer, he’ll have no trouble at all picking up where it left off. This isn’t a minor feature for a business website!
  5. It comes built in to handle multilingual contents. If you want to further simplify things and automate the translation process, you can try the ICanLocalize Translator module for Drupal.

The obvious cons for building a site with Drupal come from its nature:

  1. Unless you’re a Drupal professional, there’s no way you can set up a Drupal site.

That’s it really and it’s not a very bad thing. Letting a pro create and administer your site is probably a pretty good decision for any business, regardless of its budget.

Bottom line:

If you can afford it and need the strengh Drupal affords, it’s an excellent choice and any website.