3-platforms-1-website

Part 1: The Overview

This three part series originally started out as 1 all inclusive post. However, as I began to investigate more & write more, I soon realized there is simply TOO much information to put all in one post.  To begin with this post will cover why I cam to research this question and a quick overview of the different platforms

This all began with an interesting conversation I had last week with one of my oldest friends, Arlana who was looking at developing a new website for her artwork. (by the way, she is the boss, You can check out some of her paintings here).

We reviewed her particular situation which includes

  • She will be building the site herself.
  • The purpose of this site is to showcase her artwork so there needs to be a good portfolio component to the framework.
  • Other pages she will include will be an about and how to contact her. Lastly, there needs to be good social media integration.

Seems pretty straight forward right? It is for me but she didn’t know where to start.

She has an artistic background, not a technical one. So one big consideration for her in building her site is that it needs to be easy. Not straight forward, but easy.

I could relate.  More often then not for a lot of us, we attempt these projects with high expectations but get caught up in technical obstacles that de rail our goals. What starts off as an issue can quickly turn into a full blown show stopper and the project gets shelved only to be picked up again a few months later and we start all over again.

So she was left trying to decide between building her site in either weebly, squarespace or wordpress.   Her boyfriend built his site in weebly so she decided that she would start there.

I was baffled.

To me, it is a no brainer, I choose wordpress every time to create a website & honestly don’t think that there are other valid options but then again, I am a trained Graphic Designer and what may be easy to me, could prove frustrating to others.

At the same time, I went into to Design so I could work in a creative field (orignally wanted to be in advertising even) not so I could flex my technical skills.  There are times (many times) I do feel overwhelmed by site issues & IT questions. However, I take these challenges as par for the course, and use it as a learning moment to better my skill set.  Not only have I worked in wordpress, I have also built sites with Shopify, Joomla, Drupal, Modex and several custom designed back ends for larger corporations (Future Shop, and RBC are 2 examples of those that have custom back ends).

However, my experience has gained the most ground in WordPress so it is my platform of choice.  There is tons of open source software  that supports it so I continue to develop with it.  There are merits to the other platforms I mentioned but for the sake of our argument, I’m focusing on people who are building sites/blogs for the first time.  Something like Drupal is not for the beginner.  Shopify is but that is an ecommerce platform and again, adds a level of difficulty outside the scope of this discussion.

She said that she had tried wordpress in the past but didn’t like it. This got me thinking, which platform really is best? What do I recommend to those wanting to build it themselves.  What I want to achieve in the next few posts is to compare and contrast opposing platforms to my preference of WordPress.

To answer which platform is best really will depend on the end user, their skill set and what they are trying to achieve.

WordPress is the go to for many designers but Squarespace is quietly becoming a desirable alternative.  Weebly may be the best for a very beginner but ultimately, designs depend on the interface and while WordPress is essentially unlimited in the scope (with associated plugins), weebly structures itself so that more features are available to you with higher pricing tiers.

My ultimate goal with this site is to empower the reader to feel comfortable in creating their vision.  Feeling confined by either what is available or your technical know how can be stifling.  What usually happens is that you have a site that is not as professional as you hoped and it isn’t a source of pride.  Once i had a client who built their site with the web builder in go daddy and she was never happy with it. As a result, she didn’t promote the site, didn’t use social media & felt her business kind of fall into a rut.  Your website acts as your calling card, so it is worth investing into something you are proud to showcase.

So what are we talking about.. We are talking about 3 platforms.  Three of which are relative in what they offer but also differ drastically in how you use it.

WordPress

An open source platform that was originally designed for the Blogger.  It is a software that due to popularity, gone from being strictly blogging to full blown website designs.  Although a handful of standard themes are included when you install wordpress to your host, there are thousands of premium themes available at a small cost (small cost being anywhere from 45-69 one time fee). These  themes have grown in sophistication & can provide a huge range of solutions. Many themes come with portfolio, faq, maps, forms, and multiple menu features.  There are also hundreds of plugins available for free to add to your site to help with upgrading desired needs. Ie: Event listings, Form integration and social media sharing.  Drawbacks to this platform include having to find your domain & host prior to installing wordpress.  As well, these premium themes + plugins sometimes require some coding knowledge to really maximize their impact.  However, there are tons of guides out there (and hopefully on here soon) to help guide you through these challenges so it does not seem as daunting.

 

Weebly

Honestly, i thought this was an app for Facebook.  I actually had never realized this was a place to build your website.  So I did a little digging.  While you buy your domain & host elsewhere with WordPress, this is all included with your setup.  They offer similar features to wordpress such as theme design, mobile responsiveness and ecommerce solutions. However, many of these features are available for a nominal monthly charge. The most expensive being 25/month  (where as the wordpress may require more set up does not need monthly tabs outside of your payment fees).  One benefit to them is their ability to upload videos and the apps they provide to you so you may access, manage and build your site from your mobile phone.  I like the idea of managing from the phone but if i had to build a site from there, I would punch myself in the face.

 

Squarespace

I think this may be the best wordpress alternative. While I have no idea what it is like to build a site in squarespace, upon reading the features they offer, they are most aligned with what is included with wordpress.  Like weebly, they offer a pricing system that includes more features with higher monthly fees.  However, the fact that waht you need is always one click away provides a lot of convenience for the inexperienced.  Add to that, they boast several high profile companies building with their platform and being completely satisfied with it.  They provide the hosting for you and one feature they stay above weebly on is the ability to have several domains with the one host.  In my rough estimation of ease of use is that my friend started with square space but soon gave up because she felt overwhelmed so not sure on the scale of easiness it provides. WordPress & Squarespace may be equal on that level

 

What I will be more closely examining next week is the compare and contrast between weebly & wordpress. I will run down the list of features of weebly and compare them to wordpress & ultimately judging which one wins on that feature.  I will will the week after compare squarespace to wordpress and doing the same.  Lastly I will run through why I think a wordpress site is a great option for creating a website.  I won’t ever say for certain which is best as I believe it comes down to preference but I want to give you the in depth look into these that you may not get elsewhere…

til next time…

 


 

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