Are you thinking about starting a blog? Then there are numerous website building options you can use. You have likely run across several online tools like WordPress, Blogger, and Squarespace. With so many options, how do you know where to start?
Below, we take a look at three website building options available to you to help you decide which route to take.
1. Free Online Website Builder
The first option is to choose a free tool like:
If you’re just dipping your toes in the water, a free website builder can be a great choice. You’ll gain access to free prebuilt web themes as well as step-by-step instructions on how to set up your site.
There’s no coding knowledge required and no need to upload any files. Plus, there are no fees associated with launching your site!
If all that sounds too good to be true, it’s not. It’s just that there are drawbacks to using free tools like this. For one, theme and customization options are typically limited, which means your site won’t have a one-of-a-kind professional feel to it.
Plus, unless you pay for a custom domain name (web address), you’ll have a branded term in your site’s URL (such as yoursite.wordpress.com), and your site may show ads that you can’t turn off.
It can also be tough to switch to a better option later for more flexibility, security, and professionalism.
Use free tools when:
- You’re a total noob and need a simple platform that provides a lot of guidance.
- You’re launching a small project or non-professional site (such as a personal blog).
- You have a limited budget.
- You don’t mind a slightly amateurish feel to your site.
2. Self-Hosted Online Website Builder
A self-hosted website builder is a lot like free tools on steroids. You’ll find these programs easy to navigate with the same step-by-step guides available across the Internet, and you typically don’t need a ton of coding knowledge.
The difference is that with a free website builder, your site’s files are hosted on the company’s servers, which means they have more control over your site, like being able to place ads within your content.
When you choose self-hosted, you are renting a space on a third-party server.
One example of this is WordPress.org’s software. We’ve already discussed the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com, so check it out here if you’re unfamiliar with each option.
Essentially, if you go the self-hosted route, you’ll sign up for an account at a host like Host Gator or Bluehost and pay a small monthly fee. Then, you can use the full version of WordPress and enjoy more flexibility that will lend your site a more professional appeal.
Since you’re hosting your files on a third-party server, you have more control over your site and better security. Plus, the tools themselves typically offer more options, allowing you flexibility you simply don’t have access to with free tools.
This can make for professional-looking sites at a low cost without requiring much technical knowledge.
While a self-hosted website builder will do the trick for most personal bloggers and small business owners, you’ll find that there are still some limitations on appearance, customization, and content, and it can be tough to move your website from one host or platform to another.
Plus, you’re also dealing with fees compared to building your site completely free.
Use a self-hosted website builder when:
- You don’t have a lot of technical knowledge but want a lot of flexibility.
- You’re launching a professional site, such as for your business.
- You’re willing to put anywhere from $5 to several hundred dollars into your website each month.
3. Standalone Web Editor
While there is plenty of discussion detailing the difference between the abovementioned online web builders, many new web owners aren’t familiar with a third option, and that is to use a standalone web editor. Essentially, you’ll be able to build your site from scratch.
However, this is an option that requires a lot of knowledge, so it’s not the best path for a complete newbie to brave alone. You can, however, hire a designer to set up your site for you using this method.
You will still have to pay for a web hosting account, but instead of using a step-by-step site building tool, you’ll upload your own site files to your host’s server.
With a standalone web editor, you’ll find that there are numerous benefits. First of all, you’ll have complete control over the visual appeal of the site. You can also control user-friendliness and gain a bit more control in search engine optimization.
If you choose to learn how to build your own site, the good news is that you don’t have to relearn a whole new system each time you switch a web host or choose a new site building tool.
Instead, you’ll have the knowledge to transfer your skills across multiple hosts, even if they don’t offer a site building tool. Because of the transferability, you aren’t locked into a web host or tool, so you can take your site files with you anywhere.
Obviously, building your site from scratch requires coding knowledge. If you choose to hire someone who already has these skills, it’s going to add to your website budget. However, that can pay off if you’re aiming for flexibility and a unique site.
Use a standalone web editor when:
- You’re building a professional site and need it completely customized.
- You have the budget to pay a site designer or the knowledge to build your site yourself.
There isn’t necessarily one “right” way to build your website. The direction you choose to take will all depend on your goals, budget, and knowledge.
However, choosing the right option for yourself from the get-go can make for a better experience in the future. That way, you don’t have to worry about switching companies or starting over.
Which website builder option do you think you’ll start with? Share your ideas with us in the comment section below.
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