You have a business and you think you need a website but you’re not sure what to do next and you’re afraid it’s going to cost you.
You don’t have to become a “blogger” if you don’t want to. Instead, you can use the existing and very powerful tools for blogging out there to build your own website for your business. You can add your own pictures and e-commerce buttons and wind up with a fully functional marketing website for your business in a few hours or even minutes.
There are stand-alone blogging solutions and hosted blogging solutions. Stand-alone blogging solutions you have to download and place on your own server and have to maintain, therefore they stand alone on your server. A hosted blog is hosted or kept on a server by “them.”
To start, you want a hosted solution such as Blogger or WordPress.com where you can register, log-in and set up a website in minutes. Then you can add photos, write copy, add pages as necessary, and you have a business website.
If you want to sell products right off your new website, Google Checkout is the simplest solution, allowing you to add Google BuyNow buttons wherever you want on your site (most likely next to your product photos you just added) or Donate buttons if you’re a non-profit. Paypal is also a good solution, but Google Checkout charges you less.
That’s it. Cost to you? $0. You’ll have to contend with the hundreds if not thousands of templates available for these solutions to determine how your new site looks. So, your site will not be unique. But you can edit a fair amount of your site, including the header art that would most likely contain your logo or branding. So, for no cost you will have a branded and fully functional and findable e-commerce website.
There are other hosted blogging solutions that you can pay for, such as Typepad, which may offer you features that are worth the price.
Now if you want or need your website to be unique, you turn to the stand-alone solutions such as WordPress’ downloadable solution that you then upload to your own server, which you can find at WordPress.org. You’ll incur minor costs for your web host or “server” as well as your domain name. But most likely you’ve already paid for a domain name, even if you’re using a hosted solution as described above. However, downloading WordPress from WordPress.org is free.
Specky Boy goes into more detail about other available stand-alone blogging platform solutions. You’ll need to know some XHTML/CSS coding to really be able to roll up your sleeves and get under the hood of your new site. But as I said, your cost will only have been your domain name and your host. Go to Wikipedia.org for an overview on blogging.
Now that your business is up and running and online you can turn to a professional to develop a design for you so that your website will be completely unique and professional. This is not an opportunity to nickel and dime your contractor simply because you’ve “already done all the work.” This is an opportunity to place all of your “design” dollars where they count the most, with a designer thinking only about making you look great, instead of worrying about back-end technologies.
What about Dreamweaver?
If you have Adobe Dreamweaver or have heard of what a great WYSIWYG web authoring tool it is that’s great. The best use of Dreamweaver is for you to learn XHTML/CSS using the great editing features this application has. Then you can apply that knowledge to editing the templates on your blogging platform powered website. Two great online resources for learning XHTML/CSS that you can then couple with Dreamweaver are W3 Schools and Sitepoint and their new CSS reference resource both of which are free!
What about iWeb?
iWeb is great, along with other DIY or WYSIWYG web-authoring tools if you just want to create a static website as opposed to a dynamic website. A static website basically has individual web pages that are pre-existing (after you’ve created them) on your server. A dynamic website doesn’t have any pre-existing web pages since they’re “dynamically generated” when a visitor clicks on a link or arrives at your site.
Blogs are dynamic websites.
With a static website, when you want to change your website you’ll have to edit the HTML code. Your blog-based dynamic website will allow you to use an admin panel or dashboard to access pages, write or delete them, and rearrange as necessary.
This all assumes that you’ve stopped, sat down and asked yourself what you want and need your website to do as well as say about you. But that’s for another time.
Have fun making money!