Web design has always been looked upon as a complicated, technical task that could only be done by well trained and experienced developers. This is still the case for complex websites requiring connection to 3rd party data sources and those that need a substantial security measures, such as banks. However, the masses – particularly individuals, or small & medium enterprises, website design and development could be easier and cheaper than you’d imagine…and sometimes free!
When the “web” or the “internet” first appeared in our vocabulary, most of us knew what it was, but the thought of browsing it, let alone creating your own website was incomprehensible both theoretically and practically. Web developers would take on projects to “put businesses on the web” and companies would be prepared to spend a lot of money doing so. It later became apparent that even those companies not believing it was important or relevant to them, websites were important for people to find you.
Technology is a self-driving phenomenon with so many variances pushed and pulled ultimately by user habits. Websites became wide spread because of user interest in the internet…Internet companies had to improve their infrastructure to cope with load demand and transporting new-media items such as photos and videos…smart phones evolved from people’s desires to always be connected…and so on.
Today, whether you are a small coffee shop based in the local town, or a global engineering corporation, you have no choice but to have presence on the web – because after all, it is the majority’s first location to find what they’re looking for. This puts pressure on smaller businesses in terms of financing and running a website. After all, a large brand such as Starbucks would have a huge budget to ensure every single one of their coffee shops was placed on Google Maps and listed on their website. If you were a local coffee shop, you’d get less regular customers, because unless you were well-known by word of mouth or well placed on a high street, people would look for Starbucks instead.
Of course, websites mustn’t get confused with blogs – blogs are an excellent means of using a pre-existing template to draft regular posts and news items within a parent-host website. The word blog comes from “web log” and journals posts that the blog owner submits – so the structuring and customization is not as flexible as a website. Blogs are often used along side a website, to give more of a personal feel about a website or company.
So without further ado, what can individuals and small businesses achieve with free or, reasonably priced website design tools? The simple answer is: pretty much everything.
OK, so with the two tools outlined below, you can’t create an online banking tool or live streaming of a school sports day, but you can create simple interactive and informational sites such as a local sports club including recent news, fixtures, photos etc. There are many mainstream tools that you could use but we’ve outlined, in our opinion, the cream of the crop for you:
Moonfruit is an excellent tool for creating slick, professional-looking websites, easily and quickly without any need to have advanced web design skills. It’s designed to attract every day people wanting to put up small websites for home-businesses and local shops/services. It has a large range of add-ins including Twitter and Facebook buttons, a shop that you can use to sell things and a really large range of predefined templates – but of course you can start with a blank page too.
Moonfruit’s limitations for their free service include a maximum bandwidth and storage usage per month and all addresses have to have “.moonfruit” in them. They do offer a three-tier premium service which offers a wider range of capacity and other tools.
The main down side to Moonfruit is that the sites are built entirely in Flash and therefore are undetectable by search engines. Search engine optimization is a huge part towards you website’s success in terms of visibility. Moonfruit have recently announced an HTML 5 version to be released early 2013 which avoids this issue.
WordPress is often associated with writing blogs and let this be an interesting point to make first and foremost: WordPress successfully offers blog and website functionality. The easiest way to distinguish the two is that WordPress.com is for blogs – hosted templates that have limited, albeit excellent customization options. WordPress.org is the site that allows you to design your own website. It does require a little more technical knowledge but with the help of one of many WordPress hosting companies (for a small monthly fee), they can set up the ability for you to create your own sites with ease.
WordPress is well regarded on the internet and among web designers in being highly flexible and an excellent tool, for very little (or free, if you can configure a .com blog to do what you’re after).
If neither of these grab your attention, there are many others available on the net – 1&1, Wix and Web Eden, to name but a few. There’s no harm in trying – so why wait – let your creative juices flow and get building!
In short, you don’t need to be a technical genius to build a website – you do need to know how to use a computer, but that’s your only prerequisite – choose a topic, get writing and have fun planning it. If you’re a small or medium sized company, you could save in the region of £5000.
- Moonfruit HTML5 – IPAD friendly Moonfruit Websites will blow you away (buildawebsitewithmoonfruit.wordpress.com)
- The Last Word in WordPress – eCommerce Plugins (techattitude.com)
- Can I Design My Own Website? (nextdaylogos.com)