I like to think of a website as a digital signpost. Even if it’s only a single page – it’s a way for people to find you and connect with you. Obviously, it can be much more than that but when getting started, all your website needs to be is a single page. Your classic under construction page (not my favorite thing), can start as a contact page and then be replaced by the full site.
So the question is…what kind of web presence do you need? Or do you need one at all? That’s really the first question isn’t it? I work with all kinds of interesting people including authors, doctors, jewellers, non-profits, and entrepreneurs. And they all need to be online to communicate their message or to promote their business. Is that you? Do you have something to say or a service to sell?
Now, there are so many platforms out there for planting your digital signpost. You can create a dynamic web presence using social media sites like Facebook or Google+. You can blog on WordPress.com. You can build a site using services like Squarespace or Wix that provide an online interface to do it yourself. Of course, you can also roll your own, like I’ve been doing for over 15 years.
Your choice of platform comes down to your audience and your budget. Where are the people you are trying to reach? Perhaps they’re already on Facebook so you should be there too. Or perhaps they’re mostly browsing the web on their phones where Twitter, with its short posts, has the perfect length for that medium. Budget has two components – time and money. Certain platforms, like WordPress.com are free so don’t strain your wallet. Facebook and Twitter are also free but by their very nature require regular attention so cost time instead of money.
My clients typically need an anchor for their online identity and that takes the form of a dedicated website. They frequently supplement their main site with activity on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others. I have advised clients and potential clients to use build-your-own services like WordPress.com. This is typically a budget-driven decision for them. They can’t afford the various costs associated with a dedicated website and so they are willing to sacrifice flexibility for cash savings. (Keep in mind that these build-your-own services do have paid tiers so do your research before choosing one, building your site, and then realising you can’t get email or have a domain name attached to the site without paying)
One client had me build and maintain their site on WordPress.com but they eventually wanted to expand beyond the functionality offered by that service. I then took their site and moved it to a stand-alone site so that it would have all the functionality they needed.
That brings us to WordPress.org. This is the open source version of what’s available on WordPress.com. This is a tool for creating stand alone websites. So what? So…it allows for the rapid setup of websites (I setup the bones of this site in a few hours) and provides tools for non-technical clients to edit and manage their sites. This version of WordPress bridges the gap between services like Squarespace and roll your own. It can be customised to do exactly what you need but it also contains a user-friendly interface. I tell my clients: “If you can use Word, then you can use WordPress.”
Though I have worked with many different platforms, I keep coming back to WordPress. It’s a robust, tested, and flexible tool. And it’s fun to work with (okay, that’s the geek in me coming out). Does that mean it’s the right tool for your website? Not necessarily. We circle back to what you are trying to achieve online.
It’s worth having a conversation with an expert to determine the best way to go.