Once you've worked up the nerve to start creating your website (which you are totally capable of!), you might be overwhelmed with the options available to you.
It’s good that there are lots of options out there for services that enable anyone to create their own website. But there’s so many options, it can be overwhelming. Reminds me of that feeling when walking down the yogurt aisle…why so many choices?
You've likely learned about various website building services from commercials, ads on podcasts and blogs. How can you sift through the noise to find the one that's best for you?
Getting started building a website: how to do research
Do you have tech support in your family? Of course you do. It's your sister/uncle/neighbour who always helps configure your Wi-Fi.
Our research shows people frequently ask a trusted friend, family member or colleague for advice when they're getting started with domain names and websites. There might even be a discount or referral bonus available if you end up choosing the same service or platform as your technically savvy friend.
While friends and family can be a great resource, you should probably know a little about what you want in a website before seeking their advice (and taking up their time). Starting with some basic research will help you determine what features and specifications you should be looking for in a website, and will help narrow down your list of potential vendors.
How much research should you do? Well, if you're envisioning building an e-commerce site, more is at stake, so you will want to put more effort in than if you're looking to build a simple one-page informational website.
I teamed up with my own tech-savvy friend, Jacques Maillet from CIRA's support department to create a list of questions that will help you get started in finding a website building service that meets your needs.
Things to ponder before getting started with your website
What exactly is a “website building service”?
Websites have changed a lot in the past few decades. While traditionally you may have heard of content management systems like WordPress or Drupal, today you also have options like drag-and-drop website builders (Wix and Squarespace) and e-commerce platforms like Shopify. To keep things simple in this post, we're going to use “website building service” as a blanket term for any company that can help you build a digital presence.
How complex do you anticipate your website will be?
Do you need a simple website that will serve as a placeholder until you actually build a full-fledged version out? Do you need an e-commerce component to sell products? Website building services often specialize in certain use cases such as blogging or e-commerce—scoping out the complexity will help you find the best fit.
Is this a short term or long-term project?
Website hosting, domain name registration, and most other things on the web typically work on a monthly or annual subscription model. Once you determine the services you require, some price comparisons can help you find the best bang for your buck. If you know you're in it for the long term, you may be able to get a discount by signing up for a longer time period.
How important is building trust?
Building trust and legitimacy for your business or ideas is always a challenge when you're just starting out. There are a few simple things you can do to engender trust in your customers.
First, choose a custom domain name for your business. Nothing says, “this might be gone tomorrow”, more than sticking with the default domain structure of your website builder, like mynewbusiness.websitebuilder.com. A custom .CA domain name is trusted by Canadians, and shows you are in it for the long haul.
Also, don't forget to get an SSL certificate. Most website builders make it easy, but if they don't ask your familial tech support to help you. Not having one is like having a store without a lock on the door.
Do you want a customized email address?
Much like a custom domain name, it is hard to take a website seriously when the contact email is firstname.lastname@example.org. A professional custom email address is easy to remember, adds legitimacy to your business, and looks great on a business card.
How good is the website building service's customer support?
See what your website building service offers by way of support. What are the hours, the mediums (e.g. email, phone and live chat), and languages available? Do they have support documentation? At some point or another while you're building out your website, you'll likely run into some questions, and you'll want reliable support to find answers in a timely manner.
Do you want to be choosy or have everything in one place?
Building a website can involve multiple vendors—domain names, hosting, web builder, security—or you can often get everything under one roof. Some people prefer to choose the best vendor for each service and make them work together, while others prefer the simplicity of one provider for everything. Depending on your level of technical skill, you may want to keep it simple or find your own custom solution. It's not uncommon for people to choose one company for domain name registration and another for hosting, but there are vendors out there who provide everything in one package as well.
Do you want to try before you buy?
If you're interested in exploring the possibilities before you commit, choose a service with a free trial or preview period. Some website building services encourage you to “play in the sandbox” to see what beautiful website you can build before they try to sell you anything. For others, you need to create an account and purchase a package as the first step.
How much visitor traffic are you expecting?
This is an important consideration when choosing a hosting package. Getting a ton of visitors can be a problem (a good one!); you want to ensure your website will continue to function if it gets a lot of traffic. Another factor to consider is if you plan on having a lot of images and video. In this case, you may want to choose a hosting package with more bandwidth or disk space to handle the heavier load.
Do you need a multi-lingual website?
Are you creating content for a bilingual (or even multilingual) site? If so, make sure your website building platform supports multilingual content and navigation.
These are but a few questions to get you started. Did we miss any important ones? We'd love to hear your suggestions – drop us a line on Twitter at @dotcavoice.
In the meantime, you can see what domain names are available using our search tool. Once you find an available domain name, you can register it with one of our .CA certified registrars, many of which offer website builders as a part of their services.