If you’re a brand new business or have a limited budget, you may have to face the reality of building or editing your own website
However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a great looking site. There are lots of website building software packages and services aimed at the DIY web designer – and many of them are free.
You don’t even have to know any HTML (the computer code websites are made up from).
Desktop WYSIWYG website building software
What you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) website building software lets you create a website in a similar manner to using word processing software (like Microsoft Word).
You can add elements like buttons, images and tables in a few clicks and write your website content without having to edit any HTML yourself.
Additionally, this kind of website building software often comes with a large selection of pre-built templates for you to choose from and adapt as you see fit.
Some packages also offer a ‘hybrid’ option, which allows you to use the WYSIWYG features but also edit the HTML directly, if you do have the skills. This makes it a great way to learn how HTML works without having to start with an intimidating blank page.
Many types of web hosting package include website building software which you can download and install onto your computer. Popular packages include:
These packages often offer a free trial, so you can test them out before you buy.
Content management systems
A content management system (CMS) is a great way to add content to your website quickly and with minimum fuss. Popular open source (i.e. free) CMS packages such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are used by millions of websites. In fact, the IT Donut uses Drupal.
One of the benefits of using a CMS like this is that you’re not on your own. Search online and you’ll find thousands of designers and developers building add-ons and templates which you can use to develop your website for free.
CMS packages are designed to make it quick and easy to add new content and features to your website without having to edit the HTML directly.
However, setting up a CMS-based website may require some HTML knowledge to begin with, so a CMS is a good option if you’re using a web designer to create your website, but want to be able to manage it yourself in future.
All reliable web hosting companies will offer CMS packages as standard, and will enable you to install them automatically – so you don’t have to worry about downloading software or creating databases yourself.
Online website building software
Online website building software is similar to the WYSIWYG packages, except that you don’t need to install anything on your computer. Instead, everything is done online.
Traditionally, this approach has been quite limiting in terms of what you can achieve, with only selected areas of your website made editable. However, there’s a new wave of online website builder packages which are more adaptable and well-suited to small businesses. For instance:
Again, many of these packages offer cut-down free versions or have trial periods, so you can test them before investing too much time or money in them.
HTML can seem intimidating if you’ve never worked with it before, but actually you don’t need to be a web design guru to edit code on a website with an HTML editor.
If you have a basic understanding of HTML - or you are willing to learn - there are countless free or cheap HTML templates which you can download and adapt for your business.
Once you have cracked the basics of HTML, you can use the designs as they come and add your own content relatively easily.
It also pays to know a bit of HTML, even if you have paid a professional web designer to build your website. You can cut ongoing costs and make changes faster when you know how to do them yourself.
Here are some links to get you started with HTML:
- Try free HTML editors Notepad++ or Aptana Studio
- Learn basic HTML over at W3Schools
- Use this book to learn how to write HTML the right way