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In today’s global marketplace, it’s not enough to just have a digital presence. To capitalize on opportunity and captivate real, live, human readers, an optimized, functional, interactive website is a must. Unfortunately, the Internet is swarming with poor website designs that miss both the technical and content mark. Worse yet, clients and developers alike continuously contribute to the current outbreak of design delinquency in equal measure.
Connect a custom domain: On a free plan your website address will look something like this: https://mysite.strikingly.com or https://joebloggs.wixsite.com/mysite. These web addresses can be long, confusing, and difficult to find if you’re a visitor searching for your site online. A custom domain allows you to choose a more personalized address, such as www.mysite.com which is a lot better for promoting a brand and getting found by potential visitors to your website! Even if you buy a new domain for your site or already own one that you want to transfer, you will need to be on a paid plan to actually connect and use it as the address for your website. Usually you can buy and connect your custom domain on the cheapest upgrade available, such as Weebly’s ‘Connect’ plan, so it’s an affordable option.
Advanced interactive functions may require plug-ins if not advanced coding language skills. Choosing whether or not to use interactivity that requires plug-ins is a critical decision in user experience design. If the plug-in doesn't come pre-installed with most browsers, there's a risk that the user will have neither the know how or the patience to install a plug-in just to access the content. If the function requires advanced coding language skills, it may be too costly in either time or money to code compared to the amount of enhancement the function will add to the user experience. There's also a risk that advanced interactivity may be incompatible with older browsers or hardware configurations. Publishing a function that doesn't work reliably is potentially worse for the user experience than making no attempt. It depends on the target audience if it's likely to be needed or worth any risks.
Selling stuff is often the core function of a website for any retail brands, manufacturer, or marketing affiliate. You want to drive visitors to your website through your marketing efforts, and then compel them to add your product to their cart or click your affiliate link to then buy something. Your core business model revolves around improving the user experience and lowering the barriers required to get someone to make the decision to buy.
Maybe just like you, at first we didn't have a darn clue about how to build a website, nevermind write half a line of code if our life depended on it! We wanted to build a website to start a side business, and felt overwhelmed, confused & scared about how to actually do it, which builder to use, and making wrong decisions. After years of trials & errors using different website builders, we're here to share our experiences with you.
BigCommerce comes with a 15-day free trial for all plans. Their basic plans at $29.95 per month which comes with all the essential features that you will need. You can upgrade to the plus plan which costs $79.95 per month for additional conversion optimization features. Their pro plan costs $249.95 per month which has all the advanced features you may need.
While the the best of them offer surprising amounts of flexibility, they also impose stringent enough restrictions to page design that you shouldn't be able to create a really bad looking site using one of these services. Typically you can get a Mysite.servicename.com style-url with no commerce abilities for free from one of these services; you have to pay extra for a better URL and the ability to sell. One issue to consider is that if you eventually outgrow one of these services, it can be hard to export your site to a full scale advanced web hosting like Dreamhost or Hostgator. If you know that's where you are eventually going, it may be better to skip the sitebuilder step.
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They are also currently running a massive 50% discount. So if you purchase a 12 or 24-month plan, you’ll not only get a free domain for 1 year, but a lot of savings, too. For example, we paid $143.76 for two full years. The $16 domain was free as well. Just keep in mind that renewal prices will adjust back to the normal rate. That means you’ll often lose the initial discount. You’ll notice below that pretty much all website builders do this. Therefore, try to lock in a longer term if possible to save the most.
Accept online payments/set up an online store: On some builders like SITE123 and Strikingly, you can create an online store on the free plan, and sell one or two items, but to sell any more you have to upgrade. On some you can create a store, but you must be on a paid plan to actually accept payments through your website, (like Wix). Others won’t let you create a store at all unless you’re paying, such as Weebly. So it varies, but one thing remains the same: in order to have a successful and scalable online store you will need to upgrade to a paid plan sooner or later. Once you’re on a paid plan you can unlock features such as connecting different payment types, (for example PayPal, credit/debit cards etc), get rid of transaction fees, track and manage your inventory, and more!
Take this gorgeous site Heco Partners built for the agency Black Sheep. As you scroll down, the highlighting of the “current” line helps keep you focused on the very well-written copy. Then a series of boldly designed tooltips start vying for your attention with the copy, crying out for you to stop reading and click over to another page. It’s a creative solution to the challenge of building an inline navigational system — but it can also add unnecessary tension to the experience for some users.
Yahoo's Tumblr is another incredibly popular blog platform that lends itself to shorter, more visual posts. You can, however, find themes that give your Tumblr site a more traditional website's look and feel. Google's Blogger features tight integration with Google Adsense, so making extra pocket change is a snap. Newer blogging services, such as Anchor, Feather, and Medium, stress writing and publishing more than intricate design, but they're incredibly simple to update.
If not, it’s time for an immediate online renovation. Remember, it’s not about grand gestures and overhauls. Rather, 2018 will focus on a shift towards simple, functional, and futuristic designs. Implementing these (relatively painless) standards as a non-negotiable design baseline can have a significant impact on the way we do business and connect with potential customers online for optimal ROI with every user engagement.
Their templates look quite fresh and offer lots of functionality. The choice is limited to a handful of designs. Also, most of them are paid ones that will set you back $19-$39 (as a one-time payment). It’s also a pity we couldn’t find any blogging functionalities. Once you are happy with your result, you need to publish the site to your own web space. Of course, that’s a lot more complicated than with a hosted website builder as it requires you to set up a FTP connection and upload it to your own web space.
Where they should improve: Some of their templates are modern and slick looking, but most of them look a bit aged. A big limitation of the free plan is that your website will go down, every day, for one hour; if you ask me, this is a no go. It has some of the basic features and add-ons, but there are key elements missing (e.g. a blog or on-site search). When you change to a new template, all the content you had will be lost.
I had been with a builder/host who’s focus migrated from yoga studios (closest match I could find at the time) to chiropractors, eye doctors & vets. I changed to a new builder/host that supposedly fully integrated all the aspects of my business mgt. software; only to discover after going live that things like BUY NOW links didn’t work & the ability to embed code provided by the business mgt. software really doesn’t exist.
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I firmly believe that in order to have a fully successful web project, you need to be able to meet and communicate with your team. There is something important about taking the time to understand you, as a client, that makes me better at my job. I get to learn your business, your goals, your desired customer, and your persona. And even by forming a relationship with you, I get to better communicate for a smoother web development process.
One of the things that sets WordPress apart from its competitors is the large range of plugins available for download. There are currently over 40,000 plugins in the WordPress Plugin Directory than can be installed in just a few seconds. In most cases, all you have to do is find a plugin you’d like to install, click “Install Now”, then click “Activate”.
Thank you so much for your comprehensive review of the website builders. I’m a writer with a need to add affiiate advertising to a website and blog and I want to have E-commerce capability. #1: I basically want to upload articles I’ve written so I’ll have a digital archive. #2: Write a blog. #3: Sell products or affiliate products. I’ll continue to explore SiteBuilder, Wix and WordPress. I would not be able to pick these 3 without your reviews. Thanks again!