2016 Best Web Site Building Platforms – Starting with Free!

2016 Best Web Site Building Platforms – Starting with Free!

How to Narrow Down the Countless Offers and Options for Building A Web Site
If you want to build a web site there’s no shortage of options, starting with absolutely free and going up to custom platforms costing thousands of dollars. With so many choices available you could easy pick what seems to be a great offering, only to have it quickly become a huge regret. So let me help you cut through all the clutter of choices by offering you a short list of what I consider the top options on the market today.

There are Basically Three Categories for Building a Web Site
Most platforms and options fall into one of these three: Free, Self-hosting and Partners. Following are my 2016 choices for best web platforms covering these three categories. In each category I suggest several options that would work great when building a web site for a church, non-profit, or small business.

 


1. FREE
There are many offers on the web for a FREE web site. Some platforms offer free websites in exchange for their ads running on your site. Others offer a limited free version of their premium platform. You can even build your web site on Facebook. Just keep in mind ‘Free’ will have limitations, but can be a great starting point…

WORDPRESS – http://wordpress.com
Wordpress is the number one web building environment in the world. WordPress.com allows you to start a web site free with the option of adding premium upgrades later. On WordPress.com all you have to do is create a log-in and start building. Your web site will reside on the WordPress.com cloud. Keep in mind that WordPress.com does have certain limitations and restrictions which you would not have in a self-hosted WordPress environment (which I cover below). Because WordPress is so popular there are countless tutorials making it easy for you to get up and running. For example, here are some great video tutorials > http://www.wpbeginner.com (requires sign-up but well worth it!)

WIX – http://www.wix.com
WIX, a very popular DIY (do-it-yourself) web site builder, offers free web sites with unlimited pages and over 500 easy to customize themes. No coding knowledge required. The free version will include their WIX branding in the footer. Upgrade to a Premium plan and you can remove the WIX footer. I have had several friends try WIX with some great results. For example, check out the PlantGA.com web site built on WIX. If you are looking for an easy to build web site, give WIX a try. The way it’s set-up and the fact that it is FREE means there is nothing to loose. Here is a full review: http://www.websitebuilderexpert.com/wix-review/

WEEBLY – http://www.weebly.com
Easiest drag & drop website builder and a very painless way to build your website.
Weebly’s free platform provides you enough tools and attractive templates to build a functional website. There is no pressure to upgrade to the paid platform. No credit card information is required to sign up for a free account, and there is no time limit to the free account – you can use it forever if you want to. Here is a full review: http://mattcleaver.com/youthministry/why-your-church-should-use-weebly-instead-of-wordpress/

 


2. SELF-HOSTING
Self-hosting is how you can get the most bang for your buck. There are no limitations to what you can include on your site, i.e. audio, video, forms, ecommerce, etc. You have total control but it will require some technical and design know-how to put all the pieces together. You may have someone in your organization with just the right expertise to make this happen, or you can hire a freelancer to get your site up and running.

To self-host you need three things:
1. A domain name – costs around $12 per year and I recommend buying through name.com.
2. A web space – This is where you build and host your web site (see recommendations below).
3. Web Building Tools – I recommend WordPress which is a free web building platform.

Most web hosting companies offer plans that combine all three. You can choose your domain, purchase a hosting plan and load WordPress for free! So let’s begin by finding a web host. There are many out there and the most popular names are BlueHost and GoDaddy (neither of which I recommend!).  Here are my recommendations:

SiteGround – http://siteground.com
SiteGround is a web host that I’ve been using for the past six months and they are awesome! I actually had to migrate 20 sites to their platform (a very complicated procedure) and their tech support quickly became my heroes. They offer 24/7 phone support which is rare these days. Right now they are offering all their plans up to 60% off. Than means you can get your first year of hosting for less than $50 domain name included! Start here…

WP ENGINE – http://wpengine.com
WP Engine costs a great deal more than most platforms but what you get in return is an extremely secure platform and a support staff to help you whenever you need them via phone, ticket support or live chat. WP Engine is who we use for over 35 Georgia Baptist Mission Board web sites and it’s well worth every penny! For a small church or business this is probably more than you need, but if you have a large site or multiple sites, and need the ultimate platform and support, WP Engine is the answer.

 


3. PARTNERS
A partner platform is where you will receive the most support. The partner helps with the design and set-up of your site and then you get to manage it or pay them to manage it for you. Some web platforms offer pre-set levels of design, space, tools and support. These are called packages and they are designed to meet specific web needs. The more space, tools and support you need, the higher a package will cost. I currently only have two current recommendations:

CLOVER – http://www.cloversites.com
I like to tell everyone this is the ‘Apple’ of web building platforms and their designs are some of the best. Pricing starts at: $1000 for a custom design & template set-up and then only $25.00 per month hosting. You can’t go wrong with Clover if you are looking for that extra support of someone making it all happen for you.

FREELANCE DESIGNERS
I think this is probably the best of all worlds. Hire a designer to put it all together for you and keep it running right. You might pay a bit more (not much more) but to have a professional take care of everything and then hand you the keys is a great option. Please contact me if you need some recommendations. I regularly work with several very talented Christian designers that offer competitive rates.

 


Whether you go with free, self-hosting or a partner, the important thing to remember is you need a web site for your church, ministry or non-profit.

Please know that I love to help. Whatever questions you have about internet, web and social networks, please feel free to contact me. I promise to respond and do my best to help you develop or expand your reach in the world of web.

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