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Building a website? Your options

Creating your own website is great fun! But how is it done? Well, there are five main options, read this carefully and choose which one you think is best for you!

Use software you already have:

You may not know this, but you can actually use Microsoft Word to create webpages! This is great, since you can save yourself the cost of buying expensive new software. Just create your document as you would do normally, and then just select “Save As” from the File menu. A new window will open, choose where you want to save your page, give it a name and then select “Webpage” from the drop- down box next to “Save As Type”. Click save and thats it - you have a webpage ready to be uploaded to your host’s servers!

The downside is that since Word isn’t really a proper webdesign application, you’ll find it impossible to create anything like a “professional” site, but if you only need something very simple, it’ll do just fine. Also, the quality of code that Word produces is very poor, so unless your website is reasonably plain, it will be slow to load.

Use an Online Sitebuilder:

There are number of websites on the internet which give you all the tools you need to build and host your website ready to use in one place. For a beginner these sites are great, since they’re aimed at people wanting a quick, easy way to build a website without spending ages learning all the technical ins and outs. Most of them offer a large range of “template” designs along with a simple “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” editor with which you can personalise the design with your own logos and content. Once you’re done personalising, just click save and the site is ready and online - easy. You can also update your website whenever you want as well, and since the fees are on a low monthly subscription basis you can avoid paying the heavy upfront costs that you would have if you hired a designer or bought specialist software. However, some of them run ads on your website and only offer a limited range of advanced features; which may be frustrating to more advanced users.

Buy specialist web design software:

There are a number of specialist web design applications which are used by the professionals to create their websites. By far the best (in my humble opinion) is Macromedia’s Dreamweaver. These powerful software packages install on your computer and run offline like any of the office applications. Since they’re specially designed for website building, the range of features and functions is very impressive and allow you to do just about anything you could want with much greater ease and simplicity than if you are trying to work with something like Word. However, they don’t come cheap; last time I checked, Dreamweaver cost something like $400. Also, since they’re not aimed at beginners, you may find them a little complicated to start with. But if you’re planning on creating and managing several websites then this could be an option worth considering.

Hire a professional web designer:

Sure hiring a professional isn’t the cheap option, but it is almost certainly the surest way to get a really high-quality result (unless of course you hire a really bad designer!). But how to choose someone? Well I would recommend that you choose someone reasonably local. Offshoring is great, but it makes the job of monitoring their progress a lot more difficult, and there’s nothing quite like having someone you can meet with face to face to discuss the project, or who’s there for you on the end of the phone when you need help. It also makes organising payments more simple as well as holding them responsible if it all goes wrong!

Deciding how much you are prepared to pay for a professional is a difficult question. Everyone offers a different level of service, and the quality of the final product will vary significantly depending on who you hire. Whatever you do; get multiple quotes!! And compare them on price, quality and service. I would also strongly advice against choosing the cheapest person/company automatically - it could prove to be a very false economy in the long term!

Learn to program in HTML:

Since most pages are written in a code/language called HTML, you can create your own websites by directly writing in this language. Assuming you enjoy technical challenges! It's certainly a lot easier than learning Russian, but it will take a good week at least to get to grips even just the very basics, a good book can be a great help!

If you are really serious about building websites like a pro, learning to hard code websites directly in HTML is an option worth considering. That said, many professional web designers don’t know much about hard coding HTML themselves - with professional software like dreamweaver there isn’t too much need for it. However, learning to program in HTML is definitely the cheapest way to build your own website, plus it can be a great learning experience!

To code in HTML all you need software-wise is a simple piece of software like Notepad, which comes free with Microsoft Windows. You literally just type the code into a new notepad document, click save, upload it to a webserver and thats it! If you’re looking for a good HTML tutorial, check out the NCSA beginner’s guide to HTML.