If you choose to operate an eCommerce business and sell physical products, you may be best advised to start your shop on a marketplace platform (like eBay/Lazada/Rakuten), or use a CMS with a shopping cart function. If however your business is a technology related company, or an online information product or service, you may need to build a custom site. Coding your own website from scratch is certainly not for the faint of heart, as there is quite a lot to learn and it can be a challenging process! Let’s discuss it a little further here:
The advantages of building your own site:
- You get exactly what you want
- Increased and/or proprietary functionality which can add value to the business and become a key differentiator or Unique Selling Proposition to your customers
The disadvantages of building your own site:
- Development costs will be higher than using a CMS and customising it
- Higher chance of bugs with your site, which will need to be tested, tweaked and fixed, potentially delaying the launch and effectiveness of your site
- Lower usability and more difficult to update than a CMS, depending on how much development has gone into each of these factors
If you’re not a web designer or developer by trade, you may find that building a bespoke site is simply not worth your time to learn how to do, or worth paying a skilled person the amount needed to make the project happen. Remember, most technical projects encounter some form of ‘scope-creep’ whereby either the person commissioning the site adds to the task list during the process, or the designer/developer underestimates the time and effort needed to complete the task. Either way, if you’re on a tight budget you’ll want to keep this in mind, and the longer your site is in development, the longer you’ll have to wait to start earning money.
If you are committed to building your own custom site, you may want to develop a simple WordPress site as a ‘placeholder’ site in the meantime, and use this as a way to gather interest and collect email addresses from future customers.
Modern websites now separate the content from the presentation and the interactivity by using HTML and CSS.
HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) is code used to ‘mark-up’ the importance and meaning of your web page content and doesn’t control how that content appears on screen. The HTML describes the structure of each page semantically, and does not contain any presentation formatting (fonts, bold, italics, colours etc), as this is the job of the CSS files. The result is cleaner code that search engines find easier to index.
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are files located on your server and imported into the HTML determining the on screen appearance of each page. A key benefit of using CSS, is you can change the entire look and feel of a site by changing the CSS (or the ‘theme’ of a site), without having to re-code the HTML of each page.
Web Developing Tools
To code and develop a site yourself you will need to invest in an HTML programmer’s text editor, and/or a visual web design package. A HTML editor such as PSPad (www.PSPad.com) is free and has a great variety of features. Another high-powered text editor is UltraEdit, which comes in a variety of pricing and give you extra confidence in the fact that it is regularly updated and has a wide support community of users and forums. Visual tools commonly used include Adobe Dreamweaver (via paid monthly subscription), and Microsoft Expression Web 4.0 (at time of writing free for PC users).
To add images to your site, you will need to use photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop Elements (a much cheaper and still feature-rich version of the full Photoshop software), or you might choose to use some of the free online photo editors such as www.PhotoshopOnlineFree.com or www.FreeSerifSoftware.com.
Coding your own website from scratch is certainly not for everyone, but may be necessary if your site requires a high level of customisation or a proprietary function not available from a plugin on a CMS. Rather than tackling this task yourself, it may be worth approaching a qualified developer who can finish the task in less time (and with less headaches!) than you will be able to. This way you can focus on what you are good at (business development/marketing/partnerships etc), and get a professional to take on the task of building your site.