Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I don't want to build the damned car!

I just want to drive it!  
That's what I told the people at the make-your-own website companies that I've spoken to.  And I know I'm not alone.   I want to make my own websites, to control what goes where and how often I change it.  I've worked with designers, and while they can be good, I want to be more hands on with my websites.  Also, I don't want to wait for months if their lives get too busy to make the updates I need. The technology is moving at an amazing pace, so I just know that somebody, somewhere is making it easier to make a gorgeous website without using code and knowing all the technical stuff. So I guess the correct analogy is "I want to put the car together, but I don't want to make all the parts from scratch!"

There are now a lot of companies out there that offer site builders.  Some are more intuitive, some are clunkier.  Some offer flexible templates, some are more fixed.  Last year I went on a search and ended up with InMotion Hosting to build the website for my cooperative gallery.  InMotion uses Plesk Site Builder for us non-code speaking types.  There are lots of templates available, but I only found a few that I could customize to my satisfaction.  Plesk Site Builder is a bit clunky and time consuming when adding images, but I found it pretty easy to get the hang of.  InMotion has incredible support staff.  Whenever I had a question the phone was answered immediately by one of their fabulous, knowledgeable, and very patient support team members who easily and cheerfully worked me through my problem.  Also, everything is included in their one low monthly price.  I ended up with a website I am proud of, and one that I can change easily.  My one real complaint was that the navigation type is so small, and is on all of their templates.  Not a major problem, but inconvenient.

Check out what I was able to do with InMotion Hosting and Plesk:

For my next website, I needed to add a shopping cart, and I wanted to go through Paypal.  There are many shopping carts out there, but they all seem to have a big learning curve.  Again, I don't want to make the parts from scratch.  I want to plug and play.  I have jewelry to make, after all!   InMotion didn't have a template that would work with the design ideas I had.  In looking around again, I found that most of the DIY website places use Weebly Site Builder.  It is a very easy, what-you-see-is-what-you-get technology.  But it is fairly limited on most of the sites I checked out.  And most of them were initially inexpensive, but charged extra for each little add-on and more than six pages.  That might be ok if you want a simple, information-only site, but I needed more.

I sat and stewed for awhile until several of my very helpful colleagues on the forums mentioned that they loved their free sites from  Hmmm.... going to the source.  Their sites looked nice and loaded quickly.  The online reviews were pretty good.  So I checked them out.  Free, all the pages I want, lots of flexibility, the most up to date Weebly builder, and an easy ecommerce option that integrates with Paypal. I started working on my site last week.  It has been easy, intuitive, and even FUN!  Amazing!  I didn't have to build any of the parts, yet you can easily incorporate HTML into any part of any template (as in adding a Facebook like button or any other widget).  It looks gorgeous (to me) and if it works as well published as it does in the working stages I will be singing Weebly's praises to the rooftops.  The site is almost complete. I hope to publish it this week.  Stay tuned!

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