Web Design 101: Understanding The Basics
Updated: Jan 5
The web design industry is developing faster than most people can follow and understand. There are new developments in image resolution, User Interface, and responsiveness every month. Wix even has a new design editor that is in Beta Release and is completely different from the current editor.
Maybe you are just starting the journey and feel overwhelmed by the available options and choices.
Potentially, you are considering a new or refreshed website for your business, but you don't know where to start.
Possibly your current website is outdated and expensive and you haven’t seen or heard from your web designer since they started day trading.
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This is a shortlist of my favorite web builders also known as proprietary CMS and one open-source CMS. A CMS is a Content Management System for creating and managing digital content, such as websites. A proprietary CMS is usually a web builder that was created by a company and customers pay for its use and hosting, an example would be Godaddy or Wix.
An open-source CMS example would be WordPress, one of the largest and most feature-rich CMS available today. Each type of CMS has it’s own pros and cons, I’ll give a brief overview of my experience with WordPress.
Website builders are easy for even the newest of web designers to figure out and get started with. Website builders provide templates and features that are based on web design best practices, giving you a leg up on creating a website that gets results without having to spend a lot of time learning the ropes of website building. Although they will allow you to shoot yourself in the foot, so be careful and have a good editor to review your work before going live.
The first option to consider is your objective for needing a new website, you could 1)use a web builder to create a new website, 2)build a new website from scratch in WordPress, or 3)convert/port a WordPress website using a web builder into a new website.
These scenarios assume you are creating a new website and will need an SSL certificate for encryption, a domain name, a business email, and a means to create a website and Support is important.
You will need a hosting company, they will usually provide an SSL certificate, and possibly a domain name or email. Usually, people go to Godaddy for these services and apply them to their website. WordPress also supports proprietary web builders such as Beaver Builder, Elemental, and Gutenburg but they are still far more complicated than web builders such as Godaddy or Wix.
Much of the needed functionality such as SEO and forms, comes from open source Plugins which are deemed or assumed to be tested and stable, although not guaranteed. Most business owners contract with a freelancer or agency to create their website because of the level of experience required. Although after costly updates and monthly maintenance fees for a few years the owners attempt to update and manage the website themselves only to find it difficult or impossible.
The Pros – WordPress is extremely flexible and powerful. It has the ability to support very large inventories or a large number of complicated pages. It also has a larger number of engaging themes to choose from. Your website will be portable – meaning that it can be migrated between hosting companies, you literally own all the CMS files. A user could actually install a WordPress server/environment on their laptop and host their website from their laptop.
The Cons - Support is difficult for WordPress because it is mostly open-source and you get help through Forums which don’t really have a vested interest in your success. The Plugins are supported through email with a 24-48 hour turn around, you can get premium support with a premium subscription. The learning curve to be proficient in WordPress is very steep for most people.
This platform takes a little while to learn it’s editor, user interface, and get used to its use of applications and integrated features such as Ascend – Wix’s proprietary suite of business tools. The tools and add ons are reasonably priced and can be found in Wix Market Place. The website where you are reading this article is built on Wix.
They support many themes that are already up to date and engaging, usually tailored to your specific business, eCommerce, financial, and local retailor.
The Pros - The look and feel of the display is high resolution and slick looking. Giving Wix a very contemporary look and feel. Wix can supply SSL, email, and a domain. Wix has many third party applications in its market place to help add extra features and functionality to your website.
The Cons – Wix It also does not support the portability of the files, as with most web builders, everything resides only in Wix. Support is usually good but they are having issues during COVID-19. They have an extensive coding feature which is named Corvid, but it requires a substantial learning curve to understand their API.
This is another of my favorite builders. What’s not to like, it is reasonably priced and has a very straight forward builder interface. It is the least difficult and error-prone user interface to work with. With that also comes limited flexibility but that is also its beauty. It is almost idiot proof with providing slick and to the point website deliverables.
Godaddy web builders don’t have any needed add or applications.
Godaddy can supply SSL, email, and a domain. Godaddy was an original reseller of internet domains.
The Pros – Very reasonably priced website options, incorporating SSL, email, and domain. Unsurpassed Support bar none!
The Cons - Godaddy web builders might not support enough features for some businesses. Godaddy also continues to
utilize their legacy user interfaces which all have a different look and feel, and are often confusing.
My favorite eCommerce website builder, with many happy customers. This is the first web builder I learned to use. They have many themes to choose from to make your job easier. They also provide many themes to help with easy startup and they support many different payment plans to help your customers. Shopify also allows the development of scalable and engaging inventories.
The Pros - Reasonably priced, decent support, and most for eCommerce applications.
The Cons - Shopify web builders might not support enough features for some businesses.
The latest generation of web builders, basically Generation 3. Webflow strivers to offer much of the functionality of WordPress. The display is very high resolution and highly responsive as expected in WordPress. So when the browser window is shrunk the display accommodates the new size. It allows much more control over the design and feature set compared to other builders. This also puts more learning and involvement of the user.
The Pros – Latest generation innovations and reasonably priced.
The Cons - Webflow's user interface has a much larger learning curve than the other builders mentioned above.