So, you want to share some thoughts and ideas online? cool. But how should you go about it?
This post focuses on how to start sharing your thoughts and ideas online having your own website. For that, we’ll look at the best solutions out there and also a few that may be of interest.
Sharing material is a fundamental nature of humans and a key element of being online in today’s world. Outside of Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, forums and others, if you truly want control over your ideas, thoughts and products, you have to have your blog/website/online store; there’s no other way. Things have changed compared to what they were back in the ’90s, as it used to be a technical challenge to do this.
The Web in the ’90s
I clearly remember the first time I went on the Internet like it was yesterday. It was around 1993/1994 and the back then university forums were about as far as you could go. The network hosted services like newsgroups (discussion forums), FTP servers (file downloads) and Gopher (for Web-like things before the Web). But usually, black and white text, a few lines here and there was the best you could get.
Later on, we were able to create web pages as the WWW came to life (remember Yahoo Directory & Netscape Navigator?) and the service became accessible to more people; not only university researchers and curious students. But still, setting up a web page was a complex set up requiring advanced knowledge, Unix skills and patience; Ah! Patience - I think that’s where I developed the capacity to transform frustration into perseverance; lol.
Products and Services have changed for the better. They now serve us.
Now, many online services are available at very low cost to help you get started writing your own blog, news site or online store and that’s the goal of this post – you want to have your own Web page or online store - so I’ll give you a bit of perspective and knowledge on the subject.
Currently your options abound but I’ll give you my top 2 solutions to help you get started. The idea is simple; you want a blog or start selling something online, then go for these. At the end, I’ll give you my final verdict and top choice. So let’s go.
The Best Solutions
WordPress | www.wordpress.com
Free – except for monthly charges for hosting but this price point is hard to beat.
Supported by millions – open source solution and as such makes it very accessible and customizable.
Thousands of additional modules – these help you customize your experience, add videos, search options and so much more.
Easy to find online support – So many people use it, support is just about everywhere.
Millions of templates – I you can’t find the look you want, you are one picky person!
Look and feel – Looks OK, but if you’re used to nicer tools it can look a bit dated and sometimes slow.
Clunky integration – Thousands of modules, but as many possible outcomes sometimes. Be warned.
Security concerns – As most times you are your own support, don’t miss any upgrades and updates.
Thousands of providers – Many offer WordPress so you’ll find every possible option and also costs.
Configuration hell – Miss a step or two and you can find yourself with weird outcomes and quick.
Browser support – Well there’s a biggie. Some modules will work great and others will fail in certain browsers.
Wordpress isn’t Young
I started using WordPress in 2005 and it has grown incredibly. You can add your text, pictures, and so on to create a good visual presentation of your ideas and more. WordPress itself, the package, is free and most modules can also be free.
The best way to explain WordPress is like having an online version of Microsoft Word mixed in with Adobe InDesign. This means you’ll get all the writing modules (thousands are free) you need and also tools to help you organize your web page (publishing, image management, sharing tools, video integration, cart creation, etc.).
Best Wordpress providers
Here’s a quick list ordered based on preferences and my experiences.
All of these hosts have very accessible plans and starting with the lowest cost option is probably your best option; in time you’ll be able to identify your needs and what you want. So start small and grow from there. The only thing to watch out for is if you want an online store. Then things get a bit more expensive, but nothing crazy. Just make sure you identify how payments will be made and managed.
Best Payment Options for Online Stores
For payment options, I highly recommend Stripe, but you can go with PayPal and similar services if you like. For me, Stripe is better equipped for today’s world and potential payment options and management for your future customers.
WordPress - all isn’t perfect in Wonderland...
My main gripe with WordPress isn’t with the solution itself, but the suppliers’ prices. Each seems to have their own interpretation of possible costs. You’ll see prices going from $2/month to more than $500/month for what looks to be "similar" setups - OK not really, but it isn’t always very clear.
Imagine someone selling you the same car but the price ranges from 20k to 250k? Maybe it’s just me, but I like to find products and services that have balanced costs in general.
For the Average User
For the starting or average user, I have no worries, you’ll find all you need with WordPress; just stick with low-cost solutions to start and in general – 2 to 10 bucks a month – just go with a company you prefer. If you want to spend more, call a professional dev team to help you set up a truly commercial and custom WordPress page, store, client database, advanced configuration and set up. But those solutions can range from 10k to 50k to give you an idea. What’s next in my list?
Squarespace | www.squarespace.com
It just works – In all web browsers for any user in the world. Boom.
Fully integrated – You don’t need to know much about technology to figure things out.
Not too expensive – at around 20 bucks a month you can get all you need.
Dedicated Support – no need to search for long for help, the company has full support.
Looks great – Simple, integrated with a nice flow you’ll appreciate the environment. It’s slick.
Advance options available – What to share to the world, have a store, go deeper? It’s all there.
Integrated security tools – No need to think about it, they have you covered and updated.
Writing & editing elements – Feels good but sometimes limited for more advance writing styles. They need an advance editor.
Everything in a web page – Fun but sometimes working in a web page can feel limiting when writing more significant material.
One provider – Like the tools but don’t like not the company providing? Well then that’s it for you and them.
Limited Templates – Yes, for some, you’ll feel limited when it comes to the available templates. You can customize though.
Say Hello to Squarespace
In the last few years a strong player has been going up and up on the web and it’s name is Squarespace. The company has managed to pull a very hard mission: for the web to be a place where sharing and commerce is as easy as writing a word document. And for that, I must admit that I’m very impressed.
Boomseb Runs on Squarespace
If you’re reading this on my blog – boomseb.com – you are on Squarespace. What they did is straightforward; it’s a kind of WordPress but you don’t actually have to manage and support anything. They take care of all the back-end things and you just have to click, write and set up a few things to go forward in your browser (which can feel limiting sometimes but it’s simple and easy to use - big +). I really appreciated the simple setup process; it’s very simple. In less than an hour, I had my free domain name, set up the blog and was writing my first post; that’s cool.
Now Squarespace isn’t perfect like anything else in life. You still sometimes have to go through menus and options that aren’t that intuitive. Also, the writing tools could be a bit better. As they aim to integrate everything into a simple package, you can find yourself feeling limited by what’s presented and so writing a short post is fun, but going longer integrating images and more elements can become a bit cumbersome; but it’s all there and works great.
Why I Prefer Squarespace
All-in-all I’ve gradually learned to love the simplicity of using Squarespace. I don’t have to think about a server, code or anything super technical. It’s not perfect, but instead of focusing on technical challenges, I can concentrate on writing and that’s the whole point for me.
Other players to consider…
You’ll find other solutions and some are really, really good. But I feel some are more for niche players and thus may not be as attractive for the average user.
A completely hosted web site builder. It is free to use for personal or a small business website. It comes with pre-designed templates that users can modify using the drag and drop page builder. I usually see more creative “artists” around and on this platform though - nothing bad but there’s a click. If that’s you good, but you may also want to take a closer look at Squarespace as it is somewhat similar to Wix for certain functions and options.
A Canadian company that enables you to build an online store in a breeze or close to. It provides easy to use tools to create your own online shop - Sell products and easily accept payments. You’ll also find easy to use tools to get you started with your website. It has ready-made templates, apps, and lots of integration options.
Weebly is another completely hosted website builder. It allows you to create your own website using pre-designed templates and their drag-drop page builder.
Some WordPress users who want to focus on blogging felt that WordPress is going in a totally different direction. This gave birth to Ghost, which is a NodeJS based blogging software. The difference is that Ghost is entirely focused on blogging and keeping the clutter away. It provides a clean writing and browsing experience for bloggers and readers.
As you can see from my post, I’ve now converted my blog to Squarespace. The days of me wondering if everything is OK at 3 am are gone!
I’ve just recently recommended WordPress to a few teams as it really was the best alternative for them. They easily found suppliers and publishers to support them and build the site and the results are great. You can take a look at two in specific to get a better idea of possible results.
And why not, SquareSpace Sites
In a post to come, I will talk more about writing itself and give you a few tips on starting and getting better at it. But always remember, have fun, be creative and be curious, ask questions and never settle for crappy solutions! If you feel what you have doesn’t work… then change it!