February 13, 2019

How to choose a website platform

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There are a zillion platform options, but they’re not one size fits all. Here’s how we chose the platform for our website, and the questions we asked ourselves.

A duotoned dark purple and beige version of the Apple 'desktop computer' emoji (which looks like an Apple iMac), in front of a light blue zig zag shape across the bottom

To work out which platform would be best suited to the Producing Paradise website, we asked ourselves a few questions:

Q. What features do we need?
A. We needed the ability to upload blog posts, add categories and tags, display posts in date order, and adjust our navigation menu as the site evolves. WordPress is a blog-centric platform which can be extended by plug-ins as your needs change over time, which made it an attractive choice.

Q. Which platforms are we familiar with?
A. Familiarity with a platform can set you off to a flying start. As digital producers, we already knew our way around a number of different content management systems (CMSs), but WordPress was especially familiar to us.

Q. What support is available?
A. As open-source software, WordPress is widely used worldwide, which means there are also great help resources available. Most WordPress questions or issues can be solved with the right Google search!

Q. What’s our budget?
A. How much a website costs is one of those “how long is a piece of string?” questions: any free option will come with its limitations, and the sky’s the limit for how much you can pay.

The website costs you’ll need to consider when setting up a new site are:

  • Domain registration: to reserve the ‘name’ of your site, which is also the web address used in the browser (like ‘producingparadise.com’). The registration cost usually covers one year at a time, and needs to be renewed at the end of each year.
  • Website hosting: where your site files are stored. Some platforms include the website hosting as part of your platform fee (like Squarespace), while others allow you to purchase your own hosting separately (like WordPress). This is another ongoing cost, usually paid monthly or annually.
  • Website theme: to apply styling to your site. Themes are created to suit each platform, and usually require a one-off purchase cost (although there are free options too).

These are just the absolute basics; there are other posts out there which go into more detail about the costs to consider when setting up a new website.

As a side project, we knew we wanted to keep both our setup and ongoing costs down. We didn’t have a specific budget, but knew we could save money by going for a cheap hosting plan (the Starter Shared plan on Dreamhost*) and using our theme-editing skills to extend a free theme.

There’s a trade-off to be made here around the price you’re willing to pay for a platform, versus the work involved in maintaining and updating it. We could have chosen Wix (for AUD60 p/year) if we didn’t mind the Wix advertising, or Squarespace (for AUD119 p/year) if we wanted something that would do more ‘out-of-the-box’.

In our case, we’re using Producing Paradise as an opportunity to improve our (limited!) web development skills, so we were happy to get something that we knew would need us to spend time on modifications.

Of course, just because we picked WordPress, doesn’t mean it’s right for you! If you’re looking to start a blog, you might assess the suitability of Wix vs Squarespace vs WordPress vs Weebly, or maybe more social platforms like Medium, Blogger, or Tumblr for your site.

* Full disclosure: while we’re in this for love (not money!), signing up for Dreamhost with our referral link will earn us a tiny kickback on our website hosting costs.

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Jess Allison

Optimist. Traveller. Dreamer. Doer. Delivery Lead (ex Digital Producer). See what else I've written here.

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