Lovelli mentors copywriters and ad agency practitioners. She has been studying startup entrepreneurship and social psychology on the side.
When planning a website, many people are too focused on the technical. Yet any project’s starting point is rarely technical. Most fail from lack of clarity in vision and in goals:
1. What you want isn’t what you need
Making a selection is a real challenge when your half-baked idea is in the ideation phase. You’re still developing vision clarity, constantly validating what you really want to do with this blog. So you’re sorting out which personal goals your website will help you with.
Let’s say that two of your main goals are to find a new girlfriend/boyfriend and to sell your music online. Hypothetically these two make sense, right? If you sell your music online, you’ll attract a new person into your life, and with the money you make from your music you’ll be able to go on fancy dates and get to know each other.
But if that’s the case, you probably don’t need a new website. Is it even necessary? In reality, you will probably be so busy with your blog that you won’t find the time to look for “a somebody” to go on dates with.
2. Your goals aren’t SMART
Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-bound goals are what you want. Instead of thinking of a super simple goal like “I want to lose weight,” you might want to have something like “I want to lose 10 pounds a week by going to the gym three times a week and working out for at least 25 minutes a day at home.”
Sure, simple is good. But remember to think about how your awesome blog would help you achieve your goal.
What You'll Get From This Article
This article is divided into five sections detailing some of the basic concepts and features you need to make a site builder selection. You can go through them one by one or just click on the sections most relevant to you:
- Your blog might fail
- Don’t confuse website builders for website hosting
- What basic blog features are for me?
- Get that clean and simple look
- Review a website builder
The Difference Between a Website Builder and a Website Hosting
It doesn’t matter if you’re starting an academic blog to help reach out to college students or a blog about your favourite metal band. The basic technical requirements for all blogs are the same.
Also, no matter your level of expertise, you will need to find the following:
- A domain name
- A web space to store your file
- A program to communicate with the web space
- An editing program
Website builder vs. website hosting
A website builder is considered one of the safest ways to create your website because you get all your requirements from a single provider. Your domain is usually taken care of, and the web space and editing program come from the same source.
A website hosting only provides you with the online storage. People with more advanced tech knowledge prefer to build their own website from scratch, so they will opt for a web hosting and a web editor instead of an all-in-one website builder.
The domain name is your address on the internet. You can get your domain from different providers, but the web host usually has available domain names for purchase. If you want to get your own domain name elsewhere, you can purchase it from a registrar, such as Namecheap.
It is important that your domain name is affordable, or cheap. Some premium domain names or registered ones can cost you hundreds and thousands of dollars.
Domain names are attached to a 'https://' or 'http://' followed by the www abbreviation (World Wide Web), ending with a .com. Recent domain name combinations have more options in place of the .com. You can have country-specific domain names (ending in .com.au for Australia, or .co.uk for the United Kingdom) and modify it according to various categories (such as .blog for a weblog, .art for artists, and many more.., even .xyz).
This is where you will store your files on the internet. You are paying for the online storage that suits your plan.
You might not even need this File Transfer Protocol program. Some website builders, like Wordpress.com, do not allow FTP access.
Which Website Features Are for My Blog?
When it comes to your blog, the star of the show will always be your content. This is especially true for most personal blogs in niches that offer the diary-like point of view. Even though some of the best personal blogs I have ever read were not written by professional journalists, they certainly provided enough introspection to influence my own take on various political issues.
When going through potential website builders, keep in mind the common traits of all popular blogs:
1. New posts are shown first
With every blog, the content organization is in reverse order. Newest posts will always be found on the top of the other posts.
2. The posts are dynamic
Blog posts encourage discussions and would include call-to-actions. With blogs, visitors are encouraged to leave a comment, discuss, and engage with your content. A visitor can easily find your newest posts and discuss the most relevant and up-to-date content.
3. The content is original, unique
Readers come to your blog expecting the original, and unique content blogs are known for. It is also expected that you provide high-quality content regularly. That automatically means providing relevant, eye-catching images with proper attributions.
These are basically what you would expect from any blog. Knowing this, it really does not make that much of a difference which website builder you will be using, because all of them will most likely be able to deliver the standard mentioned above for content.
As long as your page loading time is within the acceptable range of 3 to 5 seconds and your site is optimized for mobile, you’re on the safe side.
Website builder questions
Take into consideration the following questions, so that when you go over website builder reviews online you can sift through the ones that are more relevant to you.
- Is it easy to use?
- Is it SEO friendly?
- Does it provide multilingual support?
- Does it have a one-page site option in addition to a full website?
- Does it provide an ecommerce option for later (when you want to sell your stuff)?
How to Get That Clean and Simple Look
To read a blog online, some people need some help. I used to subscribe to an online tool called Readability (now defunct) that will transform any website or blog post into a cleaner version with easy-to-read fonts and in a more readable layout. The cluttered images and other extra elements of the page get trimmed, leaving me with a clean webpage. Only the necessary content for me to read.
I would never, ever read a blog post on my mobile unless it’s absolutely necessary and would prefer to use something like a Kindle or a larger reading pad. I tend to gravitate towards the cleanest, simplest blog. And that is exactly the kind of look I recommend for a personal blog.
In order to achieve the clean and simple look, there are several website design elements that you need to decide on: the content width (full-width or boxed), the home page header, and the menu bar. Make sure that your overall look does not obstruct your readers from actually engaging with your content. Instead of shying away from an overcrowded webpage, you want people to find what they’re looking for.
Website builders list
I have compiled here a list of inspiring website builders that offer some of the cleanest and simplest looking blogs, in alphabetical order:
Google’s very own builder for bloggers. The default themes are already pretty rad, but if you do some searches online, you’ll be amazed at all the free and minimalist templates you can find.
No-interface platform using only your Dropbox to publish your files automatically. If you’re a Dropbox fan, like me, it’s easy to see how this would work well for your personal blog. Try Blot.
3. Cargo 2
The templates are very readable and fully customizable, with plenty of room for images. I really like the artsy and bold emotional appeal of many of Cargo 2’s templates. Especially for the font selection and sizes, which also looked good on mobile. It’s like flipping through zines. Try Cargo 2.
4. Google Sites
Unlike the previous one, the new Google Sites is not disappointing. It’s enough to help anyone publish a personal collection of ideas.
Heek is an AI-powered chatbot that builds websites. I liked the idea of a bot helping me with my blog, but because the payment scheme requires me to pay in euros, I decided not to go ahead with this site builder.
A free and open-source builder. This is a static site generator for people with intermediate to advanced coding skills. You will need to work with a command line interface and install quite a number of dependencies to get Hugo up and running.
Open-source static site that works well with GitHub pages and Git. I use Jekyll for my coding blog, and it’s been quite an adventure so far.
A product of Cargo Collective. It’s very visual and very suitable for multimedia content. If you want a personal blog that includes plenty of high-res images, videos, and animations, Persona is for you.
Easy-to-use and free. Tumblr has a pretty lively community of bloggers. Unfortunately, this site builder has some geopolitical restrictions and is blocked in some countries.
A place to publish your posts anonymously on write.as’s reading and writing platform. Plenty of white space, easy to read, and you also have the ability to make your blog public.
11. Yahoo! Small Business
Although very rarely talked about, the Yahoo! Small Business website builder is actually pretty great. You can create simple websites with e-commerce integration. Try Yahoo! Small Business.
Review a Website Builder
You should be able to review a website builder to see whether or not it is the right candidate for your awesome blog. As basic pointers, use the list of questions related to your desired blog features I listed above. It’s a good idea to check out available website builders just to see what people are already saying about certain website builders.
Of course price is a factor of consideration. Perhaps a major factor for your first website. Before going for free, however, keep in mind that there are reasons why some website builders offer free or freemium services. You get some free space to host your files and folders online, but in return, they also have the right-hand advantage.
1. A marketing ploy
Providing free and pay-as-you-go services are not really free. Some companies would later on try to sell you their paid plans.
2. Supported by ads
3. For testing purposes
Think of the free plan as a beta testing phase for "the real deal." You are welcome to test your plan in any way, but when you are ready to take the plunge, you’re going to be using a suitable paid plan.
In addition to these considerations, always keep in mind your blog’s safety and security. That’s why most bloggers would start out with the most popular website builders, such as Wordpress, regardless of the intermediate level of expertise required to use this service. They want to be sure that the company will last for as long as the blog does and that their blogs are safe.
Site builders that have been around for quite a while surely will know a thing or two about website security. They probably would be able to deliver high-quality customer support when you need it. They can probably anticipate downtimes, crashes, and other possible mishaps better than unpopular ones.
A relatively new type of website builder is the open sourced, which means that the source code is published to the public. An open-source option for building your blog is an increasingly popular option, because with the code visibility you no longer need to rely on mere claims from web companies. You get to confidently see the standards for yourself.
Open-source options are generally free and come with community support. These types of projects offer more freedom in customization and its superiority. Instead of relying only on a few developers employed by a company, open-source projects are involving thousands of developers around the world. Some popular open-source website builders are Jekyll, Hugo, Joomla, Ghost, Drupal and Listed.
Even with all the research, online forms, and guides available, you could still settle for the wrong website builder. It could be that the timing was not right. Or your plans have changed. Whatever the reason, it’s best to be prepared. Always put your thoughts down in writing and make sure that your content plan and strategy is laid out clearly and not just on-the-fly improvisation. This will help you in evaluating your project and making the necessary changes, such as moving your content elsewhere if necessary.
Sources & Further Reading
- (2010). 43 Essential Blogging Terms to Know If You’re a Serious Blog Contender. Moller Marketing.
- Jarno Wuorisalo. (2013) 5 Common Characteristics of Successful Blogs. Cuutio.
- (2018) How do I start to design my website? MDN Web Docs - Mozilla.
- Robert Brandl (2018). Technical requirements for your website. Create a Website.
- (2018) Should You Get Free Web Hosting? Pros and Cons. Web Hosting Search.
- Marko Saric (2018) 40+ Best Blog Sites & Blogging Platforms: The Complete List For 2019. How to Make My Blog.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 Lovelli Fuad
Diana Farad on September 29, 2019:
Thanks for sharing your experience!
Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on December 25, 2018:
A very informative and helpful article.