As a business owner, you are well aware of the fact that you need to make a website in order to give your business credibility and to allow your customers to find you online. After some research you also know that you have three options; hire a web developer, use WordPress, or use a website builder.
In short, hiring a web developer is an expensive option that most small to midsize businesses do not need. WordPress is free to use, making it a great option for businesses with small budgets. However, in order to build a great WordPress site, you will need to have more than a little bit of coding knowledge. This leaves a website builder such as IM Creator.
Website builders are much like a free toolbox created for people who do not have coding or design knowledge. In just a short amount of time, you can create a custom website that you can easily make changes to and manage on your own. In this article, we will show you how to build your own website from start to finish using a website builder, using IM Creator as the example.
Getting Started With Your New Website
Usually, website builders offer numerous templates that are already broken down into categories for you based on what type of business you have. A photographer is going to want a theme that allows for more images, whereas a service provider will require more text space.
Take some time to browse through the templates to get a feel for the layout and function of each one. Once you have decided on a template that you like, go ahead and click on the “Customize Now” button found at the top right hand corner of your screen.
Of course, since you can customize your theme to suit your brand and needs, you are not locked into the suggested themes- they are simply a guide to make the process of choosing and building easier.
For our example we have chosen a photography template
Customizing Your Website
Once you have chosen a template that you like you can begin to customize your website. There will be a tool bar somewhere on the page (on the top if you using IM Creator). There you will usually find three categories; Manage Pages, Add an Element, and Add a Blank Page.
This feature allows you to duplicate, delete, add, and reorder pages. For example, if you want extra gallery pages to add more images, you can click on “duplicate” and it will add the new page to your website automatically. You can also click on “Add Page” and choose from the menu that appears.
Add an Element
The tools available here are what allow you to really make the site custom and your own. You can add additional text boxes, slideshows, videos, contact boxes, widgets, and more.
In our example, the initial home page photo was static. We right clicked on the photo and a box appeared around it that gave us the ability to delete the entire section. Once it was gone, we went to “Add an Element”, clicked on “Slideshow” and then positioned the new slideshow area where the static picture was.
From there we were able to click on “Manage” where we deleted the stock photos and added our own. There are also options to change the setting of the slideshow so that you can change to rotation speed and size. You may also add social widgets to your pictures.
Within settings you will have the ability to change the color scheme of your site as well as add SEO, add website analytics, purchase a domain name, and more. There is no coding necessary to make these changes and you can create a color scheme that matches a pre-existing logo perfectly to ensure consistent business branding.
Most website builders offer a full range of widgets to enhance your site. You can add Google maps to make sure your customers can find you, and connect to your site to Twitter, Facebook, and other social network sites. There are no plugins necessary to use and install any of it.
With each change you make to your website, you have the ability to preview the site by clicking on “Preview” in the top right hand corner of your screen. This will show you exactly how your site will look with the changes, without making it live first.
In order to make your site, and any changes you have made, public, you must hit “Publish” first. This is important to remember when hitting “Save” as well. Saving it means your changes will not be lost, but those changes cannot be visible to users until you have also hit “Publish”.
Installing Your Website
Once you are happy with the appearance of your site, it is time to “install” it. For some, this simply means hitting “publish”. If you do not want to pay for hosting, your URL will be your business name plus the website builder URL. While it is not custom, it does get your business on-line with zero start-up costs.
In my example my site URL would be i-m.mx/carriekleppy/sweetjanephotography. However, if you want your URL to be your business name, you will need to upgrade to a hosting and domain package. This can cost as little as $8. Upgrading can also give you custom email accounts, extra storage, advanced analytics, and more.
If you do choose to upgrade, installation still only takes a few minutes. Once you complete the forms, add your payment, and set up your email, you again hit “publish” and your site is live.
Maintenance of your site is no different than the initial set-up. If you need to make changes for promotions or to add additional products or services, you can just log back into the website builder go to the editor, and make the necessary changes.
In this example we added a seasonal special page. When the Holidays are over, the page can either be taken down by hitting delete or it can be changed to reflect a new special.
An online website builder will usually have free support available to answer questions you have along the way, so you are not left to go at it alone.
If internal updates to the website building platform are made, you will not need to do anything to your site. It will still function as it did before and you may not even notice that anything has been done.
Using a website builder is a fairly easy process for anyone who has no prior coding or website building knowledge. The layout is similar to that of a Word document. There are advanced settings that can be used for those who have a bit of knowledge on HTML tags. However, you can still get a very customized look & feel in a short amount of time even if you are not techy. There is a small cost if you want your own domain and email capabilities, however, this is a minimal amount and far less expensive than paying someone to build a site for you.