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Website Buying Guide Checklist
by: Joel Walsh
Can you really get a website even without knowing anything about code, and without paying a fortune? Find out.

The days when websites were primarily distinguished by their code are long gone. Nowadays, the web is a true publishing medium that favors well thought-out ideas. You can get a professional-looking website online in minutes with many website building services and software. But what should you look for? What are the features you really need and which are just clutter?

Content Editing

Some website authoring software packages only allow you to entire plain, unformatted text. Some of them allow you to entire HTML tags. Others provide a WYSIWYG ("what you see is what you get") interface with options for font, links, and image insertion much like a word processor's. Some will allow you to use more than one, or even all of these options so you have a choice on how you want to format your text.

Template Designs

Every website builder ever invented came with at least one or two templates for creating the graphical look of a website, so you don't have to design the look of the site yourself. But some packages have very large libraries of templates, some have only a few. Some will let you mix and match elements of the design templates, while others will lock you in to one setup.

Ecommerce Functions

Many ready-to-go websites created by website builder software feature built-in shopping carts. Some even come with credit card processing. This is of course necessary if you're going to be selling stuff direct online. But if you're not going to be selling anything, ecommerce functionalities may just complicate the administration of the site and pad the price for the software or service.

Blogging Functions

Blogs are "web logs," but blogging software involves more than just a simple online journal. Blogging technology allows you to send your new posts directly to subscribers via RSS, without them having to visit your site or receive an email from you. Still, unless you plan on updating your site regularly (at least once a month), your website's blog will just gather cobwebs.


Some hosted web authoring systems provide email accounts at no additional charge, while others do charge separately. Some web builder systems even come with modules for creating email newsletters.


It is very likely that you will encounter a technical difficulty at some point while owning your website. Make sure you know in advance of paying whether the company provides only paid support, and if any included support is over email, a web ticketing system, or the telephone.

Photo and Image Management

For many, if not most, people who want personal websites, displaying pictures online is a primary motivation, if not the only motivation. If you want to display pictures on your website, make sure to choose a website builder system that makes it easy to upload and publish images.

Renting vs. Owning

You can buy website authoring software upfront for a flat fee, or you can "rent;" i.e., pay a company every month to use a hosted service. The choice is up to you, but remember that the hosted service will likely charge you much more in the end: averaging around $20/month, hosted the typical hosted website builder will cost you $240/year--far more than most desktop software.

In short, you don't need to know how a website is coded to make one, any more than a book author needs to know about printing ink. Don't burden yourself with learning how to do web design. Having fun with your website starts with choosing a website builder software that will make it fun.

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