I spent a lot of the last couple weeks doing web design. I am working on a social media marketing project for a film production company, and part of the process has been putting together websites for two of their film projects. The first project is a movie that they recently distributed, whose trailer went absolutely viral. They ended up on the O’Reilly Factor, and the home page of most major news media outlets. The downside to all this buzz was that other than the Youtube video, they had no place to drive the traffic to, or any way to “capture” any information about potential fans. Both sites still have a few little bugs, but here are the links so that you can check them out:
My intent here is not to showcase the sites, but rather point out some of the resources that are available if you need to build a decent-looking site, have a basic understanding of HTML/CSS, and don’t have a large budget to hire a web developer.
The first thing you need to do is to grab a domain name. There are thousands of domain registrars out there, but I typically use eightbuckdomains.com. A domain (like the name suggests) shouldn’t set you back more than $8-10 for a 1-year registration – assuming the name you want isn’t being “squatted on” or already in use.
Second, you need to get hosting. Once again, there are hundreds of web hosting companies. Bluehost is one that seems to have good rates. You can get a good hosting package that includes most of the features you need for around $6 per month.
Once you get your domain registered, and your hosting setup, you need to decide on a CMS, or content management system. If you plan on having a static site, and not doing many changes, you can bypass the CMS, but if you want to blog, add photos, or if you ever plan to need to change anything at all on your site, beginning with a CMS is the smartest route to go. There are multiple CMS platforms available for websites, the most common being Joomla, WordPress and Drupal. I am personally a fan of WordPress (mostly for its ease of use), so that’s the one I typically go with. Bluehost and most other hosting companies include an easy WordPress installation option with every hosting plan.
Aside from the easy installation and general ease of use, one of the best things about WordPress is the huge selection of WordPress themes that are available. WordPress themes are starting points for you to use so that you don’t have to design a site from scratch. There are hundreds of really great free themes available to use as well as many premium themes. One resource I came across this last week as I was searching for themes to use as a starting point on these sites was web2feel.com.
Orion Theme from web2feel.com
Web2feel is a fantastic site with a great selection of really beautiful FREE wordpress themes. I highly recommend using this site if you are in need of an inexpensive, but updated website theme. As far as premium themes go, a search for “premium wordpress themes” on Google will lead you to many good sites – I have had good experience with WooThemes, ThemeForest, ElegantThemes, and Studiopress.
One other thing that I love about WordPress as a CMS is the availability of so many plugins. Plugins are snippets of code that you can download to your site right through the WordPress dashboard that allow you to easily add functionality to your site. For example, on shadowcabal.com, we are using two Twitter plugins – one imports tweets from our Twitter feed (twitter.com/shadowcabal) and displays them on the site, the other one automatically posts new blog posts to our Twitter account. We are also using a plugin called FIAGallery to do a photo gallery on the Shadow Cabal Photo page.
Like I mentioned in the beginning of the post, customizing a theme to your tastes (especially if you want to make a lot of changes) can result in a few little bugs that may take a little bit of digging and troubleshooting to figure out, but in the end, you get a site that looks good, functions well, and is not only easy to update, but also has the added benefit of having built-in SEO.