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Fulcrum
05-15-2015, 02:57 PM
Normally, this is something that I would contract out, however, I find myself with a fair bit of time in the evenings and I want to fill it with something productive. That and what I want for a site isn't what many e-commerce sites currently look like. To all our resident advisers here, don't worry I'm not looking to go full time into web design as I prefer building physical items that I can pick up and touch.

I'm wondering if there are any good offline website builders available that don't require extensive coding knowledge. Most of the builders that I have found either have subscription fees attached (though I am not opposed to buying a program), have poor options, or the reviews on them scare me off.

Harold Mansfield
05-15-2015, 03:12 PM
Yeah, just grab WordPress for free from https://wordpress.org/ , install it on your existing hosting account on a practice domain, and have at it.
Most hosts with C-Panel have one click install.

It's not a website builder that's drag and drop like a Wix. But it's free, it's yours, and you do whatever you want with it.
Yes you have to learn how to use it, but you have to learn how to use everything.

Plenty of tutorial videos online.

krymson
05-15-2015, 03:30 PM
WordPress is a good place to start. Not a whole lot of coding knowledge needed as there's practically plugins for everything now. Start off with that, if there's something you don't get, we'll help you out.

Brian Altenhofel
05-15-2015, 05:50 PM
That and what I want for a site isn't what many e-commerce sites currently look like.

The e-commerce part is where you're going to run into trouble with finding something that runs offline like Dreamweaver, MS Frontpage/Publisher, CoffeeCup, or the like.

Are you just wanting to mess around with design and see what you like? Or?

billbenson
05-15-2015, 06:01 PM
If you want to get a little more complex, you can run a web server on your PC and install the real version of WordPress or whatever you want to do. Site builders won't work though. It's a several click install. It's just like having a real website, but it runs on your PC not the web so Google never sees it. The one I like is xampp. I think this is a little more than you want to get involved in, but just FYI. Here is the link:

https://www.apachefriends.org/index.html

Fulcrum
05-15-2015, 06:29 PM
Thanks for the tips so far. I should have been more clear in my first post, I do not have a website so I have no hosting account. Complexity doesn't scare me (self taught on some high precision, high price machines) so I will look into xaampp.

I looked at bigcommerce about a month ago, but they had an outage that lasted close to a week and how they handled it didn't give me any confidence in their ability to handle things if it happens again in the future.

@Bryan, this is mostly just for messing around, trying different layouts, figuring out navigation and learning. It would be nice to have the ability to tie in e-commerce as I do want the website to be, primarily, a sales portal. It doesn't need to be fully functional or secure, I just want to be able to go through all the steps to make sure it works. I figure this will also help me get everything together (pics, copy, pricing, etc) in one place for when I do decide to go live.

Brian Altenhofel
05-15-2015, 07:23 PM
Yeah, the BigCommerce thing looked from the outside to be a classic case of lack of ability to failover. But then again, at the rates they charge, one shouldn't really expect a good and tested multi-zone DR plan to be in place.

Fulcrum
05-15-2015, 07:51 PM
The lack of redundancies didn't worry me as much as the lack of response to their clients.

Owen
05-17-2015, 09:19 PM
+1 on Wordpress. Absolutely magnificent software.

Brian Altenhofel
05-17-2015, 09:44 PM
The lack of redundancies didn't worry me as much as the lack of response to their clients.

Definitely. Their customers were shown the hard way why it's important to have SLAs in place when doing e-commerce. Whether those customers learned or not is another issue. Of course, some are willing to accept that risk, and yet some have no way to know how much that downtime cost them in sales.

If you're technically-inclined, I'd recommend Vagrant boxes over XAMPP/MAMP any day of the week. They can be a little more technically involved, but they tend to be more stable and more closely resemble a production environment.

BizAdvisor
05-18-2015, 08:23 PM
I'm actually a big fan of Yahoo SiteBuilder. The reason being is because it can be basic and simple enough for an inexperienced person to experiment, practice, and design and develop a decent looking website. It also accepts any programing language and style which means even an experienced developer can create a professional website on SiteBuilder using JavaScript, iframe, CSS, jQuery, HTML... etc.

Harold Mansfield
05-18-2015, 08:47 PM
I'm actually a big fan of Yahoo SiteBuilder.
Is that actually still operational? I thought it bit the dust years ago. Home page says it's compatible with Windows 2000, XP, and Vista.
Have you used it recently?

BizAdvisor
05-18-2015, 09:24 PM
Harold... Absolutely :)

I actually use SiteBuilder when I work with a client that wants to be able to update their own website. I implement it via SiteBuilder.

Here's a recent SiteBuilder site that is still being developed: American Linkage (http://www.AmericanLinkage.com)

RR151
05-18-2015, 09:31 PM
Fulcrum

Might look at https://selz.com/ for e-commerce.

It's an online website that has a custom cart. It is free to use and set up and they take 2% of sales for a fully functional e-commerce website plus there is a 2.9% of sales .25 cents processing, which is similar to PayPal.

See the screen capture below,

Just a thought, RR

billbenson
05-18-2015, 09:50 PM
Ya know, we have these website builder threads frequently. To me, there are a couple of fundamental problems with website builders. They won't rank in Google and they will tend to look amateurish. Also, I'm a believer that you should try to learn web marketing as part of the process of putting a web site together.

That being said, there is probably a place for them. Dental offices or restaurants come to mind. Local businesses where someone types in the exact name of the business or say 'Chinese restaurants near zip code xxxxx'. A three page site with the menu, directions, and phone are just fine. Not perfect, but better than no web presence.

Just a thought (although I don't want to go to a dentist that can't afford to have a site built for them...)

Kumar Palani
05-19-2015, 07:51 AM
Consider WordPress, its a great option. You can get your website done with fairly limited (almost no) coding knowledge. You can choose from tons of plugins and templates that proven and highly cost effective. Alternatively you can also opt for Weebly or Wix, though the later requires a bit of coding knowledge.

turboguy
05-19-2015, 12:46 PM
I think if someone has never built a web site WordPress is a good option. I am doing my first website using WordPress and to be honest I hate it. I have about 8 websites for my business that I have created myself. Three or 4 were done ages ago using FrontPage which was dropped as a program in 2003. My other newer sites were done using Dreamweaver.

My intention is to redo most all the sites that were done in FrontPage 2002 using WordPress. Although they still look modern and stylish it is about time for a redo and with the changes that are occurring in Googles search algorithms moving to a responsive, mobile friendly format is probably important. To learn WordPress I started with a site that I would have been happy to just close. I could not care less about it. At one time it served a purpose and that site led to the founding of our trade association for our industry but the benefits it provided are now filled better by the Association site. I figured this would be a good site to play with and if I made a mess it wasn't a problem. Currently by the way it is a mess. Once I get more experience with WordPress I will move to my more important sites.

I have heard people say you can have a site up and running in an hour. I think that could be true if you have done a bunch of WordPress sites, know what you are doing and are doing a simple website with a few pages that you already have the content worked out . I probably have 20-30 hours in and have half of a home page. Of course half that time was spent watching YouTube videos on how to work with WordPress. I am not using the same template as the videos used so everything is different. I guess the thing I dislike most about WordPress is the lack of control unless you really know PHP. To me most of the WordPress sites I have seen seem to look so much alike. That is another thing I don't like. I almost think if you had not done websites it would be easier to learn WordPress. I am so used to just putting things where I want them and how I want time that using the control panel just seems weird. I would not consider myself an expert in HTML and CSS but know enough that I do a lot of my work in Dreamweaver in the code view. I know a bit of PHP but not enough to really do much with.

Despite the fact I dislike WordPress I do think it can be a good choice and from what I hear 23% of the websites currently on the Internet were created using WordPress so I am definitely in the minority with my feelings about it. Of course I should push people to Wix since I own stock in the company but I do think that is also a good choice as is Weebly but I have not played with either.

Harold Mansfield
05-19-2015, 01:07 PM
Actually you don't need to know a lot of PHP to customize WordPress themes, but the better you are at simple HTML and CSS the more you can do.
It also helps to know a little something about content management, copy writing, calls to action, use of colors, fonts and images.
WordPress is just a software. It won't make you instantly creative or immediately understand design. Nothing will.

Even using Wix, Squarespace or Weebly, if you have no design skills you'll never create a site like they show you on TV. Most site builders have fail safes. Meaning that they give you predesigned elements and functions with little control so that you can't screw them up, and you are also prevented from importing bad code or functions.

WordPress gives you all the control, and no restrictions so it is more difficult. However, out of all the options out there it is the easiest publishing software to learn. That doesn't mean it's easy. Just that it's the easiest in comparison.

turboguy
05-19-2015, 02:28 PM
Nice post Harold and you make some good points. I do remember struggling to learn FrontPage and then Dreamweaver. I am sure WordPress will get much easier by the time I get a few of my site under my belt. I have put about 20+ hours into this so far but to be fair about half of that was watching tutorials and a big part of the remaining time was looking through templates trying to find one I liked. Actually I made some notes of ones I liked for the future sites so I will have a head start with them.

I am too early in the learning process to give anyone advice that was thinking about doing a WordPress site but my one suggestion at this time would be that if they are watching a YouTube Video on how to build a business site and they like the template the author is using then using that same template would be a time saver. The control panel in the template I am using (Enigma Premium) seems quite different than the ones in the video I watched. I think if someone used the same template as the video and just went step by step they probably could get a site up fairly quickly.

Harold Mansfield
05-19-2015, 03:24 PM
Nice post Harold and you make some good points. I do remember struggling to learn FrontPage and then Dreamweaver. I am sure WordPress will get much easier by the time I get a few of my site under my belt. I have put about 20+ hours into this so far but to be fair about half of that was watching tutorials and a big part of the remaining time was looking through templates trying to find one I liked. Actually I made some notes of ones I liked for the future sites so I will have a head start with them.

I am too early in the learning process to give anyone advice that was thinking about doing a WordPress site but my one suggestion at this time would be that if they are watching a YouTube Video on how to build a business site and they like the template the author is using then using that same template would be a time saver. The control panel in the template I am using (Enigma Premium) seems quite different than the ones in the video I watched. I think if someone used the same template as the video and just went step by step they probably could get a site up fairly quickly.

A good thing to look out for, or remember is that WordPress functionality is universal, but theme functions vary and can throw a monkey wrench in the whole program. Especially if you are using anything that has a framework that runs over WordPress, or Page Builders. They supposed to make life easier for people who don't know basic code like making columns or buttons, but I find that they over complicate things.

billbenson
05-20-2015, 12:55 PM
Nice post Harold and you make some good points. I do remember struggling to learn FrontPage and then Dreamweaver. I am sure WordPress will get much easier by the time I get a few of my site under my belt. I have put about 20+ hours into this so far but to be fair about half of that was watching tutorials and a big part of the remaining time was looking through templates trying to find one I liked. Actually I made some notes of ones I liked for the future sites so I will have a head start with them.

I am too early in the learning process to give anyone advice that was thinking about doing a WordPress site but my one suggestion at this time would be that if they are watching a YouTube Video on how to build a business site and they like the template the author is using then using that same template would be a time saver. The control panel in the template I am using (Enigma Premium) seems quite different than the ones in the video I watched. I think if someone used the same template as the video and just went step by step they probably could get a site up fairly quickly.

I would think for your first stab at it, use the exact same template and configuration as the tutorial. Then you can start to play around with it.

Fulcrum
12-22-2015, 08:17 AM
I forgot about this thread.

I've come to the decision that I would much rather read the tax codes than build websites. I don't know what it is, but my eyes glaze over and I go into a catatonic state.

turboguy
05-30-2016, 10:42 AM
Wow Brad, reading the tax codes of Canada and the USA does sound like torture to me. The good thing is our tax codes are so complex and change so fast that you would never run out of material to read. Before I talk about WordPress I will say I just spent a bunch of time reading the sales tax code for PA. We had a sales tax audit. We had one 8 years ago that cost us over 100 grand. We got lucky this time and it only cost us 3 grand. Some of the rules are really dumb. For example being a manufacturer some of the things we use for manufacturing are sales tax exempt. We were standing near our shear that we use to cut metal and the auditor asked me what we used our fork lift for. Because we were close to the shear for one example I said we used it to pick up metal to slide into the shear. Well since the metal had not been cut that would make it not tax exempt because the manufacturing process had not started yet. If we removed metal from the shear after it was cut that would be tax exempt. Also loading finished goods into a truck for shipment is not exempt because the manufacturing process is finished. Dumb, isn't it?

Ok, now for WordPress and back on topic after my rant. I have always enjoyed creating web sites and would much rather do that than read tax codes but of course everyone is different. I have now completed changing two of our web sites to WordPress with 4 more to do (and maybe eventually more than that). When I posted before in this thread I was struggling with the first one. I found WordPress very challenging at first. It probably took me 4 months to do the first site. Part of that was that because WordPress is better done live (there are other ways) I moved my hosting and repointed without copying the old material so I had to recreate everything from scratch. My advise to others would be to not be as stupid as I was about that. Basically I would work on that first site for about 4 hours and become so frustrated I would get away from it for a few weeks so that 4 months was about 4 hours every two weeks.

When I started on the second site I did copy all the photos and text. I started on that site on a Saturday morning and the first thing I did once I had WordPress installed was to put a notice up something like "This site under construction, stop back soon". By the end of the day on that Saturday the site was complete enough that the last thing I did was to take that notice down. I had a little housekeeping to do but that was minor stuff. Here would be some of my advice for someone wanting to do their own web site using WordPress and who has little experience.

1. This is a repeat from my previous post. There are a lot of good tutorials on YouTube. I would suggest finding a good one and then using the same template they use. Watch it once and then watch it again pausing it on each step as you do that step to your site. Some of the tutorials I liked were those by WP Scultpor &Josh Jackson

2. The theme you pick can make a big difference on how easy it is to create your site. I used the Green Enigma theme for my first site. I liked it because it seemed flashy with stuff spinning in and sliding every which way. That was a mistake. Simple is often better. You need to figure out each one of those elements which makes it harder. For the second site I used the Vantage theme which was much easier to work with. My bounce rate is actually much higher on the first site and I think people find all the moving stuff confusing. I will be using the Vantage theme again on my next two sites.

3. Keep in mind that many of the themes don't have a home page automatically. The page you see as a home page is a sample page. You need to assign a home page. Some themes do come with a home page however. To select a home page select ôreadingö select "static page", then set home page

4. Using the right plugins can be good. Pay attention on the tutorials to the plugins they use. Make notes. Some of the Plugins I like are:

Nexgen is a good photo gallery
Page Builder by Site Origin Nice for page building, lets you edit visually and helps lay out pages. There are many other good parts of this plug in.
Widgets Bundle easy way to add map
Black Studio Tiny MCE Visual page builder/Text Editor
Title Remover, Removes title
Spacer Allows you to control spacing
Contact Form 7, Best contact form
Light Box plus color box. For video
Social Media Widget
MetaSlider (Pro)

5. Before you even start get work out your content, your menu and select the photos you want to use. This will save a lot of time and let you concentrate on building your site.

6. If you need photos a great site for free photos is https://unsplash.com/

7. If you need help for colors a great site is Color Trends + Palettes :: COLOURlovers (http://www.Colourlovers.com)

8. If you see a WordPress site you like and you want to know what theme they used and what plugins they used a good site is WordPress Theme Detector - Free online tool to find a site┬┤s theme (http://www.wpthemedetector.com)

Fulcrum
05-30-2016, 05:48 PM
Gotta love those claw backs. I got hit with one 3 months after starting the business. I claimed a moving expense the year before and, according the reviewer, I didn't know how to read a map.

Back on topic, my employee has expressed an interest in building a website. He's averaging 30-32 hours/week so I'm thinking of letting him give it a shot.

Brian Altenhofel
05-30-2016, 11:19 PM
Gotta love those claw backs. I got hit with one 3 months after starting the business. I claimed a moving expense the year before and, according the reviewer, I didn't know how to read a map.

Back on topic, my employee has expressed an interest in building a website. He's averaging 30-32 hours/week so I'm thinking of letting him give it a shot.

Just make sure domains and hosting are in your company's name and you have the credentials. I've not had a client whose employee ran away with their site, but I've had several that were "Joe set us up 8 or 10 years ago, and Joe is no longer with us."

Harold Mansfield
05-31-2016, 11:50 AM
Just make sure domains and hosting are in your company's name and you have the credentials. I've not had a client whose employee ran away with their site, but I've had several that were "Joe set us up 8 or 10 years ago, and Joe is no longer with us."

I get that A LOT. It sucks to have to tell people they're screwed and have to start over.

Brian Altenhofel
05-31-2016, 12:52 PM
I get that A LOT. It sucks to have to tell people they're screwed and have to start over.

They don't have to start over if they have the budget for the time that it takes. Some customer support teams are very understanding of the situation, while others need a little social engineering, and others won't do anything without a court order.

When I was working on one instead of attending sessions and networking at a conference, the owner of another shop told me about the time they had to go as far as getting a court order to retrieve ownership of the domain. It was a similar situation to the one I was working on at that moment in that the company had paid for a 10 year domain registration and it was time to renew.

To be fair, though, the fees for recovery were pocket change compared to their budget for one TV ad. Not all folks are willing to pay to maintain their branding.

Harold Mansfield
05-31-2016, 01:30 PM
They don't have to start over if they have the budget for the time that it takes. Some customer support teams are very understanding of the situation, while others need a little social engineering, and others won't do anything without a court order.


If they have to start over I've already tried all of that. There are times I am able to recover or at least copy their site and even recover the domain, but when they have nothing, never had anything, and it wasn't even paid for with their credit card, not much left to do. Also, I've seen previous webmasters hold people hostage, basically demanding a huge fee to turn over access or ownership. In many of those cases, when it's out of line, they weren't doing anything significant on the web anyway, and I think they can do better, I recommend moving on.

A few times they wanted to pay, and they paid.
I hate seeing it, but I understand.

Fulcrum
05-31-2016, 04:21 PM
Good tips above that I plan on following. I may not be a digital master, but there are certain things that just make good practice.

My credit card will be used to pay for everything and it will all go in the company name as well as me having a master password. I'll probably go as far as buying a dedicated laptop for this project and all backups will be kept by me.