“Dear Web Developer…”

A few days ago I was forced/obligated to sit through an ad on YouTube. The ad was for a new content management system called Duda that proudly tells its audience to use the right tool for the job. ‘You wouldn’t blow dry your hair with a leaf blower, you wouldn’t cut a chicken with a hand saw, and you wouldn’t kill a housefly with a baseball bat’, the ad advises.

In the myriad strategic choices in marketing, Duda chose to promote its benefits by disparaging WordPress, the current content management leader on the web (followed closely by Drupal). Duda tells you you’re using the wrong tool for the job, now use the correct tool. It’s nothing groundbreaking—your typical quirky goofiness that defines many YouTube ads, but it had me thinking about web development from an outside perspective because the Duda commercial paints WordPress as an inflexible tool, which is far from the truth.

As a web developer you’re often scraping Google for information; reading and watching tutorials. A large part of the job is to keep yourself abreast of new trends as well as continued learning to reduce the vast, ever-widening chasm of the unknown that you become more aware of as you move through your career.

Selecting the right tool for the job is important in web development, and can be very tricky the less you know, especially when the many choices out there sound like a foreign language. In this article, I will light a candle on the dark scary corners of development. Here are my top three categories of website development, and suggestions that will help you get started.

Content Management Systems

A content management system (CMS) is software that is often open source and generally allows you to easily manage and create website content. The top CMS platforms used are WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. WordPress accounts for about 50% of the web. All three are a good choice for a website, but in my opinion, WordPress is your best option if you’re trying to get something done fast. WordPress is a great choice because there is a lot of community support, and if you can’t hire a developer for a custom theme, you can purchase a premium theme at themeforest. A properly developed WordPress theme requires knowledge of the WordPress CMS to set up but doesn’t require programming or coding knowledge.

Drupal is also a great choice but can be overkill for small to medium-sized sites. It’s best used for an enterprise-level site and requires a developer. You can purchase a Drupal theme in the same way you purchase a WordPress theme, but the selection is smaller, and a rudimentary knowledge of Drupal won’t cut it with the set-up. You’ll have to pay a developer for set up if you choose Drupal. Set-up can be done without coding knowledge, but the interface for Drupal’s isn’t as user-friendly as WordPress and will require learning.

Joomla is like WordPress where you can purchase a theme and set it up yourself. The set up time would be shortened if you hire someone familiar with the process.

In summary, all three CMS options are great, but WordPress and Joomla will have a lower cost of entry whereas Drupal will require a developer to get you up and running, or some time spent watching tutorials. WordPress also offers free themes which you can find here.

E-Commerce Solutions

E-Commerce is how you sell products online. Be it books, clocks, rocks, or docks. The top three e-commerce solutions by order of web presence are WooCommerce (WordPress), Shopify, and Magento. WooCommerce is an extension of WordPress. You can add WooCommerce to any installation of WordPress by adding the plugin. WooCommerce also has a theme that you can download for free from the woocommerce website that will help you get up and running fast. Most WordPress themes will work well with WooCommerce, so you need not worry if you purchased a premium theme or had a developer code you a custom theme.

Shopify and Magento can also be set up without the need for a web developer, but these platforms are specific to selling products online. I wouldn’t recommend using these platforms if you’re not planning to sell products online, because it will be the wrong tool for the job, or overkill because you’ll have functionality that is not being used and is unnecessary.

You can set up these platforms without coding knowledge, but there is a learning curve required for set-up. You’ll need to hire a web developer for custom work.

Website builders

Website builders are, by far, the easiest solution out there if you have zero coding/programming knowledge and you want a platform that is easy to set up. The downside; your website will always be tied to their platform, which means the themes, functionality, and the existence of the company. Think of using a website builder the way you use Gmail account. The platform provides you with plenty of great functionality, but if Gmail disappeared so would your e-mail. This is what would happen to your website say Squarespace ceased to exist. You can’t bring the content with you.

Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix are the three top website builders. They offer easy entry to someone who is new to the web. For the most part, the interface is intuitive, making it easy to add content. You can also create an online store with all three platforms and sell your products. Website builders offer the simplest entry for a small to medium-sized company that needs to get a site up fast or doesn’t have the money to spend on a developer or designer.

All this said you might still find yourself hiring a designer or a developer, but keep in mind these platforms work best when using the templates and functionality they offer. If you have a larger vision for a website or online application, it’s best to go custom or use one of the eCommerce or content management systems I described earlier.

This should be a good starting point for you to find the right tool for your task at hand. Once you decide, research that solution further. Additional resources to help you get started are below. Feel free to email me for more information.

Content Management Systems

E-Commerce Solutions

Website builders