by Kellie Lignitz-Hahn and Bret Pimentel
Part 2: Comparison Guide
In the second installment in our series on creating an online presence, we have compiled a comparison guide of website-building platforms. Whether you wish to start blogging or design your own website, the first step is to understand which platform best fits your needs. Below are some of the most popular services that cater to both novice and experienced users.
WordPress.com is very easy to use, and on the plus side it is free. This platform provides a place online for your site, but your website address will contain the WordPress.com subdomain name (for example: www.iloveclarinet.wordpress.com). Users do, however, have the option of purchasing their own domain name, which costs about $15 per year. Although there are many design templates to choose from and customize, sites built here will have WordPress ads inserted and users will not be able to capitalize on outside ads placed on their blogs. For just a small fee, users can upgrade service and have the WordPress ads removed. Once creation of the website is finished, users can sync their site with Facebook and Twitter. One major downside to this software is that you do not own your own blog and WordPress has the right to suspend your site if they find it in violation of their rules.
For those who are more comfortable with the web or who want complete authority over designing their site, the WordPress software from WordPress.org is a more advanced option. (This is the same software that WordPress.com uses to provide its services.) This software requires users to have their own web hosting, which usually costs about $10/month for a basic package. (Web hosting is something like renting digital “space” to build a website yourself. All of the other services in this roundup provide easier but less-customizable ways of building a site from existing “parts.”) The software is free to download and install on your web host, and many hosting companies also provide an easy WordPress installation process. The upside to this particular software is being able to access plugins for your site with the possibility of adding and extending features. You own and control your own site and will never be in jeopardy of being shut down. Beware that most will experience a learning curve using this platform and users are expected to know how to manage backing up content and security for their website.
Blogger has similar features to WordPress.com, though perhaps a little less flexibility in visual design. Since Blogger is owned by Google, you may not even need to create an additional account to use it – the same account you use for Gmail, Google Calendar, and other Google properties will work. Blogger also takes advantage of integration with other Google services, so, for example, you can see site traffic reports generated by Google Analytics, or run advertising powered by Google Adsense. Over nine years ago when the Clarinet Cache blog came into existence there were fewer website services available than today; we chose Blogger because of its accessibility and its easy-to-use interface.
Wix is an easy-to-use website-building platform offering subscribers a vast quantity of templates to choose from. One nice editing feature is the ability to switch the preview layout to fit either a computer screen or mobile device. This lets you know what content is visible on the smaller phone screens so you can adjust the layout of your site. The Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) component can aid those unfamiliar with website design by helping insert content page by page and creating a first draft of page layouts. Wix also has a mobile app that offers the convenience of managing your website directly from your phone. One downside to this platform is the inability to change your template once the building process has begun. Wix offers different price plans ranging from free to $25 per month, with an additional option of purchasing customized domain names.
Geared toward small business owners, Squarespace is simple and beginner-friendly. Their sophisticated and polished templates have a built-in component that adjusts how content is displayed to automatically fit on all types of devices. New developments include four iOS mobile apps, as well as Android-accessible apps, that give users access to analytical data and freedom to sync with internet services like Evernote, Dropbox and Google Drive. Like many other platforms, Squarespace connects with Twitter and Facebook to send quick and easy notifications across social media.
Weebly is a flexible platform for creating many kinds of websites. It offers free basic accounts as well as several tiers of paid accounts that include additional features. Some of these include e-commerce services for small businesses. Weebly is designed for users who like to have control over their site’s appearance, but who don’t want to learn to write computer code. Weebly offers many attractive and easy-to-use visual themes, which can be customized with a drag-and-drop interface that will feel familiar to users of page layout or publishing software. Weebly makes it easy to incorporate elements like a blog, photo albums and videos.
Tumblr is a “microblogging” site, meaning that its blogging functions are optimized for short content and for “reblogging” (sharing) content produced by others. It is free and easy to use. Writing longer posts is possible, but savvy Tumblr users generally expect to find content for casual browsing rather than in-depth reading. Tumblr has been involved in some controversy regarding its hosting of adult content, which has led governments in some parts of the world to block or restrict access to it. This can potentially affect even family-friendly Tumblr blogs.
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Stay tuned for the next column in this series where we will discuss content and what components make a website stand out. Visit us on the web at www.clarinet.org/theclarinetonline/clarinet-cache for a digital version of this column. As always, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what we missed, or to provide ideas for future columns!
About the Writers
Kellie Lignitz-Hahn is assistant professor of clarinet at Texas A&M University-Kingsville where she teaches applied lessons and directs the TAMUK Clarinet Choir. She received both her DMA and MM degrees in clarinet performance from the University of North Texas and her BM from Washburn University. Her primary teachers include James Gillespie and Kirt Saville. Kellie is an active clinician, chamber musician, and frequently plays in the Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra and the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. She is also a Regional Artist for Vandoren.
Bret Pimentel is an associate professor of music at Delta State University (Mississippi), where he teaches clarinet, oboe, bassoon, and saxophone and directs the Jazz Ensemble. He received DMA and MM degrees in multiple woodwinds performance from the University of Georgia and Indiana University respectively, and a BM in saxophone performance from Brigham Young University. His clarinet teachers have included D. Ray McClellan, Guy Yehuda, Daron Bradford, and Heather Rodriguez. He is an active performer in a variety of musical settings. He blogs at bretpimentel.com.