Website Design Software
fast and intuitive - a very shallow learning curve and the ability to produce content quickly and without having to read extensive manuals
great looking content without the need for design skills
flexible designs - CSS-driven, enabling site-wide changes in an instant
robust and standards compliant - perfect display and fast page-loading in every browser
search engine optimisation built into the workflow
value for money
Option 1 - Integrated Website Design Software
There are a number of programs that have been designed with the pro-sumer market in mind. By pro-sumer I mean people who have or will develop a reasonable level of skill in developing websites but do not aim to market themselves as a website designer. Pro-sumers (and I count myself as one) may occasionally look under the hood, but mostly they are interested in results.
I don't see any benefit in spending several hours tweaking code to achieve what somebody else can achieve in 30 seconds by clicking a button. In fact the thought of wasting so much time terrifies me (I spend too much time in front of this computer already!). If like me you are interested in great results in minimal time, then I think you might like to have a look at my:
review of XSitePro 2 and
review of interspire web publisher
Option 2 - Blog
The quickest and easiest way to get online is to simply sign-up with a blogging service. The two most popular are (click the icon to go to the sites):
Create a blog at bloggerCreate a blog at WordPress
I would suggest at some point that you definitely do sign up at both these sites. You can write blog posts that point at your main site, providing you with immediate backlinks and improving your search engine ranking. However, I don't think you should use these services for your main site.
Option 3 - Self-hosted Blog
I am going to focus on WordPress initially. You can download the WordPress code and install it on your own web server. A more likely approach is that you will simply install it automatically via your hosting control panel. The benefits of self-hosting are:
credibility - self-hosting is an indication that you are serious
plugins - extend the functionality of WordPress, including ecommerce, affiliate monetization, SEO, content creation (videos etc), search
design customisation - literally thousands of themes available, installed at the click of a button, and with the ability to tweak and create your own unique site
affiliate schemes often require your own domain
Search engines like blogs and many professional internet marketers use only blogs. A built-in advantage of blogs is that they have RSS feeds which broadcast your content and to which visitors can subscribe to keep up-to-date with your posts.
As you can see from this site, my preferred approach is to have both a blog and a conventional website on the same domain. The website is for relatively static content. WordPress does have the ability to handle static pages. However, it does not have the level of flexibility that I have using website design software.
I use my blog for topical posts and to draw attention to or expand on content on these pages. I also hope that the blog can occasionally inject a bit of fun.
Option 4 - CMS - Content Management System
I have been developing websites for over ten years. Every couple of years or so I have another go with an open-source Content Management System and after many frustrating days eventually walk away. I love the concept of a CMS - the separation of content and design, automatic menu updates, the ability to create communities.
Unfortunately the reality, at least for me, is that the open-source platforms can never quite deliver what I want and often they simply break entirely. Trawling through support forums I eventually find some incompatibility between different modules or my server's version of PHP or Apache or some server service not turned on or ... It is just too much like hard work and it gets in the way of actually getting the content online.
So I'm disillusioned with open source CMSs. Having said that, there are some major commercial sites using these two CMS platforms:
Drupal and Joomla
However, don't forget that the Interspire Web Publishing Platform is a CMS and, as a commercial product, you will get a much higher level of support. You may also wish to consider Expression Engine. If I was starting again, I would be sorely tempted by these commercial CMS systems! For the time-being, I am content (no pun intended) to battle on with my customised CSS files and Dreamweaver.
Option 5 - Professional Software
To me there is simply one choice, Dreamweaver CS4 (this site has been developed using Dreamweaver). If you will be designing lots of websites then it may be worthwhile investing in learning Dreamweaver. Otherwise I would suggest looking towards the other options. For most websites, Dreamweaver is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
Use the ebay search function above to find a deal on Dreamweaver.
CSS Menus for Dreamweaver
Ajatix Purce CSS Menu is an excellent tool for creating pure CSS menus (good for distributing PageRank across your site). It also works for Expression Engine too.
Option 6 - Hosted Web 2.0
Visit my Web 2.0 Marketing page and, in particular, look at the Weebly and DevHub options.