How do you pick the ‘right’ platform to build your website? I’ve been using 3 main platforms, or Content Management Systems (CMS), to build websites and they all have strengths and weakness.
- BurgundySky – I use this for simple websites. There is no set up or installation because the CMS is integrated into the hosting. Just create an account and everything is installed. You also don’t have to worry about version upgrades, back up, any tech stuff on the server side.
- Joomla- I’ve used Joomla to build the Golden Chain Motels Group website. This is a powerful open source CMS that has a huge community of people developing free and paid extensions that give the base package more features. The Golden Chain has over 330 Member Motels across Australia – so this is a big website with hundreds of pages.
- WordPress- I’m using WordPress on this blog. So far, I like it, but I also find there are so many options that it gets confusing. Like Blogger from Google, you have the option to build a free website/blog with free hosting by WordPress, which is great because it’s free, but also limited so that you’ll want to upgrade if you get serious. Like Joomla, there are some set up issues when you set up a WordPress website, but some hosts specialize in WordPress Hosting and they’ll do installation for you. I used WordPressHosting.com.au and they were fantastically helpful. I’m also based in Australia – so I like to use an Aussie Host because it helps with defining my locality.
So, it often comes down to Ease of Use vs Lots of Features. I guess this is true for almost anything. The more stuff something can do, the harder it is to learn and maintain. If you’re not good at setting up servers and hosting accounts, try to find a hosting service that will help. Yes, you often hear people bragging about how cheap their hosting, but it comes at a cost usually tied to your ability. For a few bucks more you’ll get service that is worth the small extra cost.
Here’s my review:
Again, the easiest option is BurgundySky (IMHO). It has features, but they are limited. For an accommodation website I think you get all you’ll need. There are unlimited pages, image galleries, Google Maps, Contact Forms that block spam, in built stats packages as well as easy set up of Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, and full mail capability. There are a lot of templates and most can be customized with your own images and colours to that they look professional and uniquely your own. They’ve proven to be search engine friendly so that within a few days after going live you’ll often find them ranking highly – assuming you’ve written good keywords rich text and page titles.
If you’re wanting to take online bookings, you’ll probably use a service like Web Reservations or one of the others. These specialist systems use booking links that take guests from your website to another website where they can make safe and secure bookings with advance payments. That makes your life easier because they manage security and they provide tools to manage room allocations. Adding secure pages to websites cost extra and requires some attention to how your server is managed. Outsourcing that headache to someone else is a nice feeling.
I’ve also had great luck with Joomla. When we made the Golden Chain website it required a complex structure to navigate and present the features of each Member Property. We needed to be able to organize all these businesses so that you could easily find what you need by location, topic, maps and basic searches. We wanted Member pages to have a consistent layout where contact details, image galleries, booking links, videos, etc. We also wanted to be able to make changes as the site evolves, which means we can change a stylesheet to move something like a Toll Free number to the top, and then all Member Pages on the website are changed. Believe me, when you have over 300 pages; thse global change features are very welcome.
Basic Joomla could not do what we needed. We hired Andrew Eddie and used his JXtended add-ons to enable the features we use to add Member pages and keep them in interlinked categories. It has been very good. We’ve used Joomla and JXtended for 2 years and they have been great. Both are free open source tools, but you’ll find that nothing is really free. Where you don’t have to pay for the software, you will most likely have to pay someone to set it up for you. On the bright side, most people in the Open Source community seem to have a good attitude toward helping people and making the community grow successfully. Working with Andrew was really easy.
So far, so good. I’ve only been using WordPress for a few days. As you can see, I’ve been able to make a lot of posts and somehow you’ve found them. Search Engines and getting found are always the main point of any website. WordPress is opening a new world for me with a different style of connectivity. Where our normal websites rely on Google, we are finding RSS, TechnoRati and other mediums with Pings and Trackbacks important. Yes, basic SEO with good page titles and content and basic efforts to build inbound links remain a constant.
Is it easy? Well, I have mixed opinions there. Finding and installing the right plug ins is not easy. Getting Templates is sort of easy, but they often need to be modified, which is not ‘easy’. I would say that unless you have a fair amount of skill plus a good deal of time, you would probably want to hire someone to set up WordPress.
And the Winning CMS is…..
For me, BurgundySky is the easiest website for accommodation providers. Try the free BurgundySky trial and save yourself the hassles.