WordPress is not the be all and end all of website creation, as some other excellent services will prove to you.
The sturdy WordPress platform continues to be one of the top choices for creating a website, and deservingly so. But, in certain scenarios, WordPress as a website solution can be overkill.
Say, you’re a writer or a photographer. All you want to do through your website is showcase some of your work, introduce yourself to people, give them a way contact you, and maybe throw in a landing page for your next product. In such cases, you’re better off choosing from alternative platforms like the ones outlined below.
Some of them need a working knowledge of HTML/CSS, which is easy to acquire if you put in the time and effort to go through our XHTML guide. We recommend it, since HTML/CSS skills will stand you in good stead in the Internet era.
For The One-Page Lovers
Ideal if: You want a simple solution, preferably a point-and-click one, to create a visually engaging single-page website. The concept of single-page websites goes well with our increasing use of hand-held devices. If you’re undecided whether you should opt for such a website for your next idea, Matt’s post on the benefits of a one-page website will help you make a decision.
Flavors.me started the trend of unifying your Web presence and presenting it as a rich tapestry of color and content. Since its inception, it has introduced various features for customization, but its basic format of content aggregation from various services and social networks has remained the same. There’s no coding involved, but just a WYSIWYG interface and enough options to craft a unique landing page for yourself.
In late 2012, Moo, a successful business card printer, acquired Flavors.me. It hasn’t made any attempt to change the original flavor (no pun intended) of Flavors.me. Only free business cards courtesy Moo.com have been added to the mix. Users have to pay the shipping charges only.
With About.me you can have a Web page for yourself or your business up and running within minutes. Like its biggest competitor, Flavors.me, About.me is all about pulling content from multiple Web services and turning them into a beautiful, centralized Web presence. There’s no technical know-how required whatsoever.
Getting a new business card? Add your About.me url to it, so that when people decide to look you up online, they’ll be greeted by your interesting new home on the Web.
Strikingly provides an easy-to-setup one-page website that looks gorgeous on any device. It doesn’t get much simpler or better than that. Sign up, pick a template, use the WYSIWYG editor to add content and tweak the visuals to your satisfaction, and hit Publish. Your site is now live!
In addition to a contact form, analytics, privacy settings, and a Twitter summary card, there are various settings to bring your website to perfection. Of course, some of the options are available only for premium users. Here’s an interesting feature of Strikingly. You can turn your LinkedIn profile into a neat online résumé in just one click.
Pricing: Free (code is licensed under the MIT and GPL licenses)
A stunning backdrop, a logo, and a brief overview of your work and life. If that’s your vision for your website, The Personal Page is just what you need. It’s a lightweight, mobile-friendly one-page HTML template that you can upload to your server. To modify the page, you’ll need a little bit of HTML/CSS knowledge — just enough to replace the default text and images with your own. Upload an interesting high-res image to make the page inviting, but ensure that it doesn’t detract from or overpower the textual content.
For The Tinkerers
Ideal if: You want more control over how your website looks and behaves, or if your website requires multiple pages and additions like a blog or a store front.
Pricing: Paid, with a 14-day free trial
Everything about Squarespace is sleek and beautiful, right from its shiny, responsive templates, to its point-and-click editor. The service gives you the versatility of WordPress plugins, without asking you to learn coding if you’re not inclined to do so. Options like analytics, social media integration, and SEO optimization are built into Squarespace’s dashboard by default.
Whether you want to create a portfolio website, a personal page, an e-store, or any other kind of website, Squarespace makes it possible. It’s perfect if you want something feature rich minus the coding aspect that lies at the heart of website creation. That perfection comes with a monthly fee based on your requirements. But with web hosting, a domain name, and a steady, reliable service included in the fee, the pricing is well worth it.
Pricing: Paid, with a 10-day free trial
If you want a robust website builder, Virb is a great choice. With its sole pricing plan, you get unlimited access to all of Virb’s features, which include cloud hosting, custom domain support, password protection, file support, integration with Dropbox, Google Tools, and social media. Choose from a selection of beautiful responsive themes, take advantage of the built-in blog, or set up a storefront.
You don’t have to fiddle with any piece of code unless you are interested in the workings behind the scenes. If you have something basic in mind for your website, Virb might be an expensive pick, and one of the single-page options listed above would be a better choice.
Jekyll is a powerful platform to create a static website and to retain minute control over it. But using it is not for the faint-hearted, especially if coding is not your thing. With its 5-minute install, even WordPress might be easier to set up. The good news is that if you’re willing to get your hands dirty and learn as you go, there’s plenty of detailed documentation to help you set up your website using Jekyll. Begin with the Jekyll by Example tutorials or Jekyll’s Getting Started guide.
With this popular website generator, you can abandon your hosting provider and instead use GitHub Pages to host your website, on your domain, for free. What’s more, with Jekyll driving your website, you can blog with Markdown, which is a smart way to write for the Web, as Bakari shows you in our Markdown guide.
As far as difficulty levels go, Type & Grids is a step above WYSIWYG options like Flavors.me and several steps below i.e. easier than code-heavy solutions like Jekyll. It is not a standalone service, but a set of two almost ready-to-use, mobile-friendly HTML templates that you can upload to your Web host. The changes you need to make involve replacing the placeholder information and images with your own.
If you crave neat, responsive interfaces with beautiful typography and icons, you’ll love Type & Grids. There are no sign-ups and monthly fees to bother with. The free plan comes with six color schemes and six typography themes that you can mix and match to your liking. Type & Grids is best suited for portfolio pages. You can download the free two-template set by sharing your email.
Want more out of Type & Grids? Opt for one of the Pro packages, which provide more color and type themes as well as smooth integration with the popular flat-file CMS Statamic, allowing you to add a blog to your portfolio, with ease.
Cargo is ideal for people whose work has a visual element at its core, such as designers, illustrators, photographers, and architects. The platform presents simple tools to showcase your work in the best possible light.
You will need some knowledge of HTML/CSS to mold the website as you see fit, but even without it you should do okay, thanks to the comprehensive knowledge base on the website. If you’re interested in the development side of things, you can delve into your site’s full code. The option to follow people and bookmark their work imitates the social aspect that we have become comfortable with, and look forward to, on the Web.
Signing up for Cargo involves the extra step of applying for an account by sharing a bit of info about you and your work. But don’t let that scare you off. It’s not as stringent a barrier as you think.
If you like and appreciate the simplicity and the ease of use of Dropbox, how about using your favorite cloud-hosting service to set up your website? Brace.io makes that possible by creating a special folder in your Dropbox to hold your website files.
You don’t really need to code a website from scratch. Choose from one of the free or paid templates available online, upload the template files to the Brace.io folder in Dropbox, and make HTML/CSS changes based on how you want the website to look. Brace.io automatically updates your website based on these changes. But this website version stays as a draft until you ship/publish it. The live website is hosted on Amazon’s cloud.
There are a couple of suitable website templates right here in this post. The Personal Page is one, and Type & Grids is the other. Instead of uploading the corresponding templates to your web host, put them in your Dropbox and ship them using Brace.io.
An Attractive Web Presence Made Simple
Based on your website requirements, not all of these services will turn out to be perfect solutions for you. Although some of them can handle complex websites, their overall approach to website creation lends itself best to compact and static websites. If that is the kind of website that you’re after, you might just be ready to skip WordPress and give one of these services a shot.
Which service do you use for your website(s)? Let us know in the comments.