Monday, December 22, 2014

Assignment 5

Our mission for this assignment is to begin work on an actual website for a real or imagined business. In addition to coming up ideas with the structure and content of the site, we also need to evaluate potential hosting options.

My Proposed Site

I am going to build a website for my drawing portfolio. One slight drawback is that I don't actually have one at the moment. My drawing skills aren't even that good right now. But I figure that with forced, regular, (semi-)public practice, my drawing skills will improve. I expect to include the following pages (subject to change):
  • Welcome page
  • At least some of the drawings (obviously)
  • About the project
  • Bio
  • Favorite tutorials
  • Artists I like
  • Recommendations for supplies
  • Contact form
Here are some individual artists whose portfolio sites I like:
  • José Alvarado uses a simple WordPress blog to display his portfolio.
  • Jacqueline Bissett has a page featuring her illustrations on a larger site featuring a variety of artists. 
  • Shantell Martin uses her own site to display her work in a variety of media, including printed circuit boards with whimsical styles.
In general, many of the portfolio sites I encountered were on aggregator sites or artists using their own social feeds such as Tumblr and Flickr to display their work.


Now that I've decided what kind of site I'd like to create, the next decision is where to host it. Since the course leans toward free providers, that is where I will focus as well.

The fine folks at Wikipedia have a table comparing the features of various free web hosting providers. You can even click on the arrows at the top of each column to sort the table by that option. For instance, if you wanted as much storage as you could possibly get, you could click on the arrows in the Storage column, and the table would be sorted accordingly. You even have the choice to sort in ascending or descending order.

Of course, you're not going to get the same functionality that you would get with paid hosting options. Free providers might also display ads on your site. Your customization options are often limited with free providers. Some free providers prohibit certain types of pages or activity such as e-commerce on their sites.

Another thing to be aware of is potential hidden charges. Most free providers limit their functionality in the hope that you will upgrade to one of their paid options. Beware of anything that says "free to sign up" (this is good practice in general online), especially if they ask for payment information.

In my case, many potential providers don't offer features I know I will need later in the course with their free options, so that helped me narrow the field. I will discuss three potential providers for my site.


Pros: It's not a strict requirement, but it's worth pointing out that Wix's own home page looks slick. I'm more inclined to believe that someone can help me put together an attractive, professional looking site if the claim itself comes from such a site. They have a wide variety of templates available, and functionality such as calendars and shopping carts can be added through the Wix App Market.

Cons: Once you pick a template, you're stuck with it. If you want to change it, you have to rebuild your site. They do offer a blank template, but that isn't likely to appeal to someone who is signing up for a site like Wix to keep things simple. Another complaint that some people have about Wix is the size of the ads. Below is a screenshot of an example site with the ads.

Wix free site with ads on the right and the bottom of the page


Pros: Jimdo offers more robust e-commerce tools than are typically available on free websites. They also provide a mobile app that you can use to create your site. Jimdo also offers the ability to add widgets to customize your site.

Cons: They don't have as many template choices as, say, Wix does. However, they do offer the ability to change templates without losing your content, as well as the ability to edit the template code yourself if you prefer. Some users complain that the page builder interface is not terribly user-friendly.


Pros: An interesting feature available on Webs is the ability to set up private areas of your site restricted to registered members. They also offer an App Store that allows users to add functionality relatively easily.

Cons: As is the case with Wix, you are limited to how much you can customize the templates with Webs. Also, this review says that the editor is slow to load, which can get irritating when making a lot of changes to your site.

My choice

And the winner is ... Jimdo! All three providers were capable of fulfilling my needs, but the things that are personally important to me tilted the playing field in Jimdo's favor.

This is a bit of an upset victory. When I first saw Wix's gorgeous templates, I thought I would use them. But the lack of flexibility in customizing or even changing templates without losing your content opened the door for other providers to wow me. Since I'm kind of obsessive about customization, that gave the advantage to Jimdo for me. If I had really wanted a private members-only section of my site, I would have gone with Webs. However, I don't see myself using that feature.

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