I noticed this post and thought I would help out with any questions. I'm a web design and search engine optimization professional with many years (10+) of experience.
Some general responses to other posts on here:
In my opinion Wordpress (self hosted) is the best solution for a content management system (a site that the owner can update themselves). Self hosted means hosted with a third party instead of Wordpress.com. Wordpress.org is the self hosted section of Wordpress. Yes there is a difference in the two sites. Wordpress.com is hosted by Automatic the parent company of Wordpress. They offer a great service but it's limited and they only allow certain plugins, limited editability, and ends up costing more in the long run to get what you exactly want. That's important for search engine optimization and getting a site that looks professional so that you gain new clients, orders, and expose your brand. Also Wordpress is supported by thousands and thousands of designers and developers. If something happens to the original designer then it's not hard at all to meet a new Wordpress guy.
"...Perhaps, it's knowing which plugins will simplify things for non-coders? Is that more helpful then using 'themes'?" = Plugins and themes are different. Plugins are like apps on a smart phone. They add functionality and features. The theme is the look, fonts, colors, and over all layout.
@Stitches - I see you went with a Woothemes theme. Good choice!
"See what your web provider offers" = If you can host Wordpress with them then you should be able to use any plugin that you want. As long as it is compatible with the version of Wordpress that your using. The current version is 3.5.
I personally would stay away from Wixx, Yahoo Sitebuilder, and many of those "free" sites:
- They can take a very, very long time to create a decent looking site if you don't know what your doing and even if you know web design (html, css or more) then it can still take a long time because of their proprietary system. Focus on what you do professionally and let a professional web designer that knows their way around create something for you. It's time and money better spent on a web site that will actually give you a return on investment.
- Changing the format, look, and functionality in the future when you grow is limited by what they offer and that's how many make the most of their money... upgrades. Change one thing and it's $5 / month, change another and it's another $10 / month. Before you know it you're paying 50-75 / month on a generic web site that still doesn't perform well.
- Upgrading is terrible and can really restrict your business when you need to take it to the next level.
- Many of those sites are hosted on shared hosting which means there's hundreds of other web sites hosted on the same computer. If one of those sites gets a ton of random traffic, they get hacked, or the hosting company just puts to many on one computer then you site slows down. Studies show that most people leave web sites if they have to wait longer than 7 seconds.
There's really plenty more reasons that I could go on and on about...
I say find a local or online designer (all of us are online as we are web based people) that has a good portfolio of established clients. Send those clients an email, if you can, to see what they say about them. You might not get responses from them all but a few usually will say a good word for a designer / developer that they like and have worked with for a long time. I know my clients would refer me :)
When you get your web site made make sure you have a backup and all the login information to access where all the files and database are stored. That way if you decide to change developers, hosting, or anything else then you can bring your web site elsewhere. Any decent web host will know how to host Wordpress.
I could go on and on about things to consider, my thoughts and so much more but that is enough for now.