The Web's Best-Kept Secret

Everyone knows Squarespace, Wix & Wordpress. But here's how I like to build new sites.

You’re reading the Wonder Tools newsletter. Each post features a tip to help make your remote work a little more enjoyable, efficient and creative. I’m Jeremy Caplan, a journalist, director of teaching & learning at the Newmark J-School, and a lover of useful tools. Subscribe here:

Tilda is a well-kept secret.

It's a terrific tool for building professional-looking web sites without having to code. 

Squarespace buys million dollar Super Bowl ads. So does Wix, with its $100 million marketing budget. Weebly and Jimdo have devoted fans. And 36% of the Web is built on Wordpress.

My own favorite, though, is Tilda. I’m anything but a designer or coder, but I’ve used it to build several sites with it, including my personal site, a site about entrepreneurial journalism, and a beta project I'm working on with my wife and daughters highlighting fantastic children's books for kids. 

If you can edit a Google Doc, you'll have no trouble building a site with Tilda.

It's easy to draft a Tilda page quickly. Scroll through the library of templates, pick one that suits you. Then add some blocks images, text, videos, or whatever else you want. Here’s a video where I demo what’s great about it and how it works:

Elegant design for non-designers

Most of the other consumer Web-site creation services are also easy to use these days. But Tilda stands apart in having a professional design feel. Here are some gorgeous sites made with it. 

You don’t have to be a designer. The templates give you a clean starting point. You can add content blocks and adjust colors and fonts to customize the look. 

It’s like starting with someone else’s cake recipe and adding your own flourishes. You don’t have to be a scientist or baker to make delicious stuff.

Make a microsite

I’m a huge fan of building microsites for a particular project or event. Tilda is superb for building these quick event pages or landing pages for a project, publication or podcast. You can try that for free.

Hosting an upcoming Webinar? Start with an event template and change the text and image, and you’ll have a custom page in less than an hour. Quick tip: If you’re on a free plan without a custom domain, visit bit.ly to create a custom link for your microsite so it’s something simple and shareable like bit.ly/yoursitenamehere.

It’s easier than you think. And worth $10/month. 

For something as important as your portfolio site, it’s probably worth paying the equivalent of a Netflix-level fee rather than going with a totally free service. Tilda’s personal plan, at $10 a month, allows you to use a custom domain (think yourname.com) and all all features.

You can try out the free version to see if you like it before paying. Many of my students —and some friends and colleagues— have been surprised at how easy it is have to quickly create a sleek Tilda site, even without a paid plan.

I upgraded to a $20 monthly plan, which covers five sites and allows me to export all of my source code. I think of the fee as an investment in my career. My sites are a core communication tool that allow me to share work I've done and reach new collaborators and potential partners. And Tilda’s a lot cheaper than hiring a professional designer or site developer.

A lot of people outsource their site. They remember the Dreamweaver/HTML days when you had to hand-code everything or master complex software. My advice: take the plunge and try doing it yourself. Making your own site is a way to express yourself creatively. Like making yummy bread from scratch

One problem with hiring someone is that it can lead to a costly, slow process that requires lots of back and forth. You have to find someone you trust, communicate your vision, and wait for them to find time. Subsequent updates require you to request a fix, wait for the fix, respond to the fix. And so on. Plus you have to keep paying for that professional help. Tilda helps streamline the creative process.

It's nice when you can just update something whenever you want. Or when you have a new idea and can put up a page that same day. It's empowering to be able to reach the world yourself. And you learn along the way.

How To Start

Begin by jotting down a list of what you want to include on the site. Then gather those assets or take note of where they are. If it’s a personal or portfolio site, for example, you may need bio text, images, videos, PDFs and links. Placeholders are fine for a draft version.

Browse through the slick collection of templates and find one that looks good to you. Replace the dummy words on it with some of your own. Add images, videos or bits of text.

Then check out the modules for adding other elements to your site. There are dozens of blocks to add whatever additional stuff you need. Like a video or photo gallery, an online store, a newsletter sign-up box or whatever else.

It's like starting with a flavor of ice cream and adding whatever toppings look delicious to you.

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I’d love you to hit reply and share your thoughts. If you do make something on Tilda, or have an idea, share it with me if you’d like feedback. Or email a friend about collaborating on a Tilda side project and give it a shot together. 

Realizing how easy it is to create slick sites opens up all sorts of creative opportunities. Especially when we’re confined, it’s nice to find new imaginative space.

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