Web Design/Software for Prototype Website
I am trying to make a website that functions like a crowd-funding website, where people have their own accounts, can search projects, can track their own payments etc.
I am not sure if I can make this website on my own, since I am not a professional website designer. Can you please answer both questions:
1. Assuming that I can make this website on my own, what type of website design software should I buy and use to create such a website?
2. Assuming that I cannot make a fully functional website on my own. What software should I use to make a prototype that displays the would-be content and aesthetics without the functionality? So then I can later display it to a professional website designer and/or investor.
It's a very popular misconception nowadays (and one that is promulgated by mass media) that "anyone" can make a website with very minimal if any programming background. This is not the case. I hear from people on a daily basis by e-mail or phone who purchase do-it-yourself themes online for the cost of a meal out, thinking that they will be able to set the website up so that it looks beautiful, and exactly like the image they saw advertised.
Like my mother used to say, "if it looks too good to be true, it probably is." My informed opinion is that this is nothing more than aggressive, clever marketing. If "anyone" could build a perfect, functional, responsive website, there would be no broken websites on the internet. Instead there are millions of them with eCommerce that doesn't process orders or is broken, or unsafe for consumers; websites that crash on some browsers or won't work on most mobile devices or that look like PowerPoint presentations from the seventies. I wish these advertising campaigns would cease, but they won't, not so long as they make money.
At any rate, if you are not an experienced, confident programmer, you're not going to be able to create the type of website that would take an experienced developer/programmer at least a month or two to create and test.
What you want to build is quite complex, with multiple levels of engagement, requiring eCommerce to be set up, profiles, a forum function, in addition to a responsive website that will work on all mobile devices (the internet is littered with sites that won't respond or adapt to changing screen sizes - so they simply won't work as expected or hoped for with anyone using a tablet or iPhone).
If you want to create a website that will in essence serve as a variant of Kickstarter, first of all you'd have to establish the business behind the scenes before the site can be set up. So you would have to determine the type of business entity you will want this to be. You would need to work out how you would pay taxes, what portion of funds would go to funding startups, how you would pay your website hosting and domain bills and cover any advertising and promotion costs needed for it to succeed. SEO alone does not guarantee that your site will get all the attention it will need to be profitable or even get noticed. Next, you'd have to talk with a lawyer to make sure you won't get sued into oblivion if someone takes offense with your site or finds it to be too similar to their own or doesn't get the funding they feel they should have or something goes wrong with the bidding processes or whatever may come up. Lawyers, unlike many web developers, won't work for barter situations or negotiate fees; and it's my informed estimation that you'd need a reliable one on retainer before you should begin.
Then I would look at how your business should be structured, what type of barters or bidding situations would you have? How would the situations work? How would money amounts awarded be determined? On what basis? What if someone posts something that offends others? What are the boundaries, rules, and limitations, if any?
As far as theme and design, all of it is secondary to the business's foundation and organization. Not having this in place first would be like trying to have a professional online presence for a business with a budget of $200. You could get something set up, but it wouldn't look very professional or modern, wouldn't have very good SEO, and larger competitors wouldn't take that business very seriously at all, and you probably wouldn't be able to change it very much if at all.
So...I know this may not be answer you want, but the business side should come first, and be very tightly organized and thought out clearly before worrying about how to build the site itself when you aren't a programmer. If the business is organized and defined and you have the backing you would need to make it work, it won't be an issue to hire a reliable and efficient team of developers to a) build the site and b) maintain it daily so that ongoing issues that come up, updates, posting new proposals, could all be done as a functioning business.
Statistically the vast majority of new businesses fail within their first 3 years of existence. The reason for this is that most people who attempt to start a first-time business aren't familiar with the law, State requirements, funding needed, strategies for building, or how to grow rapidly in order to profit or even keep the business afloat. It takes alot of hard work, commitment in the face of confusion or apathy or hostility, massive organization, and funding, and multiple streams of income in order to keep the business afloat no matter what.