How to create a cheap website
How to get a cheap website?
This is a question we often get asked.
Well, as the saying goes: 'you get what you pay for'. Basically, these words of wisdom seem to be right all the time. Nevertheless, there are a few tricks and things to consider to keep the costs down and get a website for less.
In the following summary, we have put together the major questions and factors you should take into consideration when wishing for a nice website at the most affordable price possible. We are now showing you how to think in order to pay less.
As a matter of fact, the world wide web is brimming with information about what applications, software and website solutions exist and what they cost. People often bump into advertisements with slogans like "Build a cheap website", "Create a free website", "Cheap & easy way to create a website". You seldom find a kind reminder attached them; however, saying that you might have to compromise at certain points, and if you don't possess specific know-how, the process could take up much time.
Certainly, free or very cheap websites do have their role and raison d 'être. They are an excellent choice if, for example, you don't have a website yet but meet some potential clients and you need a nice-looking, simple website quickly. If on the other hand, you don't have to act that fast and want to create a reliable site that will serve your business in the long run, it's better to know more about website building solutions in general in order to make the right decision for now & the future.
What can you expect from a very cheap or free website?
- Nice and clear
- Tells what your business is about
- Contains all the basic information about your business
- Supports the business brand
- Responsive and mobile-friendly
What can't you expect from a very cheap or free website?
- Bespoke functionalities and solutions
- Varied subpages
- Much content
- Decent Google position
- Flexibility for further development later on
How can you keep the costs down in general & in the long run?
The following 4 steps will help you.
- STEP 1 -
Answer the following questions:
- What's the aim of my website now, at the beginning?
- What will be the role of my website in my business in the long run?
- Who is my targeted market, and how will I reach them?
Take your time to think about those questions.
If needed, ask for help in finding the answers. The adviser doesn't necessarily need to be a web designer, but it's useful if the person has experience in marketing and business-related issues.
- STEP 2 -
Choose the appropriate platform!
Don't make your decision based on which system you think will be easier to use. Make your decision on the basis of the answers to the above questions. And don't think of the design at this stage. It should come later.
Technologies to choose from
Basically, there are four main technologies to build a website. Three of them offer free or cheap solutions.
A) Website builder apps:
With this solution, you install an application onto your computer, and you create the website on this platform (eg.: Mobirise).
- Some apps are available free of charge
- Ideal for brochure (one-page) sites
- Hosting is needed for the finished site. Costs are not high though (depending on the chosen web hosting company, it's from approx. £20 per year)
- Skills needed for uploading (FTP)
- Given that the created site will be small, its SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is limited or nearly impossible.
B) Online website builders:
As the name suggests, with this solution, you create the website online, through your browser. Examples: Wix, Squarespace, Ucraft, Weebly, Webnode, Jimdo, Strikingly, XPRS, Duda, Site123, Gator.
- No need for hosting, the provider gives it
- Reasonable pricing (depending on the chosen package, its price is from approx. £150 per year)
- Many templates are available, hence it's highly likely that you can find a suitable one
- Relatively easy to use
- Some versions are free of charge, but they come at a cost: they either come with limited functions, or advertisements will appear on your website in return.
- Although being more flexible than website builder apps, it's still not recommended to choose online website builders for businesses which need a really professional website
- According to our experience they are not really suitable for SEO, and there are many technical elements which are not modifiable
- Bespoke solutions are not possible
- Can't be turned into a bespoke system later on.
C) Wordpress, Joomla and other CMS (Content Management System)
The best option among the free ones.
- Reasonably flexible, rather scalable systems
- Many web design companies use them
- Professionals can install them fast and easily
- Many add-ons and plugins for free
- Suitable for SEO purposes (by professionals)
- The CMS itself is for free, but web hosting is needed. Web hosting is cheap, though. Depending on the chosen web hosting company, a reasonable web hosting package is available from approx. £50 per year.
- Not recommended for DIY users, specific skills are needed.
- Constant maintenance necessary
- Safety is an issue. Being an open-source code system, they are often targeted by hackers.
- Protecting the system requires time, money and certain skills.
- Due to ready-to-use templates and plugins - although there is a wide variety of them - you might face some limitations.
Web design companies using Wordpress and Joomla often make their offer more appealing by saying that the client will be able to edit his or her own website once it's been created by the company. Our experience show however, that this is very often not the case. Not that the companies are not telling the truth! In theory they are 100% right. Don't forget, however, that editing and maintaining a CMS website requires specific skills, which have to be learned. And the learning procedure requires time and effort. Approximately only 10% of clients are able to acquire the skills properly. Don't get us wrong, the rest isn't to blame at all, it's a proper profession after all.
D) Bespoke system:
Despite the common belief, you certainly can have a professional bespoke website the cost of which doesn't exceed that of a Wordpress site.
If in your business plans your website and the internet take a significant role, it's highly recommended to go for this option.
- Costs are the same as in case of a Wordpress site
- 100% flexibility, any request is achievable.
- You will be able to edit the most frequently used pages of your website (Blogs, News, in case of an e-commerce system: products, images)
- Safe, not vulnerable. No regular maintenance needed.
- Only a professional website designer/ developer can create it
How to choose the appropriate platform?
People usually make their choice based on either advertisements they often see or recommendation made by their friends/relatives/colleagues etc.
We suggest you consciously ignore these influences and make your decision on the basis of your needs and goals instead.
Let's have a look at a few examples showing which platform serves different types of businesses best.
a) When to choose website builder apps
If you have a simple and beautiful website in mind with definitely no need for further development in the future, this platform can be the right choice.
It's recommended for businesses, which
- need a website only for having an 'online business card'.
- plan to reach their targeted market through means other than their website
- have a local customer base
A so-called 'one-page layout' brochure site is perfectly fine for businesses where the locals are targeted, and the business is based on some sort of personal interaction between the business owner and the customers (e.g. therapists, local shops, personal trainers, etc.).
If you are starting a business as a coach, you might think at first glance that a simple brochure website would do. Well, if your only goal is to show that you do exist, yes. However, if there is any possibility in the near or distant future that you would like to upload files to your site, share teaching materials, videos, have a login area etc., most probably you'd have to start from scratch again on a different platform. If a long term plan might contain things like password-protected login, customer database management, e-commerce system, don't choose website builder apps unless you don't mind throwing money out of the window and starting again.
b) When to choose online website builders?
Online website builders are ideal for small businesses that are using their website only for marketing purposes. Although the largest website builder websites offer e-commerce solutions as well, according to our experience, they have limitations. As such, it's highly recommended to go for a bespoke system if your business is based on your online sales process.
At the time of writing - based on one of the most popular online website builders' site - the most frequently used template types are for coaches, personal trainers, graphic designers, interior designers and photographers.
That is, small businesses and other individual professionals.
Some websites recommend these systems for cafes, restaurants, hotels and catering as well, but in fact, they might struggle if they'd like to have bespoke functions later on.
(Yes, online website builders do have a lot of different additional functionalities, but all come at a cost and professional skills (and sometimes even coding skills) are needed for implementing them. Since we are now focusing on how to get a proper website as cheap as possible, we rather recommend going for another option instead.)
Wix and Squarespace are not really suitable for managing eg. flexible online application forms, permission level based login systems, conditional automated notifications. If your business needs functions like these, choose a bespoke system, a simple but 'future-enabled' one.
c) When to choose Wordpress (WP)?
WP is undeniably very popular. 35% of all the websites in the world are WP sites.
As mentioned earlier, WP is easy and quick to install, that's a great advantage.
It's often said that everything is possible in WP. In theory, it's true. Nevertheless, we are still saying that if you need bespoke solutions, it's much better to choose a bespoke system instead of WP. The reason lies in the nature of plugins. Although there is a huge variety of free plugins to choose from, you might face the following problems.
- You can't alter plugins. Plugins are under the control of the respective plugin developer companies, hence basically you have to accept the plugins the way they are.
- If you can't find a plugin for a particular need, you have to have one developed for that purpose. That way, the overall costs could be higher than in case you went for a bespoke system in the first place.
- We had encountered cases when the developer company of a plugin - which was developed years ago - ceased its activity. It can be a security risk if a plugin is not maintained.
Costs of WP:
- Theme: optional. (Certain themes are for free, others have a fee.)
- Security measures: regular fee required.
- If there is no plugin for free that would fit your needs, you have to buy one.
We recommend WP if
- you want to and are willing to maintain it yourself
- you want to learn the basics of its usage
- you are ready to make certain compromises if necessary (can accept if the result is not entirely what you wanted to have)
We don't recommend WP in cases such as (these are just examples):
- Websites containing customer data, as such, require secure data management
- CRM systems
- marketing database
- Recruitment agencies
- Estate agencies
- If the website is a business-critical site (and not just a marketing tool)
- Catalogues and directories, Community and Photo sharing websites
- STEP 3 -
Decide whether you want to create your website yourself or will ask a web developer to make it for you.
If your primary motivation behind the DIY approach is to save money, you'll most probably regret your decision. You'll be astonished to see how much time it requires to make progress, and it's highly likely that the end result will not entirely match your initial desire. Yes, you will save money, but you might feel the whole process a bit of a timewaster, slow, stressful and even disappointing.
If, on the other hand, you are really into web design, you enjoy learning new things, and can easily devote a certain amount of time to try yourself (and would love to create a website even if you didn't need one),give it a go, do it yourself.
Let's see how much time is needed to get to know to the aforementioned platforms in order to get an acceptable result if you do it yourself.
(Giving an estimation - even a very rough one - is tricky. Anyway, let's try to give you some guidelines.)
Website builder apps
Required time frame to become familiar with the system: approx. 2-4 hours.
Since all DIY applications are working with templates, it's easy to achieve stunning results even within 1 hour. However, people usually want to create a design according to a specific vision in their mind. For getting the desired result, much time is needed to learn how to do it properly.
Buying the hosting for the website requires some extra time, too. The necessary timeframe for acquiring the skills of how to upload the website created on the laptop to the internet via FTP depends on the person. Some learn it quite quickly. For others, it may take days.
Online website builders
Required timeframe to become familiar with the system: depends on the depth of acquisition.
It's possible to achieve results in a couple of hours, however, if you want to have a website that is really appealing both to you and others, you might be 'playing' with it for weeks. With a bit of luck, you'll learn many things in a week. Each system has its own logic and complexity, and the difficulties to learn how to understand and use them, vary.
Required timeframe to become familiar with the system: Unlimited.
Although there are web hosting providers where you can easily install a basic WP system by just a few clicks, it's far from being finished.
We advise you to get your teeth into it only if you intend to choose web design as a profession.
The 3 systems mentioned above are those which an average user can learn to use for their own purposes.
If you want to have a cheap website, bear in mind that it's possible doing it yourself within a reasonable timeframe, only if you are happy with the simplest solutions.
If you really want to learn how to do it, don't hesitate, go for it.
In all other cases, it's better to choose a professional.
- STEP 4 -
Having decided on the platform to be used and the person in charge, the next step is to prepare your content. Write the whole of it. We really mean it. Do your part of the job. Don't write the content just roughly. Write it properly, well structured and detailed. When ready, give it a once-over. Sleep on it and recheck it.
Possibly look for images as well.
The most common mistake committed by business owners is that they often don't devote enough attention to the content of their website.
Why will be your website cheaper if you plan your content ahead?
If it's you who is creating the website yourself, you simply won't have enough capacity to write your content while building the site. In a system which is new and unknown to you, you inevitably will face some technical issues, and you won't be able to cope with concentrating on technical difficulties and getting your content right at the same time. You will just get frustrated and the quality of your content will be not as perfect as you would like it to be. Doing two things parallel will take up much of your precious time. And time is money. It's much better to focus on one thing at a time.
If a web designer is creating the website for you, it's crucial that you provide the content in advance. There is no such thing as 'let the design be ready first, then I'll give you the wording'. A web designer can create the design on the basis of the content only. If there is no content, they won't know where to start. So, write your content first and do it properly. If the designer has to work with a rough content, you inevitably will ask for major modifications after you see the wording on the site. It goes without saying that changing a massive amount of content will be time-consuming and the web designer will charge you for that extra work. Minor changes and typos always occur anyway. Certainly, there is no problem with correcting them. Asking for 2 or 3 rounds of small tweaks are normal and usually acceptable, but don't send the designer pages and pages of entirely re-written content.
If you think ahead and do your part of the job properly, the process will run smooth, and you won't have to pay avoidable costs.
Summary of the things you need to know:
- Think about it thoroughly what role your website should have in the long run.
- Prepare and write your content properly.
- If there is a chance that later on, you'll need a more complex website, the foundations of the now simple website must be laid on the adequate platform and with the future needs in mind
- If your current budget doesn't allow you to make all the necessary functions right in the beginning, don't despair, it's still possible to start with a few functions only, and some can be made later on as well. It's crucial, however, that you chose a platform for your website that is suitable for future development.
- Whatever your budget, the website should ouze quality. It's far much better to have a simple but nice, quick and professional website than having a more complex one which is noticeably half-done.
- People start a website so that it will serve their business in the short and in the long run as well. Consequently, what matters is what kind of website does serve that purpose best and not what you are capable of creating.
- Bear in mind, if you want to create your website entirely yourself, be prepared that you'll need to dedicate much time to learning.
- Never start with saying 'I'd like to have a website like this or that'. Start by thinking about your needs instead.
- There is no such thing as a free lunch. Likewise, there is no such thing as a free website. Somehow you will pay for it. Either by spending a lot of time or paying someone.
Some general advice
1.) No website, which has just been created can be found in searches.
Clients - after we tell them that the new website is up and running, and they can check it now - often call us saying 'I've just typed in the web address and I can't see anything'.
Search engines are not giving result on the basis of the very live internet. For a website to reach good search positions, much work is needed.
Read more about SEO here.
(Anyway, you should use the address bar of your browser to type the web address of your website into - and not the search field).
2.) If you go for a solution, where it's you who has to apply for a web hosting service, ask a professional for advice. In making the right decision when looking for web hosting options, it's not just its price that counts. Reliability, uptime and speed are also critical.
3.) If you decide to have a professional web designer do your website, bear in mind that you can get nice work delivered at a low cost, however, accept if you might not get everything you wish for at such a low price. Also, be ready to accept that a cheap website might take longer to be done.
4.) Use your budget wisely. It's much better to have a cheap and simple, but professional looking website which is suitable to any further development in the future (when you'll have the budget for it) than having a more complex one with several subpages and functions which looks crappy and unfinished.
5.) Accept the fact that everyone needs time for doing accurate and precise work. On top of that, when creating a website, a web designer also has to do many smallish bits of work that are not visible by the client, but are part of the whole process.
6.) If you can't decide which platform is the best choice for your website in the long run, choose a web designer and let him or her decide on your behalf. There is a relatively big range of platforms available and no designer can know all of them to the very same extent. If you trust your web designer, trust them to recommend solutions which they know best. They will be able to work more efficiently on a platform they know inside out than on one of your choice which you insist on. It's crucial, however, that the web designer will only be able to make the right decision if you tell him all the important details he has to know about your business, your long-term needs and plans.
7.) If a web designer company promises to give SEO for free and your new cheap website will have good Google positions, do hesitate to believe that.
Probably they will insert meta titles and meta descriptions to some of the subpages for free. It's also likely that a few, easily implementable other SEO elements will be placed in the site. But that doesn't mean that the site will be fully equipped for SEO. Furthermore, it doesn't even mean that the site is suitable for professional SEO purposes.
SEO is a huge topic, and most certainly, it costs money. Read more about SEO here.
Although TV ads are showing everyone how easy it is to make a cheap website, it's not entirely true or not on all cases.
The guidance we tried to give above - although long to read - is still just a short summary of the things that should be taken into consideration when starting a new website.
If you want to have professional advice, feel free to ask us. We won't tell you what you wish to hear, we will tell you the real thing.
... And asking won't cost you a penny, we are up for a free initial consultation.
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