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3 ways to build a website on a tight budget

You don’t have to be on a tight budget in order not to be willing to spend a fortune on a website. If you are a small business that’s just getting started, a couple of thousand dollars are going to be more useful elsewhere.

But can you do it with let’s say less than $700?

Surprisingly the answer is:

Yes!

…if you’re willing to invest a little bit of time.

Why exactly do you need a website?

Nowadays websites are mandatory for businesses. They are like a visiting card, helping your soon to be clients find relevant information about you and your company.

More importantly – a good website helps you spread awareness of your brand and gives you credibility.

Website cost breakdown

When dealing with websites you have to have in mind that there are two main types expenditures:

  • Initial
  • Recurring

The initial costs are the ones you pay upfront to build the website itself. They usually consist of:

  • Design – the ease of use and user experience depend on it
  • Development – this is tied with the performance of the website, it’s proper functioning, etc.

The recurring costs are the ones you have to pay to have your website up and running on the web. Depending on how you deploy your website they are going to be different or almost non existent. In the most traditional setup they consist of:

  • Domain – the name of the website
  • Hosting – this is the cost to have your website on the internet. Basically it’s the price for renting a web server and having somebody manage it.
  • Digital Marketing – It determines the exposure your website is going to get, number of visitors, conversion rates, etc.

All these can vary wildly depending on what you want to get, but let’s see what are some of the cheapest options.

Recurring costs

The recurring costs are easier to figure out.

Domains

When dealing with domains you should almost always aim for the cheapest option. Be careful about the “fine print”, there are a lot of registrars with hidden taxes. Also check carefully the features you’re getting, because some will give you more features than others for the same amount of money. Some of the more important features, usually provided for free, include WHOIS privacy, DNSSEC, automatic domain transfers, etc.

Usually costs: Starts from $9 per year, depending on the TLD.

Hosting

Bad hosting means slow response times, a lot of down time, etc. You should try and get something decent. Of course this doesn’t mean it should cost an arm and a leg. If you have a static website you can even host it for free on GitHub Pages. Reading the fine print is again very important in order not to get tricked into signing a bad deal.

With a dynamic website hosting features are pretty important. You want to have enough memory and CPU to be able to serve your web pages even when traffic is high. This is particularly important when using a heavier CMS like WordPress. Other interesting features include control panels, SSH access, website builders, traffic analyzers, firewalls, caching systems, CDNs and many many more.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are hosting plans designed specifically for WordPress, so if you’re using it you can look into them.

Usually costs: For static sites – 0$, for dynamic sites – starting from around $5 per month.

Digital Marketing

That is probably the most important part. This is what drives people to your website, converting them into customers.

Every business will benefit from digital marketing, but in a different way and to a different extent.

If you are the kind of business that gets the majority of its clients from the web, you should invest heavily in digital marketing.

Usually costs: You can always skip it, if it’s not relevant to your company, so $0. A really low starting point is probably around $50 a month for a PPC campaign, but that won’t get you far especially if you’re in a competitive market.

Initial costs

Now this is where things go wild. There are numerous ways to obtain a website. You can build it yourself, you can hire a company, you can use a service, etc.

Depending on which route you go costs will also vary a lot. Here are my tips of getting a decent website without paying a lot.

#1 Static site generator – Jekyll

Jekyll is a pretty cool blog aware static site generator. It’s open source and free to use. Having in mind that the end product is a static website the hosting will also cost you $0.

The downside is that you have to use MarkdownLiquid, HTML & CSS. The markup languages are not that hard to learn and there are a ton of tutorials on the internet.

There are also premium themes for Jekyll costing from $20 to $60, that look pretty decent.

You can add additional functionality with plugins and there’s a plugin for most of the stuff a website owner might need.

Usually costs: Design starts from $20 if you use premium themes, there are free ones as well. Development – $0.

#2 Content Management System – WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.

Open source CMSs are another option if you want to build a web site.

They are a good option for non-tech users, because in the most cases you won’t have to write a single line of code.

There are tons of plugins available, that make achieving additional functionality as easy as clicking install and configuring the plugin.

Premium themes are again available for prices similar to the ones for jekyll.

As good as they sound, CMSs have one significant drawback – their performance is less than ideal. There are plugins attempting to resolve this, but you should still invest a bit more for a better hosting.

Usually costs: Design starts from $20-30, development – no development required. Some hosting providers even have automated installers. 

#3 Website Builder – Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace, etc.

This option is probably the easiest to use of the three. Most of the website builders include an easy to use editor for your web pages.

You get additional functionality in the form of apps or plugins. Just like with CMSs they are pretty easy to use.

The platforms usually provide you with a set of free themes to chose from. There are also 3rd parties providing premium themes.

It’s important to note that hosting is included in the price of this solution.

This is probably a good starting option, but if you plan to add more and more features to your website sooner or later you will need a custom solution. Migrating such site to a custom platform is not a trivial task.

On the other hand if a simple business website is all you need then this is a good option for you. But then again you can always go for the static website option and spend even less.

Usually costs: They start at about $10 for the cheapest option, you can pay more if you need the more advanced features. Design, development and hosting are all included in this price. 

Conclusion

As you can see it’s possible to build a decent website even when you’re on a tight budget. The cheapest option I’ve mentioned will have an initial cost of $0 and a recurring cost of around $9 per year.

Even if you go with the more user friendly non-tech options you can have a website for an initial cost of $20-100 and a recurring cost of around $160-200 per year.

That’s a lot less than the $750 we mentioned in the beginning.

You can invest the rest of your budget in digital marketing or somewhere else.

I’ve used WordPress and Joomla in the past, they get the job done, but sometimes could be a bit of a hassle to deal with.

There’s also the fact that you’ll have to deal with hosting providers. That can be a problem, especially if you’re not that into the technical stuff.

I’ve solved these problems for myself by building my company website with Jekyll and hosting it on GitHub Pages. It’s cheap, it’s convenient and it gets the job done for now.

When the need arises I’ll migrate to something else, but at the moment I’m happy with it.

Share your website experiences, problems and solutions. What did you use to build a website, are you happy with it?

4 Comments
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  • Well explained description of how to set up a website. As you have rightly mentioned the websites are like visiting cards. Anyone who is interested in knowing more about who you are and what do you do, by having online presence you can refer him/her to your website. The importance of having it is for both types of businesses, selling products or services.

    The SAP Consultants could have blogs to showcase and then sell their skills. I have a plain WordPress based website which serves more like an e-portfolio, providing links to the visitors of what I expect them to see to know about me and my work.

    Earlier I shared a few tips on how to setup a blog at the link provided below which adds to what you have stated in your detailed write-up.

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/next-question-how-setup-blog-faisal-iqbal

    Thanks for the great tips and hope to see more soon 🙂

    • Thank you!
      I saw the tips you share on LinkedIn. Reading about others’ experiences creating websites is beneficial to everybody new to this.