Getting on the web: a brief guide to low cost website options
When you get down to it, there’s a lot more to think about than just a website – branding, a logo, business cards, email signatures, social media, content strategy, search engine optimization (SEO) — but for simplicity’s sake, let’s stick to a simple website with a few pages, a blog and a gallery.
Free, zip, nada
Yes, you can start building your online presence without spending a penny. Often the first place you’d start promoting a shiny new website is on social networks, so why not start there? Depending on what you’re doing there are lots of different networks out there that could be useful, and most of them allow you to create a page specifically for business through your personal account.
- Facebook www.facebook.com
- Twitter twitter.com
- Google+ plus.google.com
- LinkedIn www.linkedin.com
- Instagram instagram.com
- Pinterest uk.pinterest.com
- Flickr www.flickr.com
A great starting place is www.facebook.com. You may already have an account and by setting up a business page you can be up and running in minutes with somewhere to start sharing photos and updates about what you’re doing.
There are some incredible tools available to those happy to spend a little. Most DIY site builders use pre-designed templates which can be customised relatively easily to create something unique to you.
Although some of these solutions are all inclusive, you may need to factor in the annual cost of registering a custom domain name (www.yoursite.com) and maybe some hosting (a website is made of files, they need to live on a server).
We love what the folks at squarespace.com have to offer and it’s usually our first recommendation to anyone looking for an easy to use website on a low budget. They have really nice templates, a relatively easy to use content management system, and some very accessible design customisation options.
Tools like Squarespace are getting better and better, and there are lots of alternatives to choose from. Here are just a few…
- Squarespace www.squarespace.com — the all rounder
- WordPress(.com) www.wordpress.com — for bloggers
- WordPress(.org) www.wordpress.org — for the tech savvy (requires your own domain/hosting)
- Cargo cargocollective.com — for simple portfolios
- Shopify www.shopify.co.uk – for shop owners
- Big Cartel bigcartel.com — for simple shops
- Ghost ghost.org — for writers
- Wix www.wix.com — for people who haven’t heard of Squarespace
- Medium medium.com — for storytellers
- The Grid thegrid.io — for the adventurous
- Exposure exposure.co — for photos
Have we missed anything you’d recommend? Let us know!
With a bit more money to spend you can start to look at more bespoke options and getting some professional help with your project. You may even be able to find a professional web designer/developer able to deliver your site within this budget. Just bare in mind that if you want something completely bespoke you’ll need factor in the cost of the build (development) as well as the design. And if you need other work done such as logo and branding or design for print, project costs can begin to mount.
Fortunately using the site builder tools mentioned previously it’s possible to create a decent site without the expense of hiring a web designer or developer, and that could free you up to invest in other important areas like branding, photography or content creation.
With the rise in popularity of site builders the challenge becomes creating a site that stands out from the crowd, and although many site builders offer varied themes and basic customisation of fonts and colours, it’s often easy to reach the limits of what you can achieve.
If you’re happy using a site builder but finding it hard to get to grips with – unfortunately none of them are as easy to use as we’d like – you could find help from someone who can work with you to plan the site, then design it from scratch but within the constraints of a site builder template. The designer can then customise a ready made theme to look exactly as designed saving the cost of developing (coding) a site from scratch. Get in touch if this sounds like it could work for your project.
For something completely bespoke and tailored exactly to the needs of your project, consider hiring the expertise of a web professional. There are many out there ranging from big studios and agencies to small firms and individuals.
We do branding and web design, but there are also companies that have particular specialisms such as SEO (search engine optimisation), IA (information architecture), UX/UI design (user experience/interface), app development and many more.
A completely bespoke website can be expensive depending on what’s required, but if the website is a crucial part of your business (when isn’t it?), you should think of the cost not as an expense, but as an investment. Investing in a strategic and well executed online presence can help differentiate your business and connect your product or service with the right audience.
Good design thinking can not only help you better communicate what you do and what you stand for, it will also help you innovate and position your business in the marketplace. If you want your business to stand out in today’s world, utilising professional design will give you a huge competitive advantage and ultimately add immeasurable value to your brand.
Although we don’t yet have hoverboards, we do have a globally accessible platform onto which anyone can set their stall and start sharing what they do with the world. What’s amazing about the web is that there’s so much that can be done for even the smallest of budgets.