Affordable Website Design & Development – What are your options?

Congratulations! You have decided to finally follow your lifelong dream of becoming a business owner. You have thought everything through from financing, to location, to staff, to business licenses and of course, your business name.  The one aspect you may have avoided making a decision on is how you will build your website. For most new business owners, this detail gets pushed to the side because they have no idea where to start.

After a bit of research you will find that there are three primary options for getting your website built:

Which one you chose is heavily reliant on not only the type of business you own, but also how big your budget is and how much time you want to spend getting your site up and running.  Everyone wants an affordable website design, but making the wrong decision can cost you more than you budgeted and push back a launch date or grand opening.

Custom Website Made By Pros

  1. Start Up Cost

While some businesses may absolutely need to hire a professional developer, yours is probably not one of them. Web developers are often very expensive per hour and also are masters of that trade alone. It is hard to find a web developer who is also a content writer and a web designer (visual layout of the site). In order to get a complete site using a web developer, you will have to hire the other key team members. That can add up to thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars.

  1. Ease of Use & Maintenance

A custom website comes with a custom back-end. Unless you can learn how to manage this custom CMS on your own, every time you want to make a change to your site, you will have to call your developer. This will result in a bill with each promotion you want to run or update you need to make. If you want a CMS you can manage yourself, the developer will use WordPress or a website builder. You will have paid them to do what you can do for free.

 

custom cms example
A sample of what a custom CMS or back-end may look like
  1. Development Time

How quickly your project gets done will rely not on you, but the people building your site. If you hire a developer, you may not be their only client. You will have to establish a timeline and ending date prior to starting, however, those deadlines can come and go. The developer will also have to wait on the web designer and your content to be completed before the final product can be launched. It is best not to leave this to last minute if you are going to hire a professional to build your site.

  1. Hosting

You will have to find a different provider to host your site for you and provide you with email addresses.

  1. Mobile Version

Using a professional web developer will mean that in addition to paying them to build your website, you will also need to pay them to do a mobile version for you. If they do not have that capability, you will have to hire a separate developer for that, or go without.

Caveat

A lot of website developers who claim they can build you a custom site for just a few hundred dollars are probably just using a website builder. They are charging you for what you can do on your own for free.

Conclusion

Probably the least cheap website solution. Unless you absolutely need all the features that come with having a custom website built and at least $5,000 in your budget, steer clear of hiring a developer. Businesses that are in finance and IT are usually good candidates for using a professional, but not small to medium size retailers and service providers.

 

WordPress

 

  1. Start Up Cost

WordPress if free. There are hundreds of free templates and themes you can choose from to begin building your site. They also provide stock photos for just about every industry. As long as you can write your own content on each page, your start-up cost can be zero. They do offer premium or “Pro” themes that will cost you around $50 to download and may offer you more custom choices.

  1. Ease of Use & Maintenance

There are over 32,000 different plugins that are used to customize a WordPress site. Not only do you have to sort through them to decide which one you need, you may also need a little coding knowledge to get them to function properly. This is especially true if you want a shopping cart for an ecommerce site. You may find yourself stuck and have to call in a developer to help you with what was supposed to be a free website. Here is a link to the WordPress plugin help forum where you can browse some of the comments and questions other users have.

  1. Development Time

Similar to the ease of use and maintenance, the amount of time you will spend developing your WordPress site will depend on two things;

  • Using a template as is and not customizing it- this will make development time quick and relatively easy. The CMS is very easy to follow and use.
  • Opting to customize a template- time spent will depend how many plugins youchose to use and whether or not you have any coding knowledge to manage them.

WordPress does offer “Premium” themes for easier customization; however, they are generally easier for the more techy crowd that already has some experience using them.

Lastly, installing your WordPress site will also take a fair amount of time unless you have some general technical know-how. Below is a screen shot of their Installation Instruction page and you can view the full page here.

5 minutes wp install
From wordpress installation guide. 5 minutes? not for everyone

 

  1. Hosting

WordPress offers free blog hosting. However, your URL, or how people will type in your website address, will be something like “www.gloriascookies.wordpress.com”.  If you want the full hosting package, with your own domain name and email addresses, you will have to host your site elsewhere.

  1. Mobile Version

WordPress does offer the ability to create a mobile version of your website. However, it will take a plugin to install.                         

Conclusion

WordPress is a popular choice for many people and some really great custom sites have been created with it. It is free to use and offers a wide variety of options to make your site unique and coherent with your branding, while giving you many of the perks using a developer would. If you have coding knowledge and do not mind hosting your site elsewhere, it will be a solid, affordable choice for you with little to no start-up or maintenance costs. The only trouble you will run into with WordPress is dealing with plugins, but if you can overcome that, you will find yourself with a great site.

Caveat

Some plugins have gone years without updates, yet WordPress itself undergoes updates frequently. Therefore, some of the plugins are broken, meaning they are not compatible with your updated version of WordPress. This can cause the broken plugin to break other working plugins, or in some cases, break your entire site and render it useless. The worst case scenario of this happening is that you cannot even log back into your site to figure out what went wrong.

 

 Website Builders

 

  1. Start-Up Cost

A website builder such as IM Creator is free. Like WordPress, there are hundreds of templates to choose from, or you can start with a blank canvas and create your own custom design-without the use of plugins. They also have stock photos to help enhance your site. The entire site can be done with no start-up cost.

  1. Ease of Use & Maintenance

The CMS in a website builder is very similar to a Word document. The tools you need that allow you to edit text, add photos, change color schemes, etc. are either at the top of each page or along the side. You can easily add pages for promotions and delete them with one click when the sale is over. There is never an additional charge for updating or changing your site and it can be done in minutes.

  1. Development Time

If your content is ready to go for each page, and you have a general idea of how many pages you will need, the set up time will be as fast as you can type. The time you spend choosing a template and trying out different fonts and colors will be the most time you spend on a website builder. Website builders have specific templates for ecommerce sites, so you do not need extra time to create your shopping cart.

There is no additional step for installation of your site.

 

Template from IM Creator
Template from IM Creator

 

  1. Hosting

Almost all website builders offer hosting services. Free hosting is available in the same package as WordPress; your site URL will have the website builder name in it. However, you can upgrade to a premium or pro package for as little as $5.95 a month get a custom domain, email addresses, and storage.

  1. Mobile Version

Website builders can create a fully customizable mobile version of your site, also for free. Set-up is the same as set-up as your desk-top site. There are some website builders who create your mobile version in tandem with your desk-top site, so there is not an extra step.

mobile website
Mobile version template from IM Creator

Conclusion

Using a website builder is straight-forward and there is no cost involved in creating your site. Since a website builder can also host your site and give you an email option, it becomes an all-in-one package, and usually, it’s the cheapest web design solution.  The set-up time can be minimal and it does not require a lot of maintenance other than normal changes throughout the course of business. As with WordPress, using a website builder can give you a very custom feel to your site and give you the ability to keep your branding consistent while keeping true to your budget.

Caveat

Since using a website builder is so easy, you may find yourself needlessly trying out style options and templates. While this is encouraged so that you find the perfect fit for your needs, it will be easy to get carried away. Try to stay focused on what template fits your business type and how you want your customers to interact with your site.

 

Check Please – Which solution is right for you?

This comparison covers the financial aspect of the different solutions, something that many business owners will give a top priority to.  To understand which solution is right for you, you would first need to sit down and plan your budget. Once you figured out the budget, your decision should be quite easy. If you decided to go with a website builder, we welcome you to try out IM Creator by clicking the banner below.

Do you have any tips for a new business owner looking for a website? Share it in the comments. 

 

Image credit:
Cheaper than cheaper sign by Eric E Castro

Erez

Erez is the online marketing director of IM Creator. Erez writes about web design as a business, online marketing, and website building tips.

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