Most business builders recognise the importance of having an online presence — and the foundation of an online presence is usually a website.
Business owners often hear that a website is not something they should skimp out on.
The problem is, however, that no matter how much we understand and agree that great web design and development does not come cheap (nor should it), most start-ups and small businesses simply do not have thousands of dollars to spend on marketing — no matter how much they might want to.
As such, I’ve assembled five tips that business owners can use to save money when building their business website. All of the following money-saving ideas have their pros and cons (and risks).
The trick is to differentiate ‘real’ risks from ‘perceived’ risks, and then take appropriate steps.
1. Let ‘Open Source’ be your friend
Companies often charge thousands of dollars in upfront and/or ongoing fees to use their proprietary content management systems (CMS).
In addition, they may insist on only hosting their CMS on their servers, forcing you to pay their hosting fees as opposed to going somewhere less expensive.
Fortunately, there are some great free ‘open source’ content management systems that cost nothing to use and do not tie you down to a particular host.
The term ‘open source’ describes technology development practices that promote free access to source materials, like code. Some consider open source a philosophy, others consider it a pragmatic methodology. Either way, for business developers it means gaining access to technologies that are constantly being refined and improved upon by developers who also promote ‘open source’.
Examples include robust content management systems like Drupal and Joomla, as well as systems perfect for slightly less complex sites (yet still very flexible), such as WordPress.
Keep in mind that unless you use a free or premium pre-built template for any of the above or another open source CMS, you will still need to pay for web design and development.
The saving comes from not having to pay for the CMS and the ability to choose your own hosting provider as opposed to having to host with the company that owns the proprietary CMS.
For example, if you don’t like your Drupal web-developer, there are literally millions of developers with an expertise in Drupal ready and willing to take their place.
2. Do not underestimate DIY websites
Websites like Squarespace and our own Pagebuild website builder allow people to build their websites themselves, either by customising existing designs or getting a web designer to create a completely custom theme.
The convenient thing about these kinds of DIY options is that everything is provided for you: the content management system, web hosting, backups, and support can take most of the hassle out of managing your site.
This option is a great way to get started online. And, if the DIY system is flexible, it should keep your online ambitions sated for a long time to come.
If you do go for a DIY website service, make sure that a demo or free trial is available. You want to be able to have an in-depth look at the content management system you’ll be working with and make sure that it’s the right fit for your business before you buy.
3. It pays to share… hosting
When buying your own hosting package you’ll see a variety of different options.
The most common types of hosting packages are paying for a private server, a virtual private server, or shared hosting.
Shared hosting is by far the cheapest option and unless you are expecting hundreds of simultaneous hits to your website, you likely won’t need the more expensive options.
Consider whether you really need to pay for your own dedicated server – can you get away with shared hosting for the time being, at least until your website starts seeing a higher amount of traffic to justify paying for a more expensive hosting option?
4. Register your own domain name
Registering your own domain name is quick and easy, and is often cheaper than having your web developer register it for you.
You can register a .com.au domain name yourself through a registrar like Crazy Domains for around $12 per year, and a .com is even cheaper.
Developers often mark up their domain name registration services to over $100 per year, citing admin and other costs. Youch!
5. Outsource… to a small company
Shop around and research smaller web design and development companies in your area.
Quite often there may be a little-known web design business nearby that doesn’t have a huge advertising budget, so may not be as popular or well known as a bigger company.
These smaller operations can be much cheaper than the “big players” and the money they save on advertising can contribute to lower rates for customers.
To find these small companies you can check out local web industry associations, web forums, or even online classified ads in the business services section. Check out Anthill’s antPAGES guide.
Make sure you do your research about any company you’re looking to hire – whether it is a small local business or a larger organisation.
Look for feedback online, ask around in case any other business owners you know have had dealings with this designer, and always ask for portfolio examples. Don’t jump onto the cheapest offer, as it can cost you more time and money than you anticipated if proper research isn’t done on the provider.
These are just a few ways to bring down the costs of building your own website.
If you have the budget to go all out on your website – by all means, do so. However, if you’re a start-up that doesn’t really have deep pockets just yet, don’t fret.
There are affordable options out there.
Alex Cochrane is a Drupal developer and the man behind Pagebuild — a do-it-yourself online website builder that makes it easy and affordable to build your own website.
Photo by Nick Richards