Driving out of my local grocery store, I saw a promotional sign: Websites starting at $99. Please, please don’t. Why not?
A ‘cheap’ website is a waste of money.
1) It won’t be 100 bucks. 2) Your website is your face to the world, your first and often ONLY impression. 3) If you’ve only got $100 to spend on your web presence, you’ve got much bigger problems.
You might get some glassy web 2.0 eyesore, with few customization options, no cross-platform compatibility for Chrome or Safari, and forget about mobile. Or some factory thing used for every other company out there.
Whomever you call might try to sell you some overpriced monthly fee to ‘host and maintain’ your totally static site, try to sell you “1st page of Google!” when in fact, they don’t know jack all about real SEO.
Someone else could end up holding the keys, so every time you want to make even the slightest change, that’s another charge.
What you WON’T get: Content. Strategy. Design with the brand and image in mind. Research and understanding of your web users – how they view the web, use your site.
Inexpensive or affordable does not mean ‘cheap’
We live in a ‘you get what you pay for’ world but there are bargains. I am often asked: “how to create a ‘basic website’ for a small business?”
Which is code speak for “how to do a quick, easy, inexpensive but totally fabulous-looking website on their own because they’re too cheap to pay a pro” after fighting the “a Facebook page is NOT a damn website” battle royale. Ahem.
My answer for a DIY or small business webmaster looking for a powerful WYSIWYG web creation tool and not spending a lot of money: WordPress.
More than blogging.
WordPress allows you to create websites that are sharp, professional while keeping the content fresh; outdated websites can cost you.
- Cost. *Free* fits into most budgets I’d suspect. WP starts at free, goes up: you pay to host your own unique domain, for a general purpose theme. (If you need a truly custom theme, that’s where the money starts.) Then there’s the considerable value of your time.
- Themes. These are the ‘looks’ of a WP website, the navigation and style. There are nice free WP themes for business, others are relatively inexpensive and can be modified with little coding or programming knowledge required. Think about the kind of site you want when choosing a WordPress theme.
- Pages. In addition to blog posts, WP creates the pages, the core of any site such as “About Us”, as well as photo galleries and contact forms.
- Plugins. Some costs here to buy or donate, usually well-worth the money for the functionality. SEO plugin tools, social sharing options like Sexy Bookmarks and CommentLuv (if you blog), spam blockers, widgets that allow your sidebar to show anything from your latest tweet to the thoughts of your cat.
- Community. The WordPress community is great; lots of forums and guides online. Almost anytime I’ve had a problem, I’ve been able to Google my way to the solution.
- Guidance. There are professionals out there, affordable consultants who can provide various levels of help creating and maintaining a kick ass WP site.
The more I tinker with WordPress, the more I see its power and usability. Whenever the hell I get around to my Extreme Website Makeover: Non-Lame Edition, I’ll be shifting to WordPress. It’ll be affordable.. but not cheap.
Thoughts on WordPress as a non-programmer? Besides ‘have lots of margaritas on standby,’ what’s your advice to a small business owner who wants to DIY their own website?