Editor’s Note: Schaeffer Warnock is a U student and founder of several companies including Lyqwid, a web design company specializing in building websites for small to mid-sized companies. We invited him to share his expertise on how to build a website on the cheap.
Are you interested in creating a professional website but don’t have thousands of dollars to pay a designer or developer? This article will give you some valuable information on how to launch a professional website with a limited budget.
Define the Goal of your Website
Deciding between the thousands of website building resources like WordPress and Squarespace can be very overwhelming. The first step in understanding how to build your website is to recognize the main goal your website is aimed to accomplish. Whether your goal is to display and sell products/services or provide your clients a resource for customer service, defining your goal is a critical component in deciding how you will build your website and what tools will be the best.
Sample Website Goals:
- Display and sell products/services (physical & digital)
- Point of contact for customer to inquire about prices
- A place for customers to gather more information/customer service
- Sharing valuable content such as news or blog posts
Choosing the Right Platform to Build a Website
Once you have defined the goal of your website, use that goal to decide which platform is going to be the best for you. You will also want to take into account the level of time, computer skill and design skill you possess while making this decision so you do not get in over your head with a program that is too advanced or not advanced enough. Here are some thoughts on our top three building platforms:
The world’s most popular content management system and Lyqwid favorite, WordPress, is run by 25 percent of all websites on the World Wide Web today. Released over 12 years ago, WordPress has become the go-to website builder due to its open source platform that allows developers around the world to create amazing products such as themes and plugins, which you can then implement into your website. There is no limitation with WordPress as you have complete control over all of the coding and back-end. With its long history, WordPress has many different resources on the web to help you create pretty much anything you want. Though it is not the easiest website tool out there, it is definitely the most powerful and it is FREE.
- Domain Name – Though WordPress is free, you still need to purchase a valid domain name (ex. www.yoursite.com). A domain name is simply purchasing the rights to a specific URL address that your customers can visit your website. You can purchase a domain name from Lyqwid, for example, for as little as $14.99.
- Hosting – To build a website using WordPress you will also need to select a hosting provider. Website hosting is a service provided to store all of your website’s content and deliver/publish it to the web. You can purchase hosting from Lyqwid, for example, for $9.99/mo.
- Themes – A WordPress theme provides all of the front-end styling for your WordPress website and is a very important aspect. You can purchase wordpress themes that come with powerful plugins to customize your website and watch a full WordPress tutorial from the links below.
- Plugins – These are snippets of code that allow you to easily add features to your website such as click-and-drag page editors (Visual Composer), social media icons, contact forms, etc. You can download thousands of plugins for free directly through wordpress or purchase premium plugins from the link below. A lot of valuable plugins can come with the purchase of a theme.
- E-commerce – A great benefit to having WordPress is the ability to add an e-commerce platform plugin called Woocommerce. This application is very powerful and is free to download and install on your WordPress website. Rather than paying an additional $20/mo for some e-commerce website builders, plus transaction fees, you will only be charged a minimal transaction fee per order using Woocommerce.
- Browse themes and plugins available from Lyqwid at themeforest.net/?ref=lyqwid
- Watch a Lyqwid tutorial with additional tips at youtube.com/watch?v=J0_Ujk-FSeA
Squarespace is rapidly growing due to its user friendly interface and ease-of-use for beginners starting at $9.99/mo. This platform does have the option to add a store to your website by upgrading to their $26/mo plan. Though it is very limited to what back-end access you have for your website, the drag-and-drop building tool is pretty slick and makes building a clean website quick and easy.
Squarespace may seem a little bit expensive. However, you get a free custom domain name and hosting for your website with all of their plans! The drag-and-drop builder makes it easy for beginners and quick edits.
Very limited with no access to any of the back-end that can make it difficult to add custom features, security, etc. No control over the domain name if you wanted to transfer your website or add subdomains.
Shopify is becoming the go-to platform for e-commerce businesses that sell physical products online. It is a powerful platform that can help you get an online store up and running in minutes. Shopify provides some cool modern themes for stores to use on their website, and it is fairly easy to edit simple aspects of the theme such as color and text, but customizing and adding specific content is a nightmare if you don’t know HTML/CSS. With Shopify being an e-commerce specific platform, they also provide high quality tools for sales metrics, a mobile point-of-sale system (similar to Square), inventory tracking and more.
Powerful ecommerce capabilities and many professional themes to select from.
Expensive. Harder to add new content to pages without knowledge of HTML/CSS.
Platform Comparison Summary
Start Building Your Website
Don’t be afraid to just dive into it! Once you have strategically selected your web building platform, start by:
- Setting up your web building platform (domain name, hosting, themes, etc.)
- Customizing your theme (colors, font, header/footer)
- Planning and setting up your website navigation (header menu)
- Adding content to each of your pages including a mixture of both text and images
- Publicly launch your website and share it with the world via social media and other media outlets
There are millions of resources out there to help you accomplish building your own website. Video platforms like Youtube have thousands of how-to videos at your disposal that can help you accomplish simple and complex tasks. If you get stuck on something too daunting, reach out to your local community and freelancers around you using resources like Thumbtack or Fivver to complete specific tasks at a much cheaper rate rather than paying a web development company to complete your project from start to finish.
Most importantly, be patient! No one creates a great website overnight. You need to maintain your website consistently by adding new content on a regular basis. This will also help you become more familiar with more specific web elements (e.g., SEO, UI, UX) and make your website more attractive to visitors.