Need a website for your business, but have a limited budget?
If your business still does not have a website then you are probably a start up. Your business has just started gaining momentum and you are thinking:
“I need a website for my business, but have a limited budget. What can I do?”
Many small businesses, micro businesses and sole traders realize, especially at start-up time, that they do need a website but consider it as an expense rather than an investment.
This is understandable. Because this is a time when your business is faced with all kinds of costs just to get off the ground. But it is also counter productive. Your website can do a whole lot of cool stuffs for you – not just bring in new business. For example your website can:
- Provide quick and easy information on your products and services – help your potential customers make an informed decision.
- Give you the ability to drive more customers to your brick and mortar locations. Because your website is online 24/7, customers aren’t limited to finding and learning about your business during normal business hours. In addition, you can tailor your website to give your customers exactly the information that they are seeking with all the marketing pitches.
- Make connections with other businesses in and outside of your industry – business networking 24/7.
- Collect and utilize Demographic Data – having a website, combined with free tools such as Google Analytics can really help you determine and better analyze your marketing demographics
- Give credibility to your business – having a well-designed, professional looking website, will provide well deserved credibility to your business.
- Increase ease of Customer Interaction – you may think that a website is simply a place to put information. But at it’s core a well planned website is much more than that. Potential customers can reach out to you by filling out a simple contact form even in the middle of night instead of waiting to call you on the next business hour. You can also provide support by email or support ticket system. Maintain a Customer Relationship Management system. The easier it is for people to interact with your business, the more likely they are to remain a satisfied customer.
- Maintainability – websites are not print media and set in stone. A website is easy to change, and can be updated as frequently as needed. If you have a new product or service or a change in business policy you can quickly reach your potential and existing customers through your website and educate them about the new product, services or policy changes.
While it is still somewhat true that not everyone absolutely must have a website, it will be hard to find a business category that will not benefit from having one. So, your website is not an expanse – it is an investment and a lucrative one at that. And when you are investing into something, you should be wise about it so that in the long run it returns well on your money and effort. Otherwise your website will become what you feared it to be – just another “expanse” and waste of your money.
It is not uncommon for us to hear things like…
Garndma Web Design Service
After all, who does not want to save a buck or two? It is sad but true that eventually most of these companies realize that they should have gone with a professional web design company to start with. Because the honest truth is that:
It is too much work for a non-professional web design company to do justice for your business website.
Don’t be one of them. Because as time goes on, these companies who have a “cheap” web designer or freelancer come to us because their “cheap website designer” has developed one of the following symptoms:
- No time
- Went out of business
- Not available
- Busy with other projects
- Sick and tired of making updates
- Website develops bugs that he cannot figure out
- Does not have the skills to develop a new feature you need
- Website gets hacked repeatedly
- One of his distant cousins is getting married so it is one month long vacation
All this while your business is not getting the results you had hoped for. Critical updates are getting delayed, your customers are dissatisfied.
It is not difficult to understand why a startup or small business company would shudder to consider hiring a professional web design company: affordability. The primary lure of freelancers and non-professionals is the incentive to save a few hundred dollars. But your website has too much potential for you to treat it so lightly. You need to strike a balance between cost and professionalism. There are three options:
- 01. DYI – create your own website and force a professional standard you aspire to
- 02. Find a local professional web design company that can offer a solution within your budget
- 03. Find a reliable web design company you can outsource to
DYI – create your own website:
If you are just starting out and software as a service (SASS) is not your core business, then probably your website just has to look good enough. It has to have the most important features (like a contact form) to start giving you some returns in your investment.
This will allow you to allocate more resources to building your business (instead of your website). There are actually ways to have a good (but not the best) looking website that works – WITHOUT spending more than $100 – $200 per year. “How?” you ask. Well, it requires some quality time and creativity of your own but if you do not mind that then it is certainly feasible.
There are cheap website builders out there that lets you “drag and drop” your way to your first website. They also give you a range of free design templates that can help your website look presentable, or “good enough”.
These website builders are cheap and affordable, and many of them are even free for you to start using them. But you will need to pay to upgrade to access more features that you really need – sooner or later. Spending 10-20$ per month will get you going well for starter. Your business and your website will eventually grow out of these drag & drop website builders. But until then make good use of them.
However, don’t think that drag & drop website builders are angels with halos on top of their heads and they can do no wrong. Few pitfalls you should be aware of:
- You are probably not a designer yourself. So, what may look OK or beautiful to yourself – may not be so for other people (your potential customers). Ask for feedback online and offline
- You may have to fork over more money than you would like, to enable access to some of the business features in their ‘pro’ plans
- You never really own the website when you use a service like this. They own it. You cannot take the website you built on their platforms elsewhere when you want to
- You will be limited by the features they have for your plan. If you need something specialized or custom – you will likely be out of luck. For example if you want to implement a newsletter and the website builder does not offer one or any way to implement a third-party one then you cannot do it
- Your website was built on a template that probably thousand others are using. Your website will look like a template
- Your website will have messy, bloated code that make the site load slow and hurt SEO
- Many drag and drop website builders are not search engine friendly. Even those that are – can only provide the most basic of SEO requirements
- It may not be possible to move your website to your own platform or professional designer later without hurting your search engine optimization and search rankings.
Having said the above, if you still want something presentable for cheap in relatively short time try one of these:
Wix: Once you’ve chosen your template, you’re pretty much stuck with it. While their website building tool is free, actually having your own domain name – a must for a business site – will cost you.
Squarespace: If your business needs a creative design
Weebly: Easy to use Website Builder for non technical person
Webs.com: has limitations like 2 levels of navigation menu, less blog features etc.
Shopify: if you want to run a eCommerce Website on a hosted solution, then shopify is probably your best choice
GoDaddy Website Builder: Worth a try if you want to trust the brand
There are many more. Compare their features and pricing before you settle on one.
When you go with one of those DYI website builders, the biggest price you will be paying is your time. How much do you charge hourly for your own time? You may need to spend anywhere from 20-100 hours to get something presentable going along with lots of patience. So factor that into the total cost. But your time may be too valuable. Some people do not mind.
The biggest pro of this method is that since you are creating your own website – you can give it your best and try to make it as professional as possible within your ability and point of view.
Find a local professional web design company that can offer a solution within your budget:
This will be a little hard to find. But a reliable local web design company that does not break your bank and at the same time provide professional web design for your business website can help in many ways. You will have easier and better communications with them to convey your business ideas and goals.
Even if you live in a city where web design companies are in high demand and cost a lot – you may be able to find a suitable company to turn in a great website within a manageable budget. But you have to do some researches and make some decisions to turn it possible.
Does your eCommerce website really need to work like Amazon, or Groupon? That is akin to planning to design and build a Ferrari 458 Italia when you have never put together a single V8 engine. Don’t get too bogged down with building the most perfect website with the largest features possible that has the best animations.
Start small. Get our feet wet. Then move on to bigger, more complex things. If you start with a small website and clear plan then it will not be too difficult to find a local professional web design company that can offer a solution within your budget. There are the things you can do to find such a company:
Find out a realistic budget for your website
The cost of building a website goes beyond the design and initial set up. There are ongoing maintenance costs like hosting, debugging / troubleshooting, adding new features / tools, contents etc. For a professional, local web design company you may need to earmark at least 2000$+ for initial design and development and a few hundred dollars per month. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The important thing is to first settle down on a number you are comfortable with at the present stage of your business. This will help you screen out the companies that fall out of your budget.
However, I would advise you to NOT look for the “cheapest web design”. You usually get what you pay for. So, instead, sit down and find out how much you can actually spend on your business website design. Then try to find a web design company that can create a website within that budget.
What features do your business website need NOW,
what features do you need LATER,
and what features are just “nice to have”?
Many starter businesses want “everything” with their website right away. They think that all the bells and whistles that they see on other cool websites are very important and must haves for their own. The truth is that you do not really need the latest cool HTML5 animations for your business website’s success. So, avoid them. If your business model is flawed, all the cool animation won’t make a significant difference. So it is best to keep things simple and ruthlessly cut features you do not actually need for the success of your business website. Perhaps, embracing the concept of minimalism will help.
Focus on building a lean, functional, professional looking website. Once you are making a lot of money from the website, you can always add those animations later. So, when you are asking for price from your local, professional web design company, shoot for a basic, functional version of your website and upgrade later when you need to. Literally the worst thing you may possibly do is spend months and commit a lot of money building a website, then finding out that your business strategy does not work.
Go for an Open Source CMS based solution
Choose a simple but effective CMS – which stands for Content Management System. It will allow you to update contents of your website by yourself any time from a friendly back end without having to ask your web design company every time and pay for it.
For websites with relatively simpler features and lower budget I will suggest WordPress CMS. There are other great CMSs out there like Joomla! or Drupal. But none so powerful yet easy to use as WordPress. Don’t opt for a static or proprietary CMS based website. A static website will be cheaper but it will cost you more in the long run in terms of maintenance. A proprietary CMS will make it incredibly hard to move your website to another platform or web design company in the future should you need. So that is a firm no no. Make sure that your website is built on an open source CMS.
Learn the basics of web site building
Try using a few website builders. Become more familiar with what domain names are, how to register them, how to point nameservers, how to choose a reliable hosting company, how to set up emails from hosting panel, how to use simple image editors to create graphics, how to find stock photos, how to perform basic SEO), how to write blog posts etc. These are all basics of owning and building any functional website and actually not very difficult or time consuming to learn about. Try a free DYI website builder from the list above to learn as you go. Learning the basics will help you manage the web design company you hire more effectively. You will have a better concept of what you actually need.
Once you armed yourself with the above, you now have a clear understanding and plan to get an affordable cost from your local, professional web design company. You know you:
- Want a website under a certain budget
- Have sitemap and functionality requirements for a clean, lean, professional looking website
- Want the website to be on an open source CMS platform like WordPress
- You can take care of minor website updates and maintenance works yourself
How to find such a local, professional web design company?
Head over to google and search for “Web Design Companies in …. City” without the quotes and replacing …. with your own city. Go to each company websites you find and narrow down a few to contact.
Find a reliable web design company you can outsource to
Sounds daunting? It does not have to be. You need a website more complex and professional than what DYI website builders can allow but you also do not want to dip into your retirement plans for the website. The solution is obvious. Find a professional web design company that does not cost you an arm and a leg. And these web design companies may very well live on the other end of the world. It is not as big a challenge as you might imagine if you do it right. Your information and feedback will travel at the speed of light and light can go around the Earth 7.5 times in one second.
Benefits of Outsourcing Your Website Works
- Efficiency – Professional outsource web design companies have been around for a while are quite efficient. If you have your website’s requirement ready you can get up and running quick even with some of those extra, more complex features.
- Economics – The largest benefit realized by outsourcing is the economics. Most outsource companies you will find are from less expansive countries and they can offer equal quality design as your local, professional web design agency at a much lower cost. To get a rough idea of cost differences between a local professional web design company and a outsource web design company use this web design cost calculator
- Flexibility – Need a once-off job done? Just outsource the project instead of hiring full time employees. Don’t like the work of a designer? Your outsourcing partner can have the work done by another designer for variety.
- Specialized Skills – Web design and marketing agencies have deeper experience based on years of work on various technology fields. By partnering with a outsource web design company you can benefit from specialized skill sets.
How to find a reliable company you can outsource your website to?
Don’t just hire the first or cheapest outsourcing candidate that pops up in google search. Do you researches before committing. Because trust me you are getting into a long term relationship with this company that may very well last your business life time.
There are positive qualities to look for and mistakes to avoid when outsourcing your website design, development, and maintenance. Once you have found someone you believe to be qualified, ensure you:
- Check their portfolio and previous clients’ websites. How sophisticated are they as a designer and developer?
- Do a background check – run an online search. Do not search just on google, but also on LinkedIn, Twitter, relevant forums, etc. Look for obvious red flags. However, do take any individual data points you find with a grain of salt. Patterns are far more likely to be accurate. Any company that has been around for a while is likely to have someone bad mouthing them for no good reason.
- Think about effective communication and long term customer service. Does this outsource web design company have a strong track record of communicating effectively with clients. Are they responsive and answering all your questions and concerns with transparency? Few things are worse than working with someone who does not respond in a reasonable time frame or provide the necessary updates as promised.
- Try to be as clear with your website’s design and functionality requirements and your expectations from the website as much as possible. Envision the project from start to finish in your mind. Try to imagine any difficulties which may arise.
- Make sure you are covering all the important bases and getting straightforward answers. You do not want any surprises once you have committed.
- Do they have experience in responsive design?
- Are they skillful and experienced with the CMS of your choice like WordPress or Joomla!
- Do they have an affordable WordPress website maintenance plan?
- Ask for previous clients’ references and see if you can talk to them.
- Think scientifically. You have a hypothesis and expectation about the outsource web design company that they would perform certain duties to certain standards. Test this hypothesis by asking them back to elaborate their understanding of the deliverable. See if they match what you had in mind. Try to keep a organized and written record of all conversations so you can both refer to that in case of confusions.
- When you are letting another company (local or offshore) to design and develop your website be sure to protect your intellectual property. Be sure to confirm and get a written agreement that the website, all its contents and source code belong to you
- Are they a full service web design company? Can they also help you with promoting your website through SEO? Build a mobile application?
- Make sure that the CMS they use is Open Source and there is no proprietary or encrypted code.
Things you should be aware of:
- Beware of time difference – schedule ahead if you anticipate something urgent done on a specific time when your outsourcing team is not working
- Don’t forget the cultural difference – explain thoroughly and ask them to explain back in their own words so both parties are on the same page.
- The benefits of written instructions, guidelines and feedback cannot be understated. Get everything in writing for future references.
- If your website develops a bug after 2 or 3 months, will they fix it for free?
- Do not pay all at once. Most reputable outsourcing companies will let you pay in installments and make final payment only after they make the website live on your server and everythin is running smooth for a few days
- Use a project management system so all communications are in one place for easy reference
- Make sure that there is a dedicated project manager and single point of contact
- How long has the company been around? Can they provide long term support?
That’s it. I have tried my best to tell you the pros and cons of different ways you can go about finding a web solution for your start up business. Questions, comments? Feel free to use the comment form below 🙂