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Is there any such thing as a FREE website?


'How much does a website cost?'  is usually the first question I get asked when I start talking to anyone about web design ... potential client or otherwise and I have to stop myself saying 'how long is the proverbial piece of string'.

There are a huge number of variables and one website can cost infinitely more than another one of a similar size for a whole host of reasons. Then throw into the equation that there are many free tools available for building your own website and the decision about how to move forwards with your website design and how much should it cost gets even more confusing. 

Build it yourself with a free website solution

This can be a very appealing proposition to anyone on a budget who is setting out on their own. Setting up a business can be expensive so, understandably, you want to avoid any unnecessary expenditure. But consider the following:

  • What are you good at? Probably, doing what you've set yourself up in business doing. Not planning, designing and building a website.
  • How much does your time cost? In other words how much do you earn delivering the goods and services of your new venture.

Consider these two points together and balance out the advantages of getting a 'free' website against all the time you will have to invest in developing that website, quite possibly with a limited skill-set and almost definitely with no experience of web design. Time spent developing your website, is probably better spent developing your customer base and fee earning rather than spending hours on something that could be accomplished in half the time by an experienced web developer. You'll end up with a professional looking result as well!

Plus ... is it really FREE?

This is important. Many of the free options do not include many things that you will most definitely need. For example a mailbox is very often charged as an extra. My current provider allows up to 500 mail boxes, possibly excessive for a small business, within the fee for annual hosting.

There may also be restrictions on the amount of traffic to the site during a given period. You could find your site going offline towards the end of the month.

Another important point to check is the fees for the second year. Very often the free options become expensive after the initial 12 month period.

So ... getting a developer to build your website for you

Which comes back to the original question of - how much does cost? There are certain things that will cost the same regardless of the size of the website. For example, the domain name registration and hosting plan will not vary too much for any small business website, from 1 page to many. The cost of installing the CMS that will probably be used, is also likely to be the same regardless of the size of the site.

Why not download our free check list that details all the things that you should be aware of when instructing a web designer to build your website for you.

Ultimately what you're paying for is the time of the developer, coupled with their experience and skills which will have been acquired over many years. So, once the hosting and domain name has been sorted and the CMS installed, consider the points below when working with your website designer.

  • Design and layout - how particular are you about the look? Are you happy to give the developer a broad design idea or maybe just your logo and colours and let them get on with it without too much input from you? A bit of guidance about what you really do like and definitely don't want at the start is a given, but leaving your developer to do what they do best will have a positive impact on the cost of the overall development.
  • Copy and content - how much text are you able to provide the developer with? I have developed sites from scratch based on a few bullet points written on half an A4 piece of paper. Or, I've simply picked up text from a client's existing site, tweaked it and loaded it into the new site. Clearly, one of these options is going to take a lot longer than the other and there is a cost implication here.
  • Functionality - how much custom coding are you going to need? Are you happy to allow your business processes to fit with what's already available, or do you require a huge amount of customisation to make it fit your precise requirements. Sometimes, using something that has been developed and tested rigorously with a view to mass use is better than branching out with something highly complicated and custom coded that you could quite possibly do with out and may not even need once your business is established and has started to evolve.

The above are all important considerations when weighing up the options and deciding what are essential requirements from your web developer and what you can provide yourself. But the most import decision you make will be choosing someone who you are confident can interpret your website brief and deliver as anticipated.

Try and make the time for a face to face meeting with your web developer ... if they won't meet up, find someone who will. Sit down together so that you can both manage expectations and make sure that you both understand how much input you are going to have and you can be completely clear about what is to be delivered.

I want my customers to be happy with the end result ... it helps me if I can understand exactly what the expectation is right at the start so that I quote accurately and then deliver as expected.

What's in a domain name?
How to write great text content for your small bus...

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Wednesday, 18 May 2022

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