Can You Create A Successful Website On A Small Budget?

Yuri thinks so and wrote a post last week entitled Create a small business website on a small budget to tell you what you need to think about if you want to get it done.

Here’s the basic checklist of what you should be doing:

  • research your customers
  • research your keywords
  • plan your website
  • get a content management system
  • get a website template
  • improve template usability
  • make the template accessible
  • write great content
  • promote the site

Yuri talks about each of the items in greater depth and if you’re new to running a website or could simply use a few pointers for your next site the article makes for a good read and offers some good advice.

I would like to expand on one of the items here. When Yuri speaks of getting a website template he’s not specifically talking about running out and grabbing the first free template you see or one of those over designed TemplateMonster templates. When a web designer builds a site he or she will generally take the visual design and develop a single page website, which is then used to build the rest of the pages. A large site may get several site templates if some of the sections differ enough.

One good option for a site which Yuri doesn’t mention is WordPress. WordPress can act as your content management system and there are many free themes you can use if your budget is really tight. While most people will only create blog posts with WordPress it can be used to create static pages as well and there’s an abundance of plugins to add functionality.

I’d still recommend having a custom theme designed. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a lot of blogs. I’ve also seen far too many using the default theme. While themes and templates are improving many still ignore things like usability and search engine friendliness. Many web designers can create a custom WordPress theme for you, myself included.

People do form opinions about your site, and consequently you, very quickly. Web design is important and themes are no substitute for a custom design. If you do decide on using a WordPress theme at the very least search around for a theme you haven’t seen used often.

Budget Doesn’t Mean Cheap

Remember that budget and cheap aren’t the same thing. In the end you’ll only get out of your site what you put into it. If you read Yuri’s post you’ll see his final price for a budget site is between $3,500 and $4,000. That’s a very reasonable price to set up an online business. Consider what it might cost for example to set up a brick and mortar business.

What you put into a site doesn’t necessarily have to be money though. Time is also an investment into your site. If you’re planning on running any business, online or offline, expect to spend a lot of time working to make it successful. Some people while not designers or web developers still posses many of the skills required to build their own site. If you’re so inclined you can allay some of the initial costs of set up by designing the site yourself.

If you would like to give designing your own site a try here are some articles to help you get going.

Looking Beyond Aesthetics In Effective Web Design
Is Your Website In Harmony With Itself?
Using Keyword Themes To Structure Your Site Content
Designing with C.R.A.P.
Choosing colors for your design
How accessible is your font?

Yuri also links to some good resources on usability concerns with your site as well as resources to help you promote it. You do need to put something into your site if you expect to get anything in return, but you don’t need to break the bank to create your site or build an online presence.

Give Create a small business website on a small budget a read if you’re wanting to start a business online, but don’t have a lot of money to invest.

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

9 comments

  1. Anyone ready to invest his/her time and money into a business, won’t be satisfied by running a blog. And WordPress can’t be used for a fairly large static site as well as an online store. Which makes Drupal the favorite choice of mine.

    But yeah, if you only want to blog and to sell your informational/software products on your site, you can very well settle for WordPress.

    Developing a custom theme is the best choice, as it’ll give you a unique look and feel, as well as, possibly, enhancements for the people and the search engines (yes, most freely available themes aren’t perfect).

  2. Yuri, I think it depends on the type of business and the content you have. If you look around the seo community there are some pretty successful sites that are entirely a WordPress blog. I agree you can’t use it alone for an online store, but it could still be easily combined with one.

    And let me say again your post is a good one with plenty of useful advice on ways to build a successful site on a small budget.

  3. Yes, Steve, I was thinking that a small business have more to sell than an occasional affiliate e-book or ads or even text links, though.

    Sure, even TechCrunch is on WordPress, but what kind of forum do they have? A shop? Anything?

    The gripe I have with integrating anything with 3rd party software is that it doesn’t look and work pretty. With Drupal, I can do anything I want and it’ll look the same and offer more ways for visitors to interact with the website.

    Of course, you can develop anything, based on WordPress (I have seen it happen), but why spend your money on developing something, when there’s a free, better version of what you want?

    I guess I am more strongly opinionated here, than I suspected, but oh well.

  4. I still think it depends on the business. Take a lead generation site. It doesn’t need a shopping cart or a forum or even a blog necessarily, but it’s still a serious business. There are a lot of small businesses that are lead generating as opposed to direct selling.

    I agree with you that if you do have more than one of two products to sell then WordPress alone isn’t the answer. At the very least you’d need to add a shopping cart solution to the mix, though there are some good ones. WordPress is free as are shopping carts and you can still get a decent solution using them.

    Of course it might be easier and less expensive to use one application than combining several. I just wanted to offer another solution to the mix.

    You do have some strong opinions about this don’t you. I take it as a sign you’re passionate about Drupal as a solution, which is a good thing and a good recommendation for using Drupal.

  5. Absolutely Forrest. I know I certainly haven’t spent money in developing my site and anyone can always put in the time to do it themselves. The one issue with putting in your own time is that time does equal money. If you can make $500/hr and can hire someone at $100/hr to design and build a site for you it might make more sense to hire out. Time can be an opportunity cost.

    But there are advantages to learning and doing for yourself. I think even if I was in a different business I’d still want to learn how to build a website.

    I’m obviously with you on the shopping cart. Yuri is right that Drupal is a good all in one solution and you can find modules you can add to it for most anything you want to do. But not everyone will need a shopping cart. Myself for example. I sell services and don’t have any need for a cart. If I did choose to sell a product like software I probably still wouldn’t need a full cart. I do have a billing management program so I can accept credit cards, but for me a full cart would be overkill. And if I’m not mistaken WordPress does have a shopping cart plugin. Don’t hold me to that, though. I could very well be mistaken.

  6. It’s an interesting post, but there’s something in yours that most people could easily miss. What you put into your site doesn’t have to be money; time and skill achieve the same thing. I’ve done everything on that list ( and more ) for my own site, although I have to admit I’m not very good with design, but slowly getting better.

    Also, I have to agree not all businesses need a shopping cart, and things like that. As a portrait photographer, the ‘net doesn’t stop me from having to come face to face with my client. So why not exchange signatures then? I give them a contract saying in exchange for their payment, I grant them unlimited rights to use the full set of images in any non-commercial way they’d like. ( This is still rare among photographers, who grew up owning the negs and making a lot of their income on reprints. ) We both sign the contract, they sign a check. Honestly, I’m mostly brick and mortar, but use a web site as my portfolio, and to become more well known.

  7. Yes, WP does have the plugin, but it can be used for very small shops. And it has limited functionality, as far as I know.

    Last time I looked at Drupal, it has a medium-functional e-commerce module that is actively developed. It can be used for small to medium shops, like the ones you might want to put on your site, just for fun.

    Full blown shops might wonna use Zen Cart or use every bit of Drupal module, if anything. Of course, Drupal offers other modules, so that is not entirely clear until you learn Drupal and its modules.

    Oh. I guess I sound like a Drupal fan. Maybe I am one, too.

  8. yeah, wordpress can be use for content management system. however, wordpress is blogging system.

    True CMS on the other hand have more complete feature than blogging. Some of CMS such as drupal have forum, blogging and news features. also can be use for e-commerce.

    In marketing plan, don’t forget to use SE friendly. because this is very important to boost our traffic from search engine.

  9. Drupal certainly offers more functionality than WordPress, but not everyone will need that functionality which is why I think WordPress can be a good option. It comes down to your site of course and what you need.

    I agree too about making sure your CMS is search friendly. The sad reality is that most aren’t SE friendly, but some of the newer systems have been written by people with at least a basic understanding of search engines.

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