March 23, 2012 Marketing en_US Do you need a website but don't have budget to have one built? No problem. Here are 5 tips for building a professional-looking website on the cheap. https://quickbooks.intuit.com/cas/dam/IMAGE/A3cJiDblo/7fa764297bf07ce56184642e9d07dffa.jpg https://quickbooks.intuit.com/r/marketing/5-tips-for-building-a-professional-website-on-the-cheap Construct cheap websites that fit your small business budget and brand
Marketing

Construct cheap websites that fit your small business budget and brand

By Kathryn Hawkins March 23, 2012

A recent study found that 75% of buyers said they judge a company’s credibility based on its website design. However, nearly a third of small businesses still don’t have a website.

If you’re a small business owner, failing to have a website could cost you critical dollars. Your website doesn’t need to be something overly fancy, and you don’t need to pay an exorbitant sum to an agency to create a slick site. There are plenty of cheap website builders available.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about cheap websites. We’ll go over why a site is so essential and provide a few tips you can use to keep costs down. Then we’ll give you a list of the cheapest website builders you can use to develop your site.

Why is a website essential for small business owners?

As a small business owner, it’s easy to scoff at the idea of a new website. This may particularly be the case if you’re an established firm with a strong following in the local community. However, business websites are important, especially in today’s technological age.

According to Verisign, 97% of company owners with a business site say that they would recommend other small business owners create their own website. Why? Consider some of the below benefits of hosting a web page.

Find new customers

Even if you already have a strong following, a high-quality website could allow you to find new customers. Considering consumers are using the internet more and more, failing to host a website will prevent a lot of customers from finding you.

Remember, you don’t need to host an e-commerce website necessarily, and you don’t need to sell products directly on your site through an online store. Your site may just list necessary information, such as your information, a contact form and a call to action. You merely need to have a presence online so customers can find you when using search engines like Google.

Build credibility

Having a website makes your business appear much more legitimate. In the past, customers could drive past a business storefront and see that a company was legitimate and in operation. Now, with so many consumers operating online, it’s much more challenging for that to happen.

Without a website, consumers have no idea whether your company is legit. Web hosting allows you to establish your presence and build trust with consumers.

Gain a competitive advantage

If you don’t have a website, there’s a good chance you’re lagging behind your competitors who are already operating online. The previously-cited Verisign study also found that 93% of consumers used the internet to research a new purchase.

By having a reliable website, you give yourself a competitive advantage. You’ll gain access to consumers who use the internet for research purposes, and you’ll get a leg-up on competitors who don’t have a site.

Market yourself

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a form of marketing that increases the chances of customers finding your site in searches. SEO includes things like blogging and should be a fundamental part of your small business marketing stack. However, without a website, bloggers don’t have a platform to operate on, and SEO tools are worthless. You can use your site to set up a blog and start organically attracting visitors to your brand.

The best platforms for building cheap websites

If you haven’t budgeted much for a website, you may feel as though it’s not worth your while to host one. However, as we just identified, a site is invaluable. Plus, there are plenty of cheap and free website builders available. Below, we’ve listed a couple of the best website builders you can consider for your small business’s site.

Wix.com

Wix.com is one of the most popular website builders on the market today with more than 100 million users worldwide. There are over 500 designer-made templates. E-commerce features start at $20 per month. And each email account costs $6 per month. While the company does not offer customer support via live chat, phone support is available 24/7.

Weebly

Weebly is another cheap website option. There are approximately 60 themes you can choose from. Each email account costs $5. You’ll find that the beginner free plans are quite limiting, and you may have to upgrade later for better features. But, it’s an excellent option for those looking to build a cheap site. There is also a 15-day free trial with this site.

GoDaddy

GoDaddy has more than 1,500 design templates broken down into categories so you can easily find one that fits your business. You can use the drag-and-drop editor, which makes it easy to design your site. GoDaddy also supports e-commerce seamlessly, and it offers a free one-month trial. After that, it costs $9.99 for an email account. GoDaddy also allows you to choose a custom domain, so you can host and build your site through the same platform.

HostGator

HostGator is one of the largest web hosting providers in the world, offering an array of hosting plans you can choose for your small business. There are more than 200 professional design templates that come with customizable options. HostGator offers free domain names as well. Plans start from $3.84 per month and go as high as $9.22 for e-commerce plans.

Site123

Site123 is one of the best options for those building a small business website because of its ease of use. The site offers an array of templates for various industries. Adjusting the templates is easy and straightforward, allowing you to build simple, user-friendly websites. The templates are also visually pleasing. The plans are a bit more expensive, costing $22.80 for eCommerce sites. There is a free trial available, although you’ll need to upgrade if you wish to use email accounts.

Tips for building cheap websites

The options listed above are all excellent choices if you’re looking for a professional website without having to break the bank. However, if you’re still looking to cut costs with your web hosting service, consider some of the tips listed below.

Crowdsource your design

Another way to save money on your web design is to consider using a crowdsourcing company, which can provide you with a wide variety of sample designs. You’ll pay only for the one you like the most, and prices are usually in the hundreds of dollars. For instance, 99 Designs starts at $599 for a custom website design.

What’s good about these plans? You’ll have a high-quality design for your site. And many of these individuals work as freelancers, which makes paying them easier. The downside? Although you’ll have a design template, you may still need to hire a web developer or web designer to convert it into a working site.

Hire a student

Another low-cost option is to contact a program director at a local art college for a referral to a student who’s talented in website design. The student may be willing to do the job for portfolio credit alone — or at least charge significantly less than a professional designer would.

When you’re ready to turn the design mock-up into a working site, seek out another student or a novice in website development who may be willing to negotiate rock-bottom prices. This option is a win-win situation, as you’ll have a cheap working site, and the student will gain valuable experience with website building.

Outsource abroad

Agencies in India, the Philippines, and other countries with a lower cost of living are generally able to underbid U.S.-based designers for web design and development projects. Check out the portfolios on sites like Guru and UpWork. If you see freelancers you like, request proposals based on your specifications.

Barter for services

If you know any website designers and developers, or if you’re a member of a professional association, consider asking others whether they’re interested in bartering. You could offer your services for free or at a discounted cost in exchange for the website.

Use an existing design theme

If it’s not that important to you to have a completely original website design, you can save a lot of money by using a free or premium theme for your platform of choice. WordPress.org offers more than 1,400 free themes, and the subscription site DreamTemplate provides access to more than 7,000 premium plans for less than $60.

Use social media

If you aren’t in the position to host your own domain name, you can turn to social media instead. Hosting accounts on social media sites is free. Consider using sites like:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn

There are a few things to keep in mind with this. First, you may be better off paying for ads on these sites. You can create profiles to have an online presence, but you may have to pay a little bit to make yourself stand out.

Second, social media may not make you appear credible in the eyes of consumers. Many consumers say that they would rather a company have a website than a social media page. So, you should ultimately consider using social media as a supplement to your site instead of as your only platform.

But if your options are solely hosting social media sites or not hosting anything at all, you’re better off going with the social media site.

Build a website to grow your business

As a small business owner, you likely know the importance of opportunity. Opportunity was the reason you created a small business in the first place. So, it should be easy for you to understand that failure to host a website leaves you missing out on a ton of opportunities.

Fortunately, you don’t need to break the bank when building a website. There are plenty of cheap web builder services available today if you don’t have time for the learning curve required to figure out how to build a website. These basic plans should serve as suitable options for your first year or two of business.

As your business grows and your company finances become more stable, you can expand and build your site to improve the user experience. Consider building a website budget into your business plan each year to help grow your company.

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Kathryn Hawkins is a writer with a passion for solving small business problems. Read more