Professional websites on a small budget

After building sites for over a decade I still get requests to build sites for R5k (under $500) and given that the very first website I ever built cost the same amount all those years ago, I try not take offence, I try to be understanding and encourage people to find other ways of getting their site built on the cheap. So I thought I’d share how I would build a website if I was on a shoe-string budget and still wanted a professional looking presence online, with all the bells and whistles.

You could hire a student, a family member or friend who moonlights on the side or you could simply, do it yourself. Now there are probably a couple of things that immediately ran through your mind when you read that.

I know nothing about web design.

I think you know more than you think. You probably spend more time online these days than you do watching TV. You also don;t have to know much, you just need to follow instructions, I think it’s probably simpler than following a guide on how to build something in Lego. Read on and you might just know enough to get something launched online.

I’m not creative.

You don’t have to be. There are what we call design patterns which are the most common principles for layout, colour, texts etc. Professional web designers build sites around what you, commonly referred to as the ‘user’ does online, so most of thinking is already done. Good online sources will have already thought of this, so it becomes more about taste and function that any talent. The creative part is preparing your content, preparing graphics, which you could even get a descent designer to do and then picking a template.

I don’t know how to code.

You don’t have to. Once you have chosen your template, the functionality is usually included and it’s just about selecting what you want, no coding required. The hard work has been done by a development team.

I don’t have the time.

If you can’t spare a few hours, then you must save up and hire somebody, otherwise this is an excuse because you can get a site up and running in no time at all.

Ok I make it sound easy, and it really is. You can google free website builders or not waste your time and simply use Squarespace. They have packages that start at $8 a month. Thats under R80 a month and includes hosting. I sell hosting to my personal clients for more than that. A domain locally costs just over R100 a year or you can get a more international domain through Squarespace for a few dollars a year. You will have a site that is beautifully designed and functional website, no matter your taste or requirements, hosted with your domain name for give or take R1k. If you have a R5k budget, that will last you a few years, and you can even refresh the design as often as you’re willing to take the time to change the template.

I’m not here to pitch you on Squarespace, I’m not affiliated with them and their site will do a better job convincing you than I ever could. But I have presented you with an option, call it a hack that will really just take a little investment in time. There are many alternative things you could do, but this is what I would do to have a professional website on a small budget.

UPDATE – 23 July 2015

Squarespace has just released a new, free online class on Skillshare called Creating a Website to Build Your Online Brand. In just one hour, instructor George Denison walks you through creating and maintaining an online presence that’s beautiful and helps you achieve your business goals.

Enroll for free and go make something you love!