creating a site on a budget – can i do it?

Artists on-lineThe simple answer is: YES!

Putting up your first website doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. However… there are some things you will need to take into consideration before you start:

hidden costs

These costs aren’t really hidden… but if you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of creating a website you may not be aware of them. Remember, a good web designer/web developer should be able to answer any questions you have on any of these points.

Domain Names:

You will need to register and lease a domain name, or web address. www.finelimedesigns.com is an example of a domain name. You will never outright own the name you choose. You will essentially rent it and have to renew your claim to it on a regular basis – annually, bi-annually or for 5 year periods. How long you can renew the name for will depend on the domain registrar you choose to go with. You need to factor this cost into your annual budget.

Hosting Fees:

Hosting fees are an often overlooked but necessary part of having your own website. Just like you need an address or domain name so people can find you, you need a plot of land, or host, where your site can sit so people can visit. This is an ongoing monthly fee that can vary widely, depending on your needs.

One thing I recommend is that you budget for these outside of the design of your site as they are ongoing costs you will always have to budget for.  For more information on this check out our handy guide on choosing a domain name.

determine your budget

Have a budget before you start looking for a designer. This is always a tricky area, for both clients and designers. As a client, you may be reluctant to disclose how much you want to spend, for a number of reasons. As a designer, it’s very difficult for me help you find the best solution for your list of needs and wants without having an idea of budget.

Many clients will say that if there is a cheaper way to do what they want, then why even consider something more expensive.  While there is some logic in that, there are other things to consider beside the present.  Where do you hope to be in a year with your business?  Two years?  5 years?  The cheapest way might work now but what if you want to expand your site offerings?  Without taking that into consideration, you might require a full redesign in a year that could be very expensive, instead of a minor upgrade that’s considerably more cost efficient.  This brings me to my next point…

find a designer who will work WITH you

There are millions of designers out there and they all do things differently.  Finding one might seem like a daunting task but if you take a little time, finding the right one can make all the difference in the world.  Some designers only work on sites with a certain budget level, others specialize in specific industries, or technologies, others may be a Jack or Jill of all trades and all of us have our own style.

If a designer only works with budgets that START at $5000… they may not be who you are looking for.  As an artist, you might not want to work with somebody who focuses on tech companies or Fortune 500s.  If you want to reflect your creativity, find somebody who gets your style.  Look at portfolios and find somebody with a style you like.

A good designer will do the following:

  • listen to your needs
  • ask questions about the goals of your site now and in the future
  • take into account your budget
  • be upfront about whether or not they can accommodate you and whether their skills match your needs
  • when your wants exceed your budget, they will give you options on how you can compromise to still attain some of the functionality you want
  • be able to advise you on domain names, hosting options, and other technical aspects like how to make your site easier for users of all abilities to access and the importance of being standards compliant

Most designers will not charge you for an initial meeting and be wary of anybody who throws out a quote before taking the time to hear about your needs.

options that don’t cost as much

If you are on a tight budget here are some things to consider:

  • a business card site: these can be just one page, stating who you are and what you do with some images of your work – you could even link to a photo gallery on flickr or another photosharing site
  • start with a blog:  you can update it yourself when you have new work to show or information to share.  WordPress, one of the most popular blogging software platforms, can be expanded to create a full website very easily and inexpensively.
  • skip the fancy Flash portfolio: Flash can be expensive and it’s not always user friendly – especially if your clients have to wait for it to load.
  • be open to templates: your designer may suggest using a template that can be customized with colour, fonts and graphics.  It may not be highly original but it can cut down on your costs considerably and get you started.
  • ask about open source software: open source software is inexpensive or free and developed by a community of programmers. WordPress is an example of open source software but there are many others.  Often there are inexpensive or free plugins available that allow you to add photo galleries, shopping carts and other features that would be expensive if custom designed and programmed.

The main point of this article is to show you that you do have many options available to you when you go about creating your first site and they don’t all have to be expensive.  The key is to find a a designer you can work with and who can show you how to make the most of the budget you have… not just for now, but for the future as well!