When I decided to start an e-commerce business years ago I had no idea how to build a website or even to purchase a domain name. So, I began searching for a web developer to help me begin the process of building a website from scratch. However, the world of web development is overwhelming and can be very complicated when it comes to the sheer amount of choice available. It is better to get an idea of how much things cost and what you will need ahead of time. So, you can be armed with this information before starting to discuss with web development firms.
So what are the options, features, and prices for website building in 2020? Before reviewing the options we will ask ourselves several questions which should greatly narrow our options and focus our attention. However, if you want to skip anything just use the table of contents below.
Are you selling services or products? Will your site be a blog that generates income through affiliate fees and advertising? The answers to these questions will largely inform you of your needs and therefore what direction you will want to go. Some platforms are better for certain types of businesses, such as Shopify for e-commerce and Squarespace for artist portfolios.
If you have little budget (meaning less than $1,000) you will probably have to go with a self-build option. Most web developers will not build a site for less than 1,000 dollars, and you may not want to hire someone who will, as the site will most likely not be of high quality or will be outsourced. It would be better to save your money, learn a bit about the process and technology and do it yourself or save up to hire a firm that fits in your budget and can deliver a great product.
How quickly you want your site to be live will inform your decision. Obviously, hiring someone will speed the process along if you do not know how to build your own site. However, if you have a limited budget and a longer timeline you may want to at least look into building a site yourself. Many site building platforms have fairly simple learning curves and you will be able (with a bit of trial and error) to put together a pretty good site by yourself.
Many web development firms will design the website and then offshore the development work to other countries which is cheaper. In my experience, this opens you up to security issues and delays, as you will be requesting changes to the design team, which will then have to relay that information to the developers in the other country. The tradeoff of course is that developers in other countries tend to be cheaper than their American counterparts.
$0 – $100 per month.
The options below all lend themselves to allowing site owners to build a website without any coding or website development experience. Each has options for drag-and-drop building along with “themes” or pre-built sites in which you can change the copy, colors, photos, et cetera. Each one has its pluses and minuses; and, most will give some kind of a free trial or free plan, to begin with.
Some of the platforms below we may receive compensation for through an affiliate program, however, we recommend and use all of these platforms.
~$2,500 – $20,000
Most often when you get a website built by a web developer it will be semi-custom. Most often they will use a platform such as WordPress or Shopify (see below) and use a free or premium theme to setup a base to work off of. This greatly saves time and money for everyone, there is no need to reinvent the wheel! They will then build off of that base or customize it exactly to you liking, vision, and goals for your online business. This is the method that we most often use.
A custom Shopify site is built upon the Shopify platform (see above) and a theme (either free or paid). Shopify is a great option for someone who wants an e-commerce site and the ability to easily run the back-end of the site with minimal prior experience but wants a web development firm to create a custom site.
Shopify is a great option for those looking for an e-commerce website.
Free (but requires hosting)
WordPress is a free website building platform. It is the most popular platform for websites to be built on, mainly due to its flexibility. WordPress can be used like the self-built options above; in that, you can install a drag-and-drop theme (what WordPress calls templates) and build your own. There are thousands of paid and free themes. Many of these themes will include free plugins that support the theme. We recommend Envato Market for purchasing WordPress themes because they have an unparalleled amount of choice and resources available.
The downside for first time builders with WordPress is that you will have to set up your own hosting and mix of plugins (programs designed to do specific tasks). This can be overwhelming and complicated for those with little experience. However, there are solutions that streamline setup for you, while giving you the same flexibility if you want to change things further down the road.
One of the simplest solutions is DreamHost’s WordPress solutions, which can be set up for WordPress on a simple hosting plan. WordPress hosting on DreamHost starts as low as $2.59 per month, with other options that you can grow into.
There are many different hosting options, all have their own advantages and disadvantages. We prefer DreamHost because that is what we use exclusively, but there are many website hosting options and you should review them to see what will work best for your business and site.
As can be seen above you can build a website yourself using WordPress for similar if not for a cheaper monthly cost, however, it will require more work and research if you are new to web development. If you need the site built from a template by a web developer then it will be more expensive but can often be the best of both worlds for a reasonable price. You should expect to pay a developer between $75 per hour and up, however, some firms will likely be able to give you a flat rate.
If you are interested in finding out how much your site would cost, contact Coral Digital. We are happy to discuss your project and give you a quote on cost.
~$20,000 – $1m
A custom build website is just that, you hire developers to build the website from scratch, using some mixture of platforms and code languages. Unless you have an incredibly simple site, you already are a very competent programmer or have a large amount of capital this option is unlikely to be a very good fit for you.
There you have it. Building a website is exciting, but you should come armed with as much information as possible before undertaking it. I use the metaphor of it being much like undertaking a house renovation, it is exciting and fun, but you should be prepared for unseen costs, budget overruns, and many of the other traps that befall anyone trying to build something.
Zachary Elliott is the Founder of Coral Digital, a web development and digital marketing firm located in Boca Raton, FL.
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