We get it: sometimes the budget just isn’t there to justify a custom-built, tailored website. Not every business is in a place where it can afford to invest in a premium website. Or maybe you’re a startup, and every penny counts. Regardless, there are still options out there! Here are three ways you can build your own website for cheap:
What you pay: $12/mo, and domain costs (free for the first year). $18/mo for the “Pro” plan with ecommerce.
Summary: Squarespace is usually the first platform I recommend to my clients. It’s simple and easy-to-use, with a great drag-and-drop page builder that makes it really simple for you to manage your own content. Squarespace integrates everything for you: pages, blogs, design tweaks, and even ecommerce, if you’re going down that route.
Protip: stick to Squarespace’s integrated templates pretty closely: though they offer an extensive style customizer, it’s best not to go too crazy with the fonts and colors. Better for your website to look like everybody else’s – because it’s a template – than for it to stand out in a bad way because your color and font choices were garish! Stick to the basic designs and tweak only a few things for excellent results.
Who it’s best for: Squarespace is the number one easiest platform for simple ecommerce applications. It’s also a very easy-to-use content manager. If you’re setting up a portfolio or starting a webstore, Squarespace will be the simplest solution for you.
What you pay: $11/mo, and domain costs (free for the first year). $29/mo for “VIP” plan with email campaigns support
Summary: Wix offers some hefty design features: with over 500 templates, you have more up-front choices than you do with Squarespace. Like Squarespace, Wix offers you a design tool that lets you change and update your website. Wix also lets you dig deeper into the codebase of your website than Squarespace does (though some more expensive plans unlock this capability on Squarespace).
Protip: Wix.com has a free version, but I highly recommend you upgrade to the paid version. For one thing, a customized domain name is one of the biggest indicators of professionalism: nothing screams “Amateur” like a .wix.com domain name.
Who it’s best for: If you know a little code, or want to embed some third-party features into your website, Wix is the least locked-down of these options. Just be prepared for things to break if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing!
What you pay: $4/mo, and a free domain name. $8-25/mo for the “Premium” plans with payment/plugin integration.
Summary: WordPress is one of the most familiar options in the web design world – but this might not be the WordPress you know. Most websites that run WordPress run the free software WordPress.org, which still requires you to purchase hosting, a domain name, and set up your site yourself. WordPress.com is much more inline with Squarespace and Wix, as it’s a fully-hosted website builder that will get you up and running quickly. I know, it’s confusing.
Protip: Like Wix, definitely upgrade to the pro version so you can remove the .wordpress.com from your domain name. It will go a long way to enhance your professionalism! WordPress is also the cheapest option by far.
Who it’s best for: WordPress is the most locked down of these three options: in the most basic plans, you can’t even add custom CSS to your website. That could be perfect for someone who just wants a good-looking theme (WordPress has hundreds) and a few pages on their website. Also, WordPress is far and away your cheapest option, and offers a free domain name while your subscription is active. It’s the best choice for people who are cost-conscious.
Before you build your own website:
While you can save some cash by just learning how to build your own website, I wouldn’t recommend that you stick to a self-created website permanently. While the beauty of the web is that anyone can publish, at some point you will want to invest in your business and acquire a website that can drive sales, help you grow, and get your name out to a broader audience.
One thing to consider when buying a website is your future upgradeability. For example, if a customer already has a Squarespace website, we can keep everything on Squarespace when I design a new website for them. The product backend is seamless and it’s something my client is already used to. Squarespace can accommodate simple startup websites as well as more complex, fine-tuned business websites.
If you go the Wix route, you are probably committing to maintain your own website for the foreseeable future. I’m not aware of many web professionals who work on Wix, so you’re committing to DIY upgrades and maintenance on your site. Again, that may be exactly what you need, but as far as I know Wix websites can’t be migrated to a more open platform: so if you come to a web designer for a new website, you may be looking at a brand-new, from scratch redesign on a new platform.
Finally, WordPress.com is in a unique situation. It is possible to migrate a WordPress.com website to WordPress.org – the underlying software is similar enough that this is possible. However, most WordPress.com sites are so simple that I would probably recommend a full redesign within a few years, anyways. On the plus side, the two platforms are similar enough that we could set up a WordPress.org website, and the tools would still be familiar to you.
So there you have it: three ways you can build your own website. Have you tried any of these options? Which do you prefer? I’m sure there are other good options I’ve missed – let me know in the comments!