IT for Donuts: how can I create a website on a budget?

By: John McGarvey

Date: 21 March 2014

IT for Donuts: how can I create a website on a budget?/Build a website{{}}IT for Donuts is our regular Friday feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.

This week: if you need to build a website but you're on a tight budget, what's your best option?

Building your own website

If you're looking to build a website on the cheap, you won't have the cash to commission a designer to create your site for you.

And unless you're already familiar with the principles of web design and the ins and outs of the HTML computer code that websites are built from, you won't be able to create a convincing site from scratch. (Professional web designers and developers take years to learn how to do this well.)

But being cash-strapped doesn't mean you have to make do with a below-par website.

Use a DIY website builder

There are many packages available that enable you to construct a website using pre-defined templates.

You don't need to have any technical knowledge to use these website builder packages. You just have to choose your templates, add images, content and other elements like videos, then arrange everything as you want.

It used to be that the limited range of templates in most website builders meant they all looked rather similar.

However, nowadays website builders are more versatile. You still have to spend time learning how your website builder works, experimenting with templates and creating the content for your site.

But a few days' work over a couple of weekends can leave you with a site you're justifiably proud of.

That means a website builder is a good way to create a web presence for your business when you're starting out or on a tight budget.

Finding a website builder

There are many website builder packages on the market. Here are some things to think about when choosing one:

  • How easy is it to use? Do you need any technical knowledge to make a start? Is the interface clear and simple to understand?
  • Does it have the features you need? Are there limits on the number of pages you can create? Can you add in ecommerce functions?
  • Will it cater for mobile users? Any new website should be easy to access from a mobile device, like a smart phone or tablet.
  • What other sites use it? Try and find examples of real sites that use the website builder you're looking at. Are they any good?
  • Do you get everything you need? Every website needs a domain name and web hosting. Many site builders include these, but not all.
  • How much will it cost? You usually have to pay a monthly charge for your website builder. Check whether there's a minimum contract period.
  • What happens if you decide to cancel? It's important you're able to extract and keep all your website content and data.

To get you started, here are some companies offering popular website builder packages:

Most popular packages offer a free trial to begin with, so you can get a feel for the website builder before you commit to using it.

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