The affordable website market is saturated by liars and cheats. Why? Because its purveyors don’t define the words “website” or “affordable.”
Let’s start with “website.” Websites are no longer static pages, and can be many things – a blog, a wiki, an e-commerce site, a social network page. So which one is it?
Or “affordable” – does that mean cheap and crappy? Where does the concept of value factor in? A Toyota is affordable, but it also looks great and lasts forever.
In the meantime, if you’re shopping around for an affordable website, here are some questions to think about:
By website do you mean just the coding of the site’s structure?
Websites are code. Technically, I could build you a website that’s just one page, with basic lines, some fancy text treatment and a big old harvest moon logo floating in the top left corner of the page. But that’s not really a website. It’s more of a web page.
So how many pages am I getting?
Which bring us to the next question – how many pages is an affordable website? Two? Three? Eight?
Before buying into any potential scams, be sure to define the structure and depth of your website. What’s it going to roughly look like, and how many pages will it be? Drawing a wireframe diagram (basic lines and boxes) sometimes helps.
Choosing an existing theme framework is even better.
Does it include design and things like CSS, colours, logos, fonts?
Prettying it up is a huge step and usually takes the most amount of time. Even if you’re building a personal blog, you’ll still need some kind of brand, or logo, or text treatment, or color theme. How will that theme be carried throughout the site?
Who’s providing content – words, images, and videos?
Content is what makes the internet go ’round. It’s the web’s most valuable currency, and the primary reason for why your visitors are coming to check out your website in the first place. It’s also what search engines like Google favour when they rank you, and it pays to look into even the most basic keyword strategy if you want to attract traffic.
Affordable websites usually require the purchaser to provide the content. After all, you are the subject matter expert. So…do you provide the content and they upload it for you? How will you manage your website’s content moving forward?
Will it come with a content management systems (CMS) so I can access and control how the site looks?
The next logical question is connected to the concept of online “currency.” The more frequently your website is updated, the more likely visitors will return to it, and the more likely search engines will favour you website in their rankings.
This is one of the main reasons for why people and businesses maintain blogs. Gone are the days of the static website.
A content management system can make updating your website hilariously easy even if you have zero technical knowledge – and there are many of them (like WordPress) that don’t cost a thing and that are more powerful than many enterprise-class CMSs.
How much work do I have to put into this website?
Affordable websites usually require you to invest time and energy into your project since you’re not paying for a dedicated full time resource. That means you’ll need to be open to learning new things which can be a bit scary.
But if you’re working with someone who’s receptive to your needs, using an easy to use CMS, and have clear and accessible information and support, building and maintaining your affordable website can be quick and easy.
The WordPress community is huge and famous for being non-intimidating – check out the Codex and Forums to see what I mean.
Does it include the cost of registering a domain name and setting up a hosting account?
This is always the first step in any website project. What domain name are you going to use? (eg: www.llamashoes.com).
Once you have a name you like, check if it’s available on Instant Domain Search. The vast majority of words and combination of words are taken, so try to be original.
Once you’re happy with a domain name that hasn’t already been taken, it’s time to purchase that name so you can claim your space on the internet.
It’s also time to buy hosting – hosting is basically just space on a web server where all your website’s files will live.
The idea is when someone types in your domain name URL (www.llamashoes.com), your website which sits on your hosting server is called up and displayed.
It’s easiest to purchase your domain name and your hosting with the same company (like HostGator, BlueHost, or LaughingSquid), to keep everything under one account.
But don’t worry, if you have a domain name with company A, and a hosting account with company B, it’s easy to connect the two.
So – who is going to do all this?
What about extras like Analytics, SEO, email subscriptions, and contact forms?
If I want to make changes and need help in the future, where do I go and how much will it cost?
We talked about how a CMS can help you manage your website’s content. It can also help you with add-ons that you may want installed now, or in the future.
The word “extensibility” in relation to a CMS refers to how much you can change and add functionality to your site.
Extra functionality could be analytics so you can see who is visiting your site, or search engine optimization (SEO) so your pages can rank higher in Google search results, or email subscriptions so visitors can sign up and get notified when you write a new blog post or update your site with a new product.
WordPress is hugely extensible thanks to all the plugins available for it (19,000 at last count!). These plugins can be installed and up and running in seconds. They’re like the apps on your phone, except for your website. And the vast majority are free!
Also, WordPress integrates these plugins with existing third party services you may be already be signed up for, like Constant Contact, or SalesForce.com or Campaign Monitor.
So when purchasing an affordable website, be sure to ask if these types of extras are included, and if not, how to add and install them yourself.