It’s just the start of 2021 and you’ve got an awesome idea for a website. But you don’t have an awesome budget.
Don’t worry, we hear you. When it comes to getting your ideas online with a limited budget, you shouldn’t have to compromise on the basics. Our advice? Start small so you can spend more later. Doing so limits any potential losses, both financially and professionally.
Something else to keep in mind if you’re a first-time website owner? Remember to budget on an ongoing basis, rather than a temporary one. In other words, if you want to be successful with whatever it is you’re putting online, you should see it as an investment, not a one-time thing.
So, how can you build a website when financial resources are tight? We’ll cover three main ways:
- With a website builder tool (standalone or included with a web hosting provider)
- With the WordPress CMS platform
- With another CMS platform such as Magento, Drupal, Joomla, etc.
Sure, you could also hire a web designer but for all intents and purposes of this article, we’ll just discuss the less-expensive routes.
Before you begin…
To keep sight of the big picture with your website, make sure to ask yourself the following three questions before getting started:
- What’s my actual budget?
This should cover both the upfront costs of your website’s design and setup as well as any ongoing operational costs to manage it and keep it running. Make sure you’re as honest as you can be about what you’re actually willing and able to spend.
- Who will manage my website?
This question is crucial. If you don’t feel comfortable with managing any technical aspects of your website, a website builder tool is an excellent choice. However, if you want full control of your website and rather enjoy the technical side of things, WordPress or another CMS (content management system) is a more sensible option.
- What features do I absolutely need right now?
Let’s say you’re setting up a small online shop. Here, you’ll want to make sure you have at least some sort of online payment functionality in place to generate revenue.
If it helps, write all of this down so that when you’re reading through the rest of this article, it’s easier to spot what you’ve already decided on and therefore easier to make a decision.
Using a website builder
If you consider yourself a technical beginner or you simply want to set up your own personal website or portfolio, using a standalone website builder or one that is included with your web hosting provider is your best bet. Namecheap’s Shared Hosting plans, for example, all come with a free website builder and a free domain name for one year to use at your disposal. It’s also the cheapest way to quickly build your website from scratch.
Why is this so? Opting for a website builder means you aren’t paying for a professional designer since most website builders come with pre-designed templates that are super easy to use with their drag-and-drop functionality.
If you’re looking at a standalone website builder such as Wix or Weebly, all you have to do is pay for a subscription (usually monthly or yearly), which is the main cost you’ll need to budget for. With website builders, you also don’t need to pay for any themes, hosting, or security for your website – thankfully, these costs are all included in your subscription.
Be wary of those tempting free plans offered with some website builders. Deciding to use a free plan for your website means you’re looking at a variety of limitations, e.g. external advertisements, a domain name that you can’t customize (meaning, it features the website builder’s name), and only basic customer support.
Truth be told, if you want to build a website that people will want to visit, it’s best to fork over a little money per month to keep it looking professional and trustworthy.
Using the WordPress platform
Given that WordPress now powers 39.3% of the top ten million websites, it’s no wonder why bloggers with technical know-how, small-to-medium businesses, and very large corporations prefer this open-source CMS platform for their websites.
If you decide to use WordPress for your website, keep in mind you’ll have two options to choose from to get things up and running:
- using WordPress.com or
- using WordPress.org
While WordPress.com is a hosted platform that runs on WordPress software in the cloud, WordPress.org makes a WordPress website available for download, either by self-hosting it or using a web hosting provider such as Namecheap’s EasyWP.
That’s why WordPress.org, when compared to WordPress.com, offers you far more freedom thanks to the variety of free plugins and themes available to you. Speaking of themes, you can find some pretty stylish ones for free in the WordPress theme directory. Just be aware that they may not be as professional or loaded with features like paid premium themes are.
Speaking of plugins, which are essentially shortcuts to developing and improving your website, here are five you’ll definitely want for your WordPress website when getting started:
An anti-spam plugin
Whether that’s driving users away from your comment section or damaging your SEO ranking, spam on your WordPress website is downright damaging.
Your secret weapon? An anti-spam plugin like Akismet, the default plugin that comes installed on WordPress blogs and is free if you’re a personal blogger. (Commercial monthly subscriptions start at just $5.00/month while enterprise subscriptions start at $50.00/month.)
Most anti-spam plugins are free and open-source, meaning you can add them to your WordPress website with ease. We also recommend Antispam Bee and WordPress Zero Spam.
An SEO plugin
By far the best (and most downloaded), Yoast SEO is your all-in-one SEO solution. This plugin works to optimize your content using keywords and meta descriptions to boost your Google ranking as well as give you an overview of how well your content is optimized, which allows you to make real-time improvements. Because Yoast gets updated automatically, this means you can rest easy knowing that you’re working with a plugin that always stays ahead of the curve. While the basic version is free, a premium version is also available.
Want options other than Yoast? Check out W3 Total Cache and SEO Optimized Images.
A contact form
Looking for a way to let prospective customers get in touch with you? A WordPress contact form plugin does the trick quite nicely. Not only is it a way for you to stay in touch with your customers, it also shows them that you’re a real business and/or individual.
Our top (free) pick? HappyForms, a brainchild of The Theme Foundry folks, who have been creating trusted WordPress themes since 2008.
A backup plugin
Let’s say your website gets hacked or you accidentally lock yourself out. Having regular backups at your disposal is the best thing you can do for your WordPress website’s security.
Our top (free) backup picks to give you added peace of mind? UpdraftPlus, BackWPup, and Duplicator. If you’re a premium Shared Hosting customer with Namecheap, you can also take advantage of our AutoBackup tool.
Even though free plugins (and themes) are all well and good, web hosting is imperative for getting your WordPress website online. Thanks to Namecheap Shared Hosting and EasyWP Managed WordPress Hosting, WordPress installation takes place in just a click or two.
A security plugin
In 2020 with the lockdown and everyone going online, the number of cyberattacks almost doubled, targeting newly-emerged blogs and e-commerce websites. Recent research shows that 43% of cyber-attacks target small businesses.
This is why it’s crucial for you to have a security plugin in place when you first install WordPress.
In no particular order, here are our top three plugin picks to keep your website protected:
- Wordfence Security. Actively scans your website for all activity/changes made.
- Acunetix WP Security. Monitors your website for any WordPress security weaknesses.
- All In One WordPress Security. Checks for vulnerabilities as well as implements and enforces the latest recommended WordPress security practices and techniques.
If your website has any personal data, credit card transactions or any kind of sensitive data, having regular security audits is just as important as having an SSL certificate installed.
Using another CMS platform
A Content Management System is, in essence, a platform that lets you build your website without needing to understand any HTML code, CSS, or other programming languages. It provides you with everything you need to create and manage your online presence, zero design skills needed.
Sounds great, right? However, you do need to be able to select a CMS that suits the type of website you want to create. If you pick a CMS that doesn’t quite fit, you’re looking at some difficulties further on down the road.
But with so many CMS to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you? That’s why we’re here to help break down the most popular platforms: Magento, Drupal, Joomla, and Wiki.
If you’re looking at creating a complex e-commerce shop, look no further than Magento. Whereas WordPress is more user-friendly for those of you who are new to building your first online store, Magento is very stable and flexible for more enterprise e-commerce websites. This is especially the case if you require a lot of customization, i.e. multi-store management, generated reports, mobile e-commerce, etc.
Considered one of the most technically-advanced CMS out there, Drupal is perfect for those of you with some developer experience and more complex website projects. Thanks to its sophisticated data structure, Drupal is favored by educational institutions, non-profit organizations, global corporations, and government sites.
Like WordPress, you need to download the latest version of Drupal and follow its official site’s installation instructions. With Drupal, however, the experience is a little trickier with more steps and clicks involved.
Joomla is another popular free CMS that allows you to build highly-customized websites and online applications. It’s a solid choice if you need to create a complicated website or a bespoke one. Just like Drupal, it’s not super easy to navigate.
If you’re looking to build your own collaborative agenda, Wiki is a great CMS platform. Whether creating an “informational hub” for articles and gaming walk-throughs to collaborative team projects, Wiki is very adaptable and easy to tailor to your website needs.
Now that we’ve walked you through some options, hopefully you have a better idea now of the best one for you – and your budget.
When you think about what you want from your prospective website, how much time and money you can realistically put into it, and how you want your website to be run, this will all help you to make the most of your money.
And remember, starting your website doesn’t have to be expensive. It just requires some due diligence and research beforehand, allowing you to pick the option that’s right for you. Only then can you consider every cent well-spent. Good luck!
Do you have any tips you’d like to share on starting your website on a budget? Let us know in the comments below.