One of the hardest parts of getting started with a new website, especially if you’ve never had one, is knowing what you need, how much to budget and when to get help.
And when you’re just getting started you want to avoid over-spending by prioritizing what you need and how you phase in the implementation. This short guide will help you answer those questions. Help you prepare effectively, ask the right questions, and help make you make good choices.
What you need to create a website.
- Domain Name
- Website Platform (a way to build your website)
- Hosting – some website platforms include hosting
- A Plan (marketing, mobile, content, etc.)
- Design & Content
The address of your website.
Where to get one:
GoDaddy.com – a good choice, skip all of the upsell
Namecheap.com – alternate
- Register your domain separately from your hosting
- Be wary of long, hyphenated, hard to spell, understand or say names
- May want to register a domain for your book and author name as well
What you’ll use to build your site with. There are a variety of options but realistically it boils down to one of the two choices below. The options listed are some of the most popular but by no means a comprehensive list. WordPress is the CMS of choice for about 25% websites on the Web because it is a great place to start and grow your website with a variety of affordable solutions.
Proprietary Website Builders with hosting provided:
- WordPress.com – $13 – $99 or $ 300/ yr can be imported to WordPress.org
- More builders – http://www.websitebuildertop10.com/
Self-Hosted CM Software Options – you need hosting:
- WordPress.org $ 0
- Drupal $ 0
- Expression Engine $ 300 – $ 400
Your hosting service provides space on special type of computer that stores your website files and database and makes the content available to the World Wide Web at your designated domain name address.
There are different types of hosting and if you’re just getting started Shared Hosting fine for most small sites. When you start to see traffic in excessive 10K hits a month then it’s time to look at the alternatives.
- Good secure hosting with support is around ~ $10 – 20/month, when you’re just starting you may be able to go with the entry level package for some initial savings.
- Look at reviews, type of support, and ask a professional.
- Dreamhost – no phone support
- Hostgator – monthly billing
Must Have Techical Website Checklist
Some must have elements you need as part of any website plan:
- Mobile ready
- Ongoing maintenance plan
- Security and off-site backup functions
- Basic SEO tools
- Google analytics and Webmster tools
- Good documentation with access to all of your digital accounts and licenses
- Website integration with other services such as an email service provider like MailChimp
Do you need an SSL/HTTPS website address with your website?
The short answer is yes if you are building a new website or have ecommerce or membership functions. If you have an existing website, then plan for making the switch in the next year.
Why? To improve internet security, since 2014 Google has been encouraging all website owners to use an https:// address which means all information to comes from and goes to your website is securely encrypted.
And in the last several years the availability of free SSL certificates such as Let’s Encrypt and efforts of hosts such as Siteground to make the switch easy are two good reasons. There are also improved SEO and performance benefits.
But the biggest reason is the Jan. 2017 Google update. Now any page with a login form that does not use an https:// address displays a “not secure” message in the browser address bar. And in the near future this will be applied to all pages.
One of the two most important success factors in any website project is a good plan and detailed specification defining what’s being done and why. You’re going to have a variety of plans including:
- Scope of Work with the project specifications
When you’re first getting started some of these plans maybe be simple to begin with and will evolve over time. At the least you should know what you want your website to do (your website objectives) and make sure your site is functional on various mobile devices.
Having a good marketing foundation will help you create a hard working website and answer the myriad of questions that will come up, and save time and money. Websites usually last 2 – 3 years depending on the growth of the website, and having a good planning process in place is important down the road as well,
Elements of a Good Marketing Foundation:
- Who is your audience? (hint: it’s not everyone who…)
- The problem you solve
- The benefits your solution provides, how it feels to have the problem solved
- Your unique way of delivering those benefits (USP)
- Consider what do you want your visitors to do?
- And, how are they going to do it?
Design and Content
Fortunately as you are getting started you don’t need to invest in a custom design. No mater your choice of website platform all of them have a variety of designs sometimes called Themes (in WordPress) or Templates to get you started.
When clients ask me “How long is it going to take?” the answer always hinges on the status of the content. Getting the content together is the most time consuming part of any website project I’ve done. Getting help here and having a good plan are both great ways to keep your project on track and on budget.
Don’t forget the graphics. Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media sites for a reason, we are very visual. It’s been tested many times and content with good graphics gets shared more and converts better.
How much to budget
- Domain name – ~ $ 15/yr
- Hosting – ~ $ 10 – $ 20/month usually paid annually
- One-time and Annual license fees: software, themes, plugins, add-ons, graphic images or creation, etc. – $ 0 – $ 500+
- Maintenance – plan to update your site at least quarterly, ideally monthly and get help as needed – cost varies $ 0 – 500
- Professional Assistance – web developer, graphic designer, copy writer, etc. $ 40 – $ 200/hr
Your Initial website investment could range anywhere from $ 0 – $ 5,000. Your investment is going to vary depending on what you need. On average I would a range you can expect for a starter website with the required entry level elements is a few hundred dollars to less than T$ 2,000. Wide range . .
These are just a selection of the basic expenses to plan for. .
expand here the variety of costs
- Be sure you know which costs are one-time and annual and if there’s a renewal discount
When to get help?
Answer: Always unless you have no choice. When investing your time I think it’s always best to focus on things you’ll do over and over such as publishing SEO/Marketing oriented content with good graphics and maybe even maintaining your site. As opposed to installing or customizing or setting up the security for your website.
Even when it’s something you’re going to do often such as update your site there may be too much to keep track of to make something such as site maintenance worth your time.
Some quotes to live by:
“Friends don’t let friends drive websites”
“Free is some of the most expensive work you’ll pay for.”
Tips – Working with Professionals:
- #1 – Never work without a well-defined written specification that is part of a contract
- Have all accounts and licenses registered in your name with the credentials for those accounts provided to you
- Make sure you have documentation regarding the project details
- What are the professional’s strengths and how does that fit with your needs?
- Are you discussing your business as well as your website design and objectives?
Note: Updated march 2017 to cover the SSL/HTTP information.