There comes a time in every business when a website is discussed. In less than 20 years, a website has gone from being an interesting novelty to a near necessity. People don’t use phone books anymore to find goods and services, they use their computers or their smart phones.
This is good for the environment as no trees are harvested to create phone books but the real reason it has taken off is sheer convenience. Telephone books are big and bulky and only show a limited amount of information. A website can be as extensive as the customer desires. The only limitation is his budget.
The budget for a lot of small businesses is the deciding factor. Professional web design can run thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. For a small business or a startup the question becomes do we blow our budget on a website or save the money and risk not finding a lot of customers. It’s a real hard decision since most people starting a business rarely think about advertising. They budget for rents, deposits and stock. This is why so many small businesses go out of business. They are undercapitalized from the start.
Web sites can be very inexpensive. The only real cost involved is for hosting and renting a domain name. Hosting is the computer company that puts the website on the Internet. It’s a simple process. They assign an address not unlike your street address for your home. They give you some storage space on a computer to build your website and route all traffic from your domain name to the website. The cost of this type of service is as low as $4 per month for a reliable host.
The other cost is the domain name. This usually ends in.com or.net and can be rented for about $12 per year. That’s it. Those are the only real costs. So how do we get from $60 per year to several thousand dollars to get a website? The answer to that is the person who does the website.
A decent web designer will charge anywhere from $1000 to $100,000 to develop your website. This position requires computer knowledge with a flair for artistic design. That’s why its so expensive. Very few people are qualified to do it. At least that’s how it used to be.
To make things easier, platforms that took all the computer programming prerequisites appeared. They had names like Joomla and WordPress. The idea was to make a standardized website and let people customize it for a unique final result. To make sure these programs were always up-to-date the authors made them open-source meaning anyone could see the code that makes up the program and improve on it or make additions to it.
This worked very well. The WordPress platform took off. Programmers started writing mini applications to change the way WordPress worked or made an improvement. These are called plugins and range anywhere from changing the language the site is read in to automatically adding email forms. All can be done with little or no programming knowledge. Just upload the plugin, turn it on and away you go.
It is now child’s play to build a fully functioning website complete with Search Engine Optimization and built-in security. This encouraged people with artistic talents to build websites. A whole new industry emerged of web site developers. Now someone with little or no computer knowledge could not only build a site, but could also build sites for other people.
The industry quickly became crowded. It was still necessary to pay a designer to make a good looking site until another opportunity evolved. People would make custom websites and then sell copies to the public. So instead of finding one client who would pay $2500, they could make a website, sell the template for $50 and sell it 100 times. Since the end user would do all the work, it was an easy business.
Now you can find free templates as well as templates for sale by the thousands. Some of them are good, some aren’t. It can still be a daunting task to get your website up and functioning properly if you don’t have any computer background but its not something you can’t figure out if you keep at it long enough.
Or you could pay someone $50 or $100 to load the template and plugins and go in and make minor modifications yourself. The point is there is no reason why anyone can’t have a great looking website for less than $200 or less.