The Investor’s Guide To Building Simple Websites

Many new digital publishers and investors come from non-technical backgrounds. Therefore, we’re going to start this article with a simple question:

How much does an effective website cost?

Bear in mind I used the word effective (definition: gets stuff done) instead of the more common adjectives such as well designed, professional, and award winning. The deconstruction of these terms betray the interesting – and expensive, from your perspective – psychology of the typical website purchaser:

  • Well Designed – The builder points to a third party to validate it
  • Professional – Your peers are unlikely to criticize your choice
  • Award Winning – Sufficiently well designed and professional your digital agency decided it was worth the effort to get a piece of paper to help justify a higher bill.

None of these words are particularly impressive to my CFO. She prefers to measure performance in cold hard cash. Was the website effective at generating revenue?

Three Prices For The Same Website

An associate and I were looking at a run of the mill corporate website. It had most of the features you would expect for a product company: base corporate information, strong product catalog section, and a store locator. We wondered how much it would cost to replace it. A quick call got us three numbers, all for the same website:

  • $1,500 Friends and Family Developer
  • $5,000 Professional Contractor
  • $15,000 Digital Agency

There is no free lunch, here, by the way. You need different levels of expertise and project management across these three options. The agency can manage themselves. The friends and family developer likely must be supervised by an experienced eye.

But for a $13,500 difference in out of pocket cost, I’m more than willing to lean in and manage this!

Not to mention crack a book and figure it out! (Hint: You can, my cost was $250 and a Saturday)

Learn How To Build Basic Websites

For the reasons above, we recommend every digital publisher and website investor get experience setting up and managing at least a basic WordPress site. Not because you have a passion for web design, but to learn the costs, effort, and trade-offs involved.

Almost anyone can carve out a little space on the web. As Internet technology improves, you can create a blog or website with very little knowledge of programming or web setup procedures. Before you begin, you need some basic knowledge or you will likely get swallowed by frustration.

A Domain Name

What do you want to name your new venture? Your domain name is usually your brand. After you choose your domain name, you can use any number of domain registrars to find out if that name is available. Most people select the “.com” first and select a different extension if it’s not available. The domain can be any alphanumeric name, so you have the option to alter the name with some numbers if your original name is already taken.

After you find the domain that’s right for you, register it with the registrar. GoDaddy, Dotster, 1and1, and Register are some of the most popular registrars. Expect to spend approximately $15 for the domain name. You can opt for privacy for an additional $9. Privacy options mean that your name and address won’t show up when someone searches for the owner of the domain. Instead, a proxy service is shown in place of your information.

If you’re still looking for a place to register a domain, check out NameCheap. They are a no-frills provider of domain names. They also have access to various specialty domains (tech, creative) that you can use for branding. Click here if you need to buy a domain. (affiliate link, we earn a commission, although they’re pretty cheap so we don’t get much.)

A Web Host

Having secured your address (the domain name), you need to find a place to host the website for you. When visitors request a page from their website, your webhost is owns the computer that will respond them. While there are various free hosts, we recommend getting a basic paid hosting plan which will give you access to some level of support and customization. You can usually find one for less than $15 per month

Some web hosts give you site builders, so you can build a site with no experience. However, these site builders come with limitations, and they aren’t always search engine friendly. WordPress is an easy-to-install application that has a good reputation, and there are thousands of plug-ins to help automate the system. If you don’t want to pay for a unique website design, look into installing WordPress.

Our recommendation, if you’re interested, is WebFaction. We picked these guys eight years ago and never regretted it. They have an excellent reputation within the Python community and offer a very “technically flexible” hosting platform which can run anything from a WordPress blog to custom code. Another key benefit: they have an automated process to get free “SSL encryption” certifications that saves us $25 per site per year. Google indicated that getting a SSL certificate so you could do secure serving (HTTPS) would be a SEO ranking factor. Click here to sign up for a trial. (affiliate link)

Write Plenty of Content

The death of a blog is when the owner neglects its content. Active, great blogs include continuously uploaded content. It’s normal to go through a time of writer’s block, so purchase content online to keep the flow of information steady during those times when you don’t feel like writing. Continuous content not only keeps readers coming back to your blog, but it indicates to search engines that you’re active. Fresh content helps with search engine rank and visibility.

Key Advantages of This Approach

You probably didn’t come into this space because you wanted to do IT. Most digital publishers are content creators at heart, most investors are financially motivated. That being said, building a basic WordPress site will give you a grounding in the costs and trade-offs of doing business in this industry.

If you win up getting really good at throwing together a basic site in WordPress, you’ve got a cheap way to test new ideas. Buy a domain and stand up a basic website. You can get market data for under $100.

And if you’re not good at WordPress, you’re going to know a lot more about how to brief your developer / agency and keep them honest on the rates they charge you!