Build a Website For Your Business – Where to Start

So you have decided your business or organization is in need of a website. Now what? In the past, the choice was clear. Hire a local website designer who will build, design and manage your website. This was the only way, and businesses and organizations had no choices and paid a pretty hefty price. Websites completely built and managed by website designers could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000!

Luckily, in 2015, we have many choices. We now have the technology that makes it somewhat easy for you to manage or even build your website yourself. Listed below are some options and pros and cons to each as well as an estimated budget.

Build It For You

This involves hiring a local or national website agency and having them completely build the site from scratch as well as having them do all the updates and maintenance on the site.

Costs:

Design : $5,000 to $50,000 (depending on number of pages, size, graphics, etc.)

Monthly Charges: $50 to $100 (may include maintenance on the hosting service, etc.)

Updating Charges: $100 to $200 per hour

Pros:

  1. Very little work for the organization during the process as well as for the life of the website

  2. A professionally developed website

  3. Little to no technical issues to deal with on the business’ side. The agency handles all of the problems.

Cons:

  1. Can be very expensive and almost impossible for small businesses to afford

  2. The business is heavily reliant on a third party to make updates and changes to the website, and that third party may not be available to make the changes as fast as the business needs it done.

  3. The content can become static and generic because the business did not contribute to the content.

Build It for You and Do It Yourself

This involves hiring out some extent of the work and then getting trained to complete and maintain the website. This arrangement is becoming very common between business owners, freelance designers, and even some website companies. The website is built on a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla. The CMS allows a non-technical person to go into the website and add content, make changes, add photos, and write blogs.

The arrangements can vary vastly, and of course, will affect pricing.  Some examples might be:

  1. The website is completely designed and completed, and then the customer is trained on upkeep for the CMS.

  2. The website is built and designed, but the content is dummy content that will be completed by the owner. The owner is trained on the CMS to complete and maintain the site.

Costs:

Design: $500 to $10,000 – with $2000 to $5,000 being a reasonable average expectation.

Hosting/Maintenance: $5 to $100 monthly (maintained by either the designer or the business owner)

Pros:

  1. The site is professionally designed.

  2. The owner of the site has the freedom to add and change the website as needed.

  3. The owner of the site is trained on how to maintain the site.

  4. The owner of the site still has a contact with the designer in case they need support.

Cons:

  1. This option can still be expensive, and sometimes not possible for a small business.

  2. The designer could still have bottom line control of the website, maintenance and hosting. In negotiations, the amount of access and control needs to be discussed.

  3. The business owner will have to dedicate time to updates and maintenance of the site.

Do It Yourself

In recent years, many options for building your own DIY website have entered into the marketplace.  Some are easy, and some require a significant learning curve.  Of course, some are good and some are very limited in what you can do with the website.  There are two basic categories that a do-it-yourself option falls into: Open Source Software and Website Builder Companies.

Open Source:

The most popular open source CMS is WordPress. Others include Joomla, Drupal, and Ghost. Although using something like WordPress does not require coding, there is a bit of a learning curve, and although powerful, they are not as user-friendly as website builders.

Cost:

Domain: $10 to $20 per year per domain

Hosting: $5 to $30 per month

Premium Templates/Themes/Plugins: $50 to $100 one-time cost (not necessary, but does help with the learning curve)

Pros:

  1. Building your own website with open source software can be very budget friendly. Your only ongoing fees are hosting and domain registration. The total cost to launch a site could be as little as $200, and that would include annual fees.  After year one, maintenance would remain around $150 annually.

  2. Open Source CMS allows for extreme flexibility in website functionality. Because it is open source, users are free to add anything they need via plugins and/or coding.  You can start with a very basic site and add e-commerce, advertising, forums, etc. as needed.

  3. Open Source Software support is run by a community rather than a company. Because of this, you have a huge community of customer support via the internet.

Cons

  1. Even though there is a community of support through groups and forums on the internet, open source software does not have customer support staff that can help you with your questions via a simple phone call.

  2. Open source software does not require coding; however, it does require some technical knowledge and patience to completely get through the learning curve.

Website Building Companies

These are companies that utilize a proprietary CMS and charge the user a monthly fee. The monthly fee covers the domain name, hosting, use of the CMS, templates, and usually, free 24/7 support.  This is probably the easiest and fastest way to get a website up and running; however, users need to do their due diligence to understand the capabilities and shortcomings of each choice. Some templates are far more flexible than others, and many times companies end up with a website that does not deliver what they need, and they are back at square one.

Costs:

 $8 to $50 per month

Pros:

  1. Easy

  2. Fast

  3. Very cost effective

Cons:

  1. Can be very limited. If you have a clear vision of what you want, you may not be able to achieve the exact results because of the confinements of the template and service.

  2. The website builder company owns your template. When you choose to move on, your existing website will not be able to move with you.

We have done a bit of research on website builders, and as of 7/1/2015, our favorites based on professional design, ratings and ease of use include:

Square Space

Wix

Weebly

Conclusion:

A Small Business will be at a great advantage if they have some control over the updates and additions to their company website.  We suggest that no matter what option a business chooses the website is based on a content management system that they are trained on and can get pertinent updates and new content published easily and quickly. When hiring someone to help get the website up and running, make sure that you ask if you will have easy access to the CMS to make changes and add content.

The easiest way to get a very simple site up and running is to use a Website Building Company like Square Space, Wix or Weebly.  There are many options in addition to the three listed and these sites are getting more and more advanced every day.  However, If you want your site customized or envision many different functions for your website these options may be too limiting for your needs. Wikipedia Comparison Chart

If you or someone in your business is a bit more technical and/or you can afford to hire some help to start your project and train your team, we strongly recommend using WordPress.org on a WordPress-friendly hosting site like Flywheel or Bluehost.  WordPress can create very simple sites but also has the capability to grow with your companies complex needs.

For additional assistance with guidance on creating your company website, contact Americas SBDC at Iowa Western at (712) 325-3376. We are a free resource for small businesses and start-ups in Southwest Iowa. We serve seven counties – including Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Page, Pottawattamie, and Shelby – and provide counseling services to help businesses start, grow, and prosper.

Photo Credit: Under Construction Grunge Sign | Flickr – Photo Sharing! http://ow.ly/P5WoW

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Where to Find Us

Iowa Western Community College

2700 College Road

121 Ashley Hall (Park in Ashley Hall Visitor Parking)

Council Bluffs, Iowa 51503

712-325-3350

Sue Pitts - spitts@iwcc.edu

Michael Mitilier - mmitilier@iwcc.edu

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Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S Small Business Administration (SBA). All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA