Cost Effective Services to Help You Launch Your Own Site

Posted in Tips, Web Design • Posted on 10 Comments

Creating a website does not really require you to have all the technical skills to create one. There are various services available, both free and paid, that will be a great help in your website building process. Whether you are a developer, a designer, or neither, you can still have your dream website, all you have to do is read through this guide. This article is primarily for people who have always dreamed about having their own site, but always thought you had to be a tech savvy person to have one. However I will also touch on and explain how to leverage rapid website building possibilities for serious entrepreneurs too! I am sure you’ve been there – you had an amazing new project idea one that you wanted to realize immediately but the painfully long process of website creation took too much time and you lost your excitement or even worse – never launched your website!

If you can relate with anything I’ve written above, then this article will be a great time and life saver for you! I’ll explain several ways to launch a new website for free or extremely cheap! Quality doesn’t need to suffer because you don’t have a few thousand dollars to spend on unique website design coding or extremely cool features. If you’re going to launch a new start-up – it’s always smart to start small, start with just core functions to see how people respond to your creation! Once you see they enjoy it and there is a market, then you can consider seriously investing  some money on improving your site. It doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money when just you’re just starting out.

With my advice you will be able to create a new website really fast! If you have a great idea you don’t want to have to spend hours working on it before you get to test it in action! Website creation doesn’t need to be a confusing and time consuming process! The main thing is to get your idea out there! Let’s get started!

In this article we’ll focus on:

  1. Basic solutions to launch small projects online for free or really cheap.
  2. Slightly more advanced solutions for entrepreneurs who want to test their new idea fully while spending only a little money on it.

Free Solutions Versus Paid Ones

There’s always certain advantages and disadvantages in everything we do or use, this principle applies to website creation as well. Free options aren’t always bad and paid options aren’t always better. You just have to know what strings to pull to find the best deals on the internet. Well, you won’t need to pull any strings here, because I will share with you the most effective solutions.

Advantages of Free Solutions

Image representing Iconfinder as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Well, if you are on a tight budget (or even better – no budget, just a dream)  you can always count on resources that are offered for free by their creators. There are resources out there that are premium-like in quality but are free. Why free? Don’t they want to see dollars on their bank accounts? Of course they do, but the thing about giving away free softwares, logos, themes and other deliverables is pure marketing to grab attention and gain exposure.  We can seriously benefit from such freebies too regularly searching for premium free resources.

For example, I rarely buy any icons, because there are so many free ones – take FindIcons, IconFinder websites for example.

Disadvantages

There are many free resources available but with most of them you’re either going to sacrifice quality, aesthetics and with themes/templates you cannot be sure if  code is well written. If you’re getting something for free, you often cannot expect to receive good support and you cannot expect to receive the highest quality. There’s a quote that goes “if you are good at something, don’t do it for free,” and you guessed it! Beginners and intermediate designers/developers quite often provide free resources because they’re not at the level yet where they can sell everything they design or develop. The good thing about this system is that though they may not make money they build their reputation and potential customer base by providing quality resources for free.

To summarize – yes, there are a lot of amazing free solutions available and some are high quality. While free is good – you can run into problems such as overuse(everyone using the same trendy free pack of social media icons), no brand recognition, looking cheap because without the necessary knowledge you may not use resources as they are intended to be used. My opinion here is that you can surely use free graphic design resources because what you see is what you get! However you should be careful picking up free themes and templates because often they aren’t very well documented or supported and you may encounter unexpected problems as bugs, compatibility issues with different plugins or modifications you will want to do.

I still consider free solutions to be a pretty good starting point if you don’t want (or can’t) spend any money on it. To explore more about free resources and their pros and cons, read this excellent article by Jared – Can Free Design Resources Be Exemplary?

Zilch Experience in Web Dev?

For people who are not into development but want to have a website for a business or for personal use there are many options to choose from, both free and paid. Free themes, free hosting, and free anything has its downsides and would not work for a blog like 1WD or for e-commerce. Good thing the citizens of the information age, and of the internet, are good enough to offer a free taste which can work for both people who have the skill to develop a website and for people with zero experience with such.

Now, there are tons of free services out there which offer good things, but here I will focus on things that I have used firsthand.

The first thing to ask yourself is…what is this site going to be for? What’s your goal? – personal diary, portfolio site, just a fun project, serious blogging project, startup, website to support your application or software you have, forum, e-commerce site? You need to set clear goals at first!

Basic free solutions for beginners : Hosted Websites

This solution is very good if your goal is just to have some internet presence, have a personal diary or you want to build a small community for friends, work colleagues or maybe just a fan club. However I will list the advantages and disadvantages of this solution, because I really do not recommend it if you have any plans to expand. You’ll understand what I mean once you’ve read pros and cons:

Advantages

  • Well, it’s free or super cheap!
  • Updated automatically – no maintenance issues at all! You don’t have to worry about updates and any compatibility issues
  • Free hosting – you don’t have to worry about your site being online, you don’t have to solve any technical issues
  • Easy to setup and launch – it will take just a few minutes for you to launch such website, no previous experience needed!
  • Search engine friendly – many marketers use those free website solutions to promote their main site! Why? Because usually those big blog platforms have excellent rankings in search engines, you can get ranked extremely fast because of that.

Disadvantages

  • Little control over configuration, design and customization – your chances to pick appropriate templates are limited, you can use only a few supported plugins. It’s hard to build/design something that stands out from the crowd there.
  • Very hard to monetize – Well, these sites will be monetized, but not by you! It will be monetized by those big companies who own the site, because they need to cover their own expenses. Basically you’re paying them in both cases – you pay them cash or they earn some cash with ads.
    Image representing Tumblr as depicted in Crunc...

    Image via CrunchBase

  • No branding- many hosted websites will look the same. Your  website will also look cheap because of the ads the hosted website platform will implement automatically.
  • Limited resources – while hosting may be free, many platforms have limitations for bandwidth and space usage. You won’t encounter these problems early on
  • You don’t own the content – this is the most serious one – if one day the site decides to stop working and they change their policies, you could lose your content and it’s usually difficult to transfer to your own website later on.

Ok, now you know some of the things you may deal with if you choose this option!

For hosted blogging platforms I recommend you choose from Posterious, WordPress, Tumblr.

There is also a very interesting Flash website creation solution I encountered some time ago so I am going to talk about it a bit too, because it’s great for beginner users:

Flash or Not?

To help you decide, first you need to know the purpose of your website. Is the purpose to have an online portfolio so that employers and potential clients will see you and be impressed? If  that’s the case, I believe that a flash website is a good choice because it provides flexibility when it comes to creativity. If the goal is to start an online store or a blog it would be best to go for a more dynamic solution, one of my recommendations above may be better suited to your needs.

Flash Website (Wix)


The good thing about having a flash website is the creative freedom. Colors, effects, and animation is not a problem. A Flash-based website will save you the trouble of learning jQuery and other languages/scripts for added effects. Here’s the rub, if you have a slow internet connection like mine you won’t fully enjoy the website. Opening a light-weight flash website on my end takes up to 30 to 50 seconds. Not fun at all.

There is a free flash website builder, which allows people without any knowledge of programming and designing to come up with a new website via drag and drop. Wait, drag and drop? Yes, that easy. Wix allows its users to create a flash-based website using a very simple process. Trust me when I say that the registration process only took me 5 seconds and I’m good to go with my website. Alright, I’m dropping it now, it’s free. But if you are the meticulous type and serious about it you can always upgrade and have your own domain name.

With Wix you get to choose from a wide selection of free layouts and edit them at your whim. Literally drag and drop, you can manage information with just a few clicks.

See their gallery for a full list of what you can do with Wix.

Quality

The quality of the design is amazing, with its wide selection of layouts you can’t help but notice the high quality while most are free to use. Many of the design elements are drag and drop, no programming or designing skills needed.

Drag and Drop

This eliminates the need to code and design, all you have to do is choose, drag, and drop. Very user friendly. Menus are easy to understand, you won’t get confused trying to figure out what things do. Anything that you can see is clickable and editable, no worries if you don’t like the color, it only takes a few seconds and clicks to change it to suit your taste!

Below is a screenshot of how layouts are edited.

Wixcp

Wix is best for people who are on a budget but need to be online. Best for portfolios and personal websites. As mentioned, there’s an option to upgrade your plan from free to premium where you will get your own domain and other features that you will love. I like this approach because you can easily switch and see benefits immediately  (no ads, own domain, hosting, support, analytics and so on).

Wix Sample Websites

Remember, you can build your website via drag and drop using Wix, no programming required!

I don’t want a flash website! What else?

Up to now I really do not know what to call it: standard website, traditional website, HTML website, etc.. Whatever, what’s important is that you know what I mean: not flash.

During my free time I am developing a website, although I’m not that good at coding. My real problem? My design skills are terrible. Free solution? Minimalist design. I’m not saying that minimalism is easy, I’m pretty sure I’d still be troubled by it. If only I had the money I’d buy something from ThemeForest or hire a designer friend.

“I have a design but I can’t code”

Relax! There is a great solution for that. If you have a design (in generally accepted image format) and you want it coded in 48 hours one thing comes to mind: Code My Concept. Although it does not come cheap, at least you are assured that your design will be hand coded in valid HTML and CSS within 48 hours. Saves you the time and effort, and it’s professionally done too.

An alternative is Code Canyon where you can literally purchase scripts. Just like Theme Forest, rest assured that the codes and scripts delivered there are properly moderated and are of high quality. All for a fair price.

Some of the things you can buy:

Many people have trust issues when it comes to these type of things, 1stwebdesigner is willing to help you find a designer or a coder among our 24,000 plus followers on Twitter. We can tweet your needs if you need it, how does that sound?

Shopping for code and plugins is very easy, very helpful too if you are on a tight budget, or time won’t allow you to hire a developer in time or it’s not within budget. Think of it like building your own computer, buying parts that will complete the whole. That’s how it works.

“I know how to code but I can’t design well”

Aside from Theme Forest where you can purchase web templates, there is Graphic River where you can choose from a wide selection of stock graphics ranging from simple icons to a sophisticated prints.

A free solution would be free stock photo sites like sxc.hu or a site like Deviant Art but you can’t expect to find specific web elements to add on your website.

Here are some free things that you can use to build your design:

Create Your Own Domain Name

Choosing the right domain name is crucial task, because you’ll build your whole branding around it. There is a problem though, it’s very hard to get a good .com domain which is still free. Actually there is a serious problem in getting any good domain names at all! To help you through this process I suggest you try this nifty website – Domainr. It’s a site to bookmark, that’s for sure!

Well, I also suggest you use the site GoDaddy to register your domain. You can get domains really cheap from as low as  7.49$ per year! They also have a pretty good suggestion system to find related domains if the name you really wanted is taken already. Their backend system may seem confusing at first, but I’ve had positive experiences with this site, so I can really recommend it.

Choosing a Web Host

Catchy “Unlimited” bandwidth and disk space, several hosting services offer monthly payments from $4 to $10 for shared hosting. What does it mean?

In truth there is no such thing as Unlimited disk space and Unlimited bandwidth, the service provider assumes that you won’t use too much (which is true most of the time) so they use the word to their leverage. Is it any good? It depends on how you will use it, of course. For a personal website or an online portfolio it is more than okay if you want your own domain. I use GoDaddy and so far I have not experienced any problems, except for the fact that their control panel is a huge mess. Hostgator is one of the cheapest and good hosting services too. Both start from $4 (as of writing this) for shared hosting and both offer VPS. Dreamhost’s record is near flawless, you can google up “Dreamhost reviews” and use your instincts to see if the review is a sham or not. I know three people who use Dreamhost and they say it’s flawless, of ourse it does not come cheap.

new eleven2.com coming at us...

1stwebdesigner is hosted by Eleven2. Is it any good? It speaks for itself. 1WD receives hundreds of thousands of visitors a month and it’s still doing fine. If your website will have great traffic in the future you may want to start with a good host to avoid the hassle of transferring to a new host when everything is in motion. You don’t want to lose even 30 minutes of uptime.

If your goal, on the other hand, entails great traffic and thousands of users every day you might want to opt for a Full-featured hosting. For a couple of months now I have seen many people cuss about their hosting services because of hours of downtime on their blogs. Probing deeper I learned that most use shared hosting. In my opinion you can’t trust shared hosting when it comes to big businesses online. A solution would be to shift from shared hosting to full-featured hosting.

Quick Review:

Hosted Website Solutions

  • For hosted blogging platforms I recommend you to choose from PosteriousWordPressTumblr;
  • Easy site builder for a flash website you can use Wix;

Website Design

  • Theme Forest offers high quality,unique and very affordable themes.

Code Shopping

  • You can shop for codes at Code Canyon
  • You can go to Code My Concept for PSD to HTML conversion

Hosting And domains

  • GoDaddy -register domains with ease.
  • Eleven2 Hosting – great hosting 1WD uses for a year already!

114 Written ArticlesWebsiteGoogle+

Rean was the editor of 1stwebdesigner. He regularly writes about freelancing, technology, web design, and web development. Rean also writes at a blog dedicated to teaching people how to make money online.

10 Comments Best Comments First
  • Nick Burd

    Thursday, March 10th, 2011 18:50

    1

    This was actually a really informative article.

    Personally, if I have something that I cannot do, being a freelancer and knowing many others, I outsource to them. Personal projects don’t pay so I put the time and effort in to learn how to do something, or I talk to a close friend with the skills to get it done and barter a bit. :P

    Tho, not always the case with beginners, knowing a good community to help you when you get stuck is one of the largest things I could suggest with any designer, developer, manager, etc. It really is great to be able to rely on advice from other professionals.

    0
  • Derrick Dedmon

    Thursday, March 10th, 2011 23:12

    4

    I have used Theme Forest for wordpress template many time.

    0
  • Jason Matthews

    Thursday, March 10th, 2011 23:07

    3

    Just my opinion, but free sites can be a great solution for many people who don’t know exactly what they want or exactly what the future of their site might be. Of course, it’s best to stick with major players like webs, wordpress, blogger; venues which have been around for a long time and know what they’re doing. They helped me create free websites and even now make money with them.

    0
  • Robin

    Thursday, March 10th, 2011 19:02

    2

    This is an best steps wise tutorial for beginners :) really awesome :)

    0
  • Dan

    Thursday, March 10th, 2011 17:26

    5

    My advise get good hosting and get your own domain name, stay away from flash. WordPress is great, and you need blog so you have great solution by using wordpress. If you are serious about your website and your career get it right the first time.

    Marios

    0
    • Nick Burd

      Thursday, March 10th, 2011 18:52

      6

      It’s really hard for designers to be happy with what they produce. We are our toughest clients.

      Meaning, it makes it hard to say “get it right the first time”. Even tho it may seem right at first, a few weeks later after looking at it over and over, you may decide otherwise. And just getting started, things are rarely done right the first time, its about trial and error with alot of things.

      0
  • Shane Harwood

    Saturday, January 14th, 2012 03:09

    10

    Very informative,hence, helpful. Keep up the good work.

    0
  • Brett Widmann

    Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 22:19

    9

    This was a really helpful list! I don’t know what I would do without it.

    0
  • Jon

    Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 16:31

    8

    Great article, but for icons i would recommend iconspedia.

    0
  • Gonzo the Great

    Saturday, March 12th, 2011 23:27

    7

    Get your own URL, buy a domain! Okay, there are free options but you really don’t want to be dependent of a third party! Second, learn to code, if not, please consider a career-switch! Somebody who wants to become a pilot but can’t fly an airplane, will have to learn it too!

    Make your own design instead of buying a template, you’ll have 100% control of everything, making it possible to do every change you want on your site (be it a change in layout, SEO-wise, etc.). No bloated codes, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love WordPress and some of the other (free) open-source CMS’s, but if you say you’re a designer and you don’t change the template to make it something unique, .. you’re NOT a designer!

    Thanks for sharing, Cheers & Ciao ..

    0
  • Shane Harwood

    Saturday, January 14th, 2012 03:09

    10

    Very informative,hence, helpful. Keep up the good work.

    0
  • Brett Widmann

    Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 22:19

    9

    This was a really helpful list! I don’t know what I would do without it.

    0
  • Jon

    Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 16:31

    8

    Great article, but for icons i would recommend iconspedia.

    0
  • Gonzo the Great

    Saturday, March 12th, 2011 23:27

    7

    Get your own URL, buy a domain! Okay, there are free options but you really don’t want to be dependent of a third party! Second, learn to code, if not, please consider a career-switch! Somebody who wants to become a pilot but can’t fly an airplane, will have to learn it too!

    Make your own design instead of buying a template, you’ll have 100% control of everything, making it possible to do every change you want on your site (be it a change in layout, SEO-wise, etc.). No bloated codes, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love WordPress and some of the other (free) open-source CMS’s, but if you say you’re a designer and you don’t change the template to make it something unique, .. you’re NOT a designer!

    Thanks for sharing, Cheers & Ciao ..

    0
  • Dan

    Thursday, March 10th, 2011 17:26

    5

    My advise get good hosting and get your own domain name, stay away from flash. WordPress is great, and you need blog so you have great solution by using wordpress. If you are serious about your website and your career get it right the first time.

    Marios

    0
    • Nick Burd

      Thursday, March 10th, 2011 18:52

      6

      It’s really hard for designers to be happy with what they produce. We are our toughest clients.

      Meaning, it makes it hard to say “get it right the first time”. Even tho it may seem right at first, a few weeks later after looking at it over and over, you may decide otherwise. And just getting started, things are rarely done right the first time, its about trial and error with alot of things.

      0
  • Derrick Dedmon

    Thursday, March 10th, 2011 23:12

    4

    I have used Theme Forest for wordpress template many time.

    0
  • Jason Matthews

    Thursday, March 10th, 2011 23:07

    3

    Just my opinion, but free sites can be a great solution for many people who don’t know exactly what they want or exactly what the future of their site might be. Of course, it’s best to stick with major players like webs, wordpress, blogger; venues which have been around for a long time and know what they’re doing. They helped me create free websites and even now make money with them.

    0
  • Robin

    Thursday, March 10th, 2011 19:02

    2

    This is an best steps wise tutorial for beginners :) really awesome :)

    0
  • Nick Burd

    Thursday, March 10th, 2011 18:50

    1

    This was actually a really informative article.

    Personally, if I have something that I cannot do, being a freelancer and knowing many others, I outsource to them. Personal projects don’t pay so I put the time and effort in to learn how to do something, or I talk to a close friend with the skills to get it done and barter a bit. :P

    Tho, not always the case with beginners, knowing a good community to help you when you get stuck is one of the largest things I could suggest with any designer, developer, manager, etc. It really is great to be able to rely on advice from other professionals.

    0

Comments are closed.

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