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Home  \  Web Design Articles & Resources  \  How to Build a Free Website (and Why it May Be Too Costly) Part 1


How to Build a Free Website (and Why it May Be Too Costly)

(Part 1 of 3)

Planning

The first step in creating your website involves careful planning and research. How will customers find your site? What functions will it serve for your business, and what competitive advantages can you create? How often will you want information updated? What are your future goals for expanding your website, and how should you design the site for that growth?

Websites can be much more than online brochures. In some cases, this is all that's required for a small business, but thorough planning and research can identify opportunities to build customer loyalty, increase local market share, or reach new markets through the internet. You can also create a plan tho develop your site in stages, allowing you to spread the investment of time and/or money over a period of months or years.

Web Hosting

Whether your website will consist of a simple page with contact information, or be an industry-leading resource for customers, you will need a web hosting account. Most small businesses use a virtual hosting account where your site shares a server with perhaps several hundred other websites. The advantages include low cost (from $50 to $300 per year) and technical support, with the physical server often being located in a secure data center. Because your site is sharing finite resources, your web pages may load slowly when the other sites are unusually busy.

With web hosting, “you get what you pay for” in terms of reliability, features, and data transfer (bandwidth). There are ways, though, that you may not have to pay to host your site!

Check with your internet service provider (ISP) to see if your monthly access fee includes a small amount of web space. Many high speed internet packages include a limited amount of web space and bandwidth that may be suitable for a personal or small business site. Be sure to read any terms and conditions carefully - if your site will use more bandwidth than allowed by your ISP, you will either be billed for additional fees or customers will see a “bandwidth exceeded” message instead of your website when the limit is reached.

There are also hundreds, if not thousands, of companies that offer free web hosting services. Most of these are supported by advertising displayed on your site, or through the sale of additional features and services (such as www.bravenet.com). Many of these free web hosts include website design templates and tools, which can give you a jump start in designing your site.

A free hosting service could end up costing you more than a paid hosting package. The biggest issue with free services is maintaining your professionalism and credibility. While many will allow you to register your own domain name, some will only allow access to your site as a subdomain or directory of the hosting company's address.

Promoting a website as “yourname.hostingcompany.com” or “www.hostingcompany.com/yourname” not only looks unprofessional, you could lose your promotional investment due to a lack of ownership and control over your web address. Since the base domain name is owned by the hosting company, you are subject to changes to the Terms of Service by the free hosting provider. Over the years, some have stopped offering free accounts or simply gone out of business.

In addition to making a site look cluttered and unprofessional, advertising-supported services will often target ads based on keywords found on your web site. In other words, the ads shown will often be for competing products and services!

Most of our clients pay $150 to $240 per year for web hosting, which is a small price for protecting the investment you'll make in promoting and advertising your site.

Domain Names

A domain name is a small expense, from $10 to $20 per year. In addition to owning and promoting a consistent web address, you also own and control your own email addresses. Choosing the top-level domain (the .com, .net, .ca part of the address) is an important decision that will affect the image, search engine rankings, and ease-of-recall for your website. Again, planning and research in the early stages will determine which top-level domain is most suitable, and your registrar will help you to check availability of your desired name.

What else is left? You have a web hosting account and web address. We need to discuss selecting a web page layout program, creating graphics and images, dynamic scripting, advanced features and databases, email and customer management, optimizing for search engines, marketing your product or service on the internet, and spotting future trends that will impact your business. We'll identify free resources to help build and improve your site, identifying pitfalls where using “free” services can cost you more than hiring a web designer.

© 2004, 2005 by Russ Jackman


Design


Russ Jackman, Internet Advisor
Russ Jackman is the principal of Internet Advisor, a web design and internet marketing firm located in St. Thomas, Ontario.

The concept of the "Internet Advisor" is that the designer becomes a partner or trusted consultant, who can simply provide advice and direction, completely implement a solution from start to end, or any degree in between. This insures that the strengths of a client are utilized, to minimize the investment required and maximize the benefits to their organization.

Site last updated May 07, 2018, at 12:37 PM

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