What To Do When You Can’t Afford A Web Designer

If web design prices have your head spinning, why not join the ranks of others and build your own? It may take a little more time, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you did it yourself. This is a particularly good route for new business owners or for people wanting to build a family or hobby website. Hiring a designer could cost you anywhere from $750 and up, but you can build your own for much less. Be sure you have plenty of time to invest, because there can be a substantial learning curve.

Let’s start with some assumptions. I’m assuming you don’t know and don’t want to learn the basic coding languages for building websites: HTML (hypertext markup language) or CSS (cascading style sheets). I’m also assuming you don’t own and don’t want to buy any professional design software such as the Adobe suite of products that include Dreamweaver and Photoshop. I do assume that you have a working knowledge of the Internet, email, digital photography, and word processing programs. If not, you’ll need to do a little remedial learning before starting on your website project.

SMALL BUSINESS
Small business owners should first check with their industry’s professional organizations to see if they provide or can refer you to any website providers. Then try a search online for the name of your industry plus “web builder.” There are companies out there that specialize in websites for a particular industry like dentalwebbuilder.com for dentists and photobiz.com for photographers. Or look into general do-it-yourself small business site builders like smallbusiness.officelive.com, hostway.com, citymax.com, and homestead.com. Some of these, like Homestead, offer web-based templates that you can customize with just a few clicks. You’ll still need to pay for these services, but it should be cheaper than hiring a professional to start from scratch.

PERSONAL SITES
For hobby and family sites, which don’t necessarily need a professional look, you have more choices. Try any of the following: vistaprint.com, geocities.yahoo.com, google.com, or weebly.com. Also check with your Internet service provider to see if they offer anything in the way of websites. Most of these sites offer free websites and templates that you can customize to suit your needs.

BLOGGING
If you are in the market for a blog, try wordpress.com, typepad.com, or blogger.com. There are many others, as well. You can find them by typing “blogging” into any search engine. Most are either free or inexpensive. If you have strong writing skills and can commit to at least one post per week, a blog might be a great way to get your business or personal site on line quickly. Disadvantages include not being able to customize the site to the extent you might want and being limited to a yourwebsite.bloggingsite.com domain name.

ECOMMERCE
Design of ecommerce sites is best left to professionals, but if your budget precludes this cost, you can still get your goods online in a variety of ways. First and foremost, consider an eBay store. If your item is handmade, see if etsy.com is a good fit for you. If you make t-shirts, stationery, or coffee mugs, try cafepress.com. Yahoo Small Business has a web-based e-commerce solution for new businesses selling small volumes. If you want to save money and bypass a designer, this might be a good option for you. Find out more at smallbusiness.yahoo.com. If you sell books or goods, you could use Amazon.com’s business solutions. Go to the bottom of their site and click on “Build an eCommerce Site”. Another option is designer218.com. These are just a few ways to get started selling your items online. There are many other e-commerce solutions out there for the do-it-yourselfer. Just do a Google search on “do-it-yourself websites” or “e-commerce.”

SOFTWARE
If you’re not crazy about the web-based solutions I‘ve outlined above, you can try to take your site to the next level by designing it yourself using free (or inexpensive) software. There are a number of HTML editors available. Try coffeecup.com, barebones.com/products/bbedit, or w3.org/Amaya/Amaya.html. Irfanview.com offers free graphic software as does getpaint.net. See freebyte.com/graphicprograms for a comprehensive list of other freebies.

A brief glance at the web sites highlighted above should give you confidence in your ability to select the most appropriate one for your level of skill and for your degree of interest as well as for the kind of subject matter you wish to convey. As you become more knowledgeable, your site will no doubt become more attractive and more informative. Good luck in your new business venture or personal site!

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