This is a simple guide that does not pretend to be technical but makes easy to understand the costs implied when you decide to have your website and why you need to be very careful about companies offering very cheap or free website.
As Admiral Ackbar said: It’s a Trap!
Why we need a website?
This is the key. Do you want to express yourself or do you want to use your website for your business?
If you want to publish articles, opinions or any personal issue you probably do not need a website but a blog. In there you will publish articles, upload photos, and also get subscribers and followers. And, you do not want/need “fancy” options or special design, you can have a blog for free. There are many options around starting with WordPress.
But if you need a website for your business, then you need to understand how they work and why the free or cheap options are a terrible investment.
If you want a website for your business you are thinking to have it for a long time. Then you must be careful about the future.
Many companies offer very impressive offers but, what they really want is to charge you a lot of money in the future.
Yes, at the beginning and taking advantage for your need and your probably tight budget, their offers sounds quite good.
But after the first year you will realise that they will start charging many things (things you need) that were free the first year. And also you will realise that change companies are difficult. At the end you are trap with them and paying fortunes.
Before deciding the company you want to work with is better to understand the things you will need to have your website up and running.
Basically, you need a domain (the name), a host (the place/computer where your website will run) and the design/develop of your website (how your website will look and work).
The domain is the “name of your website”. It is the word your visitors need to type in the browser to reach your company on internet.
You need to have one, and it needs to be yours. This is one of the first disadvantages of many of the cheap or free websites. You do not pay for it but also you do not own it.
Own your domain is very important. You do not want another company to use your name, you must have full control of it.
It is important to understand how domains work as many people believe that domain and website are the same thing and they are not.
The domain is the registration of the website address (or name) in a world database. The registration covers three things:
1.- The name itself (myname.com or myname.co.uk or myname.uk, etc.)
2.- The owner of that name (You!)
3.- The place (host) where your website is working from.
The first two are quite obvious, but the third is the one that changes everything. When somebody tries to reach your website, the database of the domains direct your visitor to the hosting company in which one your website is working.
Why this is so important? Because if you own your domain, you can change that if you need it. Let’s suppose you choose a company to host your website and, in the future, they put the prices up and you find another company cheaper or with better options for you.
If you own your domain, you just need to access to your domain registration and set-up the new host company. You can change companies with no problems.
How much a domain will cost?
It depends on the extension (the “dot com or uk or the want you want” ). Each extension is different. At the moment I wrote this guide the prices are: .com £ 9.99 per year; .co.uk £ 6.99 per year; .net £ 9.99 per year, as an example. There are also “special” extensions such as .boutique or .agency and many others. The prices for those are between £ 17.- to £ 40.- per year.
It is important to understand that the extension is more a marketing thing than an issue for your visitors to find your website. You can choose the extension you want (unless your company or organisation is “special” and it will need a particular domain). If you trade locally, I will suggest going for the .co.uk or .uk.
At the end it is the same, we can see your website from anywhere does not matter the extension.
The only thing you can consider is if somebody search for a company in the UK and your domain is a .uk or related your company will have preferences above the others extensions.
The host is the company you choose to park your website. At the end, a website is an app that needs to be run from a computer. The company in where your website will run from is the hosting company.
When you choose a hosting company, you need to consider the kind of website you will have, the space you need for your website and an idea about how many people will visit your website (traffic).
The hosting must be ready for the website you need, it is not the same to host an e-commerce or a simple one. There are some “things” your website will need from the hosting system for your website to work properly.
The hosting should offer a backup system, support and good runtime performance.
To choose the package, you need to know if your website will need a lot of space or not, or if you expect a lot of visitors (traffic). More space and more traffic means you will need to pay more.
I will not be worry about this as you always can start from a basic package and upgrade it in the future if you need it. It does not take a long time to do it and also it does not mean your website needs to be rebuild or anything.
A host package will cost from around £ 3.- per month to have an idea
What about free hosting companies? As you know, nothing is free. The “cost” of hosting your websites into such companies can be from having ads and promotions on your website and/or taking information from your visitors.
The development & design
This is, of course, the “expensive” part. But keep in mind that it is usually a “one-off” payment.
You need to consider two things:
Developing your site: It is the basement of the website. All the instructions your website needs to do what you need. It can be something unique for you or a standard app.
If you need/want something special for you, it will be expensive as many hours of special programming will be necessary. You also need to consider updates that will cost more money. But, in certain situations you have no option than to have your own development.
But for the majority, a standard app will work perfect. It is called CMS (Content Management System). You can install one in your host (many companies include this as standard).
The advantages of using a standard CMS such as WordPress, Joombla or many others are:
Updates are free (and you can set up your website to do it automatically)
Modular: It means you can start with a basic one and add utilities in the future, such as e-commerce, registrations, payments, booking systems and more (they are called plug-ins).
You can find plug-ins with the utilities you need free. Most of the plug-ins offer a basic free version, and you can upgrade to the “premium” version if you need it later on.
Designing you website: It is the way your website will look. Colours, logos, photos, sections etc.
Same as before, it is possible to create an unique design for your website or you can use one of the “templates” that are available for CMSs .
Regarding the templates, same as the plug-ins, there are free versions and premium. And it will be possible to adapt any of them to your needs.
Create and setup your website can be free if you think you can manage the initial setup or prices start at £ 150.- if you want me to prepare your website ready for you to use it and teaching you how to update and manage it.
From my point of view, it is clear will be better to adjust the budget a little and have your own website with full control. It will give you a peace of mind and save lots of money.
If you want to save some money, you can consider paying your hosting for a year all together. Companies offer discounts and also free domain if you choose that option (Do not worry, the domain will still in your name, they just discount the price of the registration if you pay yearly).