Don’t have $2,500 to spend on a website for your products, goods or services? Relax — there are plenty of easy, inexpensive ways to build your own.
Website design essentials
Be warned: There is some skill involved in building and designing your own website. You also may encounter frustration — as you might with any new project — but be assured, you can do it with the right tools.
Website design tools you will need as you build your own website:
- You will need to be able to modify or create images. Products like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop can be a bit expensive but very useful. However, you can download a program from GIMP.org for free. It does the same things as the bigger, pricey programs.
- You will need an HTML editor. A few really good products are NVU, Coffee Cup or Aptana Studio. Again, the price is right, because these are free downloads.
- You will probably also need FTP software so you can move your website files from your computer to your website host. We recommend FileZilla, another free download.
- You will need a place to host your website. The best-known is GoDaddy, but there are a number of other excellent hosts that offer superior service as well as competitive pricing. One thing to keep in mind with GoDaddy — they do not use the most common hosting software, which makes it much more difficult to migrate your site to a different hosting company. Ideally, find a host that uses cPanel.
Website templates make design easy
You are now ready to start building a website. We’ve heard great things about Jimdo.com. This is a really simple, step-by-step, hand-holding process to create a website. Jimdo allows you to add shopping carts, photo galleries and other multimedia.
Of course, as you build your website, you can find plenty of other free website templates available on the Internet besides Jimdo, where all the design work is done and you just have to plug in your information. You can design your own template, but that’s more complicated and you will have to learn some HTML and CSS programming. We recommend taking a look at FreeCSStemplates.org.
Manage your website content
If you are thinking about doing a content management website, where you constantly adding articles, stories or other content, consider using WordPress.org. WordPress will host it for free and provide templates for free as well.
Set up a user-friendly shopping cart
If you need a shopping cart that allows customers to order your products online, accept credit card payments, track inventory, offer coupons to customers and more, take a look at ZenCart.com. This is a free solution, and with most cPanel hosts you can install it with one click.
Blog, blog, blog
If you want to do a blog (which can be separate from your website, attached to it, or can even stand on its own as a website), consider WordPress or Blogger.com (owned by Google).
Before you start building your website, remember: Be prepared for some frustration, because even though these web tools may make building your own website easier, there is still a learning curve and potential for error. However, if you’re serious about creating your own website, learn as much as you can and try and try again until you get things right.
Another alternative? Find a great website designer.