- Aug 19, 2019
- by Paris Backston
Most beginners looking to start their own websites want to keep costs low, which is understandable. If you Google “free website”, you’ll come up with a large list of companies offering to host your site for free. The question is, what are you really getting with those deals?
Many of these companies offer website builders for creating your site, as well as free hosting and a branded domain name. However, they also provide extremely limited control and little flexibility. Fortunately, there are also a number of low-cost alternatives that enable you to create a unique site on a budget.
In this post, we’ll break down the different elements required to start a website. We’ll discuss whether you can obtain these elements for free, as well as exploring the affordable paid options that are available. Let’s jump right in!
Why It’s Easier Than Ever to Start a Website
Anyone can build a website. You don’t have to be tech-savvy or have years of coding experience to create one. These days, there are a number of very simple solutions to get you started.
Companies such as Weebly, Squarespace, and WordPress.com offer free platforms to make website building as intuitive as possible. They often provide a drag-and-drop system you can use to design a basic website and/or blog from pre-built elements.
For example, here’s a look at what Weebly’s site builder looks like:
These platforms do, however, have some limitations at the free level. For one, you will likely have to use a branded domain name, such as mysmallbusiness.websitebuilder.com. You may also have limited options when it comes to choosing a theme and other customizations, as well as restricted server space, which can hinder your site’s performance.
The good news is that it’s still easy to start a website without these constraints, and it doesn’t cost as much as you might think. Let’s take a closer look at what your options are and how much (if anything) they’re likely to cost you.
3 Elements Required to Start a Website (And Their Costs)
There are three main elements to consider when building your website. You’ll need a website-building platform, a web host, and a domain name. With each, there are both free and low-cost options, so let’s explore each in turn.
1. A Website-Building Platform
There are a few ways to build your website. The three primary methods are to build it from scratch using HTML, CSS, and so on, use a website builder like the ones we talked about in the previous section, or pick up an open-source software platform such as WordPress.
Website builders may be the right choice if you’re not very tech-savvy. They are designed for people who have never built a website before, and want to get the job done fast. If you’re looking to build a personal or otherwise small site, this can be a useful and totally free solution.
Another option that requires very little technical know-how is to use an open-source Content Management System (CMS), such as WordPress.org:
This is different from the .com version we mentioned above. It’s downloadable for free for anyone to use, and offers independence, back-end control, customizability, and scalability. Joomla and Drupal are two similar options, with somewhat higher levels of complexity. The best news is that just like website builders, open-source CMSs are free to use.
2. A Web Host
Before you can get your site online, you’ll also need to look into web hosting. Hosting providers enable you to rent space on a server, where your site’s files will be stored. This is what makes it possible for visitors to view and interact with your website.
Many of the same companies that provide website builders also offer hosting for free. However, these plans often have limited bandwidth, offer no customer support, and may require you to run advertisements on your site.
If you are building your site from scratch or using a CMS, you’ll need to find an independent web host. Hosting companies typically charge a monthly fee depending on your requirements. Fortunately, you can find quality hosting for a very low cost, and you’ll be able to shop around to find a provider you like.
For example, our cheapest plan is just $2.96 per month:
This is for our shared hosting service, which means your website will share a server with other websites. If this doesn’t appeal to you, or you expect high traffic on your site and need more speed, you can opt for a Virtual Private Server (VPS):
The nice thing about hosting is that you can start small and upgrade later as your site grows. So while this is something you can get for free, the added monthly cost can be well worth the increased options and decreased restrictions.
3. A Domain Name
The last element to consider is your site’s domain name. This is the web address that will direct people to your site. In the URL https://mysite.com, “mysite.com” is the domain name.
As we mentioned earlier, you can go with a free domain, which is available from many of the same companies we’ve mentioned throughout this post. However, this is not recommended for most sites. If you are building a website for more than just personal use, or you are starting a business, a free domain can make your site look unprofessional.
You can also purchase a domain name for a very nominal cost. For instance, we offer a variety of Top Level Domains (TLDs) for $14.99 per year:
Choosing an effective and unique domain name is a great way to help your site stand out. So just as with web hosting, this is an area where you can benefit from spending just a bit of money upfront.
Can you build a website for free? The short answer is “Yes”, but there are some things you should consider before you do so. Many free options come with a number of limitations that can hamstring your website’s growth.
When deciding what’s best for your site, the three elements you’ll need to consider are:
- A website-building platform, of which there are many great free options.
- A hosting plan, which you can get for less than $5 per month.
- A domain name, that will likely cost you around $15 per year.
Image credit: Geralt.