In reality it is difficult to set a budget when starting out on a new online venture. Businesses vary in size, complexity as well as long-term potential. In a perfect world, as soon as your website is up and running it would produce income. Allowing you to pay back development expenditure. However, it takes time, money, effort and patience to create a successful website.
Factors to consider when setting up a website
Let’s take a look at some basic factors to consider when setting up a website and setting your budget.
There are a number of options to consider when it comes to acquiring a domain name.In terms of the price of a domain, it can range from relatively small to large expenditure. Before looking at options, it is imperative that you select a name which reflects your brand and your business.
New domain name purchase
Even though the vast majority of “recognized” domains have now been taken, across all different TLD variations, for specific unique brands this is not necessarily the case. So, the very fact that your brand is unique would suggest that the name is unique. If that is the case, it may be possible to buy a .com domain name or one of the new variations for just a few dollars. It is probably best to buy the domain name for two years. Then, see how the business works and renew the domain name on a regular basis if required. If you decide to go down a different route or a different domain name/brand name then simply let the original name expire while focusing on a more relevant one.
Acquire existing domains
Once you venture into the world of online business you will note it is like a dinosaur’s graveyard. There are websites from years ago which were set up with the best intentions but ultimately failed. There are domain names which have expired, been renewed and passed from pillar to post. Chances are they may also be available to buy. So, if an existing domain name is available at a reasonable price and it reflects your brand/business then by all means make an offer. Start low and then try to find some middle ground when making an offer. If the cost gets too rich for you, simply walk away and look elsewhere.
When buying an existing domain name which matches your business/brand you should also check on existing backlinks. In theory every backlink has a value. But if it is from an inappropriate website it may actually impair the reputation of the domain name. Yes, you can go through Google and disavow various backlinks but ultimately you do not want to be involved in a domain name which has or has had dubious backlinks. Not worth the bother!
Redirecting old domains
Once you begin to look at existing domain names you will come across what are known as dropped domain names. These are potentially valuable domain names which have been caught by investors looking to sell on for a quick profit. There will be occasions where domain names in some shape or form have a connection to your business/brand and are available with potentially powerful backlinks.
Without going into detail, it is possible to buy fresh clean domains and redirect aged domain names to the new one. If done correctly with a redirect 301 (or other redirect options) in effect you can redirect the existing backlinks from old domain names to new domain names. This is means that you can transfer link power to a brand-new domain. This can prove to be extremely useful. Giving a new domain name a boost in the rankings and significant “link juice”.
Tip: Domain names can cost from just a few dollars for a brand new domain to thousands of dollars for an established domain (with or without a website).
There are many different options when it comes to web hosting which include:-
This is the most popular entry-level hosting package whereby thousands of websites share the resources of one server. Each account will pay a percentage towards the overall server running costs. So it works out to be an extremely good value for money. There are restrictions with regards to customization. Plus, resources can sometimes be stretched. However, for relatively new websites this is often the perfect option.
Virtual Private server
What you lose in shared hosting with regards to customization you can make up and more with a Virtual Private server (VPS). In effect the VPS option allows the creation of virtual servers on one physical server. While several VPS are hosted on one server they are separated and function in isolation. This allows greater customization, enhanced security, guaranteed resources and ultimately greater dependability.
Many people have heard of cloud services and are often attracted to them, but what are they? In this instance, a cloud server is a web hosting account which is spread across a network of different servers. The idea is that by spreading the load across a whole network of servers this reduces downtime, improves load speeds and, due to the massive power across the network. So, even if one server went down it would simply be a case of rerouting traffic. The cloud server option, together with a VPS, tends to be relevant when a website is attracting in excess of 30,000 visitors a month.
Companies started to develop huge websites which were far too big for shared hosting, VPS and even cloud services. Such is the size, complexity and resource requirements that these huge website require their own dedicated server. This can be relatively expensive. Consequently, whether self-managed or part of a managed account, the running costs themselves can be significant. However, due to security issues, large traffic loads and processing power requirements, larger website will ultimately pay for themselves. Therefore getting a dedicated servers is just one of the ongoing costs.
Whatever type of web hosting you decide to use, you should always have a number of set routines which you carry out on a regular basis. This may include simple things such as removing redundant files, deleting old templates and saving a regular website backup.
The majority of hosting companies will have a process for backups but this may be a rolling website backup with old data overwritten. Therefore, it may be sensible to do your own monthly website backup so that you can retain previous website versions in the event of being hacked or needing to check something further down the line. Whether or not you have a managed hosting account, it is imperative that you check the situation regarding website backups. It is dangerous to assume they will be there when needed!
Whatever type of hosting you decide upon it is imperative that you incorporate SSL certificates and HTTPS protocol. HTTPS helps to combat fraud and hacking by encrypting file transfers from server to browser. Some entrepreneurs may find it tempting to cut corners with regards to SSL certificates. Unfortunately they will pay the price. Modern day browsers are already highlighting those sites which do not incorporate these two elements. Flagging websites that lack SSL certificates and labeling them as potentially “high risk” security rites. Definitely not a good first impression for visitors who land on your page.
In practice your website may be totally secure, you may have no issues but because these two elements have been ignored you will effectively be censored by the search engines. These warning flags will put doubt into the minds of your customers. What will they do next? Yes, look towards your competitors….
Tip: Hosting fees can vary from under $10 a month for shared hosting to thousands of dollars a month for dedicated hosting.
Hiring a developer
There is a huge difference between developing a website and running an online business, even if the underlying business has been around for many years in a physical form. Therefore, if you are serious about your long-term business ambitions then you will need to hire the services of a developer. As ever, there are many aspects to take into consideration with regards to your budget which include:-
If the website is fairly simple, at least in the early days, there is no point in hiring an experts. The same is appropriate if you are proposing a complex website, there is no point hiring those who look at relatively simple online setups. So, you need to focus on the developers that best match your requirements – horses for courses.
In a perfect world it would be useful to hire a developer who had been involved in a website similar to the one that you are looking to develop. Not to suggest they would discuss confidential data from previous customers but if they have experience in your particular area of business/type of website then that will save time, money and effort. In reality the vast majority of good website developers can turn their hand to many different styles, types and complex setups. However, finding somebody with experience in your particular area could prove extremely time and cost effective.
Once you have filtered down potential website developer options on skills and experience you then need to take a look at cost. This is tricky because you tend to find that the “better developers” are booked up and not always instantly available. Those with perhaps a more checkered history and reputation may be available at the drop of a hat. So, this is another case for planning ahead. Approach developers well before they are required and create yourself a timeline from acquiring a domain name, finding a web hosting and then hiring a developer. The range of costs of hiring developers can be significant and while not advisable to cut costs (and quality), there may be instances where costs can be reduced in the short term with the promise of additional work further down the line.
To a certain extent it is possible for online businesses to manipulate customer reviews but such is the power of the Internet that third party review sites can balance the more biased posts. When looking to hire a developer, there is nothing wrong in asking to speak with previous customers, to see examples of previous work and get feedback on what they can and cannot offer. Those who fail to ask for references before hiring a developer are taking a big risk!
Tip: The cost of a developer can vary from $10 an hour for simple procedures to hundreds if not thousands of dollars an hour for complex projects.
Themes, platforms and plug-ins
Whether you are looking to launch a big traffic blog, e-commerce website or perhaps a forum on a subject which is trending, you need to take a look at issues such as themes, platforms and plug-ins. These should all be considered with your developer because ultimately they will oversee the project and creation of your website. In a perfect world, as the business owner you should be able to delegate the mechanics of creating your website to your developer after giving them the broad picture.
Planning for the future
There is no point in considering themes, platforms and plug-ins which are focused on relatively small businesses if you have plans to grow in size. We are not necessary suggesting an enormous investment at the outset but at the very least a growth plan going forward. The themes, platforms and plug-ins you eventually decide upon should give you room for growth and not need replacing on a regular basis.
Ensure that you pick for example a well-known content management platform. So that when trends/demands change the platform will change accordingly. Ensuring there is room for growth going forward is vital. In many ways, it is just as important as getting the early design, themes, platforms and plug-ins correct. Those who only think short-term will likely spend significantly more money developing their site further down the line.
Tips: The cost of themes, platforms and plug-ins can vary from free to thousands of dollars. Invest wisely and take advice from your developer!
Research, research and then develop
First of all brainstorm and register your domain name. Then use the website builder platform to select a responsive theme with the capacity of adjusting to various desktop and mobile screens. The best sitebuilders have a built in drag and drop feature, an e-commerce webdesigns, eCommerce themes and, different payment gateways. Plus search for useful website services like SEO tools, website monitoring and website backup software. Once you find a plan that caters to all your needs you can start creating your own online website.
Many people see website builder platforms as a means of researching and testing ideas. However, these platforms are great for building initial websites via this option and even more complex webdesign. Sitebuilders have evolved over the years and now have a developers feature. This gives more freedom and flexibility to themes. Site owners can access their website’s codes and customize as they wish. There are also many instances where customers have used the website builder program and simply maintained this going forward and created themselves a growing and lucrative business.
Tip: Many website builder programs are free of charge. They are a great starting point for those new to the world of e-commerce.
Tips when creating your budget
When setting out it is almost impossible to say with any great certainty how much it will cost to build your website, host, develop and market. We have not even touched on the cost of marketing because the main challenge is to get your website up and running. Then moving onto the next stage. Some general tips to remember when creating your website budget include:-
- Balance the overall costs with the projected size/income of your business.
- Leave space for growth but match capacity with demand as closely as possible.
- Save a few dollars in the beginning. This may cost you thousands of dollars in the long run – look for value for money but be sensible.
- Managed hosting accounts are extremely useful. Especially for those with the limited server knowledge – a saving here may cost you a fortune further down the line.
- Where possible delegate to skilled professionals rather than spending countless hours researching relatively simple tasks.
- Leave some of your budget for marketing expenses after launch. There is no point having the best website/business in the world if nobody knows where you are!
- Continually monitor and adjust your budget as and when required.
- Expecting instant income from your website after launch can be dangerous. Remember, even the best websites in the world can be a slow burn.
- Put in place a contingency plan in case unexpected expenses emerge.
- Don’t always opt for the all singing all dancing options, the best graphics and interactive software, if not required (or not required in the early days).
Monitor costs, income and net profits from day one
Always give your business time to grow. During this time, ensure your marketing is up to scratch. However, if after 12 months it is not covering costs then you may need to think again. There are few online entrepreneurs who “get it right” in the first instance with many changing tack, strategy and growth targets as they go along. If your initial research into your business idea was correct, and there is a market, do not give up too soon.
The online graveyard is littered with businesses which had potential. Many of which could have succeeded but their life was cut too short because of impatience and initial expectations which were too high. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.