How much should it cost to build your website and what steps are involved? Should you DIY or hire a professional? Use a page builder like WIX or go with WordPress? How do you choose a domain? We will help provide answers to these and more of your questions through this and the following posts, by sharing helpful tips to keep in mind as you navigate this process.
Your business website is the digital front door to your company. It is a tool to put your product or service out there for people to find and hopefully engage with. For current and potential clients to find out more information about who you are, what you do and most importantly, how you can help them and solve their problems. With this important purpose in mind, how much should that cost?
Let’s start off by qualifying this post to say that it is intended for anyone who has not yet created a website for their business and doesn’t know where to start or what is involved. In part one of this article we break down the first 2 things – your domain and hosting. If you already have these in place and just want information on choosing a platform, content development and the design and build, you can check out part 2 of this post.
OK, so let’s get to it.
In order to create a website for your business you need to put together all the following pieces:
- A domain(s) – the address for your website
- Hosting – somewhere to put your website files so that they are accessible to the internet
- A platform to build your website with, such as WordPress, Squarespace, WIX, Shopify, etc.
- Content for your site – your logo, images and words to describe your business
- Design and build your site
- Maintenance (keeping your site and software up to date)
And that’s it! With all of those ingredients, you can build a great website!
Let’s look at each of these in a bit more detail.
Step 1: Getting a domain(s)
Before anything else, you need a domain. This is the address (also called the link or URL) that people will visit in order to see your website. If you already have a domain, great! You can skip to Step 2 here.
If you don’t have a domain yet, you will first need to do a bit of research. A great place for this is on Google Domains. We have found that this is a great place to purchase your domain because they offer great features at a great price. Sure, it takes a couple extra configuration steps compared to purchasing your domain from your hosting provider, but I promise that they are easy and totally worth the effort.
Why do we love using Google Domains?
- All purchases are in Canadian dollars (CAD)! A definite win, especially with the current exchange rates.
- The cost is low – typically only $17/year for most domains.
- Privacy protection is included. Some other registrars charge an extra fee for this.
- It’s easy to safely add another user to help you manage the domain without having to give away your login information or password. This is a nice option if you want to have someone manage it for you, but still let’s you stay in control of your assets.
Why can't my web developer just take care of that for me?
They can. But I strongly believe that they shouldn’t.
Your domain is part of your business assets and it is something that you should ALWAYS have full control of. If your developer buys the domain and registers it in their name, if anything happens to them or between you and them, you could get stuck in a bad situation.
PLEASE, PLEASE, if you take nothing else from this article, I beg you to make sure that YOU purchase your own domain and register it in your name or the business name, as appropriate. It’s fine to give access to your account once it is setup. Again, this should be done by adding a user to their account with their own login, not by giving out your password. This keeps you in control and lets you remove them if anything happens and you don’t need to worry about changing passwords, etc.
How do I chose a domain?
If you don’t have a domain yet, the most obvious choice is to choose your business name. In Canada, many businesses opt for a .ca domain as this signified that it is indeed Canadian. When you go to Google Domains, type in the domain that you would like to have and it will tell you if that address is available or not.
For example, let’s say my company is called ‘Grimsby Dog Sitting’. If I type that into Google Domains, I get the following results:
You can see here that the .ca domain is available and it also shows you some other available options, including .com, .org and .net. Personally, if both .ca and .com are available, I like to have both and then I just forward the .com to the .ca. That way, if people type it in wrong, they will still get to my site. This also means that URL is not available for someone else to buy and potentially cause confusion with your business. For $17/year, it’s a worthwhile thing to me.
If the domain you want is taken, you will have to think of some other similar or related options and search until you find something that you like.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Captain obvious here, but the domain should be relevant and as closely related to your business name as possible.
- Use something that is easy to remember and to type in. If you are also considering domain email, you don’t want to end up with something like ‘email@example.com’. Not only is it a mouthful to share, the chances of people making a typo are quite high.
- Not too short either. On the other hand, if you selected ‘GDS.ca’ that doesn’t give much information about your business or what you do. Somewhere in the middle is best.
- If the domain that you want is not available on .ca or .com, then in most cases I would try to come up with something that is available before choosing .net or .info. These domain extensions are still fine, but they are certainly not as popular or standard. Again, going against the grain makes it more likely that people will not remember or will type it in wrong.
Step 2: Have domain, need hosting!
OK, so once you have a domain, the next thing you will need is hosting. Basically, you need to rent some space on a web server (aka computer) that you can store your website files and information on. These web servers are configured to share your website on the internet where people can access it.
Depending on the platform that you choose to develop your website with, sometimes the hosting will be included. If you opt for a page builder like WIX or Shopify, the fees to use these platforms also include hosting. Other platforms, like WordPress will require that you have separate hosting.
Like with the domain, we recommend that you use a free platform like WordPress and get your hosting separately, but there are pros and cons to each which we will cover in part 2 of this post.
Be forewarned that there are TONS of options for hosting. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are shopping around:
- Many companies will give you a huge discount for the first term of your subscription. This makes it easy to sign up, but much more painful when it comes time to renew. If you know you are in it for the long haul, consider purchasing a longer term to take advantage of the lower monthly fees on sign up.
- Check how much storage you will be getting. If you plan to also use your hosting to provide domain email, then you will need enough storage to host both your site and your email. Shared hosting of 5GB or more is usually good for 3 or 4 addresses with lots of space for your site as well.
- Check if an SSL is included. Having a secure site is one of Google’s ranking factors, so make sure you are set up with an SSL. Not sure what this is or why it matters? Check out a previous post about what https is and why it matters.
- Check if your hosting includes backups or if you need to do that on your own. The last thing you want to do is put in all the work (time, effort and $$) to get your site launched and then lose it because you don’t have a backup. Cheaper hosting plans don’t usually include backups, but some do, so shop around.
- Does it include email? This was mentioned in #2 above, but it warrants an extra discussion. Using domain email (ie firstname.lastname@example.org) as opposed to a gmail address (ie email@example.com) is not required, but it definitely adds a sense of professionalism to your business. This is one of the differentiators between the DIY platforms like WIX because they don’t include domain email. You would need to set up and pay for email hosting to get domain email in that case using something like GSuite or Microsoft 365 which will cost you an additional monthly fee (usually at least $10/month/address). On a shared hosting plan, email is typically included.
There really are many, many options here and there is no ‘best’ answer.
Feel free to contact us if you would like help selecting a hosting plan for your needs. We can offer our premium hosting package through PinPoint Local and have experience with other hosting companies as well. We don’t mind at all who you use, as long as you are happy with the overall quality, features and cost of your plan.
So, what will it cost?
Expect to spend between $5 and $35/month for a hosting plan, depending on your needs and the included features. Also, remember to look at the regular pricing as this is what you will have to pay each month once your initial term runs out. Also, watch out for the ‘free email’ for one year deals. Sure, you get it free for a year, but then you have to pay full price after the first year and it’s not cheap. In the long term it will end up costing you a lot more and it can be a pain to change later in the game.
So where are we at?
1. Domain – check – roughly $20/year
2. Hosting – check – roughly $60 – $420/year, depending on the deal you get
3. Platform – next
4. Content – still to come
5. Design and Build – still to come
6. Maintenance – still to come
There’s been quite a bit to go through here, so let’s take a pause and follow up with the other elements, starting with your web platform in the next post.