How to Build & Run an Effective Website With a Small Team or Budget [Startup Tips]

Madison Zoey Vettorino
Madison Zoey Vettorino

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Whether your organization is big or small, for-profit or nonprofit, in growth mode or established, it needs an engaging, functional website. However, when you have limited resources, building a website on a budget can seem tricky — or downright impossible.

Person creating their website on a budget

Here's the good news: Creating your organization’s dream site while staying within your price range is possible. The key to building a website on a budget? To be resourceful. We're here to help you decipher how you can craft an aesthetically appealing, effective site — without breaking the bank.

Free Download: 77 Examples of Brilliant Web Design

In this post, we'll outline everything you need to know about building a website on a budget. We'll answer all your questions regarding must-haves (and what you can skip), how to tackle the website creation process with limited funds, and how to maintain a site with your allocated resources. Buckle up; it's time to start budget website building!

What should you include in your website budget?

It’s difficult to put a number on the average cost of a website. This figure varies tremendously depending on several factors. Generally speaking, the more complex your site is, the higher the price tag. However, your hosting service, extensions, template, and development/design costs influence the final cost.

Budgeting for your website is twofold. Not only will you have to consider the cost to launch it, but even after your site is on the internet, you must maintain it. By factoring website maintenance costs into your yearly budget, there will be no surprises.

When building a website, there are some nice-to-have items and other must-haves. Here are a few essentials to allocate money for:

  • A custom domain

  • A hosting provider

  • Maintenance

When building a website on a budget, don't forget to allocate funds for a custom domain name, hosting provider, and maintenance.

On the contrary, you can invest as much money as you see fit into these:

Building a website on a budget? Here are a few things you can choose how much you'd like to spend. These include theme, builder, design and development, and plugins.

To start your journey of building a website on a budget, let’s dive deeper into these must-haves.

Custom Domain Name

As a refresher, your domain name is what visitors search to find your website. You build credibility, brand identity, and search authority when you select a custom domain. There are a few options for purchasing a custom domain name. For example, you may buy your domain from a registrar like GoDaddy. Pricing varies depending on a few factors but typically costs between $10-15.

Pro tip: You'll have to renew your domain name yearly, so budget for this. However, you may purchase your domain from the registrar for several years. While this is pricier at the time of purchase, you could find it the more cost-effective option in the long run.

A Hosting Provider

Having a reliable hosting provider is crucial. Without one, your website is left vulnerable to cyberattacks and more. A capable hosting provider ensures that your site has a secure server on which you'll build your site. Be sure to choose a provider that can combat online threats and has a reputation for keeping site information safe. If your site falls victim to a cyberattack, you could risk losing credibility with your site visitors, as they can become fearful their payment information is unsafe.

Pro tip: If you're building a WordPress site, here are 24 of our favorite hosting providers.

Maintenance

One of the main misconceptions about having a website is that once you've built it, you won't have to invest any more money. But this isn't true — you're just getting started. That's why you must allocate enough budget to keep your website running smoothly, even after the initial launch.

Pro tip: These services simplify maintenance if you're building a WordPress site.

Now that you know what you can’t skip out on when you’re building a website on a budget, we’ll share some items you don't need to spend as much on.

A Theme

A strong theme catches your visitors’ eyes. And the biggest fallacy? That you have to spend thousands of dollars on the right one. "The WordPress repository is full of beautiful and feature-rich themes you can build amazing sites with," says Lior Zelering, General Manager of OceanWP. "Take the OceanWP theme, for example. Whether you're a beginner or professional, there isn't a project you can't complete, from simple blog sites to the most extensive eCommerce stores or business sites you've ever seen."

Instead of starting from scratch, save invaluable time and money by building off of a free theme. Then, as your business or nonprofit grows, you can reconsider the capabilities you need and upgrade to a premium version.

"Free themes are a great starting point [for] any designer/developer/business owner that just wants to give it a go and create a simple or even extensive site without too much overhead," says Zelering. "Once they feel they need more power and capabilities, the paid version opens up endless features to enhance their website and streamline their work."

Pro tip: WordPress isn't the only website builder that offers free themes. If you're building your website on CMS Hub, you can learn about various options here. And the best part? You can get started with CMS Hub for free and upgrade as necessary.

One of the best theme options for those building website on a budget.

A Website Builder

As far as website builders go, there are many free options available. HubSpot, WordPress, Wix, and Canva offer free software to build your dream website on a budget. We also love that these free website builders provide themes you can build off of to customize your site.

And because these offer drag-and-drop editing, you don't have to know anything about coding to create a website that resonates with your organization's mission and delights customers. This is especially helpful if you have a small team and don’t have one allocated developer yet.

Pro tip: We did our homework on free website builders and compiled this comprehensive list.

Website Design and Development

First, we want to debunk a common misconception: Website design and development are different. Consequently, designers and developers are responsible for creating different facets of your site. While it's possible to find someone that can do both, more likely than not, you'll have to hire separate people. That brings us to our next point: Unless you need a developer to build a custom plugin or a designer to create a truly unique user interface, you might find your money is better spent elsewhere in the initial stages of development.

Pro tip: Whether you hire a web designer or developer, make sure your website is mobile-friendly. In the fourth quarter of 2022, over 59% of global website traffic has been attributed to mobile devices (not including tablets).

Plugins

Plugins are small software pieces you can add to your computer program, website, or mobile application. The aim is to enhance functionality in a simple and accessible manner. There's a plugin for anything you can imagine — from integrating your CRM with your website builder to adding ecommerce options to your site and more.

For those interested in creating your website on WordPress, you'll find a whole host of potential plugins you can incorporate.

"What's great about WordPress is that it's open source, which means anyone can contribute to it. What that means is that there's literally thousands and thousands of themes and plugins, available right at your fingertips that install without requiring any code," shares Olivia O'Prey, WordPress Partner Manager at HubSpot. "It's really easy to use for people who aren't developers. It's super flexible because, with WordPress, there's a plugin for that. So it lets people who aren't experts build on it, and really be able to build whatever type of site you like."

Pro tip: If you build your site on WordPress, incorporating plugins is easy. Here's how to get started.

For building a website on a budget in WordPress, you can use the free HubSpot plugin, shown above.

Now that you understand what you'll need to allocate money for (and what you won't), you can start building a successful website on a budget that you've been working towards.

How to Create an Attractive, Functional Website on a Budget

Congratulations, you're officially ready to begin putting your site together! We understand that building a website can seem overwhelming or daunting — especially when you're not working with a developer. However, follow these steps and watch how easily it comes together.

1. Choose your custom domain name.

First, select your custom domain name. As mentioned earlier, this is an absolute must — and you'll be thrilled to learn that it shouldn't cost more than $10-15 for the year. However, the domain extension you select can significantly drive up the cost, so if you're looking to keep your website on a budget under a specific price point, keep that in mind. .com is a highly desirable option, so you might pay more compared to a .net. Once you've purchased your custom domain name, you can attach it to your website.

Next, it's time to select a hosting provider.

2. Choose a hosting provider.

Site functionality comes first, no matter how large or small your budget is. Your hosting provider can make or break your website experience for visitors. That's why selecting the right hosting provider is a must.

"It's really important to choose the right partner when looking for a hosting provider, especially when starting on a limited budget where every visitor matters," shares Monika Dimitrova, Head of Growth at SiteGround. "Even the greatest website can suffer from slow loading speed, malicious attacks, or inconsistent service when hosted at the wrong platform."

There are several web hosting services: Shared, virtual private server (VPS), dedicated server, managed, and cloud. The best choice for your site depends on what you're looking to achieve. Here's a rundown of what distinguishes each option from the other.

  • Shared Hosting: Your website gets stored on the same server as several other sites. Shared hosting is an ideal — and budget-friendly — option for websites with consistently low traffic levels. Because you'll be sharing server resources with various other businesses, this is the least costly option. But, we'll offer a word of caution: if your website has a lot of traffic, this isn't the right option.

  • Dedicated Server Hosting: This is the right choice if your website experiences significant traffic over an extended period. However, it comes with a higher price tag — and requires a level of expertise. Therefore, you'll need a team member to manage the server correctly.

  • Managed Hosting: Your web host is responsible for your server, including maintenance, operation, and security. This is a good option if you have a small business and don't want to hire someone to manage your web server's technicalities. (Psst: this is where managed WordPress hosting comes into the picture.)

  • Cloud Hosting: With cloud hosting, you'll pay by use. This option is a more recent development. Cloud hosting allows many separate servers to come together and behave as one. Cloud hosting is an excellent option for businesses in growth mode — as your website's traffic and volume blossom, the cloud space can, too.

Alternatively, you could also choose a website builder that offers hosting options.

When building a website on a budget, consider your server options. There are several — and each have their unique pros and cons.

3. Choose a website builder.

This is where you will build the framework of your actual site. If you're not hiring a website developer or designer, and you don’t have coding experience, you'll want to stick with drag-and-drop options, such as HubSpot, WordPress, or Wix.

Be sure to select a website builder that integrates with some of the plugins you're eyeing to enhance functionality. You'll also want to ensure that the website builder you choose has a theme — free or paid if you're willing to flip the bill — that resonates with your company's vision.

If there's a website you love and would like to pull inspiration from, it's possible to figure out which builder the creator used. "Tools like Wappalyzer.com can help you identify which CMS the sites you like are built on so that you can explore similar themes for your own organization," says Kate Lesniak, Principal Strategist at HubSpot.

4. Select a theme.

You've purchased your domain, selected your hosting provider, and found the perfect website builder. Now what? Here's where the fun part starts: It’s time to choose your theme. This is where you can bring your company branding to life in a digital space.

"One mistake that new users make is that they go for the most expensive solution out there and that doesn't necessarily mean it is a good choice," says Sergiu Radu of Creative Themes. "If you're just getting started in building your site, we recommend taking a first look at the available free options on the WordPress marketplace."

In addition, you can source a theme that suits your organization type. For instance, if you're creating a website for your nonprofit, you can select a theme that simplifies that process. "Templates, or themes, are often built with your industry or your business case in mind, meaning that basic pages like blogs or profile pages, designs for donation pages or transactions, email signups, and calls-to-action will be available for you to customize, rather than create from scratch," says Lesniak.

Olivia O'Prey also adds that if you're looking to get your website on the internet quickly and efficiently, you can choose a theme that enables you to do so. "It's very easy to get up and running with starter templates. You can launch a website that's pretty much ready to go. You'll have to put some images and text in there, but the design is all ready to go."

5. Put it all together.

Once you have selected your domain, hosting provider, website builder, and theme, it's time to put it all together and begin creating your website on a budget. If you need inspiration, peruse other successful websites in your industry. "Write down the features you need to do your work," advises Scott Murray, Senior Partner Marketing Manager, HubSpot for Startups.

"This could be anything from a contact form, testimonials, a blog, or a rate calculator. Then, go over that list again and rank the importance of each feature to the success of your business." From there, you can begin putting your site together.

And, don't forget about accessibility. "Of course, any baseline should meet WCAG and ADA standards for accessibility and data privacy requirements. (Pro tip! An accessible website is also a more SEO-friendly website!) Build your MVP first: Getting the foundation of your website right goes a long way," says Lesniak. We also have a helpful checklist that will help you ensure your site checks all the boxes for accessibility.

How to Run an Effective Website on a Budget

Done building your website on a budget? It’s natural for questions regarding affordable site maintenance to emerge. We have suggestions regarding how you can keep your website delightful without breaking the bank.

Take Advantage of Plugins

You already know that we love plugins. For starters, they’re easy to add to your site, can enhance functionality, and many of them are free. One way to run an effective website on a budget is by using plugins to your advantage.

Whether you're seeking a social media, ecommerce, administrative, or photo-centric plugin, you'll be able to find one that simplifies the process of the day-to-day site maintenance that would otherwise be costly both in regards to monetary and energy costs.

One thing you should keep in mind when considering a plugin: Some plugins are clunky and can slow your site down. Website load time is important to visitors, so be mindful of how many plugins you add — and make sure the ones you select are quality. Of course, if any of your plugins become too heavy for your site and are impacting page load speed, you can choose to disable them.

Lean into free plugins when building a WordPress on a budget. You can browse them on WordPress.

Integrate Your Site With Your CRM

Your next step is to integrate your site with your customer relationship management (CRM) software. Whether you choose to do this with the help of a plugin or build it on the same platform in the first place, such as with Hubspot, integration with your CMS is crucial. Doing so will provide you with a comprehensive picture of how your customers or clients interact with your company. Plus, you’ll gain a window into the customer journey, from visitors’ initial experience to the close of a sale. Furthermore, the information you gain by integrating your CRM with your website will be more reliable and consistent.

Running a website with a limited budget is one thing, but running it with a limited team is another. If you’re navigating this process, we’re here to help you through it.

How to Run a Website With a Small Team

When you have a small team, it's easy to forget that you don't have to do everything yourself — and that you shouldn't. "Don't be afraid to delegate," reminds Murray. "There are tons of skilled contractors available online that can quickly spin up a website, design a new landing page, generate an SEO plan, or write a blog post for your business. Many are quite affordable too!"

When working with a smaller team, it can be tempting to do everything yourself, especially as you attempt to build a website on a budget. However, remember that time is money — and there are more efficient ways to work. "If you're the CEO, you don't have time to write blog posts all day. Even if you're a skilled writer, there is someone who can do the work faster that costs less per hour," says Murray.

Of course, creating your website is half the battle, but then there’s also the matter of maintaining it. Website design standards evolve over time — just check out these nostalgic websites for proof. If you don’t regularly maintain your site, you can risk it looking outdated.

To ensure your site's ongoing success, properly allocate your resources. And yes, that includes the team members responsible for working on the site. "No matter how small they seem, most new websites require one or more dedicated team members to plan, execute, and launch," says Lesniak.

"Start small, and identify your top priorities first: Do you rely on your email list as your number one channel for communication with donors and supporters? Then be absolutely certain that a theme you choose includes great email conversation pathways. Do you need to be sure that you've got a dynamic storytelling tool? Check on what kind of content editing and building tools exist on the platform you choose." Whatever you rely on the most, that's where you should be allocating the majority of your resources — both monetary and time-wise.

Why Your Organization Needs a Successful Website

Your website is where your organization lives on the internet — and creating an engaging, appealing space that delights customers has never been more critical. Because the digital landscape is so saturated, your website needs to shine.

Whether you're building a website on a budget for a small business, startup, or nonprofit organization, here's what a few HubSpotters have to say about why an effective site can make-or-break engagement and interest in your business.

For Startups and Small Businesses:

So, you have a startup or small business and need help building a website on a budget. Most importantly, your website needs to offer insight into what your company does — and why it’s the perfect match for the consumer. "Now more than ever, people like to research their options—even for small decisions. When a prospective customer lands on your website they should immediately know what you do, why it matters, and ideally–what it costs," says Murray.

Furthermore, your website must answer several vital questions regarding why your business is the right choice from them. The easier it is to find these answers, the more effective your site. "Ask yourself, 'What questions might someone looking for my business need answered immediately?' and 'Why should they choose my product or service over existing options?' The quicker someone can know that your product solves their problem, the closer they are to becoming your customer instead of someone else's," Murray says. "The last component is trust. They need to believe you're the right choice, either through a sleek and professional website, a well-placed testimonial, or another emotional connection such as a referral from a trusted friend."

If you're building a website on a budget for your startup, here's what you should know about why creating an engaging site is so crucial.

For Nonprofits:

For nonprofit organizations, building a website on a budget is necessary for your organization to save valuable resources. Furthermore, an engaging website can make the difference between a donation and a pass if you're in the nonprofit space. "According to QGiv's Generational Giving Report, one of the largest populations of donors—GenX—names having an outdated website as the number one reason they might not donate to a nonprofit," shares Lesniak.

Nonprofits also have the opportunity to use their websites to raise awareness. "Most nonprofits drive upwards of 60% of their traffic from Search, and one of the factors that Google uses to determine that your nonprofit is a trustworthy source of information and action is the bounce rate—also understood as how quickly a new visitor exists your site without visiting another page," Lesniak explains.

"A cohesive, aesthetically pleasing site ensures that visitors stay and explore, demonstrating both a time-on-page and a time-on-site length that can help your content move up in search results and drive more traffic. Alternatively, a high bounce rate can negatively impact how your site appears in search."

If you are building a website on a budget for a non-profit, here's why the work you're doing is so essential.

Create Your Dream Website on a Budget by Getting Resourceful

Now that you know how to tackle building a website on a budget, you’re ready to start creating. Whether you work with WordPress, CMS Hub, or another website builder, you have all the tools necessary to turn your vision into a budget-friendly reality.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2022 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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