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How to build a small business website on a low budget

How to build a small business website on a low budget
Marc Gardner
Marc GardnerOfficial

Posted: Thu 21st Dec 2023

Having a website benefits your small business in so many ways. It gives you an online presence, which is vital in reaching a larger audience and allowing people to find you easily when searching the internet.

Through your website, you can showcase your products or services and make those all-important sales. You can establish yourself as credible and professional, and communicate and interact easily with your customers. All in all, a website is a crucial marketing tool for any small business.

If you're yet to build a website, don't worry. Fortunately, it's simple to do and, when done properly, shouldn't break the bank.

In this blog, we lay out some basic steps for getting your small business website up and running, even when budgets are tight. Enterprise Nation advisers and experienced digital marketers Rachael Dines and Nicola Stewart weigh in with some expert insight. 

Build a website on a small budget: Step by step

Step 1: Make sure your website has a clear purpose and goals

Don't go any further until you're clear on your reasons for having a website. Whether it's to promote products, offer services, provide information or sell things online, understanding the site's overall purpose is crucial.

Once you understand why you need your website, you can then move on to define specific and measurable goals. Nicola Stewart explains:

"Whether it's increasing online sales, generating leads, boosting brand awareness or driving foot traffic to a physical location, having clear objectives will guide your website's goals.

"With those objectives in mind, you can then map out the customer journey. Identify key touchpoints from the moment a visitor lands on your site to when they complete a desired action (such as making a purchase or filling out a contact form)."

Identify the features your website needs

Your small business will offer some form of product or service. As a result, your website needs certain features to effectively market and sell what you're offering.

If you're a product-based business, your most important feature will be an online store, where customers can browse and buy items directly from the website. You'll also need a secure payment system to process transactions.

Having high-quality images of your products, and an attractive and responsive design, will help you promote your products effectively. Building your social media channels into your website will help make your business more visible online and drive traffic to the website.

If you're a service-based business, a key feature might be a booking form that lets people book your services directly. You should also look to include a contact form that allows for general inquiries and customer support.

Step 2: Understand what a website consists of

All websites are made up of several key parts.

  • Domain name: The unique address that people use to access the website.

  • Hosting: Where the website's files and data are stored and accessed by users.

  • Web pages: The website itself is made up of web pages, which are built using various programming languages (common ones include HTML and JavaScript). These web pages can include text, images, videos and other content.

  • Navigation menus and links: These help users navigate through different pages and sections.

  • Other interactive features: Depending on what the website is used for, it might have features such as forms or an online store, for example.

When building a website for your small business, you won't need to worry about some of these components. There are website builders you can use that do much of the technical work for you. We cover them in more detail below.

Step 3: Register the domain name

Your domain name is your web address. It's what people type in to find your business online and get to your website. Buying and registering a domain name is one of the most important steps in building your own website.

A domain name gives your website a professional and memorable online presence. So, when choosing one, you must pick a name that:

  • is easy to remember

  • is relevant to your brand or business - including relevant keywords that reflect your brand will help make you more visible on search engines and ensure you attract the right audience

  • preferably ends with a popular extension like .com, .co.uk, .net or .org

Rachael Dines advises:

"Use a reputable domain name registrar to buy your domain name. And always register it to yourself or your company, not to a third party such as a website developer or a marketing or design agency.

"You can also choose whether you're happy to be publicly listed as the owner of a particular domain or would rather keep it private.

"Finally, check whether you can port the domain away at a later date if you decide to move your website to a different platform."

Some reputable domain name registrars include GoDaddy, Bluehost, Namecheap and 123 Reg. You can search for available domain names and buy the one that best suits your needs. Usually, you'll have the option to renew the domain name every year, or register it for several years to give your brand some long-term security.

When registering, consider the upfront cost of the domain name and the fees you'll pay to renew it.

Step 4: Choose a web hosting provider

A web hosting provider is a company that provides the necessary infrastructure and services (such as server space, bandwidth and storage for website files) to make websites accessible on the internet.

They often provide technical support, security features and domain name registration services as well. Essentially, they host websites on their servers so users can access them, and make sure those websites are functioning smoothly at all times.

When comparing hosting providers, consider the following:

  • Pricing: Can you afford this particular hosting service? Features such as storage and bandwidth are also very important, as they can have a direct impact on how your website functions and performs.

  • Performance and reliability: A slow or unreliable hosting service can negatively affect user experience and SEO rankings.

    "There's also a lot to be said for using a hosting provider that specialises in your platform (for example, WordPress)," Rachael explains. "The knowledge is there and the servers are set up to perform well for that particular platform."

  • Ability to scale: If you're expecting to grow, you need a hosting service that can accommodate an increase in traffic and data. The control panel should be user-friendly and allow you to manage your hosting account with ease.

  • Security: You need your website and data to be fully protected against potential cyber threats. Check what features the provider offers to keep your site secure.

  • Reputation: Is the hosting provider known for providing a professional service? Read user reviews and check ratings.

  • Customer support: "Look for real person support, either through live chat or phone," Nicola says. "Also evaluate the provider's overall customer support. Check they're available and responsive 24/7, so they can deal quickly with any issues."

  • Location: "If you're trading in the UK and only need to be visible in the UK, choose a UK-based host with UK-based data centres," Rachael recommends.

  • Sustainability: "Ideally use a host with green credentials," says Rachael. "That means they're working efficiently and helping you to limit your business's carbon footprint."

    Nicola adds: "It's crucial to acknowledge the carbon footprint associated with your website. Larger websites demand more server space, which means they use more electricity.

    "To be as energy-efficient as possible, focus on reducing your website's size and its impact on both the server and the environment. You can use an online carbon calculator to check your website's carbon footprint."

  • Staging site: A staging site is essential if you're managing your website but lack advanced technical skills. "It gives you a safe environment to test redesigns, WordPress updates and plugins before applying changes to the live site," Nicola explains. "This helps reduce risk and allows for troubleshooting."

Step 5: Choose a website builder

The fastest and cheapest way to build a website is by using online website builders such as:

These platforms all have user-friendly interfaces, customisable pre-made templates and drag-and-drop features that make designing and creating a website really straightforward.

They also offer affordable pricing plans, with all-inclusive features such as hosting, domain registration and customer support. With the help of these website builders, you can create a professional and visually appealing website in a matter of hours, without needing either technical expertise or a big budget.

Rachael has some recommendations when it comes to website builders:

"I'm a fan of investing for the future and choosing a website platform that isn't too restrictive and can grow as your business grows.

"As far as website builders go, Wix has improved its SEO functionality a lot in recent years. Squarespace is another website builder with a large customer base, and so there are freelance developers knowledgeable in the platform should you need them.

"If you want a dedicated e-commerce platform and can't afford the big brands in that space, ShopWired is a good alternative with a helpful support team."

How does a website builder work?

Website builders are designed so anyone can create a website without needing any coding, web development or web design skills.

  • You start by choosing a template from a range of pre-designed options, which you can customise to your needs and company branding.

  • Once you've picked a template, you can add text, images, videos and other content using easy, drag-and-drop editing tools. This makes it simple to move, resize, arrange and remove elements on the page.

Website builders tend to use a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, which allows you to see exactly how your website will appear to visitors. This visual editing process makes it easy to create a professional-looking site with little effort, and you can make updates to your website at any time.

How to choose a website builder

It's important to consider several key factors.

  • How easy is it for you to use: As mentioned, most website builders are intuitive and user-friendly. But make sure it's right for you, particularly if you have limited technical skills. Responsiveness is also crucial, as your website needs to look good and function properly on various devices.

  • What you can get for free: Always check what free elements (such as templates and images) the website builder offers, as this can help keep costs down.

  • Payment options: Look for a website builder that offers flexible and secure payment methods for any extra features or premium plans.

  • Added features: These can include e-commerce capabilities, SEO tools, blogging options and integrations with other tools and platforms (see Using plugins below).

Using plugins

Website builders have a range of "plugins" you can use to add functionality to your website. These add-ons are designed to expand your site's capabilities and make the user experience better for anyone who visits.

Some examples of plugins include SEO tools, contact forms, image galleries, security features and more. There are both free and paid premium plugins, giving you the flexibility to choose based on your budget.

When incorporating plugins, be mindful of how long your website takes to load. Too many plugins, or poorly optimised ones, can slow down your site. Balance functionality with load time by only installing essential plugins and regularly reviewing and removing any you no longer need.

Consider using free plugins when possible. But also be willing to pay the additional cost for premium solutions if they make your website perform significantly better.

Designing your website

Nicola says:

"Consider creating a mood board to guide your brand's look and feel. Use tools like Pinterest to gather inspiration, focusing on keywords that represent your brand's personality. Identify patterns in colour, shapes, illustrations and imagery."

  • For colour schemes, use tools like Adobe Color to create accessible, contrasting and legible combinations.

  • If you can, use your own photographs and images throughout the website. Avoid using stock imagery to replace photos of your actual product or service, as this can erode trust.

    Invest in a photographer or practise using your phone camera to take photos that make your offerings stand out. The fee for a good photographer will start at around £600.

    As a second-best option, pay for premium stock images, simply because the free photos are very overused. If you can't afford this cost, you can access free, high-quality stock images for fillers or backgrounds from sites like Unsplash and Kaboompics.

  • For font inspiration, explore Typewolf, and for free fonts check Google Fonts. If you're looking for premium paid fonts, Fonts.com offers a variety of web font options.

Adding content to your website

Once you have your design locked down, it's time to add the copy and content that will attract visitors and keep them exploring your website. Again, Nicola has some recommendations for how to make this work:

  • Grab attention:

    • Use attention-grabbing headlines or visuals, on your website to capture visitors' interest.

    • Consider incorporating unexpected or unconventional elements that stand out and make your content memorable.

    • Check competitors' websites and see what you can do differently to stand out and do the unexpected.

  • Tell stories:

    • Compelling stories humanise your brand. Share anecdotes, customer success stories or the journey your business has taken.

    • Use relatable characters and situations that evoke emotions and create a connection with your audience. Create a hero (your product!) as every story loves one!

    • Incorporate visuals, such as images or videos, to enhance the storytelling experience.

  • Inspire action:

    • Clearly communicate the value of your product or service and how it addresses your audience's needs or pain points.

    • Include persuasive calls-to-action (CTAs) that encourage visitors to take the next step, whether it's buying something, filling out a form or subscribing to a newsletter.

      Try closed-ended questions such as "Save your spot and register now for our next event", "Want exclusive access? Sign up here" or "Don't miss out, grab your special offer!"

    • Highlight the benefits and outcomes that users can achieve by engaging with your business.

"Don't forget to make sure your business's contact information and call-to-action links are on every page," Rachael adds. "Make it clear what you offer as soon as someone lands on your homepage."

Step 6: Maintain your website

Once you've used the website builder to create and launch your website, it's crucial to set aside a budget for ongoing maintenance.

Regular maintenance includes updating plugins and apps, as well as updating content to keep the site fresh and relevant. You can keep technical maintenance simple by using services that are compatible with the website builder you've used.

Other key things to remember when building a website

  • Make sure you know what your ongoing costs are. Some websites are based on free software with paid hosting, domain and maintenance costs, whereas others are "all-inclusive".

  • Research the platforms thoroughly as it's very common for a small business to quickly become frustrated or outgrow a very basic website builder package.

  • There's no need to take up space on your homepage menu with a "Home" link. Your company logo acts as a link back to the start and people are very used to this method.

  • Be careful not to encourage spam emails or form enquiries. Look at what methods you can put in place to reduce spam as much as possible.

  

Tech Hub: Recommendations and resources to help small businesses adopt new technology

About Tech Hub

Backed by top technology firms, Tech Hub is a new-generation, one-stop-shop solution that allows businesses to access industry-leading digital tools, training, support, and know-how to succeed, all in one place. Take me to the hub

  

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Marc Gardner
Marc GardnerOfficial
I'm Enterprise Nation's senior content manager, and I spend most of my time working on all types of content for the small business programmes and campaigns we run with our corporate, government and local-authority partners.

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