Starting a Web Site on a Budget—Design
Here’s part 2 in our “Starting A Website” series.
Check out part 1 here, and learn about the role of the developer.
Read the introductory post in the series here.
We live in a world that is increasingly governed by design. It’s no longer enough for our cars and clothes to look stylish. We want our silverware, our coffee cups, even our computers to look good enough for the movies, or at least television. Instead of being something that’s incidental or invisible, design is now an essential service, one that we ignore at our peril.
Whether you’re starting a new web site, or starting from scratch on an old one, you need think about how your site looks. Here are your design options if you’re working on a budget. Note: these figures assume that this is your total budget, not just your budget for site design.
If you’re working on a tight budget, you probably don’t have the money to hire a professional website designer. Which means you’ll need to put together a quality website from free and cheap sources. For logos, color schemes, and other design elements, you’ll want to borrow from your existing material. If you don’t have ready made material, you might try your luck on sites like Fiverr, where five bucks will buy you a logo.
If you’re working on a tight budget, you’re probably using a free content management system, like WordPress, so you’ll want to take advantage of their free themes, which include most of the design elements you’ll need for your site. Websites like Theme Lab offer a range of free themes, organized by the most recently made, while WordPress’s own site offers free themes for all. If you want to personalize your site a bit, it’s fairly easy to change the colors and even a few graphics on a theme. Use Creative Commons-licensed material to protect yourself from taking someone’s work without permission.
With a bigger budget, you have real options when it comes to site design. But before you decide you need custom logos and WordPress themes, you want to consider your design budget in context. If, for example, you’re designing a web site because you need to set up an online store, you’ll want to skimp on everything else until the store is functioning the way you want it.
On the other hand, if your site is primarily used to showcase your company—a “business card” web site, as some call it—you might want to invest most of your budget on site design. For a quality logo, you’ll pay several hundred dollars on sites like Brand Crowd, and you can try to find an inexpensive designer on eLance. If you’re working with a web designer, make your budget clear at the outset, and ask for services, like choosing color palettes and formatting your home page, that will give you the templates you need to make more pages in the future.
If you’re using WordPress, you can pay for a theme that will set your site apart from those that use the popular free themes that show up on thousands of web sites. You can find paid themes on WordPress’s own site, or on sites like Studio Press.
Unless you’re spending your entire budget on an e-commerce store that rivals Amazon, or a social media site that gives your users all the features of Tumblr or Facebook, you likely have the budget to hire a web designer. Once again, though, spend your money wisely, paying attention to what you’re getting for your money. You want design elements that can be re-used and re-purposed in the future, not something that is perfect for your site launch but useless or annoying after a few months. If you’re looking for a web designer, we recommend that you start with our service directory.
Web design is the most important, and, for most of us, the most interesting part of setting up a web site. While we don’t know, or necessarily care, how the web works, we all know what designs we like. Choosing a good design will serve as an advertisement for your company, and make it easy for your customers to find and appreciate your services.
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Photo by Brett Jordan