7 Tips For Great Web Design On A Budget

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Web design is about as cheap as it can get these days.

From free platforms to site builders, anyone can develop a site an afternoon. Of course, whether it's good depends on how much you budget.

This piece aims to find a perfect balance in development and expenses. By its end, you'll have everything needed to develop a site without spending too much.

Keep reading for some essential elements of budget web design.


The 7 Essentials of Budget Web Design

Gone are the days when websites cost thousands of dollars. Today, you can DIY one for less than $50 and often, you can create one that is completely free. Add a developer and costs go up, but you can still save a great deal of money following these tips.


1. Learn a Bit of Web Design

You don't have to go overboard and become an expert...

...but learning web design basics can and will improve the site creation.

The basics help you understand:


  • The development process
  • Design best practices
  • Necessary features

In learning, you'll have a better grasp of design when handing it to a professional. Or, if you want to make an attempt at the site creation. 

It goes deeper -- helping you understand:


  • Search Engine Optimization
  • User Experience and Usability
  • The site and content structure

So, hop onto YouTube for a basic web design course. Take notes and build an appreciation for the process (more on that in #3).


2. Start with the Planning 

Most design firms charge per page outside of the core site creation. This means your project can quickly spiral out of control and budget the more you add. 

There are always the basic pages:


  • Home
  • About
  • Contact

Others include:


  • Services
  • Shopping Cart
  • Blog

Start with the basics but bake template pages into the site design. This allows you to create new pages at a later date without the high upfront charge. 

Planning the site structure also retains the site (and business) focus. Look at examples of inspirational websites for their design and simplicity. It isn't bogged by endless sub-menus, it sticks to the essential pages to serve its purpose.

Other items you should plan include:


  • Typography
  • Colors
  • Media assets

Get everything together in a folder used as the design basis. This keeps the project from creeping and going off budget.


3. Stick to the Plan

Speaking of planning... going off the direction introduces scope creep.

Scope creep tends to happen when wants trump needs. Each new page means more work for the dev -- and with it a higher development cost.

Tip: Trust in your developer. 

You hired the developer for their expertise and industry knowledge. They have your best interests in mind while following best practices. Let them work unhindered and you'll receive a completed, on-time project.

Don't forget:

You can always go back and add to the website. Withholding the launch for vanity features mean people aren't discovering it. In effect, you're losing money because it isn't live!


4. Build Using Great Examples

You need to create a swipe file.

A swipe file is a collection of best examples -- like great:


  • Site designs
  • Email newsletters
  • Paid advertising
  • Print designs

...and basically anything you could draw inspiration.

Creating a swipe file is easy:

1. Create a folder
2. Screenshot or photo examples 
3. Jot notes why you like the item

This now becomes the basis for your site design. You can collage the best items to create a wireframe of the website. From here, you can begin work in-house or pass it along to a developer.


5. Fit the Build to the Budget

There are several ways to go about building the site. The cheapest solution is taking the project on yourself. Next is paying for a development tool. Finally, you could use professional developers.

After getting your domain name and website hosting you can install WordPress onto the web hosting and add a site theme. You'll then configure the WP installation by adding its core pages.

You'll also configure:


  • Plug-ins and add-ons
  • URL structure
  • On-page elements
  • Contact forms

WordPress comes well documented else refer to YouTube tutorials. WordPress is free and you'll find many themes free, too. Else, you can buy a premium theme through WordPress theme marketplaces.

Site Building Tool

If you can build a site using WordPress then you'll have no trouble using a site building tool. There are several site building tools from Wix to Shopify.

These tools:


  • Typically offer a free account with paid upgrades
  • WSYWIG editor (no coding experience needed)
  • Free design elements and multimedia
  • Helpful communities and tutorials

You won't have quite the flexibility as WP + themes but it will get you online. Plus, you'll have export options if you later decide to bring design in-house.

Design Talent 

Hiring a web designer/developer isn't expensive if you:


  • Have a site plan, swipe file, and wireframe
  • Aren't the type to nitpick every little detail
  • Willing to work with up-and-coming professionals

Try working with a dev straight out of college. Or, one showing promise you found through a local search. Verify their work (via portfolios) and pitch the project. You'll likely get rates half the price of major agencies.


6. Scale as You Go

Treat your website as organic meaning it grows alongside your business. 

See your development in two ways:

1. Attempting to do everything before launch
2. Getting the basics done and adding as it goes

The latter of these two is how you'll save the most money in development. You can always add features to the site when the time comes. In fact, it's probably best to omit features until you completely understand how they work.

Get the basics, then swing around to add:


  • Landing pages
  • Interactive elements
  • Tracking and retargeting
  • Monetization opportunities

Most site features are a-la-carte.

You can add features, when ready, by Googling the resources. Or, having them noted as part of the site development roadmap. This focus ensures what's present is working the best it can versus underperforming.


7. Use Free and Open Source Resources

Develop the site using free resources like:


  • Mockplus for prototyping
  • Unsplash for free images
  • Coolors for color schemes
  • Pixeden for icons
  • JustMind for wireframing
  • Colorlib for site templates

...and countless free designer resources.

While you're at it:

Stay up-to-date with the design industry as this lets you adapt to new trends. You'll also learn about new techniques and resources. Bundle that with design knowledge and you'll take care of all future developments!


Get Something, Anything Online

There are tons of ways to save money on the design (as you can see). 

But remember:

Every day you delay the web design project is another missed opportunity. So, be okay with "good enough" so you at least have an online presence.

Knock this web design project out. Then, you'll get to start work on the next exciting project: digital marketing. This is where the real money rolls in!

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