I often get questions from webmasters-to-be about how much it might cost to set up a website. This article provides a basic cost breakdown, arranged according to categories.
Since those asking this question are obviously people who have not yet started a website, I should mention that this article follows How to Make / Create Your Own Website: The Beginner's A-Z Guide closely. You should consult that guide for more details so that you will have a clearer idea of what is involved in creating a site.
Since prices of the various components change from time to time, I have linked to the pages providing the prices in addition to mentioning a general figure here. You should always follow the links to the vendors' sites to get the latest up-to-date prices, since the ballpark figure I list here may no longer be accurate by the time you read this. Prices are stated in US dollars.
A basic "must" in creating a website is buying your own domain name. There is simply no substitute. The prices for domains vary from registrar to registrar, and are (at the time I wrote this article) around $10 or so per year. You can find the exact price of a domain for some popular registrars in the article How to Register Your Own Domain Name at http://www.thesitewizard.com/archive/registerdomain.shtml
Because a domain name is a necessity for the health and longevity of your website, this price must always be factored into
your budget when planning a website. Almost everything else can have substitutes if you have no money, but my rule-of-thumb is
to never start a website without a domain name. Websites that don't have their own domain name have to use their web host's
subdomain name (eg,
your-site-name.example.com where the web host's name is
example.com). Such sites are totally at the mercy
of that web host. When the latter closes, your site is gone. If the host suddenly decides to charge you an exorbitant price for
hosting your site, you will have no choice but to comply.
If you want to use a commercial web host, you will need to factor in the cost of web hosting as well. This is a monthly fee that you have to pay to the web host. Some hosts also offer discounts if you pay a year (or more) in advance. Prices vary from web host to web host but are usually (at the time I wrote this article) around $10 per month if your website is new and doesn't have much traffic or data. You can find the real prices charged by a number of web hosts on the Budget Web Hosting page. As your website gets more traffic, or if you need to put a lot of big files on your website, you may have to upgrade your site to one of the web host's higher-priced plans.
Those who are not earning an income (for example, students) and are merely creating personal websites or hobby sites that will not earn any money can also consider using a free web host that provides free domain hosting. Such web hosts will allow you to host your domain with them without charging you any hosting fees. In exchange, most of them will also place advertisements on your website to recoup their costs of hosting your site. (There may also be other limits, but as they say, beggars can't be choosers.)
Note, though, that hosting with a free web host is a risky proposition. The free web hosts I have tested have frequent "down" times, times during which your site is inaccessible. One of them had a server that was down for nearly two months during December last year to January this year, the peak business period for many websites. Needless to say, when your site is down, you will neither receive visitors nor make any money. If you run a web-based business or are earning from your website through advertisements, you should not use a free web host.
In addition, as mentioned in my article, All Those Disappearing Free Web Hosts, free web hosts come and go with alarming frequency. Don't believe their promises that they will last a long time -- many of the free web hosts that I have investigated in the past have promised to be around forever because of their deep pockets, corporate funding, long term planning, blah blah blah. In spite of that, they are now extinct. Some have closed shop, while others have started to charge for their services because they found that their financial situations have changed. If you host on a free web host, make sure you have your own domain name, so that you can easily change web hosts when it closes.
The exact software you need for your site depends on the type of website you want to set up.
If you are running a blog, you will probably do fine using only free software, such as the ones found on the Free PHP Blogging Software page.
Blogging aside, those of you who intend to manage your website directly from a web browser (without using a web editor) will probably want a type of software called a Content Management System, or "CMS". Despite its intimidating name, a CMS is just a computer program that you install on your website itself. It lets you create web pages, modify its appearance, and otherwise control your website simply by using your browser. There are many free CMS scripts (ie programs) around, so if you choose this route, you probably don't need to spend money on such a program (unless you decide to buy a commercial one instead).
Whether you use blogging or CMS software, you will need an FTP client, a program that allows you to transfer files from your own computer to your web host's computer. Again, there are many free FTP programs available (as well as commercial ones). Naturally, if you use a free FTP program, it won't cost you a cent.
For those who don't want the overhead of a CMS or blogging software, using an ordinary web editor is the way to go. If you have the money, Dreamweaver comes highly recommended by many (if not most) professional webmasters. The software is expensive ($399 the last time I checked), but it's a one-time cost, and the productivity gain from using it (as compared to using the free tools) is tremendous. Otherwise, you can use free software like KompoZer, BlueGriffon or Nvu. While the free web editors have certain limitations (and unfixed bugs), they are nonetheless sufficiently functional for you to create simple websites.
If you are making your own graphics for your website, you will probably need a program for designing and editing pictures too. At the very least, you will probably want to create a logo for your site. This can be done using free image editing programs or commercial tools like the famous Photoshop. A free tool will probably be more than sufficient for those creating the one-off image (like a site logo) for their websites. On the other hand, if graphic design is your forte, and you see yourself repeatedly creating graphics, or editing photos, then Photoshop may make your life easier in the long run. Photoshop was $649 the last time I checked.
(On a related note, if you're buying both Dreamweaver and Photoshop, it may be more cost effective to get the Adobe Web Premium Suite bundle which includes Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Flash, Acrobat, and other stuff. I didn't, and ended up paying more when I bought those programs piecemeal over a period of time.)
If you are selling goods or services on your site, you may also want to set some money aside for advertising. There are many ways to advertise your site, such as in newspapers, magazines, TV, as well as over the web. Since the cost for ads in the traditional media varies from country to country, you will have to do your own research.
Advertisements on the web can take many forms. For example, you can advertise on individual websites that attract an audience that you think may be interested in your products. This is done by contacting the webmaster of that website and asking them if they're interested in advertising your site, and finding out their rates. Since rates vary from site to site, it's not possible for me to give you an estimate here. Alternatively, you can also sign up as an advertiser in one of the many affiliate networks around. Such networks work like a sort of middle man between you and the other websites on the Internet that display your advertisements. Generally speaking, they allow you to advertise on other sites without your having to manually search for relevant websites yourself.
As mentioned above, if you are on a shoestring budget, you can mostly get by with just buying a domain name, and making do with free stuff for the rest. Your site may be inaccessible from time to time, and you may have to fight your web editor to get it to work the way you want, but for simple personal sites that are not selling anything and don't have to be always available, this shouldn't pose a substantial problem. Commercial sites, on the other hand, should not be penny wise and pound foolish.
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