Website 101

Read Time: 12 minutes
Who this is for: This article is for anyone looking to gather a basic knowledge of web design and the current trends in web design today, specifically – business owners looking to get a new website for the first time, or those who are considering a website redesign.

Why do you need a website?

Because everyone is doing it. That isn’t a good enough reason to do some things like wearing skinny jeans, or eating a gluten-free diet. But having a website is one trend you don’t want to miss out on. To keep it simple, I’ll just say this: If you own a business and you aren’t online, you are losing money.

If that sounded dramatic, I apologize. But it is true. The most recent study I could find on small business websites is a survey by the NSBA of over 800 businesses. One table of data stood out to me in particular. Take a look:

2013 NSBA survey on how small businesses use technology

Basically what it boils down to is this: 82% of businesses have websites. There are very few circumstances where you do not need a website.

Simply using a yelp page, a facebook page or some other online business listing is not reliable. You do not fully control these. You also do not stand out. A website provides legitimacy, and is also an opportunity for marketing, and a chance to begin a relationship with your customers.

If you fall into the category that thinks a website is too hard to create or maintain, or too costly, I am here to help.

Sidenote: If you want to read the whole study it’s right here.

Let’s sum this up and move on. Websites (if used right) can do these following things for your business:

  • Help your customers find your business.
  • Add legitimacy to your brand/business.
  • Provide a means of contact for questions or placing orders/reservations.
  • Help build your brand’s core story.
  • Build a relationship with your customers.
  • Inform your customers and assert your expertise in your field.

What do you need in a website?

Let’s talk shop for a second. You have probably heard a lot of different things about websites. Terms like mobile friendly, responsive design, search engine optimization, content management system or one page design. Do words like these scare you? If so, don’t worry about that for now, I am about to explain everything.

If you own a brick-and-mortar business and the bulk of your customers come from your local community, chances are you probably need a basic business website. You need a place for customers to find you, learn about your products or services, contact you and connect with you. Ideally, you already have some social media networks set up, and you get extra credit if you are already collecting your customer’s email addresses using a signup form on your website! If you own a restaurant, you’d better have your menu on your website. You wouldn’t believe how many carryout orders you’re missing by not having your menu on your website.

User Experience

I’m now going to explain a few of those key terms I just mentioned. The experience your customer has on your website is going to directly effect his or her buying behavior! As this article is being written, there are hundreds if not thousands of difference devices that your customers could potentially use to view your website. I’m talking about desktop computers, laptops, cell phones, tablets, etc. Your website is going to have a vastly different effect if it is not designed to look good on each of these types of screens.

If you want to read detailed descsriptions of the types of websites, click the following blue button and you can read about each of these types. For now I am going to sum them up:

Desktop Website

A traditional website that generally only functions properly on a computer.

Mobile Website

A separate website designed specifically for functionality on smartphones. This is a step up from only having a desktop site, but there is a better option.

Responsive Webite

This is the newest and best option for creating an amazing user experience regardless of the type of device your customer is using. Responsive websites change how they look and operate based on screen size. Think of them like chameleons.


The details of how your website operates, and what you need it to do will depend 100% on your specific business. However, we can boil down all business websites to having a few basic needs:

  • Help your customers find you. (online and geographically)
  • Help sell your product or service.
  • Begin developing a relationship between you and your customers.
  • Provide a place for customers to contact you with any customer service related issues.

Every website should do some form of these four items. If your website isn’t doing any one of these, you are either losing out on new customers and sales, or you are leaving your customers unhappy or frustrated. Not good.

Content Management System or CMS

A Content Management System (abbreviated as CMS) is a piece of software that makes it much easier to maintain and update websites. If you don’t know anything about coding, you can log into your website’s CMS and change a body of text, or add some photos pretty easily. Some popular CMSs include WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. These are all free and open source, so if a web design company wants to charge you for using WordPress and doesn’t give you any additional service, don’t trust them. Installation and configuration for any of these CMS platforms should usually take no more than a couple of hours max.

Okay, how much does it all cost?

This is going to depend on the solution you choose for setting your website up. The price range goes all the way from free, to costing as much as a new car. Here is a rundown on the options you have for getting your website designed and set up:

Large Web Design Company

There are plenty of these out there. They can build you a cutting edge website that has all the bells and whistles. You will find most to be credible and they will (hopefully) provide you with excellent customer service. The downside is they are very expensive. They have tons of overhead and although they can produce some of the best sites on the web, they can range in price from five or six thousand dollars all the way up to $15-$25k for a website. Yikes!

Small Web Design Company

There are many of these around as well. The service you are going to get is totally dependent on the company you choose. Some will set you up with a website that is web-standards compliant. (That is a fancy buzzword that means up-to-date in terms of technology.) Others will use completely out-of-date technology that will set you back more than it will help you.

The price range for a custom site designed by one of these smaller companies is usually $4,000 to $10,000. They almost never tell you their pricing structure up front and will make you request a quote so they can get your info. If you are going to hire one of these companies, I’d reccommend asking a few questions to make sure they know what they are talking about. I have made a cheat sheet of questions that you can find right here.

Freelance Web Designer

Welcome to the wild wild west folks! There are more of these out there than anyone can count. The price, quality and technology used by freelancers varies wildly. For every designer that will build you a nice site and charge you a reasonable price, there are ten wanna-be scammers that have no idea what they are doing. If you get a scammer or a hackjob designer, you may not pay much, but it will be a waste of money regardless of the cost.

DIY – Website Building App

There are companies that host website building apps. It is like facebook in the fact that you can create an account, add all the information for your company and have a web page set up in a matter of hours. The upside is the price. The most you will pay for one of these services is a monthly fee of $40 to $50, but a lot of them even have a free option. The downside is the learning curve. This DIY website creation trend is the future, but right now it will still take you a while to figure out how the software works if you aren’t already familiar with it. If you are a Do-It-Yourselfer, I have compiled a list of these companies, which you can find right here.

There are some hard costs associated with all websites. Every website is a bunch of files stored on a physical server somewhere. Even if you are using cloud hosting, your data still has to be stored on an actual server that is located somewhere in the world. The following table shows the hard costs that every website will have regardless of which company you go with.

These costs are related to most small business websites. The costs will be completely different if we were talking about a massive enterprise level website or a web application with millions of users.

Service Description Average Cost
Hosting Server space where your website files are stored. $5-$15/mo.
Domain Name This is the name of your website. For example: $12/yr.
SSL Certificate This is an optional security measure. I recommend having one. $80/yr.

Whew! We are covering a lot of information here. If you want, take a moment to stand up and get a good stretch in.

Okay, are you back with me? Good. You may be wondering right now which price bracket I fall into. After all, I am a web designer! Hopefully you are here because you need a new website, or you are considering having your current website redesigned. Now it is confession time.

I am a freelancer. I know, I know. I just did a pretty good job of painting all freelancers as untrustworthy hackers and criminals. I am one of the few exceptions. You can call me or email me, and in 99% of cases I will answer the phone and/or email you back within a few hours. Worst case scenario I will get back to you within 24 hours. Now let’s talk about my pricing.

I offer two options for designing and setting up a new website or redesigning an old one. The first is for smaller businesses who want the best possible website they can get, but can’t afford to spend thousands on a custom design. For only $599 I will set you up with a site that has all of the cutting edge features that the big web design companies offer. It will be a responsive site built on a CMS so you can update the content on your own. I use a small business website template that I built to speed up the design process and cut down costs for you. With this option, you can have a stunning new website set up within a week. If you want to learn more, Click Here

The second option I offer is custom website design. This is good for companies that need more than just a basic business site. If you require any type of advanced functionality like e-commerce, a user account system for your customers, or custom API integration, you would probably want a custom design and setup. I can do custom design for any type of website including realtor websites which require MLS/IDX integration. A full custom design will usually run in the $3,000-$6,000 range. The final price is based on what you need your website to do, how much content I have to write myself, and how complex any 3rd party integrations are. I will give an estimate once we talk and as long as new requirements aren’t introduced by the client, (that’s you!) I will never charge more than my quote. If you are interested in finding out more about custom web design, simply shoot me an email using my contact form which can be found here or call me up. My phone number is (734)755-8132.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Dave, once my website is set up, how do I update it?

A. I use WordPress for nearly every website I build. I have a series of videos that will teach you how to do most of the basic things your website needs like change your business hours, add a new menu, add new photos or remove old ones or write blog posts.

If you simply do not want to do any of the updating yourself, I offer a Webmaster service where you can pay me and I will make regular updates for you. You can find that information right here.

Q. Dave, I have a new website, which is great, but how do I get new customers to go to it?

A. That is a great question. Some folks think that once a website is built they are going to just get thousands of new hits a month and hundreds of new customers a month overnight. Unfortunately that is not how it usually works. This can’t be answered in one answer, so I write a blog that I send out in email form that teaches everything I know about how to best use your website to grow your customer base. You can sign up at the bottom of this page, or in the sidebar on the right. I cover topics like Facebook advertising, search engine marketing, content marketing and how to develop your business’s core story.

Q. Dave, what about internet security?

A. Internet security is more important than ever. I have a few basic recommendations that have kept my sites secure for the last six years. You can find my post about these right here.