When someone says affordable, what do they mean? Do they mean ‘cheap’? Despite the obvious, this is likely not true. Affordable web design is a design which accomplishes the goals of the site for the least amount of money possible. That said, the cheapest built site may not accomplish the stated goals, and will perhaps cost more money in the long run, as time and money are injected to attempt and get some results. The better solution is to clearly state goals up front, and target the site accordingly.
Ask yourself, when all is said and done, what would make you smile about your new website? What would just make your day? Is it to sell x amount of a particular product? Is it to get a certain level of participation from your organization in the way of signups for a particular program? Is it to engage a certain demographic socially or politically? The goals that you choose should be clear, attainable, and written down. The old adage “failing to plan is planning to fail” certainly applies here. The more focused your goals are, the easier it will be to target resources for affordability when it comes to your web design. Remember, affordable is not the same as ‘cheap’. It’s very possible that a 4-page website will be able to achieve your goals (assuming you’ve defined said goals), and anything beyond that is just spinning your wheels.
Beyond goal-setting, the next likely biggest thing you need to decide is if you’re going to use a content-management system (CMS) or not. The most common CMS is wordpress. WordPress powers about 20% of the world’s websites. If your site is small and static (not-changing frequently), then an html-coded site will suffice. If however, you want the ability to make changes, or to be able to add functionality yourself, then a CMS is the way to go. There are plugins available to do most anything that you’d like to do, and in many cases they are free to install. One of the most frequently used plugins is for contact forms. The possibilities are almost endless. If your site never changes, you’ll have a little more work to do with wordpress than using straight html. There are frequent updates to the wordpress core files, as well as updates to the plugins that must be installed (easy to do, but nonetheless required). Choosing the right type of site (html or CMS) will go a long ways toward meeting your goal of affordable web design. With frequent changes, if you choose a good CMS, you can make those changes yourself (and save some dough). If you don’t have frequent changes, a static site will require less maintenance (and thus save you some time).
When building the site, copy and page elements should be targeted to the stated goals. Each page on the site should be designed to be found by search engines for the keyword phrase that will attract the right traffic (once again, to meet your goals). It is much less expensive to do this targeting when the site is first designed (rather than fixing it afterward). So, once again, pre-planning and having goals makes the site more ‘affordable’ (but not necessarily cheap). In the end, the idea is to meet the goal, not design the prettiest site, or have the newest technology. We target the tools/technology used to the stated goals, using what is necessary to meet those goals. Sometimes that means a complex solution; other times, a $50 (or free) plugin will do the trick.
Going forward, all web sites need to be served up under https (secure) protocol. This protocol enables the encrypted handoff of data and lessens the chance of fraud. Your site will be served up using the https protocol using either a shared certificate (less expensive or free), or a purchased certificate specific to your business (more money, but important if you’re handling credit card data). The amount you pay for the certificate is determined by how easy you want to make it for your customers (assuming you’re doing e-commerce) to buy from you. The higher-priced certificates are recognized by more browsers. On the subject of shopping carts, there are shopping plugins for wordpress so that your store can happen totally under the wordpress umbrella, without having to purchase costly shopping cart software.
Hopefully, this short guide gives you some insight into the true meaning of affordability. Proper planning, goal-setting, and targeting of assets toward reaching those goals will make your website build more affordable (but not cheap) and in the long run, successful.