How to build a website for free


I’ve been building websites for about 20 years now. Depending what you want from a website and your skill level with web development, will point to what web infrastructure you want.

For every website you’ll need the site files (e.g. HTML, CSS, JavaScript, images), and a domain name (e.g. https://andrewgolightly.com). If you don’t choose a plan that includes a custom domain name, you can always get one at Namecheap.

No web development experience needed

If you have no web development experience, and want a fairly simple website with a few pages that looks really pretty and displays equally well on laptops and phones, and are happy to spend a recurring $20 USD a month, then I’d probably recommend Squarespace.

If you also want to sell a few things online (including in person Point of Sale), you could still use Squarespace and pay a recurring $30 USD or so a month.

If you start selling a lot, and start to have more advanced needs with inventory levels, variants on products (e.g. size, colour), discount codes, shipping, payment gateways, then you probably want to check out Shopify. They start at $30 USD / month.

Some server knowledge

If you know something about servers, you could install your own version of WordPress somewhere like DigitalOcean on a pre-configured WordPress droplet, and pay about $5 USD / month.

Unlike Squarespace, you’ll be responsible for managing updates to the server, and setting up security for it.

Some web development knowledge

If you know how to code, you can deploy a site to Firebase Hosting for free on their Spark Plan.

You can use Firebase to host simple one page sites, all the way to sophisticated apps (probably then also using Firestore Database and Firebase Functions).

Concluding thoughts

If you’re a small business, and want a simple static one page site up that rarely changes, it might be worth paying a web developer to code that up for you and deploy it to Firebase. i.e. some initial investment, but no monthly costs, and no server maintenance required.

If you probably want to make a bunch of regular changes to the site yourself (assuming not much web development knowledge), you probably want to go with Squarespace.

Outside of these use cases, you probably want to hire a web developer to help you run and maintain more sophisticated websites or apps. If that’s the case, then get in touch and we can discuss it.


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