Website builders and other supportive services claim that anyone can start a website in 2020, and with minimal time, money, and effort. But is this really the case? To a total outsider, the concept of building a website still seems intimidatingly complex, and to someone who’s built small-scale websites in the past, the process seems almost deceptively simple.
So how easy is it, exactly, to start a website in 2020?
Let’s start with the baseline mechanics of starting a website. There are dozens of website builders available, many of which are free and many of which are cheap. High-profile options like WordPress and Squarespace can help you create a website, from scratch, with just a few clicks.
In this process, you’ll rely on a WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) editor. You’ll work from a preexisting template—either a free option, or a more original, detailed paid version—and use basic inputs like dragging and dropping, content entry, and clicking through different options to tweak the website to your liking. If you already have an idea of what you want your top-level navigation to be, and what types of content you want your pages to have, this shouldn’t take you long.
Most of the other elements of starting a site, including choosing your domain name, and selecting a hosting plan, are designed to be as simple and user-friendly as possible. In this category, starting a website truly is a simple matter.
We can also consider the cost of starting a website. As we mentioned, there are many free options, with optional, inexpensive upgrades; for example, you might pay a few hundred dollars for a premium template that truly stands out to you. Other feeds can add up; if you want a custom domain that doesn’t include the name of your website builder, you’ll need to pay an annual fee to maintain it. If you want premium hosting services, you’ll need to pay a monthly fee for those.
You’ll also need to pay for secondary supportive services. For example, even high-quality sites often have a hard time generating traffic. If you want a better chance of getting seen, you’ll need to work with a marketing and advertising expert to help you generate more visibility and traffic.
The Conceptual Work
This is where the concept of a truly “free” or “easy” site begins to deteriorate. You may be able to create a website for free, with only a few hours of effort, but making a website competitive and/or successful is another story. There are millions of people like you out there, hoping to make a site similar to yours, and all of them have access to the same resources you do. If you choose a default template, and invest only the minimal time and effort, you’re never going to have a chance to beat them.
If you want your site to stand out and generate traffic and revenue, you’ll need to invest more. You’ll need to think carefully about the core idea of your site. You’ll need to spend time designing your site, so it doesn’t look like a basic, out-of-the-box template. And you’ll need to pay for or provide additional supportive services, so your site has a chance of standing out. Depending on how competitive your chosen industry is, and what you’re hoping to achieve, these efforts could be far more demanding than a free website builder would have you believe.
The silver lining here is the sheer number of supportive resources and websites that are available to you as an entrepreneur. If you have the budget for it, you can find and purchase services from an expert who can help you turn your website into a success.
And if you don’t have the budget for it, with enough time, you can teach yourself the skills necessary to build and sustain a successful website. You can learn what makes a good website different than a bad website, and the basics of DIY-friendly marketing strategies like search engine optimization (SEO). If you invest enough time and effort, and you know where to look for supportive content, you should be able to turn your idea into a success—it just won’t be quick or easy.
“Easy” is a subjective term, and the question in the title of this article is a bit loaded. Still, we can reasonably conclude a few things. First, it really is easy to build a website in 2020; anyone who can follow basic instructions can do it. Creating a good website, beating the competition, and making that website visible are still difficult tasks—but with the right support and the right investment, you can make them happen.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher who contributes to a number of reputable online media outlets and news sources. A graduate of Iowa State University, I’m now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant.