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5 Mistakes I Made When Building My First Website

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Earlier this year, I got pretty ambitious about pursuing a new business venture and decided that building a website was the best first step. What I ended up with was quite a bit of wasted money and time I’ll never get back. But, I did learn some invaluable lessons that made it all worth it, and maybe they will help you avoid the same mistakes.

Mistake #1 – Buying a Specific Domain for Your First Website

I had a business name in mind that I thought was pretty clever, so I was determined to buy up everything around it to create my fortune. It was a good idea in theory, but an expensive place to start… and not totally necessary to get things started.

I ended up in a haggling war through a broker website for that specific name and ended up having to pay almost $400, just because I was stubborn and determined to have that specific name. In reality, I could have simply added “the” or “best” in front of the phrase to purchase a domain for less than twenty dollars annually. I’m hoping it’s a sound investment in the long run, but in hindsight, there are ways I could have better invested that money to grow my small business.

Mistake #2 – Building My First Website on WordPress.org

I’m a pretty independent guy, so I decided I would whip up my own WordPress site. I purchased a template from WordPress.org for $50, thinking it would be super intuitive. I was wrong. I hit several stumbling blocks early on that made me super frustrated. Even worse, my site never ended up looking like the template because I couldn’t figure out where in the back end I was going wrong. I tried a few customer support inquiries but eventually decided to move on and have someone build it for me instead. But…

Mistake #3 – Hiring Someone to Build My First Website

At this point, I knew that to legitimize my business venture, I needed a great website to capture the imagination of those who visited. Now that I knew I wasn’t going to be the one to build it, I decided it would be more effective to hire someone to build the site for me. But with this being a side project, and having just overpaid for my domain and thrown money away for a template I would never use, I was on a budget. I went to a digital marketplace to hire someone from overseas to build my first website for only $100! Such a deal!

Now, to be fair, I lucked out with a good collaborator. However, it didn’t save me nearly as much time as I thought it would. Yes, I didn’t have to learn the coding to build the site, but I did have to create all of the content, spend quite a bit of time on correspondence (some of which happened at odd hours), work through a few language barriers, and wait for progress updates since I wasn’t the only project the designer was working on (for $100, I totally get that).

When all was said and done, the site looked pretty good and was ready to go live! But not on WordPress.org. Apparently, I needed to purchase hosting for a WordPress.com site (a subtle but important difference), which wasn’t terribly expensive, but terribly frustrating, since I had done all of that previous work in WordPress.org.

Mistake #4 – Setting Up My Email Account

When I finally got my website up and running, I knew that I needed a branded email address for myself and for my employees that I would eventually hire when the business boomed. When I purchased the domain name from the seller, I didn’t know that I should transfer it out of the clunky, dated domain host they were using. I saw an option to “create email accounts”, which was exactly what I was looking for. I went ahead and paid up for 2-years (because I got a discount!) and found myself with an email account I couldn’t figure out how to use.

Eventually, I figured out how to transfer my domain to more intuitive web hosting, and that you can set up a Gmail account directly with G Suite for as little as $6/month per account. Even better, doing it through your own hosting makes it easy and straightforward. Unfortunately, I had already thrown away the money for 2 years’ worth of email hosting with this other site, and I had to contact customer support to help me figure out how to redirect the email from the older server to the new one.

Mistake #5 – Discovering Website Builders Too Late

After all was said and done, I finally had my website. I was out way more money (probably $800-1,000 at that point) and time (I can’t even count how many hours) than I had planned on, but I had learned a lot about domains, hosting and building websites in the process. It was only then that I discovered there are all-in-one website builders that do all of this for you, and they are shockingly inexpensive.

For something like $15-20 a month, you can build a drag-and-drop website that really looks good and does pretty much everything you need initially to get started. That price includes domain and hosting, and you can get some pretty steep discounts by purchasing annually in or multi-year bundles. Add G Suite as mentioned above, and you have a great website for a nominal investment of time and small monthly maintenance expenses. Honestly, I feel embarrassed I didn’t just start here in retrospect.

If you’re building your first site, or second or third for that matter, make it easy on yourself and learn from my (costly) mistakes. Consider starting with a website builder so you can save time and resources that are better spent investing in your actual business.

Published: April 29, 2020

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Michael Magnus

Michael Magnus is a full-time Strategic Communications lecturer and Digital Marketing Consultant at Magnus Opus, a North Texas-based ad-hoc ad agency. His writing has been featured in a diverse collection of publications, including Martha Stewart, Art of Manliness, Leather Crafters and Saddler’s Journal, Lovecraft eZine, and many more. Magnus is a regular contributor to Social Media Delivered.

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