There are 1.13 billion websites on the internet.
Odds are, at some point in your life, you will need to build one.
The process can feel overwhelming:
- Which platform is the best?
- Should I design it myself?
- How much does it cost?
Without the right focus, it’s easy to get lost.
Hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars later you’re left with an overdesigned site very few people ever visit.
So in this issue, I want to cover my approach to building a “Minimal Viable Website" (MVW) in less than a week on a $250 budget.
Here’s the 6-step process:
- Create the right foundation
- Identify inspiration sites
- Leverage PowerPoint
- Revise copy/graphics
- Hire a low-cost dev
I’ll unpack each using Wealth² as an example.
Step 1: Create the right foundation
There are a few core elements of a website:
- Domain: the name of your site
- Host: where the files live
- CMS: a platform to manage the content
Don’t spend countless hours researching the best tools for each element.
Instead, copy my setup:
Alternatives worth checking out:
If you need a bit more handholding use Scott Delong’s guide on setting up a website.
Super thorough and written by a highly successful serial content entrepreneur.
Another helpful resource is Built With.
Use it to quickly see the technology your favorite site is built on.
This leads to the next step…
Step 2: Identify inspiration sites
General rule of thumb with design: do not reinvent the wheel.
Start with something you like and repurpose it to fit your needs.
My site is primarily inspired by Justin Welsh’s site:
Justin's site is a bit more polished and enhanced by professional headshots.
But it cost him $20,000 to make.
I spent 1/80 of that.
Remember, we’re building an “MVW” — we can always improve it later.
Step 3: Paste into PowerPoint
I may be old school, but I still find PowerPoint to be a highly effective tool for visualizing content.
I create a new section divider for each page on the site.
Then I screenshot the exact design I want and use red text to revise the copy.
Step 4: Revise copy
I made the Wealth² site before ChatGPT was a thing.
Now, I’d leverage AI to speed up the process.
Here’s an example prompt you can use to create your homepage header and tagline:
A few notes on working with ChatGPT:
Treat it like a junior colleague:
Be extremely direct with your instructions and ask it to improve on the initial results. So for example, I could reply to these suggestions with “Good start. Can you please improve on option 2 by writing three variations that are a bit more compelling?”
Help it learn:
You can use multiple reference sites to help GPT provide smart suggestions.
Always improve what the software gives you. Add your unique voice.
Step 5: Hire a low-cost developer
I’ve written before about using overseas talent to perform routine tasks cost-effectively.
WordPress is a low-code platform that’s relatively easy to learn.
However, just because I can easily edit text boxes doesn’t mean I can (or should) design a fully functioning site from scratch.
Instead, hire overseas talent.
Here’s the exact Upwork profile for the developer I hired:
Three pieces of advice:
- The quoted hourly rate is negotiable. Don’t let it scare you. I ultimately agreed to $8/hr with this developer.
- Prioritize experience on Upwork. Let someone else hire the beginner.
- Do not settle for less than 95% Job Success rate.
Instruct the developer not to use any custom code (without first consulting you).
They should prioritize pre-built themes and simple elements that can be updated by a non-technical person.
Step 6: Iterate
I set a 15 hour weekly limit for my developer.
It took him ~8 hours to share an initial draft of the site (5 pages).
I spent 2-3 hours reviewing and adding visual/copy edits in PowerPoint.
In total, the developer billed $192 for 24 hours of work.
We completed the website in less than a week.
To reiterate, I consider this a MVW - Minimal Viable Website - approach.
The site’s functionality is limited and the design is a B+ at best.
But it’s a really solid foundation for a minimal time and dollar investment.
Before we end, a quick word on AI:
Some of you may think artificial intelligence will quickly replace this entire approach.
I attempted to create the Wealth² site using Durable.co, one of the early leaders in the AI website generation space.
Here's what it gave me:
I believe in using AI to improve and accelerate your workflows.
But it doesn't replace thoughtful, human judgment.
At least, not yet 🙂
That’s it for today.
I hope you found value in this mini-guide.
If you have any specific questions, just reply to this email.
Until next week,