In today’s digital age, having a website is crucial for any small business. It not only helps establish an online presence but also acts as a platform to showcase your products and services. To establish this online presence, many small owners will reach out to agencies to help them on the journey. Some of the DIY types, will go and create the website themselve. Whichever route you go, the good chance is that by default you will end up creating a Dynamic website on one of the web building platforms, such as WordPress, SquareSpace, Wix, Duda, Webflow, etc.
Some small business owners may be put off by the perceived cost of website development and maintenance, will forgo the complete process, and instead focus on “word-of-mouth” marketing activities.
The good news is that there are alternatives in the form of a static website. Creating a static website doesn’t have to cost a dime. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at how to make a free static website for your small business and how to host it for free.
What Is a Static Website?
First things first, let’s define what a static website is. A static website consists of a single or multiple but minimal number of web pages that are pre-built and served to the user exactly as they were created. Their content remains the same whenever users access it, and could remain the same forever. In other words, static websites do not change unless edited manually and reuploaded to your host.
What are some of the use cases for Static Websites?
Despite the limited functionality, static websites can still be excellent for specific use cases. The most common are:
Marketing Landing Pages
If you are a real estate agent, you may want to set up a static website for the property you are selling.
- For example, if you are selling a house at 1 Madison Avenue in Miami, and need a website to showcase the property, you are likely to set up a static landing page with the URL: https://1madisonavemia.com
- The goal of this landing page will be, not only to showcase the property, but also provide your contact information to potential buyers
- Once the property is sold, the static page can continue lingering online, adding to your real estate transactions portfolio.
If you are organizing an event and need a website that will show the information about the event, along with the event’s agenda, you may want to set up a static website for that.
- For example, if you are running an annual conference for your industry and peers, you are likely to set up an informational static website with the URL: https://2024annualconference.com
- This static website may contain information on: how to get to the conference, where to stay, conference agenda, resource page, etc.
- For next year’s conference, you are likely to set up another static website with the URL https://2025annualconference.com, and so on.
What are the Pros and Cons of static websites:
How to create a static website?
Now, let’s review the steps involved in making a static website and hosting it for free. The process is as follows:
- Website builder selection
- Theme selection
- Enviroment setup
- Theme set up and pages customization
- Export to a static version
- Domain name registration
- Hosting platform setup
- Domain name redirection
- Upload to the hosting provider
- Website backup operation
Despite the number of steps involved, the work is quite simple. Let’s dive in.
Step 1a: Choose a website builder
There are many website builders out there, and the list is growing by a day. No-code platforms such as Webflow, SquareSpace, Duda or WordPress are popular and easy to use. These website builders offer pre-built templates that you can easily customize to fit your small business needs. For our use case, we will be going with WordPress.
Step 1b: Choose a website theme
Now that you’ve selected the WordPress for your website platform, you will need to select the WordPress theme to build the website on. Though there are thousands of themes available, we suggest that you pick the one of the Gutenberg compatible big name themes that offer good starter templates. Good FREE themes to go with are GeneratePress, Kadence, Blocksy, Astra and Neve. As we will be using the Free version for the theme for our exercise, we will go with Kadence, due to clean code it outputs, and the quality of its starter templates.
Step 2: Choose a domain name
Most website builders offer a free subdomain on their own domain. Webflow for example will let you publish your webiste on their subdomain and you will end up with a URL with this pattern: https://myname.webflow.com
We recommended to purchase a custom domain name that reflects your business. Go for a name that’s easy to remember and related to your business. You can purhchase a domain name from one of the many domain name registars: Namecheap, Cloudflare, Ionos, GoDaddy, to name a few.
Step 3: Open up a hosting account
There are several platforms available that let you host a static website for free. You can read more about them in this blog post – The best 5 platforms to host a static website for free.
Step 3: Install WordPress and customize your website
Sounds complicated, but it is not. First, we need the enviornment to work in. For that, we will be using the service offered by InstaWP.
InstaWP is a cloud based offering that lets you set up the WordPress enviornment with a click of a button.
Navigate to https://instawp.com/ to get started.
Install the Kadence theme, choose a template that fits your business and customize it to suit your needs. Add your logo, business information, and photos to make it visually appealing. Make sure to add clear calls to action and contact information so visitors can easily get in touch.
Once you are done with customizing the website, prepare it for export to HTML file and publishing to Netlify.
Export and publish your website
To export the website, we will be using a Simply Static plugin.
Simply Static is a WordPress static site generator plugin that allowes you to convert your WordPress website from a dyanmic to a static version.
Add the plugin, run the export and save the completed ZIP file to your desktop.
All that is left now to publish it by uploading it to Netlify. The process simple one – connect to your Netlify account and upload the zipped file. Your website is now live and ready to be visited by potential customers.
Make a backup of your InstaWP website
Temporary websites set up on InstaWp typially expire after 48h, and this is applicable to the website you just created. To access your InstaWP website instance after 48h period, you would need to sign up for one of InstaWP plans. The pricing starts from $60/year for Starter plan, which allows you to create and keep up to 5 active sites.
The question you may be asking is: why do I need a backup when my static website is already up? For a few reasons:
- To accelerate future updates: Yes, the website can be static, but no business is a static businees. As such, you may need to update your website at some future point with new information, and to do that, you would want to start from your original website copy, as opposed ot starting from scratch. A copy of your website will give you a head start.
- To have a webiste blueprint – You may want to build additional static websites (i.e. for next years conference, or the next property you will be selling), and starting from a pre-made template will be a real time saver. Plus, it will help with the visual consistency of your landing page.
- To change a hosting provider – your hosting provider gives you the services for free. Thank them veryh much by giving them a review. This hosting provider may change the terms of its “Free usage policy” forcing you to look for alternative providers. Publishing your site to another host would be as simple as uploading it to a folder on your new hosting platform.
To make a backup of the website we will be using All-in-on WP Migration plugin.
Maintain your website
As this is a static website, no maintenance will be required. Make sure to periodically check that the website is working and is accessible. If you’d like to make any changes to the website, you would need to pull out the copy of your backup and these steps:
- Install the WordPress instance on InstaWP
- Upload your backup made with All-in-one WP Migration
- Customize the website
- Export the Static version
- Upload the static version to your hosting provider
This is it!
Creating a free static website for your small business is easy and cost effective. For many local small businesses, dynamic websites require too much effort, and going with the static website could be the right decision for them. Ultimately, local businesses only need to serve an appealing website to their locality with the information about the services they offer and how to get in contact with them. The high performance and quick indexability of static websites make it an ideal choice for them.
Still, we do not recommend that you rely solely on the static website for your online presence, and that instead you invest into a good dynamic website that will bring more value to your visitors and ultimately to your business.
Following products and/or services where referenced to and/or used while writing this article: