Build a WordPress Website for Under $300


Free: 10 Things the Best Law-Firm Website Designs Have in Common

For seven years, Lawyerist has published an annual list of the best law firm websites. Now, you can find out what they have in common.

It would not be hard to spend $1,500+ hiring someone to build you a new website, and even that would be considered a bargain. However, in today’s tech-savvy market, the costs of not having a good website could end up costing you much more than that.

One option for the solo on a budget is to build your own site. I spent a total of $285 making my website and it measures up to all of the “professionally” designed sites that I’ve compared it with. Here is an outline highlighting the most important aspects of creating your own website. It is written for an audience that I have assumed is starting with little or no technical background, as I did when I built my site.

Get WordPress

Before installing WordPress onto your hosting account, buy a domain name for your website.  Then install WordPress onto that domain’s root directory in your hosting account (if you install WordPress into its own directory, it will show up in the address bar when someone goes to your site— for example). Godaddy offers a one click install of WordPress which is straight forward, and they also have good support to walk you through any issues.  Also, if you haven’t already set up a hosting account, go with a Linux account instead of Windows because, at least in my experience, they are easier to work with. There are quite a lot of little issues that can arise based on your host’s interaction with WordPress. Out of an abundance of caution, and because doing something wrong at this stage could wreak havoc on your site later, if you’re unsure about something I would talk to customer service at your host before proceeding.

After installing WordPress, familiarize yourself with how it works. This is one of the most arduous and daunting tasks in the whole website building process, but I can assure you that the learning curve is very steep, and the knowledge you gain will be well worth your time. The WordPress codex is an invaluable learning tool, and is available through their website. Moreover, WordPress is currently very popular with website designers, making it very easy to find information on the web on how it works.

Buy a Professional Theme

WordPress sites are created using themes. A theme is like a “skin” or a template onto which you place your content. Don’t fall into the same trap I did at first and try to create your site using one of the free themes WordPress offers.  Instead try a site like (I’m sure you can get good themes elsewhere, this is just where I got mine) and pick out a nice looking, professional, highly customizable theme. This step alone will save you countless hours of work and frustration. All of the professionally created themes at themeforest have a demo site which gives you a good idea of what looks and layouts the theme is capable of creating.

A few things your theme should have:

  • Good support. This cannot be overstated enough.  Check your proposed theme’s support blog or section, and see if the creator replies to questions in a timely manner; if he replies in comprehendible English, and if he’s willing to really help you if you run into a major problem.  The creator of the theme I use (PureVision) is very reliable and even asks for screenshots from people who are having problems and then will correspond by email until the problem is fixed.
  • A nice-looking contact page template.
  • Lots of customizability in terms of fonts, colors, sizes, widgets, etc.

This is a screen shot of a section of the options settings for the PureVision theme I used to build my site. As you can see, there are many customizable features.

Get Photos and a Logo

As they say here in Chicago, a fancy website theme and two bucks will get you a ride on the bus. Meaning, a nice theme, by itself, isn’t good enough—it needs good content.

Get some quality pictures taken of yourself for your website. I asked a high school friend who’s now a wedding and bar mitzvah photographer to take the photos for me and he agreed to do them in exchange for some legal advice. Use your bargaining skills and remember that most photographers that you would hire to do this sort of thing are the photography industry’s equivalent of solo practitioners. Meaning, they will most likely need services and advice in areas ranging anywhere from corporate organization to office management.

You will also need a logo for your site. I did a lot of research in this area (see next section) and it is my opinion that next to the pictures, the logo is the most important part of making your site “feel” professional. You could use plain text for your site heading, but I think that a custom logo gives your firm a more serious and established look. I paid $250 for my logo, which I hear is about industry standard. Also, and this is getting a little more technical, but you’ll probably want the logo in png format for your site, which gives the logo an integrated, rather than pasted-on look.

Write Content

Spend some serious time scouring the web looking for good, creative, and appealing lawyer and law firm sites. Create a tab on your browser and call it “website ideas,” and favorite all the sites that inspire you. Pay attention to how the sites are organized; how their pages are broken down, what the pages are called, what content is grouped together, what types of information are available on the home page and what information you have to navigate to. Imagine the content on your site and how it will work with the ideas you get from other sites.

You should have a good idea of how you want to organize your website before you start writing any content. I mapped out my site with a pen and paper using a sort of modified venn/hub and spoke diagram. Focus on organizing pages and sub pages first. Then write the content for each page, sub-page, and miscellaneous text. Here too you can get good ideas from some other sites in terms of what to include and what not to include.

Put it all together

Upload all the photos you want to use onto your WordPress media bank through the admin dashboard.  Add pages to your site, and then add the content to those pages. This is also the step where you can let loose your inner creative genius. Play with color schemes. Try different layouts. Move the order of pages around. Include sub-pages in drop down menus from the parents, or don’t and just create a menu on the sidebar with links to the sub-pages. Ask some trusted associates and friends for feedback at this stage. It will help to have a fresh set of eyes look over your work.

Above all else, your goal at this stage should be twofold: make the site as user-friendly and navigable as possible while giving it a great look and feel. I found myself frequently focusing on the look of the site at the expense of functionality and navigability.

Some final thoughts

I guarantee that at some point during your website building adventure you will sit back, look at your site, and think to yourself: “damn, that looks awful. I should just hire someone to do this.” I said it to myself a bunch of times. In the end though, if you stick it out, you will have a great site, and you’ll also have a skill that will serve your law practice indefinitely. One of the ways website builders make money, which consequently means one of the ways that law firms spend money, is by charging “maintenance and service” fees for updating websites. If you build your own website, not only will you not have to pay these fees, but you won’t have to call someone every time you want to tweak your website. Which, by the way, is something that I find myself doing constantly.

And finally, don’t forget to do these things:

  • Install Google Analytics;
  • Consider Google AdWords to drive traffic to your site;
  • Send an email to all of your contacts and associates and let them know about your new site.

Augustus Moss is a Chicago criminal defense attorney.



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  • Joel Anderson

    It’s, not

    • Augie Moss

      Joel, thanks for the correction. I’m glad you caught that because without finding themeforest I would still be lurking in the depths of the free theme abyss.

  • Search engine optimization is really important. Users should install SEO plugins for WordPress and use them consistently for every page and post on their website. Also, when posting pictures, the metadata should be filled in with SEO in mind. For instance, don’t call a picture headshot.jpg. Call it “Mr. John Doe, Attorney At Law.”

  • Sam,

    Any thoughts on the Scribe plugin versus the All-In-One SEO plugin, which appears to be the most popular on WordPress?

    • They aren’t really comparable. All-in-One SEO basically does the same things Thesis does, which is give you greater control over your meta, and that sort of thing. It doesn’t ensure that your content actually is optimized, just that it is well-presented if it happens to be. Scribe actually helps you optimize your content for search engines. It’s cheaper than hiring an SEO expert, but there’s really nothing else like it that I’m aware of.

  • Lane Lester

    I saw your post on Twitter and had to see what you spent $300 on for a WordPress site.

    I see it was the logo that was the big bite, so it makes more sense. The logo looks great to me, but I’m an old geezer. At some point, most people won’t recognize type that looks like it came from an old, dirty manual typewriter! :-)

    • Old dirty typewriter? Wait, you think Lawyerist was built for $300? That’s cold, man.

      If you want to see the site the article was about, visit the author’s website. His logo doesn’t look like it was built with an old typewriter at all.

  • If you have Windows hosting already on GoDaddy, you can switch to Linux hosting for free. It takes about a half dozen mouse clicks, and then you have to wait a couple hours for the hosting to switch over, but it’s a relatively painless process.

    I don’t know how this will affect established sites, but if you’re still in the building phase, you shouldn’t encounter any problems.

    • Augie Moss

      Thanks for this info, I had no idea this was possible. I built a site for another business on a Windows hosting account and ran into problems with redirecting and some other things, which is why I wrote that linux hosting was easier to deal with. I will try and switch the windows to a linux account, now that the site has been built, and let you know how it goes.