Help My Friend Kick it to the Next Level
February 17, 2011 5:06 AM   Subscribe

(posting for a friend): My friend, a small business owner, has a delightful store but realizes that she needs a web presence. She has neither the cash nor the know how to make it happen. Is there help for her?

My friend owns a small, stylish children's store in Manhattan. She wants to have a website but has no spare cash to pay for it. Is it a common practice for students to design websites for free, either for credit or as a portfolio builder? If so, where's the best place to ask for that?

Thanks on her behalf!
posted by aimeedee to Technology (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You can ask, but it's not that common, unless you have a personal relationship w/ the student. There are free tools on the web where you can build yourself a shop, she can maybe do some research into that.
posted by pyro979 at 5:16 AM on February 17, 2011

With web design, you get what you pay for. I've worked for countless agencies who have had "students" do "design work for free". What you usually wind up with are either unfinished projects, or projects that you can't edit or change when they're done, or projects that get finished and look fine, but then you can't ever get an ounce of support because the person grew up and moved away.

There are countless people around, both here and elsewhere, who can do what you're asking for very inexpensively, depending on what you want features-wise. Craigslist may or may not be a good place to find these folks---Manhattan should be fine. Just always sign a contract and don't pay the final price until the product is received.

If she's looking for a typical 3-5 page info site, she should be able to get this done for between $150-500 depending on who she uses and what she expects it to do. You may post the listing in MeFi jobs up there at the top right hand corner of the screen.

Wordpress + a quick theme + content provided by the store owner is super fast, very google-visible, and very inexpensive. Just a thought. You can probably also hire this out on (used to be RentACoder) and get it done for $25-50, but again---support may be an issue and it won't get you hosting and whatnot.
posted by TomMelee at 5:18 AM on February 17, 2011

There is also Etsy.
posted by two lights above the sea at 5:19 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

How about Etsy?
posted by like_neon at 5:20 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

She could also do something with sites like Yola or Blogger, then go someplace like and buy a domain name like, and set name to point towards the free site.

This will look amateur though---but it's workable.
posted by TomMelee at 5:21 AM on February 17, 2011

Does she want to sell online or does she just want presence? Because...Facebook.
posted by iconomy at 5:22 AM on February 17, 2011

Facebook page, maybe domain pointer to it. Nothing free is going to suit a place that tries to brand itself as "stylish".
posted by gracedissolved at 5:27 AM on February 17, 2011

If she is so tight for cash that 1 or 2 grand for somebody to whip up a decent Wordpress site for her is out of the question, she has bigger issues than the lack of a website. She needs to get her business in better shape or there won't be a business soon. I'd advise her to not worry about the website right now, and get her cash flow in order.
posted by COD at 5:36 AM on February 17, 2011 [9 favorites]

"Can't I just get a student to do it for free?" is pretty disrespectful to all the people out there who actually make a living building web presences for people.

If she's really got no budget, go the Facebook Page route. As long as she's got some basic assets (e.g. a logo), it's fairly simple to get started.
posted by mkultra at 5:41 AM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

Wow--so much and so fast.

Thanks, all. I'll pass this great info along to her. These are really good ways for her start thinking about what she wants/needs and how valuable an investment it can be.
posted by aimeedee at 5:42 AM on February 17, 2011

There is also DrupalGardens where she could build the site herself (and have it hosted).
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 5:56 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

My wife did her own. I helped a tiny bit, but she would have been fine without me. No technical know-how besides general familiarity with the internet.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:34 AM on February 17, 2011

If there is a university of college that offers a web design cert, you might find a student who'd love a portfolio project. But a poorly-executed site won't help the business. Try
posted by theora55 at 6:36 AM on February 17, 2011

Would your friend feel like it was appropriate to ask her employees to work for free in exchange for job experience and a good reference on their resume? Would she agree to work for free in exchange for "experience"?

Even if your friend got a "free" website, she will still need to pay for hosting, registration and tech support. If your friend can't afford a website, I would assume that they have larger financial issues with running a business. Web developers and designers are often small business owners too, to expect them to work for free is disrespectful.

As everyone said above me--you get what you pay for. Why would someone come shopping in her stylish, Manhattan boutique clothing store, when there is the 50 cent bin at the Salvation Army?
posted by inertia at 6:52 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Agreed, expecting free work is like someone walking into the store and expecting free clothes. No one works for free, that's not work, that's charity.

Maybe you can come to some sort of barter agreement, find a local web designer who has a kid that needs clothes. You provide the clothes, they provide the design. As mentioned above, you'll still need domain name registration and hosting (plus it sounds like some support), so either spend the few pennies you do have on that or look to barter more.
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:54 AM on February 17, 2011

I've heard good things about squarespace. They have a bunch of templates you can work with and its all about the drag and drop rather than coding.

In the alternative, a Facebook page is a good start.
posted by jourman2 at 7:02 AM on February 17, 2011

Check out Shopify. If they can afford $30/month, it really can't be beat.
posted by pwally at 7:25 AM on February 17, 2011

What is her isp? i know some isps include webspace with their business packages. Some even have software to help you build it.
posted by majortom1981 at 8:03 AM on February 17, 2011

Anybody can put their own wordpress site up, but does that fulfill the end goal? For me, I need to know if the business wants a place for repeat customers to look at the site each week, or if they are hoping they find new customers. Is the child looking at the site and saying "Hey Mom, look at this..." or is the parent finding the site? Are you selling things then mailing, or is the site meant to be looked at then walked over to 58th and 5th. What the website looks like needs to address how you expect people use the site.

A lot of the ideas upthread are good ideas, but "presence" doesn't tell me if they fit the goals of the shop owner.
posted by rakish_yet_centered at 8:15 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

If she just wants a web presence, why not start with Facebook? It's a great way to build community and promote the store (good deals for Facebook members) and it's super easy to set up.

She should also register with Google Places, so she will show up in Search (especially mobile search).

Engaging her community via Twitter is also probably a good idea.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:48 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

How about trade for trade? There are probably some web designers/developers that wouldn't mind making a small and decent website in exchange for some items in the children's store. Try posting that on Craigslist.
posted by xtine at 10:36 AM on February 17, 2011

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