Efficent Web Design & Development: Hacks to Save Time & Money

I have been writing too many in theory type posts, so here is a post offering many practical tips to increase productivity and lower your site development costs.

Site Ideas

If you have a deep interest in a particular market or understand some general macro-trends (online or offline) that gives you a big advantage over others in choosing what to make a site about.

You can track memes. See what is hot on blogs, on Google's hot keywords, or the Yahoo! Buzz Index. You can track retail. See what is hot on Amazon or eBay. You can track advertising. Look at top performers inside ad networks or affiliate networks like CJ, Linkshare, ClickBank, Azoogle Ads, or Performics. Also, if you see ads that are highly off target (like auto ads on a site about recipes) it probably means that ad buyers in that industry are hungry for ad inventory.

I also like to look at sites like Elance or ScriptLance to see what kinds of projects other people are creating. Also look at some of the past projects from some of the better service providers to find rich markets.

Buying a Domain Name

Go to PsychicWhois to look for names in related fields. If you can get an exact match keyword .net or .org domain for $8 it might be worth registering it. If you are aiming for a local market your local .co.uk or .ca might be a nice buy too.

Beyond that, there are some free tools that try to generate name permutations, like NameBoy, and a couple (fairly inexpensive) firms that do this were recently mentioned in the comments section on my interview of Frank Schilling. GrabaGoodDomain and PickyDomains cost from $50 to $100 (as of writing this).

Sites like Afternic, BuyDomains, Sedo, and Fabulous offer domains for sale for set prices, while SnapNames, Pool, TDNam, and Sedo (again) sell domains at auction. A couple years ago Mike Davidson wrote an article about buying expiring domain names.

At domain auctions the domains tend to typically go for fairly affordable prices. The .net and .org prices are fairly reasonable because many of the top auctions are based on some multiple of type in value. If the .com names seem a bit more mainstream they can get really expensive unless you have a strong monetization model or a large passive revenue stream. Frank Schilling mentioned that he paid 140x yearly earnings for SnoringCure.com, (over $8,000). Prices can vary widely though. A .net or .org or a URL with keywords in an alternate order may go way cheaper.

If you are creating a new word or brand it is best to get the .com of it, but if the .com is already registered and not much is being done with it yet you might be better off going with a .org or .net and using the price differential for site design, content development, and marketing.

Remember that once you start developing a name many of the associated costs (site design, content, market, etc.) are the same if you have a good name or a bad one. Eventually a good name should be able to pay for itself through lower recurring marketing costs.

Website Design

Some people are graphically inclined while being bad at coding. Working with a bad site design wastes time and may kill your interest in a project. Requiring the designer to produce quality workable code or turning design into a 2 step process might make it more manageable. You can pay one person to create the graphics and use a company like psd2html.com to convert the design into code can keep design costs low while keeping the code usable.

Themespress is a $10 service that can convert your code into a Wordpress blog template.

Another great design option is to just get a free blog template or free site template, then buy a logo from an affordable source. You can buy the logos from logo designers like The Logo Company or Logo Design Works, contests in design forums, or outsourcing sites like Elance or Scriptlance.

Content Development

Cloak Affiliate Links

By cloaking affiliate links through your .htaccess file or a PHP jump script it makes it easy to change affiliate partners if merchants change networks or payout levels.

Dynamic Development

I like using dynamic programing or server side includes to make it easy to change sections of a site without having to edit pages one page at a time. For example, many of my new sites have blank server side includes where the ads go. When the site gets some good traction ads magically appear.

Track Your Progress

Install a tracking script to track your progress to see what keywords you are ranking for and where you need to do more work. If certain sections of your site are more profitable than others make sure to over-represent them in your internal link profile.

How to Write Content:

You can find writers from sites like Craigslist, popular industry forums, look for local college students, or people who are already blogging about your topic. Six keys to profitable content development

  • use content as a marketing strategy: as noted here

  • segregate content quality: make sure features rock. make the other content good enough to pass a hand check and lead to conversions
  • grow your content in proportion to your link equity
  • don't display ads so aggressively that people will never link at your site
  • focus the content pages on inbound links and subscriber acquisition...show few ads on them
  • focus the conversion oriented pages on conversion :)


Use Gmail or some other service that makes it easy to tag, archive, and search your email. I have been a bit behind on email recently, but hope to be catching up in the next couple weeks.

Published: May 28, 2007 by Aaron Wall in internet


June 7, 2007 - 10:26am


Couldn't locate your email address on the site..

Have you ever used squeba.com?

I just found it and it has been useful with my seo tasks and the fact that I'm on all major search engines all day and night.

Just wanted to spread the word. Sorry I couldn't just email this to you.

SEO Architect

Mariusz Gasiewski
May 28, 2007 - 12:28pm

Great summary Aaron.

If certain sections of your site are more profitable than others make sure to over-represent them in your internal link profile.

Google Website Optimizer is great tool to do it. I am wondering why Google does not promote this tool as heavily as they do Google Analytics.

Adeel Shahid
June 8, 2007 - 2:04pm

Your post does reflect the overall scenario of how we should go about creating a web identity and managing it. Does reflect your experience and the long you have come from the start,

Adeel Shahid

May 28, 2007 - 9:18pm

Nice tips... For the Web development part I like Drupal (free CMS). It looks like that psd2html company can build Drupal themes also...

May 28, 2007 - 11:58pm

Very useful site! Simply and easy to understand written!

May 29, 2007 - 4:53am

I agree with you www, the article is well written and easy to understand .. you will never regret reading every post on this site :D thanks for sharing.

May 29, 2007 - 5:13pm

Track your progress software? Any suggestions on this?

May 29, 2007 - 7:01pm

Ditto on Mack's question. Any script suggestions or sources you'd recommend? Thanks!

May 30, 2007 - 4:11am

This is the most useful post I've read on the blog! Keep it up - tactica/something I can implement NOW is most important.

Bookmarked on Delicious!

May 30, 2007 - 2:10pm

My tip is to design all of the content into one very long template with all forms etc in place then i am positive the css works before splitting it down,. the client can review the content all in one and print the lot off to find typos etc... saves ages of hunting around later on.

June 10, 2007 - 7:20am

Yeah... and if you need a logo at a great price... try 50dollarlogos.com.


May 31, 2007 - 3:32am

For free open-source project tracking software try Active Collab. It's a free imitation of Basecamp.

Basecamp is also great, but it can get expensive and the data is on someone else's servers.

Madhavan M
May 31, 2007 - 6:31am

Crisp and very useful post

December 2, 2007 - 1:41pm

Hi all,

I have done the design. I want your feedback on the outlook.

Design was done by me and the conversion was done by my XHTML designer.

Here is the URL:

February 5, 2013 - 9:28am

If you like to convert PSD to HTML, PSD to Wordpress, HTML to Wordpress and PSD to Email. Try to check http://www.htmlguys.com, they have a good offer for converting.

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