Evolution of Website Development in Kenya
Website development in Kenya has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. The very first websites came up in the early 1990’s when Tim Berners-Lee, an English computer scientist invented the World Wide Web (WWW).
At that time, websites were entirely text-based with few or no images. They used what we call table-based designs to create layouts that would display text and images. This is how the first website looked like.
In 1996, Macromedia invented flash – Macromedia Flash (later Adobe bought the company for $3.4B and renamed it to Adobe flash) and websites like Apple and Amazon Books (Now just Amazon) enhanced their online presence by doing their websites in the 90’s as well. Flash-based websites looked better than table-based websites.
Website development in Kenya became a thing in the 2000s when a few directories which have long died came up. Companies like Safaricom started their first interactive websites that looked very good (then) and were functional (good user experience (UX).
EABL was also not left behind. Their domain eabl.com was previously owned by someone else but was put on sale in 2004 for $3,550. It seemed that EABL acquired the domain and built its first site in 2005.
How to Build A Website in Kenya
There are many ways that you can build a website in Kenya starting from the Do it Yourself (DIY) methods to hiring a professional website developer to do your website.
Depending on the complexity of the website, you can choose to build your website from scratch or hire a professional website development company from the start. Sometimes you can kickstart the development and hire an expert to do the tech stuff later but sadly most website developers love doing their websites from scratch.
Do it Yourself (DIY) Website Development
There has been a lot of debate online on whether one should do their own website or hire a professional website development company to handle the job for them.
They say that a website is the business card of the digital age and it should be outstanding therefore it should be done by an experienced digital agency that knows what they are doing.
But sometimes one may not have the amount to hire a professional designer for their design project and they need something beginner to get started with. The biggest advantage of DIY website development is cutting down costs.
So, how do you get started in building your own website? First, you must know what type of website you are looking to build. Is it a small business website with the ‘Home, About, Services & Contact’ Pages? Or is it an e-commerce website where you would want to sell your products and/or services?
The website development in Kenya ecosystem has grown into a hybrid of all types and nature of websites: basic websites, corporate websites, bespoke websites, e-commerce websites, blogs, landing pages etc.
After you have identified your niche, you will be able to select the best DIY platform to use. There are tons of companies out there that offer Websites as a Service (WaaS). DIY in website development is simply you building & managing your website on a platform that is easy to use and all the technical stuff is handled by the company providing the service.
In this article, I will only cover the platforms that will give you a website URL, mostly as a subdomain of the parent company e.g. webdesignkenya.wordpress.com and those that host you.
WordPress.com (Most Popular)
WordPress powers 62% of all websites that use a Content Management System (CMS). Approximately 455 Million Websites run on WordPress. It is the go-to platform when one wants to do DIY website development. Most website developers in Kenya use WordPress CMS.
Website development in Kenya has WordPress as its backbone. This is because it is so simple to use and you can build literally any type of website with it. WordPress became the most popular blogging platform after Google Blogger and most people came to know WordPress as a blogging platform.
There is a big difference between wordpress.com & wordpress.org. WordPress.com offers Websites As A Service (WaaS) but WordPress.org is a standalone Content Management System (CMS) that you install in your host.
In short, you build your website on wordpress.com but download WordPress as a standalone app on wordpress.org. So if you want to DIY your own website go to wordpress.com create an account and start developing your site. You will get a .wordpress URL all for free. Alternatively, you can buy a domain straight from the site and map it to your website.
- A wide range of themes
- Easy to set up
- Easy Maintenance
- Great social media integration
- Your visitors will be served with ads
- You are not allowed to have a custom domain name in the free version
- You cannot sell ads on your website
- You cannot create an e-commerce site
- You cannot install plugins
- You cannot integrate MPESA in wordpress.com but you can in wordpress.org
Wix (Easiest To Use)
Of all DIY website development platforms, wix.com is undoubtedly the easiest to use. Beginner developer doing website development in Kenya have probably tried it. Wix is a feature-packed editor and most call it the Rolls-Royce of website builders.
With Wix, you can even create your logo, integrate custom illustrations in your design, create a membership platform, and even have a booking platform in the site. With all these features, it also has its shortcomings.
- Beautiful interface
- A looot of templates
- All under one roof (All solutions in one – you can create a blog, an SME, an E-commerce website etc.)
- Automatic Site Backups
- You can integrate MPESA as a payment option
- The starter plan will serve ads on your site
- They do not have unlimited bandwidth on any plan so you can not build bandwidth-heavy site on it
- You need a paid plan to access analytics
- Support is not as good
- Their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not as good
Shopify (Best For E-commerce)
According to ecommercedb.com, Kenya is the 54th largest market for eCommerce in the World. It generated a revenue of US$1.7 billion in 2021. A lot of e-commerce websites have mushroomed in the recent years some of which were made by page builders.
If you are looking to sell, you have all the time to explore a website builder and have got no budget to hire a digital agency you can easily create a Shopify site.
For the longest time, you couldn’t pay via local payment methods e.g. MPESA in Shopify but they recently announced that they have partnered with leading payment gateways in Kenya.
Most website developers in Kenya thought that that would be the end of their hustle as the lucrative market of e-commerce websites in Kenya will be lost to the creative DIY Kenyans forgetting that Shopify also has its pros and cons.
- Very simple to use
- A wide range of storefront themes
- You can integrate MPESA as a payment method
- Beautiful User Interface (UI)
- It has its own app store so one can add app extensions as well
- Amazing support
- Quite expensive
- Customization limitations
- It is only customized for selling products
- Migrating to another store is hard
Squarespace (Best for Creatives)
Well, if you see a website builder being advertised by Idris Elba & Keanu Reeves then they must be very rich or they are targeting a certain type of people.
In my opinion, Squarespace’s homepage is scary for a beginner. The dark mode can make someone go nuts. Started in 2004, Squarespace now powers over 2.8 million websites (builtwith.com – July 2022)
You can create a blog, a business site, a portfolio site or an e-commerce site using Squarespace website builder. It has got its own pros and cons though.
- A wide range of sophisticated themes
- Mobile App – You can edit your website using a mobile app
- Good support
- The editor can be a bit complicated
- Customization limitations
- Some sources have noted that Squarespace templates have had low ratings in Google Page Speed Tool which can be detrimental in SEO
- Doesn’t accept MPESA as an official payment method
Weebly (Also quite popular)
Edging to e-commerce, Weebly is another site-builder that will enable you to sell your products online. It can also be used to create other websites like business websites but it is not optimized for blogging.
Weebly was started in 2002 and is now available in 11 languages.
- Easy to use
- Amazing and flexible themes
- Has a mobile app which you can edit your site with
- It has an app center where you can download add-ons to increase your website capability
- It is easy to move to another platform
- Users on free and starter plan cannot access support. You need to pay more for help
- Not good for blogging
- You cannot integrate MPESA as a payment option
- SEO functionality is limited
Hiring A Professional Website Developer
If DIY is not your thing, you may decide to hire a website developer. There are quite a number of website developers in Kenya who can do you an incredible website and one of them are the award-winning Brait Consulting Limited.
Most Kenyans have been disappointed by website developers in Kenya and have ended up outsourcing other professionals from global sites like Fiverr. In some situations, it is hard to avoid the Kenyan website developer due to some localization that may be needed for your website.
You may need to get a website developer in Kenya to handle your local payment integrations like MPESA and also advise you on the behavioral nature of clients based on their years of experience.
You may also need someone to resolve your downtime and website amendment issues in real-time rather than having to create tickets online for a foreigner to resolve your issues.
A great tip to you in hiring a professional website developer in Kenya is that you should not just factor in the costs. Cheap can also be very expensive. 50% of our clients were either scammed, got websites that never worked, or just had the bad UX ever.
Do your due diligence about a company, go thorough, and check whom they have worked for before. Feel free to ask them which project they did for the clients they listed on their site. You can read more on tips on how to choose the best website developer in Kenya from this link.
How Much Does Website Development Cost in Kenya?
How much does a website really cost in Kenya? Is there a definitive guide, a roadmap, or a range? Suppose I wanted to buy jeans in Kenya, would there be a range of the cost of buying jeans in Kenya? Or if I want to buy a soundbar, is there a range for the same?
Most products have got a range of pricing but the service industry defies this norm. A bottle of soda in a downtown cafe is way cheaper than a bottle of soda in a 6-star hotel. The same soda, same branding, and same packaging can be sold at entirely different pricing depending on who is selling it and where it is being sold.
Website development is simply a service that varies in price depending on who is developing the website for you. There is no range of how much a landing page costs e.g. Brait Consulting will charge you top dollar for a 5-page (or less) website but the returns are immense.
You will have a responsive design that will really improve how your clients interact with your website. The website is designed to the pixel for different desktop resolutions, tablets & mobile. You will have a fluid design that scales to any device on this planet.
The same website will not be just about the looks (User Interface – UI) but also the User Experience (UX) will be incredible. We simply ask, “What is the use of a beautiful button which doesn’t work?” You will have an incredible digital presence from an established premium website development company.
For sure, that company cannot charge you less for hardening your website’s security, speeding up your website by optimizing every single image before upload, installing Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), and caching your files.
The same company cannot also do you a comprehensive contract that protects you and them from things like image copyright issues, give you and take you through a smooth onboarding process and expect them to charge like the sole proprietor who is just a call away.
Established businesses have had to pay hefty fines for copyrighted images their developer just downloaded from the internet and since there was no existing contract shielding the client from such, they undergo crazy losses.
Most of our clients are referrals who have been scammed before or had fights with previous website developers who sabotaged their projects and since they owned their domain and hosting, the client had to start from scratch.
They say cheap is expensive. Well, mostly that is the case is but that’s not entirely true. You may have an incredibly great professional website developer who do not know how to price their product. The website development in Kenya ecosystem mostly relies on referrals.
Most people think that because a certain website developer created a small business website for them, they can also create them an ECommerce Website. Well, that’s not the case, websites also vary in technologies used and skill. Always do your due diligence.
Costs to Keep In Mind During Website Development
There are three major elements that every website has. These elements are; domain, hosting & content. The three elements are what make a website and they all equally work together to ensure that your digital presence is unmatched.
A domain is simply your website name. It is that address that you put in your browser. It is that www.mycompany.com you identify your company with. It is also called a URL (Uniform Resource Locator).
There is something else called a Domain Name System (DNS). A computer works in ones and zeros, it doesn’t recognize names as we do. Previously, to visit a website you needed to know a website’s IP address e.g. 162.254.043.xxx
The Domain Name System (DNS) maps domain names into IP addresses. Every device connected to the internet has a unique IP address. Browsers use the Domain Name System to translate the domain name to an address so that it can load internet pages.
Where do domains come from?
In 1988, a non-profit organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was formed to coordinate the maintenance and management of the DNS. All domains are sourced from ICANN or its licensed registrars.
What is The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA)
The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is a department of ICANN. It is the body that globally allocated IP Addresses to Internet Service Providers and root zone management in the DNS.
What are top-level domains? (TLDs)
Top Level Domains are the domain names in the highest level of domain registrations. They were the first domain names to be availed by ICANN and are still the most popular. e.g. .com, .org, and .net. Anyone can register such domains.
What are generic top-level domains (gTLDs)
Other TLDs e.g. .studio, .biz, .dentist, .club, .accountant, .info, .agency etc came about, they are called gTLDs. The list of gTLDs is growing day by day. The public can register gTLDs.
What are sponsored top-level domains (sTLDs)
There are other not-so-popular domain extensions like .edu, .int e.g. (who.int), e.g. .gov (for US Government), .mil (for US Military) these are called sponsored TLDs. They cannot be registered by a normal user.
What are GeoTLDs
You might also have come across domains like .asia, .africa, .london, .berlin etc. These are called geographic TLDs. Anyone can register a GeoTLD.
What are country code top-level domains? (ccTLDs)
You may be aware of the .ke or .co.ke domain extensions. These are what we call country code top-level domains as they are specific to a specific country. When you want to target your website to a specific country, you can buy a ccTLD.
Where Can I get a Kenyan Domain?
Every country has an entity licensed by ICANN to register country domain names. In Kenya, that body is called KENIC. KENIC as the country’s registrar comes up with something we may call Second Level Domains (SLDs) e.g. co.ke, .ac.ke, . or.ke, .mobi.ke etc
KENIC also sub-licenses domain registrars e.g. Kenya Web Experts, SasaHost, East Africa Directory, and the like who sell domains to the end user.
How much does a domain cost in Kenya?
A domain is a product and it is generally easy to quantify a product’s price range. A .com, .org, .net and a .biz will cost anything between KES 1,000 – KES 1,500 and the same price for renewals or transfers to another registrar.
A Kenyan Second Level Domain (SLD) .co.ke, .or.ke, .info.ke, .sc.ke etc will cost anything from KES 1,000 to KES 2,500 for first-time purchases and KES 1,300 – 3,000 for renewals depending on where you buy the domain from. Transferring most Kenyan domains is free.
You may see some registrars selling domains for as low as KES 300 or sometimes they may offer it for free. They actually do not acquire them for free. They just do their maths knowing that if they give you a free domain, you may require somewhere to host.
Buying the domain is not the end of having the website. Consider yourself buying a beautiful door. That door will not be helpful if you do not have a house to put the door to. Well, a domain is that door, and hosting is the house.
Web Hosting is basically your online house where your website files are stored and a domain is a door to your house. It is through the domain that you access your hosting.
Web Hosting in Kenya is offered by very many companies some of whom add free domains whenever you purchase hosting from them. You may have seen the keywords, ‘best web hosting in Kenya’, ‘cheapest web hosting in Kenya’ or ‘affordable web hosting in Kenya.’
Do you go for hosting because it is cheap? Are there different types of hosting? How do I know what hosting is good for my website?
There are different types of hosting. Some cater for big websites, some are for entry-level/beginner websites, some can be CMS-based e.g. WordPress Hosting or one would simply want to have emails sent through their domain (Email Hosting). Let’s go through some of the most popular hosting options.
This is the most popular and most affordable type of hosting. It is the best choice for entry-level/beginner websites. Shared hosting simply means that your website will be sharing resources like CPU, RAM, Storage, IP Address & Bandwidth with other websites on the same server.
Having shared hosting is like renting out single rooms with shared resources like toilets, bathrooms, corridors, and common areas.
2. You do not need to be a techie to manage your website
3. No headache in server administration & maintenance
1. Limited Bandwidth
2. Limitless Storage Space
3. If other websites on the same server consume lots of resources they may affect yours as well
4. If the shared IP Address is blacklisted, you are also affected
5. Supports only certain environments & Programming languages
Who is Shared Hosting for?
Shared hosting from reliable hosts can be very effective. Shared hosting is for persons who are getting started with hosting their small or entry-level websites. Small businesses and bloggers can really get effective service from shared hosting.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
A virtual private server simply means that you have your own virtual server in a big physical server that hosts several other virtual servers. You share the physical hardware but you have more control of your resources like bandwidth, RAM, storage etc.
With a VPS, you are even allocated IP Addresses (Most hosting companies give you 2) and you are now in control of most of your website’s resources. A VPS is like renting out an apartment where everyone has got their own house with their own resources but they share the main building and its infrastructure like elevators
1. You have root access to the server
2. More stable and scalable
3. Dedicated server space
4. You can install any software you want
5. Faster loading speeds and higher uptimes
1. Difficult to set up and maintain if you do not have a managed plan
2. You will still be sharing the physical server with other websites
3. Still has some limitations
4. Requires you to be a little techy
Who is VPS Hosting for?
VPS Hosting is for bigger or medium-sized websites that do not want any downtime with their site. It is best for websites that have outgrown shared hosting resources.
Cloud hosting is your website hosted on several servers on the internet. It is best for medium and enterprise websites that are rapidly growing and one wants to test their scalability.
The best thing with cloud hosting is that your website will be on multiple servers therefore you won’t experience downtimes. With cloud hosting, you pay for what you use this is because it provides for instant provisioning and de-provisioning or resources to accommodate your website’s requirements.
1. It is scalable – provides and de-provides resources on demand
2. High Security
3. Pay-per-use pricing
4. On-demand access to resources
1. Limited Customization
2. Cloud expertise required
3. Shared security responsibilities
Who is Cloud Hosting For?
Cloud hosting is for websites that have varying traffic and are intermittent in resource requirements.
Dedicated hosting is the creme de la creme of all hosting. When you have dedicated hosting, it means that you won’t be sharing any resource with any website. You will be ‘your own man’ but as they say to whom much is given much is expected, you must have some knowledge in tech stuff.
Just like a VPS, you can choose if your server should be fully managed, partially managed, or unmanaged. You will add an extra fee should you choose the host to manage your server. Having a dedicated server is like having your own mansion with your own compound, gate, and fence where the whole house is your sole responsibility.
1. Complete server control
2. Higher uptimes and speeds
3. High security as your website is run on your own server
4. Improved privacy
1. Most expensive
2. Technical knowledge is required to administer the server
3. You are responsible for everything in running the server
4. Frequent maintenance and upkeep is needed
Who is Dedicated Hosting For?
Dedicated hosting is for enterprise-level websites, typically websites that receive more than 100,000 visits every month and those that generate the income to afford the server.
Websites like very popular blogs with very high traffic and big e-commerce sites run on such servers.
WordPress is the most used Content Management System (CMS) in the world and over time, websites with WordPress installations have suffered lots of cybercrimes.
WordPress websites also need some upkeep and require some maintenance to ensure that they load optimally. There are too types of WordPress Hosting.
Shared WordPress Hosting
This is basically a normal shared hosting but optimized for WordPress CMS e.g. enhanced security, backups, and cache.
Managed WordPress Hosting
This means that your WordPress installation is managed by your host. It means that things like plugin updates, WordPress version updates, anti-malware scans, backups and security is managed by your host.
Who is WordPress Hosting For?
Just from the word, WordPress hosting is simply for people who use the WordPress CMS for their websites.
Just as the name suggests reseller hosting is basically selling hosting to clients. This is done by agencies, web designers & developers. This basically involves reselling hosting from the main hosting company.
With reseller hosting, most of the process is automated; the software is mostly set up and you run on autopilot as the seller of hosting.
1. The backend process is mostly managed automated
2. You do not need to be a techie
3. You can increase resources based on server needs
1. Most configurations are controlled by your host
2. Most resources are still shared with other resellers on the same server thus not as reliable
Choosing The Best Website Hosting in Kenya
Most people have the tendency of looking for cheap hosting because they are saving on costs. Others also love going for the most expensive thinking that expensive is reliable. Well, I advise that you first do your background search on the hosting company.
At the most basic level, a serious website developer should have a fast website themselves. Can you really be in abundance of something but yourself you are in lack? Can you sell amazing food but you are starving? Can you be the name in the real estate industry but you live in a shack?
For starters at the most basic level, check your host’s website speed. Go to www.gtmetrix.com and put in the host’s URL and test its speed.
The next thing to check is when the company has been. How long have they been in the market? You can check it using WHOIS website tools. I find the Godaddy WHOIS tool amazing as it also works for local domains.
Look for when that domain was registered or when their parent company has been selling hosting in the market as the domain they might be selling hosting in may be a new trademark.
The next thing to check is what they offer in their packages. In my experience, most beginner websites are barely 1 GB in size. Actually, most small business websites are usually 200-500MB in size.
E-commerce websites we have made rarely go past 1GB if their photos are well optimized and in the latest .webP image file extension. Most Kenyan clients are attracted by disk space which they will utilize just 5-10% of it.
The next thing I advise people to check is bandwidth. There is NOTHING and there will NEVER be anything like unlimited bandwidth. I cannot put a website that receives 500,000 monthly visits on shared hosting and I get unlimited bandwidth.
If one website eats the resources similar to 100 others, it should not be priced just the same as one of those. Unlimited bandwidth is a hoax. If I have 1,000 goats on my farm of all different ages, weights, and sizes I cannot sell all of them at the same price.
So what is good bandwidth? Bandwidth depends on the number of pages on your website, the size of your pages on your website, and the average number of monthly visitors. Bluehost has written a comprehensive article about this.
The other thing to check is their software versions. Most hosting companies install lower unsupported versions of software and that will make your website vulnerable to attacks. For example, I saw a top hosting company in Kenya offering a special hosting plan with PHP versions 5.5 to 7.2 which are all unsupported.
It is sad that they didn’t offer the currently supported versions of PHP 8.0 – 8.1 or even the version PHP 7.4 whose active support ended in November 2021 and security support is ending in November 2022. It is always to get information directly from the PhP website on which versions are supported.
It is weird that they even say that they offer a hardened version of PHP 5.5. Well, you cannot put an iron gate on a mud house, can you?
The next thing to look for is support. Are they available? Whenever you have support needs, can they be there for you? Support is very key in the hosting business and every client would need support in their hosting challenges.
Well, there you have it, all you need to know before you do website development in Kenya. Do you need incredible website development and reliable hosting? Why don’t you contact us today?