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Are you thinking about creating your own website but have no clue where to start? You’ve come to the right place! Our beginner’s guide to building a website from scratch will walk you through the process step-by-step. Zero technology-related tantrums all but guaranteed.
But thanks to the advent of beginner-friendly website builders, as well as that DIY website building giant WordPress, even the most troglodytic of us can now, actually, do it ourselves.
Do You Need a Website?
Before you dive into our step-by-step beginner’s website-building-guide, you may be asking yourself this question round about now: “But do I actually need a website?”
Do you own a business? Do you need oxygen to breathe?
In other words, yes. You do. Think of your website as the oxygen giving your business life.
Consider this: back in 2014, 81% of people admitted to researching a business or service on the internet prior to making a purchase decision. (Adweek) Fast forward to 2019, and we see that the e-commerce industry was responsible for about $3.45 trillion in sales. (Hosting Facts)
What’s our point? If you have a business and are hoping to make money from it, be it directly or indirectly, you need a website.
Need more reasons? Here are 10:
- Your customers absolutely expect it. Remember those 81% of people doing their research online before purchasing? Well, 55% of them report that having a frustrating experience on a website hurts their opinion of a brand overall. (SuperOffice) The worst website experience of all? Yep, you guessed it: NO WEBSITE.
- Let Google find you. What’s that old saying? “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” Now let’s convert that to a world where the Internet rules, and Google rules the Internet. So, “If you don’t have a website which Google, and your customers, can find in searches does your business even exist?” Besides, if Google can’t find you, nobody can.
- All your competitors have one. Competitor 1, you 0.
- It provides proof of your legitimate, current, trustworthy existence – to both customers and Google.
- You can’t control a lot of things online – hello social media – but you can control your own website. It’s a great place to tell your story and at least start your narrative off on the right path.
- It’s a far more budget-friendly, speedy and effective way of getting your business, mission, and services and/or products out into the world to far more people. (Snail mail is so 1950s, plus, you know, snail.)
- A website allows your business to stay open for business 24/7, 365 days a year, without you yourself having to be there. It goes without saying that this can make for an excellent boost in sales, better marketing opportunities, improved customer service and brand building, and all-round better business opportunities that aren’t now limited by time constraints.
- It allows you to showcase your products and/or services to all of the people all of the time. Plus, you get to display them exactly how you want the world to see them.
- Why wouldn’t you have a website?
- These days it really is so much easier than you think. You don’t need extensive technical skills – in some cases not a single line of actual code will ever actually cross your line of vision. Plus, you know, Internet: we live in an age where answers to your every website-related question are just seconds away. Tech support, community forums, and the all-knowing Google make building your own site, and solving any issues you might come across, a doddle. And then there’s this very article you’re reading right now: your step-by-step beginner’s guide to building your own website. Boom.
Now that we’ve answered that question, quite emphatically we might add, we can move onto the actual steps of getting your business online and screaming into the 21st century. Better late than never.
Your 6-Step Guide to Building Your Own Website from Scratch
Anyone can learn how to make a website. No really. It’s as simple as purchasing web hosting and a domain name (in other words, your URL or “.com”), then creating the site itself using a site builder or WordPress.
Let’s break it down for you:
Step 1: Pick a domain name, then register it
Your domain name – which is essentially your website’s name – is that section of the URL, or online ‘address’, that identifies a web page.
Choosing your domain name:
Your domain name should reflect your business name, products or services so that your customers can easily find and identify your business through a search engine. A few tips to help you choose a domain name worth keeping:
- Make it relevant. (For example, if you sell dog food, don’t pick a domain name like www.welovecatfood.com. Sounds obvious, we know, but you’d be amazed at how many people try get tricky and/or silly with their domain names. Just don’t.
- Keep it short and easy to remember.
- Avoid numbers. They look spammy and are hard to remember.
Registering your domain name:
Once you’re sure about your domain name you can move on to registering it.
- You can register your domain name separately through a site like GoDaddy or Domain.com, but
- Most website builders offer to do it for you when you sign up with them – often times it’s ‘free’ or included in the price you pay for a ‘Premium’ package. (See Step 3.)
- Note: If you already have a domain name registered and are only now getting to building your site, don’t panic: you can transfer it to whatever website building platform you want to use – all good website builders will provide an option for this and walk you through the process.
- Similarly, if you later decide to move to a different website platform you can take your domain name with you. When you purchase a domain name – whether through your original website builder or a separate registrar like GoDaddy, that domain name is yours, you own it and can take it with you wherever you want.
Step 2: Choose a web hosting provider
A web hosting what now? A web hosting provider, or web host, is simply a service that connects your site to the Internet. In other words, without web hosting, your website will not be visible on the Internet. Think of your website as the electric plug, and the web host as the electrical outlet.
- Like domain name registration, hosting is included in most most website builder plans (see Step 3).
- Or you can choose to set up with a reputable web hosting service like Bluehost or Hostgator.
Step 3: Choose a web builder platform
You’d have to have been living under a rock to not have heard of WordPress by now. It’s by far and away the most used website platform online. It’s free, plus it offers a ton of customization options and opportunities for a truly magnificent website.
But with all that customization opportunity comes, well, choice. And with choice can come confusion. Which is why so many people, especially novices, are choosing to build their websites with website builders like Wix, Squarespace, Site123, Shopify and Weebly. Why? Because they make it really easy for you and are honestly the best and quickest way for techie beginners to get online.
Website builders take care of all the behind the scenes technical mumbo-jumbo for you, allowing you to simply focus on design and content. Whether you choose to build your site using their pre-built templates, or get creative using their intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces, if you can click a computer mouse, you can build a website with these builders!
Of course, different website builders serve different needs so you do need to choose your builder to match your website needs. Shopify, for example, is perfect for a business based on selling products.
Whichever builder you choose, know this: most offer either a free trial or a free plan so shop around before you buy. Take a few for a spin to see which work best for your business, your skill level, and your patience levels!
Step 4: Pick a design template or theme
Okay, so now you’ve got your domain, chosen your website builder, signed up for a plan, and got your web hosting in place. Buckle up: here comes the fun part!
It’s time to start creating your actual website. Don’t have a creative bone in your body? No worries: along with taking care of the techie ‘coding’ part of things for you, website builders also offer you a bunch of beautiful website templates to choose from.
These templates provide a framework for your website, across dozens of categories – shopping, portfolio, services, etc. Whatever the focus of your business and website, there is a template to match. The best part? Most of the templates offered by site builders are entirely customizable: you get to add your logos, brand colours, fonts and flavour at the click of a mouse. (Note: some of the ‘free’ plans offer very limited customization so it is worth spending a few bucks for a ‘premium’ plan. Most are truly affordable.)
Other customization options to consider playing with include but are not limited to:
- Adding new pages to your navigation
- Changing size, colours, and fonts of buttons and other elements
- Adding interactive elements like contact forms and menus
- Linking/embedding social media channels
Whichever template you choose, and however you choose to customize it, you will find that the good website builders, the ones we’ve mentioned here, make it super easy for you. Fun even. No. Really.
Step 5: Create your content
Now that it’s pretty, you need to add the meat and potatoes to your website. We’re talking about content. Text, images, videos, products, contact details. The things your customers came to your website to see and do.
To help you work out what pages to add to your site, think about what you want your customers to be able to do once they land on your website. It might be to buy products; contact you; gather information; learn more about your company. Then make sure your website delivers those things.
Key content elements to include:
- Contact details
- Physical address of your business (where relevant)
- Business hours (where relevant)
- An ‘About’ page
- A ‘Home’ page which makes it very clear to visitors exactly what it is your business does and offers.
Top content upload tips:
- Make sure your site and menu are easy to navigate and pages are easy to find.
- Make sure your site is mobile friendly. More than half of Google searches are carried out on mobile, and this number is only on the up. Making your mobile experience a good one is key! Most website builders make this easy for you by either doing it for you, or at least giving you the option to toggle between desktop view and mobile view to update content to match the screen size.
- Make sure to compress any images you upload to your site to ensure they load quickly and smoothly. Don’t know how? The Internet comes to the rescue again! Run them through a free website like TinyPNG.com and voila! It’s done.
- Make sure your content tells a compelling and clear story of who you are and what your business offers.
Step 6: Preview, Test, Publish
It’s done. Well done. Before you hit ‘Publish’ though, make sure you test, test, and test again!
Again, website builders make testing and previewing your site really, really easy. Usually you just have to hit the preview button in the editor mode to see what your website will look like once it goes out into the great big world wide web.
Things to check for:
- Does your site look good on both desktop (computer) and mobile screens? (As a reminder: most website builders offer a toggle so you can see how your site looks on a variety of different screen sizes.)
- Do all your menu items work?
- Are all the buttons on your site working? (If you have any.)
- Do all contact forms and downloads work? (If you have them.)
- Is all the spelling and grammar correct and consistent (US vs UK spelling throughout)?
- Does your site fulfill the purpose you want it to? I.e., will your customers find what they are looking for?
- Is your formatting consistent?
- Does your site load quickly? (If it takes longer than 4 seconds max you may as well not bother.)
Once you’re cross-eyed from looking at your site, get your friends, family and enemies to test it as well. Don’t be hurt and confused by their feedback. Use it to make your site better.
And you’re ready. Three, two, one, PUBLISH! (Now, don’t panic: it’s easy to make changes and edits to your site after you’ve published it. Note: some builders won’t let you switch templates after your site is live, but all other edits are a doddle.)
And that’s it. You’re done. Congratulations. Told you you could do it! And it hardly hurt at all.
Still feel completely overwhelmed and don’t feel up to the task of building a website yourself from scratch? There are still plenty of tech geeks out there making a living from doing just that because you are not alone. We have some right here at 1st on the List and we love to help: call 1-888-262-6687 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.