I’m ready to build a website! Where do I begin?
Congratulations on deciding to build your own website! Not only will you find a deep sense of satisfaction from learning this new skill and implementing it, but you will also have a final result that will produce many interesting and exciting challenges for years to come.
Running your own website is a little like running a business. There are many considerations you have to make about what it will look like, what content you will provide, who your audience will be, and how to market it. It is no wonder that many people decide to make a career out of building and operating websites.
Your journey begins with a not-so-simple choice: what website building platform should I use?
What is a website building platform?
A website building platform is a piece of software that you will you to construct, edit, and manage your website. There are many options available to choose from and finding the right one for not only the needs of your site, but also for your technical level takes some consideration.
Not long ago building a website required some major coding skill sets. People lacking a working knowledge of HTML, CSS, and Flash simply could not create a website that provided meaningful content and great design. This changed with the advent of website builders.
Website builders are designed for people like you and me to make it extremely easy to create amazing looking websites that can perform countless functions using add-ons and apps. They do not require you to write a single line of code and generally feature user interfaces that present your website during the building process exactly as it will appear once published. This removes the trial and error process typically associated with coding.
Is a website builder right for me?
Website builders are perfect for just about anyone… Seriously! This is because they have advanced to such a degree that they are now capable of serving as blogs, portfolio websites, business pages, and even online shops. Still don’t believe us? What if we told you that corporations like Tesla, Wikipedia, and even Google use website builder platforms? Not bad, right? If you want to know more about the platforms your favorite websites are using, check out BuiltWith.
Website builders are capable of doing things that would have been impossible for an average user to do just a few years ago. Even professional web designers have begun to feel the squeeze of these amazingly powerful and useful platforms.
Maybe I should just hire a professional web designer…
Some people may read through all of the pros of building their own website using a website builder and still be tempted to simply hire someone else to do it for them. This is understandable, but, for most people, a mistake.
The cost of a professionally designed website can start at around $2,000 — and that’s just for something on the lower end. Additional features that may be considered high end can run for thousands of dollars more. And that’s just the initial cost.
Throughout the lifespan of your website, you will need to make edits, design changes, and content additions. Every time you pick up the phone to call your developer, you might as well pull your credit card out as well. All this without mentioning the potential wait times you will endure if you happen to choose someone with a busy schedule.
A website builder is likely enough to cover everything you might want to do with your website. We would obviously recommend an entire team of designers for the Facebooks and Twitters of the world, but for newbies like us, a professionally designed website that’s also FREE seems like the much better option.
But I need a website that looks really good!
What if we told you that you can have your own website designed by a foremost industry expert? One that creates a user experience based on thousands of data points and research to ensure that it is highly usable? Sounds expensive, doesn’t it? Thanks to website builders like Wix, you can actually have all that and more for free.
The ability for these companies to provide users with professional themes lies in both the extent of their user base and their desire to be able to help everyone create beautiful websites. It’s a win-win proposition and because each template is also fully customizable, no site looks the same, despite being created from the same form.
The top website builders offer users hundreds of themes that are both modern and responsive. This means that they will automatically enable your website to be viewed on any platform, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
You mean I can get a professionally designed website without spending a dime?
We sure do!
Website builders operate on a model where everything is free, including the use of the website designer, hundreds of website themes and templates, and once-premium features like forums, videos, and mobile-ready websites – something that is crucial in an age where mobile has overtaken desktop computing.
You may be waiting for the catch at this point, but there really isn’t one. The model exists because it has been so successful at generating users and keeping them for years. This is achieved by allowing you to use a proprietary platform and then selling hosting and domain services at competitive rates.
Speaking of competition, thanks to the fact that there are so many website builders on the market, you can rest assured that any costs you incur will be aggressively priced according to the demands of the market.
What is a host and why do I need one?
A host is where the data that makes up your website lives, just as your computer’s hard drive stores all of your documents, videos, and pictures. The only difference is that nobody can access your hard drive, whereas a host stores your data on a server which is accessible to anyone who desires to see it. With that, it should be obviously as to why you need a host.
At this point you may be wondering where to find a host. The good news is that if you use a website builder, it will act as a one-stop-shop for all of your website creation needs. This includes storing your site on their private servers and even helping you choose your own domain name.
What is a domain name and how do I get one?
A domain name is your address on the internet. This website, for example, can be accessed by typing in the domain ‘www.website-builders.com’ into any internet browser. The domain name actually takes the place of a complicated series of digits called an IP address.
The “true” identifier of this website is actually ‘126.96.36.199’, but nobody wants to have to remember that. You can think of a domain as clicking a contact on your smartphone instead of having to dial their number.
You can get a domain name when you sign up for any website builder. If you opt for a completely free website, you can usually piggyback your name onto the website builder’s domain name (ie ‘example.example.com’), but we recommend spending the money on getting your own domain to both give your site authority and be easier to remember (ie ‘example.com’).
What are some good domain names to consider?
If you decide to purchase your own domain name, you have to make a few considerations before you dive in.
- If you’re a business, make your domain name the name of your business. This is obvious enough to understand, but sometimes users may be tempted to abbreviate or simplify and that can confuse longtime customers.
- Keep it brief and easy to write. Instead of ‘thebestwebsitebuilderreviewsintheuniverse.com’, we chose ‘Website-Builders.com’ because it is concise and easy to remember. It also spells out the words exactly as they would appear in an English dictionary. Of course, sites like Tumblr forgo a vowel but getting users to remember that took millions of marketing dollars.
- Create something memorable. Some of the best websites have names that are memorable, either because they make use of an interesting or clever word or because they convey the purpose of a website clearly.
- Go with a standard extension. You may have heard of common extensions like ‘.com’, ‘.org’, and ‘.edu’, but did you know that there are dozens of other extensions like ‘.dog’, ‘.bike’, and ‘.pizza’? You may not have known this because very few people use them and despite being more interesting, they are more difficult to recall for the average user.
That’s quite a lot to consider for a simple name, but remember that you will constantly be sharing and typing this name out, so make sure you choose the right one! You can also check out a domain name generator for some inspiration.
How do I add new content to my website?
If you want to make functional or visual changes to your website, a builder can help you do that quickly. Simply log into your account and you will be directed to your page editor. From there you can make changes in the same way you did when you first built the website. Adding new sections and pages is a breeze and can be done with the click of a button.
Bloggers need not worry either, as the best website builders offer excellent content editing and management tools that allow you to simply write your latest article and create new links and pages for them. This means that all you have to do is create the content and the builder software will take care of the rest.
Remember to find a website builder that offers content editing features that meet your needs. Content is the lifeblood of any successful website and if adding new content frequently is complex you will quickly be frustrated.
How do I know when I’m ready to launch my website?
The best way to build a website is to do so with a goal in mind. If you are creating a simple website to promote your business, for example, make sure it tells visitors everything they need to know. This may include location, contact information, and some background information. Once you are confident that you have achieved your goal you should ask others for feedback.
While sometimes things may appear obvious or unnecessary to you, an outsider might be able to pick up on omissions of mistakes. It is always a good idea to have one person or many people check your work.
How do I get people to visit my site?
Once your website is completed and online, you will probably want to get visitors for as the saying goes, if a website doesn’t get visitors, does it really exist?
The first thing you may be inclined to do is share your work with everyone in your personal, professional, and social media circles. This is actually a great idea and a really good way to get the attention of the people you care about most. You may get some regular visitors out of that, but the real measure of success and satisfaction comes from visitors you don’t know from countries across the globe.
The first step to getting visitors is to create content people care about. This doesn’t mean you have to write about what everyone else is writing about or that you cannot create a niche website. In fact, the opposite is true. Content that is unique and interesting will always have an audience of eager followers.
Once you have some visitors, you can begin a domino effect by encouraging them to share your work on their social media accounts. You can request this by including social sharing buttons or by simply asking outright. If the content is good, you should have no problem getting readers to share it with others. By getting others to share your site, you are opening your site to vast amounts of new readers in the same way you managed to do when you first completed your website.
Once you’ve mastered the art of the share, you may look into more aggressive measures of getting the word out about your website. One of the most common ways of promoting websites is through advertisements on search engines and social networks. Sites like Google and Facebook allow you to place ads that will only be seen by individuals most likely to be interested in what your site has to say. Many people find success using this technique.
There are also investments you can make which will provide more lasting results, the most common of which is Search Engine Optimization.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, refers to the ranking that your website will have on the results page of a search engine like Google or Bing for various keywords. If you think of it like an old-fashioned phone book, many businesses used names like “A1 Electricians” in order to have their listings appear first. In that same vein, website owners create content that is more likely to show up in specific searches.
A keyword refers to the word or string of words input by a user in a search engine. This can range from short tail (ie “website builders) to long tail (ie “where can I find the best website builders?). The algorithms employed by search engines are intelligent enough to analyze all of the indexed websites on the internet and decide which will best answer user questions.
This is why creating not just good content, but relevant content is key. Good content is measured by the questions it helps to answer, the quality of the writing, and the density of each article. There are other factors that help determine this as well.
If your site is truly useful, it will not only be shared on social media, but used as a reference on other websites which will link to yours. You can publish articles in hopes that they will be referenced at some point by other websites, or you can make sure they get published by taking your own measures. These can include simply notifying another site owner of your website and even writing guest content for them.
It is here where SEO begins to resemble traditional PR marketing and the more you learn about the skill, the deeper the rabbit hole gets. While it is impossible to cover every detail of SEO, your site will be well served if you perform even the minimal amount.
What’s this WordPress thing I keep hearing about?
WordPress.org is a free content management system (CMS) that is one of the most relied upon website platforms on the internet. Although it is generally thought of as easy to use, it does require more knowledge to master than a website builder. The tradeoff, however, is a more functional and expandable website that can be hosted on any server and moved at any time.
WordPress begins to test your technical prowess from the start. Unlike website builders, which contain their software on an easy to access site and provide an all-in-one approach, WordPress requires users to download their website creation tool and upload it to a host manually.
Once WordPress is uploaded onto your host, you may need to go into your page source and edit pages and files. After this is completed you can access the WordPress user interface and choose to create your website using a library of literally thousands of themes, templates, plugins and more.
The popularity of WordPress has come as a result of how dynamic the software is. It can handle any kind of site, using any layout, and any framework. Because it allows users to access the backend of their website, it is more customizable than a typical website builder. This all, of course, relies on some coding knowledge.
If you plan on using WordPress in the most basic way possible, you may opt for a WordPress hosted site. WordPress.com offers the ease of a website builder, with the functionality of the WordPress platform. Keep in mind, however, that there are fewer expansion options than WordPress.org, it’s beefier, more complex brother.
Is WordPress right for me?
Adding WordPress to the website builder mix can muddle the website building process. After all, it isn’t exactly a website builder, yet might just be tempting enough to, at the very least, play around with and get to know a little bit better.
If you are truly a beginner, we recommend using a website builder. If you are a more advanced user, website builders are still a good way to go, but you may want to check out WordPress. If you are simply looking for a greater challenge or more options than those offered by website builders and don’t mind a lot of learning, you should definitely give WordPress a shot.
This website stuff is tough!
As we said originally, running a website is like running a business. There are so many factors that go into it that you may want to keep a checklist that you constantly refer to and update as you learn more. Once you get the hang of it, however, you will create a flow and begin to notice consistent growth.
If you want to learn more about website builders, website creation, or website promotion, we would love to chat! Until then, we wish you the best of luck on your journey.