how to build a website from scratch

You’re here because you want to build a website. Luckily, building a website is much easier than it used to be.

What used to take months and months of work can now be done in a single afternoon. Even if you’ve never built a website before, you can quickly build a professional website, all with the help of a website builder.

But, building a website requires more than just choosing the right website builder. There are a few foundational steps you’ll want to complete to help ensure the success of your site. Jumping in without a plan is a surefire way to get overwhelmed by the process.

Below you’ll learn about the different types of sites you can build, how to plan your website, and finally, how to build a website from scratch without having to touch a single line of code.

drag and drop website builder

Why Build a Website?

There are plenty of reasons to build a website. Whether you have an idea for a new personal website, want to showcase your passion, start a blog, highlight your portfolio, build an eCommerce website, or create a website for your existing business, it couldn’t be easier to start a new site. And best of all, you don’t have to be an experienced web designer to make one.

Just a few years ago building a site was an intensive process. You either had to spend time learning to code yourself or hire a website developer to turn your vision into reality for you.

But today, with the help of intuitive website builders the process is incredibly simple. Even if you’ve never built a website before, or even registered a domain name, you can have a website online in a single afternoon, if not sooner.

Overall, the length of time it’ll take to build your website will depend upon the type of site you’re building. A simple 3-page website will be much faster to build than an eCommerce site that’s selling dozens of products.

Step 1: Determining Your Niche

The first step in website building is determining what kind of site you’re going to build. The approach you’re going to take to start a blog will be different than building a site for a physical storefront.

Review the questions below to determine what kind of site you’re going to build. This will help you save time over the long run and ensure you’re building the right kind of site the first time around.

Who’s Your Audience?

Every successful website serves a specific audience. By taking the time to understand exactly who your audience is first you’ll improve your chances of creating a successful site.

However, you won’t have to do this if you’re creating a simple website that you have no intention of building a business around. For example, maybe you’re creating a personal blog so you can practice writing in public, or you’re creating a simple one-page site for fun.

But, if you want to grow and monetize your website, then you’ll want to place a focus on your target audience.

Spend time browsing through other sites in your niche and attempt to infer the kind of audience they’re serving. Why do they like certain content types?  Why are some forms of content more popular than others?

You can also head over to a tool called Buzzsumo to find the most shared content related to your niche. This can give you an idea of what your audience likes to consume and directions you can take with your site.  

use buzzsumo to find popular content related to your website niche

How Are You Serving Them?

Once you know who you’re serving, it’s time to figure out the best way to do that. For example, maybe you’ve found that your niche loves video content. In that case, you’ll build a site that’s oriented towards videos. Or maybe you’ve uncovered a ton of related eCommerce products you can sell, in that case, you’ll want to build a site that has eCommerce capabilities.

Spend time browsing through other sites in your niche to get an idea of certain site elements you’ll want to include.

Maybe you’ve found a similar site that you love the layout of, or you like the type of messaging they use on their site. As you browse through competitor sites take note of the things you like and other elements you think you could improve upon.

All of this will come in handy during the design phase.

Step 2: Planning Your New Website

Now that you know the type of site you’re going to build, let’s do some basic planning that’ll help to accelerate the site building process.

Below you’ll get a basic feel for the elements that make up a professional website. Get these elements right and your site will stand head and shoulders above your competition.

Site Structure

Most websites look and function the same. It can be tempting to buck trends and create something wholly unique, but you’ll do yourself a disservice in doing so.

Most users have certain expectations in mind when visiting a website. They expect certain website elements to be where they should be. The last thing you want is to confuse and overwhelm your visitors the moment they land on your website.

Basic website elements include:

  • An easy to use navigation bar, typically at the top of the site
  • Homepage text and a sidebar, or no sidebar at all
  • Logical site organization that lets users intuitively move from page to page

The theme you choose should take care of your initial site organization. It can be tempting but try not to stray too far from the initial build. These templates are created by professional designers and developers and have web design best practices built in.

Essential Website Pages

The number of pages your site has will differ depending on the type of site you’re building. But generally, most sites will have the following website pages, no matter the niche:

  • Homepage. This is the first page your visitors will see. It should be simple, concise, and immediately tell your visitor’s what your site is about.
  • About page. Your about page is your chance to establish a relationship with your visitors. It’s commonly one of the most popular pages on your site, so you’ll want to spend time creating quality copy that draws your readers in, tells them what you’re about, and speaks directly to their needs and how you’re uniquely qualified to solve them.
  • Services/product page. This will look different depending on what you’re selling and the niche you’re in. However, most sites (unless it’s purely for personal use) will have one of these pages, if not multiple.
  • Contact page. Depending on the type of site you’re creating you’ll probably want to make it easy for your visitors to contact you. This can be through a contact form, an email address, or even your phone number or Skype address.
  • Blog page. Most sites will be able to find some value in maintaining a regular blog. Some sites are purely content-based, while others will be able to use the blog as a means to provide value to your visitors and improve search engine rankings.

Keep in mind that most website building software will take care of the basic website layout for you. Once you select a theme or a template, this will form the foundation for the rest of your site. However, by knowing what other pages you want to add, and what site elements you’ll want to include you’ll be able to speed up the process and avoid wasting time when creating your site.

Step 3: Choosing Your Website Building Platform

By now you’ve determined the type of site you’re going to build, and you have a plan of attack for the website elements and pages you’re going to create.

Now, it’s time to choose the right tool to help you build your website. As a beginner you’ll have a ton of different options at your disposal, from website builders to content management systems, and more.

One of the easiest ways to build your site will be using the GATOR website builder. Website builders in general greatly simplify the website building process. There are many things you can do with the Gator website builder. You’ll select a theme or template that will act as the foundation of your site, you’ll use the tool to make changes and customize your site, you’ll add content, and then publish your site online.

The process is quite intuitive and you’ll be able to build a custom website without having to change, or even look at, any code.

In time you can test out other website builders, tools, and content management systems, but when starting out you’ll want to give yourself the advantage of using one of the easiest tools out there. Once you’ve successfully built your first site you’ll have more confidence when it comes to customizing your site, or using different tools altogether.

Building a Website with the GATOR Website Builder

For the sake of this tutorial, we’ll show you how to build a website from scratch using the HostGator website builder.

This website builder is packed with a vast selection of professional themes that span dozens of niches. Once you fire up the tool you’ll be amazed at just how easy it is to customize your template, add site elements, add pages, modify text, and more.

Follow the steps below to build a website from scratch using Gator:

1. Select Your Template

The first step when launching your website through HostGator’s website builder will be choosing your template. This template will act as the foundation for the rest of your site, so choose wisely. You’ll be able to filter the template selection based upon niche, or you can browse through all of the templates until you find the perfect fit.

choose website template

Most of the themes can fit into a variety of niches. But, you’ll notice that the preloaded content and general structure is more niche-oriented. If you want to build your site as fast as possible, then choose a template that’s within your niche.

Once you’ve found a template you’d like to customize, just hover over the template and click ‘Select’.

2. Customize Your Template

With your template selected it’s time to start customizing. You’ll probably want to spend a few minutes clicking around and getting used to the layout. It might seem a little confusing at first, but it will get easier. Almost every element of your theme can be customized by clicking.

add elements to page in gator website builder like buttons and contact form

When you hover over and click any element of your site the tool will bring up a window to give you your customization options.

If you like the existing layout of the site, then all you’ll have to do is edit and switch out the existing text, and upload your own images.

On the left-hand menu you’ll be able to edit any additional pages, add new site elements and sections, along with changing out the overall color scheme.

Once you’re satisfied with your site all you have to do is click ‘Publish’. However, it’s probably a good idea to preview your site to catch any last-minute errors before you publish your site online.

Get Started Building with GATOR

As you can see, building a website is much easier than it used to be. Today there are myriad tools that can help you build a website in a single afternoon, all without having to touch a single line of code.

With the GATOR website builder, you can quickly and easily build a professional website completely from scratch. For beginners, it’s hard to beat the usefulness and simplicity of the GATOR website builder.