Creating a website used to take some serious technical skills, but today with the advent of intuitive beginner-friendly website builders, creating a website couldn’t be easier.
Whether you’re building a site to share your ideas or artwork with the world, promote your new business idea, or to have an online destination for your brick-and-mortar store, this post will walk you through all the website building tools you need to make the perfect site.
What You'll Learn...
- What If I Don’t Have a Website Idea Yet?
- Why Use a Website Builder to Create Your Site?
- How to Build Your Website: The Step-by-Step Guide
- Closing Thoughts
What If I Don’t Have a Website Idea Yet?
If you’re pretty sure you want to build a website, but don’t have a clear idea of what you want your website to be about yet, the first step is to do some research and brainstorming.
The best websites exist for a certain purpose. Usually, to provide a specific need to a specific group of people. For new sites, a smart approach is to start with a small niche and expand outward in time. Once you’ve successfully served a niche, if you want to keep growing then you can branch out into a related niche. But doing an amazing job of providing valuable, targeted content to a specific audience will generally pay off more than trying to please everyone out of the gate.
If you’re still unsure about what kind of website you want to create, then spend some time with the following questions:
- What topics do I deeply care about?
- What kind of sites do I find myself on all the time?
- What kind of problems would I like to solve for people?
- Do I want to monetize it? And if so, do I want to sell products or run ads?
- Are there any gaps in the market your website could fill?
- Are people actually spending money in this space?
The best websites have overlap between what you care about and what people are spending money on. This will ensure that you can not only generate traffic, but also earn revenue to sustain you.
Why Use a Website Builder to Create Your Site?
You’ve got a few main approaches to consider when creating a new website. You could choose a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, which is designed to be a feasible option even for website owners that don’t know how to code. But the learning curve is still fairly steep, and it’ll take a lot longer to build out your site with a CMS than using a website builder.
If you have a specific idea of what you want our website to look like and do, hiring a web designer is likely the best way to realize that vision. But skilled professionals will (rightfully) charge well for their time and experience. If you’re on a tight budget, or would prefer to spend the budget you have on other things, a website builder is a much more affordable choice.
Another option is learning how to code yourself. This will take the most time of all, but it will give you the most creative freedom. You’ll theoretically have more control over the end result, but you’ll basically be learning a profession’s worth of information from the ground up. This could make sense if you want to pursue web design as a career. But if you’re just looking to build one website, the time commitment of this approach isn’t practical.
For almost all beginners creating a website for the first time, your best option will be using a website builder. Website builders are popular and widely accessible today, and they cater directly to those who have never built a site before. They do most of the work of creating a website for you, but give you room to customize it to your particular needs. And because they’re generally built by web professionals, they make it easy to create a website that adheres to web design best practices.
How to Build Your Website: The Step-by-Step Guide
Most website builders are designed to be intuitive for beginners. You’ll generally be able to get started without having to devote time to training in the software—you can just start poking around and learn as you go. But if you do get stuck, you can typically find a variety of helpful tutorials that will help you move past any tough spots.
Here are the site building basics to follow when using a website builder:
1. Plan Your Site Before You Build
Before you start building out your website you’ll want to have a plan of attack. This will help to speed up the process of building your site and give you direction once you fire up your website builder.
Spend some time with the following questions to help structure your website:
- What are the main goals you want to achieve with your website?
- Will you be selling any physical or digital products, and require eCommerce functionality?
- Will you be trying to convert visitors into clients for a service-based business?
- Will the focus on your site be on content creation, or will a blog be secondary?
- Will you want to run ads on the site, or keep the focus on your own brand?
- Will you be investing in other online channels to support the website, such as email and social media marketing?
- What will the most important pages on your site be?
While clarifying your own goals at this stage is important, you also want to carefully consider who your audience is and what they’ll want from your website. At the end of the day, your website needs to speak to them for it to accomplish any of the things you want.
- What problem is my website hoping to solve?
- How am I going to address this problem in a unique way?
- Where else does my audience hang out online? Blogs? Social media?
- Are there relevant demographic categories they fall into? What’s their gender, income, profession and industry, or habits and hobbies?
When you can picture who your website’s for while you work on it, you’ll have an easier time creating one that appeals to the people you most want to reach.
2. Secure Your Domain Name and Host
In order to make your website accessible to other people on the web, you need to register a domain name and a web host.
So, how do domain names work? A domain name is essentially the website title that people type into a browser’s address bar, while your web hosting is where you store your website’s files. With these two elements working together you’ll lay the foundation to create a beautiful and functional website.
You have a lot of different options when choosing a web hosting provider, domain registrar, and website builder. And you can even find a number of free options. But those always come with some kind of tradeoff.
Usually you’ll face limits on the functionality—your website will be slow, or you won’t be able to create more than a couple of pages. Or your website will carry the branding of the company providing the service, which dilutes your own attempts at branding. If your visitors navigate to www.freewebsitebuilder.yourbrand.com, your brand becomes secondary.
Free options can be valuable for certain projects, but if your aim is to build a brand or use your website to support your business, they make your website look less professional and established. The cost of a legitimate web hosting plan and website builder is relatively small, and well worth the investment in almost all cases.
Researching your web hosting options may seem overwhelming at first. In addition to navigating a lot of different providers, you’ll also find a lot of different hosting types available—shared hosting, dedicated hosting, VPS hosting, and WordPress hosting—just to name a few.
For most first-time website owners, the most affordable option, shared hosting, is a good bet to start with. Most website owners start with a shared hosting package and upgrade to more powerful forms of hosting in time. With shared hosting, you’re effectively splitting the cost of the server resources with a lot of other users, which keeps the costs low—HostGator’s plans start at under $3 a month.
Website builders, web hosting, and domain names all three tend to use a subscription model. You can make getting started and maintaining the three services over time easier by going with one provider that offers all three.
HostGator’s website builder comes with a free domain name for the first year (on website builder packages purchased for one year or more) and shared hosting included. You can sign up for all three things at once, and manage all three services in one account moving forward.
After you select which website builder plan you want, the next screen will prompt you to select the domain name you want to register.
If the first domain name you try isn’t available, you may need to get creative in finding one that is. Do some brainstorming to figure out a domain name that makes sense for your brand that hasn’t already been taken by someone else.
Then, enter your payment information, and you’re all set.
Buying your domain name and hosting from the same provider means they are automatically linked, and you avoid the complex task of pointing your domain name towards your host.
3. Choose Your Website Building Platform
The website builder market is large. Even if you narrow your search to only the most affordable website builders, you have a lot of choices. You could feasibly spend a lot of time researching your different options.
If you want to save yourself the time and work, start by checking out the Gator Website Builder. In addition to the aforementioned convenience of being able to bundle your website builder plan with web hosting and domain registration, Gator is also powerful and easy to use. It’s a smart website builder that automates the process of creating your website design for you. All you need to do is provide some details about your business, and it does most of the rest. Then you can work from the website it creates to customize as needed and add the specific pages you want.
It makes the process of building your website fast and easy, while producing a website design that delivers a good user experience and is mobile friendly.
4. Start Creating Your Website
With the Gator website builder, creating your website is a simple matter of answering each of the questions the tool asks, step by step.
Based on the information you provide, the website builder automates the process of creating a website for you. By the time you’ve finished the initial setup process—something that will only take a few minutes, in most cases—you’ll have a basic web design and structure in place.
Then all that’s left for you to do is change up the details to bring the site in line with your business or brand.
5. Customize Your Website
Gator is designed to make the editing process simple and intuitive. To edit text on the page, you simply click on a text block and type in what you want it to say.
When you have the text box selected, you’ll also see a menu that lets you select formatting for the copy as well, so you can bold words, hyperlink them, or change the color as you desire.
Gator will automatically fill your website with relevant images, based on the answers you give in the setup process. But you can add new images or change out the ones there by clicking on them and selecting the Edit Image icon.
One of the nice extras Gator comes with is a full image library of stock photography you can use for free. So even if you don’t have many original images you can load to the site off the bat, you have a range of options you can choose from.
You can move elements on the page around with the arrows you see in the top right corner of each page section, and remove any sections you don’t need with the trash icon.
And you can add a new section by clicking on the + icon that shows up between sections on the page, then choosing the type of element you want to add from the menu that opens up.
Gator will include a few common page types on your website in the initial setup, but you’ll likely want to add some other pages. Once you have the initial pages looking just how you want, you can start the process of creating a new page by clicking on Pages in the left-side menu, then selecting New Page.
Gator will prompt you to provide the main details for the page, such as its name, URL, and if it will go under another page in the menu (its Parent page). Once your page is created, you can use the editing tools you’re now familiar with to customize it as needed.
Customize your site as much as you desire. As you work on each page, try to keep your target audience top of mind. Think about what questions they’d be most likely to have as they browse, and what information they’d find the most important. Make a point to center their needs in your design.
6. Launch Your New Website
Once you’re satisfied with how your site looks and functions it’s time to launch! The last step to take before sharing your site with the world is to double-check everything.
Proofread every page on your website to look for typos or sentences that don’t read right. Check all the links to make sure they all work and go where they should. Test out any forms you’ve added. And if you built an eCommerce site, go through the checkout process to make sure it all works properly.
Look over every page on your site with a fine-tooth comb. Even though you’re probably excited to start showing off your new website, you want to create a good impression in the eyes of your visitors.
Once you think you’re finished, go through this checklist to review everything on your website one last time before launching it to the public. Better to take a little extra time to be careful, than risk launching something that makes you look sloppy.
Remember, building a successful site is a marathon and not a sprint. It can be easy to get discouraged, especially once the initial excitement of building a website wears off. But, with consistent effort focused on the right activities your site’s traffic will grow.
With the help of a smart website builder like gator, learning how to build a website is probably a lot easier than you anticipated. Launching your site is a big step, and something to be proud of. But once your site is live, you face the ongoing challenge of marketing it. Your work is just starting.
Don’t get discouraged if it takes some time before people start finding your website, but don’t take for granted that they’ll get there alone. Start promoting your new website on social channels, with paid advertising, and by strengthening your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Over time, you’ll start to gain the audience your website was built for, and can begin to achieve your goals.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.