When creating a website, aesthetics aren’t everything – but they definitely matter.
Have you ever visited a website that was cluttered, had colors that clashed, or a design that made it hard to read and navigate? Your response was probably to click away and go looking for another website to visit in its place.
If you don’t know anything about web design, but you know it’s time to start that website you keep thinking about, you’re probably wondering to how to make a website that will both look good and accomplish your goals.
For aspiring website owners that don’t know how to code and don’t have the budget to hire a designer (or would simply rather not spend that money), the best answer is to use an online website builder.
Why Create a Website with a Website Builder?
Website builders are a fast and easy way to get started with a new website or blog. And this is one case where taking the easy route doesn’t mean sacrificing quality. You can create a truly beautiful and effective website with the right website builder.
Here are three benefits to using a website builder.
1. You can use website templates designed by professional designers.
Any good website builder you consider will include a number of attractive templates that have been designed by skilled web designers. That means you get to take advantage of their skills without paying top dollar, like you would if you hired them on your own.
In most cases, the designers that create templates for website builders will have knowledge of web design best practices and incorporate them into the templates they create. Even if you don’t have a good eye for visuals or website UX (user experience), you can trust that the people who created the template you start with do.
By starting with a good template, it’s easy to build a website that looks beautiful and makes a good impression on your visitors.
2. You don’t have to learn how to code.
Coding languages are complicated and intimidating to anyone that doesn’t already know them. And even some people who know how to code find it challenging. But you can skip over dealing with all that completely. Choosing the best website builder for your business or site saves you from having to learn to code.
And notably, it means you’ll also never have to deal with coding when making later updates. People that hire a designer to build their website will still have to struggle with HTML down the line when they need to make additions and changes. With a website builder, every future update will be simple.
3. You can make the website your own.
The templates are a good starting point, but you don’t want your website to look just like all the other websites created from the template you chose. Don’t worry. You still have room to add your own style and make sure the end results look beautiful to you, while still being intuitive for your visitors.
You can change out colors, add and remove different elements of the page, and move things around with simple drag-and-drop website builder functionality. Starting with a template provides a good shortcut, but from there it’s entirely up to you what you choose to do with it.
How to Create a Website with a Website Builder
If you’re sold on the idea of using a website builder, then it’s time to get started. These are the steps to building a beautiful website using a website builder.
1. Choose your website builder.
First things first, you need to choose which website builder to go with. You have a number of options to choose from, and making the right choice now matters. Many website builders make it hard to keep your website if you move to a new product down the line.
When looking for the best website builder for you, consider:
- Ease of use – You don’t want to spend hours learning how to use your new website builder, and you shouldn’t have to. Many website builders provide intuitive editing tools and resources to help you get familiar with the product right away. In particular, look for drag-and-drop functionality which makes editing easy for anyone, no matter the level of skill.
- Cost – Some drag-and-drop website builder options are free, but most that offer the kind of functionality you’ll need will cost somewhere in the range of $5 to $40 a month—and that’s an ongoing cost, you’ll be paying for as long as you keep your website up. Make sure you choose an affordable website builder you can pay for now and in the months and years to come.
- Mobile compatibility – Many of your visitors will be coming from mobile devices, so your website needs to look as good on a small screen as it does on a computer. Make sure your website builder provides easy options for making your website mobile friendly, such as responsive templates.
- Number of templates – When you start from a template that comes pretty close to what you want your website to look like, the job of customizing it will be easier. The more options you have, the easier picking the right template will be.
- Media features – If you ever hope to include video or audio on your website, consider what options a website builder offers for adding them.
- SEO features – Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important tactic for making sure people are able to find your site. While there’s a lot to doing SEO effectively, a good starting point is having a website builder that offers SEO features that make on-site optimization easier.
- Image library – Finding good images is a big part of creating a website that looks great. A website builder that provides an image library can make the process much faster and easier whether that be for your small business or personal blog.
- Analytics – Easy access to website analytics will help you track the success of your website over time. Consider what analytics options your website builder offers.
Figure out what your main priorities are in a website builder and find one that provides everything you need.
2. Select your favorite template.
Creating a website with a website builder starts with a template. Look through the different options available to find one that’s a close match to what you have in mind for your site.
Don’t just think about the one you like the look of the best—you can easily change a lot of the visual elements of the template you choose. Think about which one has the closest structure and layout to the website you want to create. That will make bringing it in line with your unique vision easier.
3. Choose your color scheme.
So much of creating a beautiful website as a business owner or blogger will depend on the colors you choose. You want to be consistent with the colors you use across the website—if someone clicks from a page that’s green and blue to one that’s red and black, it creates a confusing experience. And you want to make sure you stick with colors that look good together.
Creating a color scheme as one of your first steps will help you achieve both those goals. You’ll know which colors to stick with for your backgrounds, fonts, images, and various page elements.
If you don’t really know how to select colors that look good together, you can find a number of free resources online to help. Browse sites like Design Seeds and Color Hunt for inspiration. Or check out Canva’s Color Wheel tool that uses “color theory” to give you a perfect color combination.
And the tool Coolers lets you pick a color you like, and see a wide variety of automatically generated color schemes that include it until you find one you like. All of these resources helpfully provide the color codes for each number, so you can easily find them in the editing tools of your website builder as you work.
4. Create a style guide for your site.
As with your color scheme, creating a style guide for your website early on will help you make sure your style is consistent across the site and everything looks the way you want it to. This doesn’t have to be anything too long or complicated. It can be a basic list of notes on the stylistic choices you want to use on your site.
Consider things like whether you want your elements and buttons to have rounded corners or sharp ones. Do you want all the pages on your website to maintain the same basic layout? What coloring do you want to use for backgrounds, text, links, and buttons? What font do you want to use, and if you want to use more than one, what contexts should you use each in?
You can get some inspiration by looking at examples of other style guides, but yours can be much simpler than anything the big brands put together. It should simply serve as a guide you can revisit anytime you’re working on a new page and need a reminder of how to keep it stylistically in line with the rest of the site.
5. Define your website’s goals.
While this part doesn’t have to do with making your website beautiful, it’s an important step in creating a website that’s effective. Everyone that creates a website has something they want to accomplish. In order to do so, you need to be strategic in creating a website designed to meet your goals.
Spend some time clearly defining what those goals are. You’ll definitely have one overarching goal—for a business owner, that will be making new sales, for a personal website it could be connecting with people through blog posts ho care about the same things you do. In addition to that, you’ll likely have a number of smaller goals that contribute to your primary one: getting noticed by the right people, gaining traffic, and building an email list are a few possible examples.
When you approach your website design with clear goals in mind, you’ll do a better job of making a website that’s in line with what you want it to be and do. And you’ll know how to track its success after it goes live.
6. Clarify your messaging.
We’ve talked a lot about visual design so far, but the wording you choose will be just as important to accomplishing your goals as the visual aesthetic. The written content you include on your website (called copy in marketing parlance) has to do the heavy lifting of telling your visitors what the website is about and why they should care.
You may find this easier if you take a little time to look at similar websites and see how they describe themselves. They can serve as inspiration to help you clarify your own messaging, while also making clear what’s already being done. Ideally, you want to differentiate yourself from other websites and communicate to visitors what makes yours unique.
Write out your unique value proposition (UVP), a line or two that describes what your website has to offer and how it’s different from any other site. You can put the UVP directly on your website’s homepage, and it will also help guide you in the copy you create for the rest of the site.
7. Decide on your website’s pages and organization.
Another important factor in keeping your website effective is making sure it’s intuitive. You don’t want to overload your visitors with too much information on one page—that’s both confusing and bad for SEO. So figure out how to divide everything you want to share into a number of pages that are each devoted to a manageable amount of information.
When you have an idea of the different pages you’ll create, think about how to best organize them in a way that will make it easy for your visitors to find what they’re interested in. Figure out a few main categories your different pages fit into. These will probably be your main menu items.
If your website will be fairly simple and only have a few pages, this step shouldn’t be too complicated. If you expect your website to grow into something much larger that has dozens or hundreds of pages, then it’s even more important to define a clear website architecture now that you’ll stick with moving forward.
8. Get to work creating your site.
Now that you’ve done all the advance prep to figure out what you want your website to look like and say, pull up your template and start making the necessary changes. Make sure you stick with your style guide, color scheme, messaging, and organization plan as you work.
It can be easy to get carried away with making changes that look good in isolation, especially when a personal or business website builder makes each little tweak so easy. But you did all the work in those steps for a reason and your website will be more user friendly, beautiful, and effective if you follow the guidelines you created for yourself.
9. Run it by someone else to get a second opinion.
When you spend time working on a website, you get too close to it to see it the way someone else will. Before you push it out into the larger world, find a friend you trust to be a set of fresh eyes for you. They may be able to spot minor errors or let you know if the navigation is a little confusing.
Listen to their feedback and make any changes they recommend that you trust will make the website better.
Unleash Your Beautiful Website
After all that work, your website is ready for a larger audience. Secure website hosting (if you haven’t already) and publish it to the web.
Creating a website is exciting. Seeing something beautiful you created yourself (even if with the help of a solid template to start) is certain to instill pride and give you a sense of accomplishment. Now you can start reaching people with your message and working toward your goals.
If you’re ready to sign up for a hosting service and create your own website, please contact HostGator today.
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.