Building a website can seem like a ton of work, especially when you’re in the beginning stages; a lot of people simply hire a web designer to do the heavy lifting for them. However, with the numerous tools and tutorials available any person can build a high quality site from scratch, in minimal time.

There are distinct advantages to working with a professional web designer, however a lot of us don’t have the budget to hire out from the very beginning. Once your site is profitable you can then invest into a hiring out for a website redesign if you choose.

If you’re looking to have a professional website up and running as soon as possible, then keep reading. Below we walk you through the process of building your very first website and showcase the tools we recommend.

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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.

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: Setup Your Hosting and Domain

The third step towards building your website is making sure your domain is purchased and your hosting is all set up. You can purchase your domain from a variety of sources, including HostGator. The same goes for hosting, as HostGator is a great hosting choice for beginners as it’s very easy to setup.

Once your website and hosting are good to go you’ll have your basic framework setup, so you can begin building your new website.

Step 4: Choose the Right Framework

There are numerous website frameworks and builders that you’ll be able to choose from. We highlight a few of the most popular choices below:

1. Use HostGator’s Site Builder

The Gator website builder will allow you to easily setup a website in a matter of minutes. It’s 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, download plugins from the web, modify text, and more.

2. Use a CMS like WordPress

If you have a little more technical know how and want to use a full-fledged content management system, then we recommend giving WordPress a go. If you have HostGator hosting, then you can use the Softaculous Apps Installer process that’s located on your cPanel, to install WordPress.

Once you have WordPress installed you can customize your site by choosing from the plethora of paid and free themes. Just download the theme, and upload it by navigating to Appearance>Add New>Upload Theme.

You can then customize your theme by navigating to Appearance>Customize within the WordPress dashboard.

3. Build One From Scratch

Creating a website from scratch will take a lot of experimentation and trial and error. However, this can truly be worthwhile process if you’re up to the learning curve. If you enjoy doing things yourself and getting your hands dirty, then you’ll want to teach yourself the basics of coding.

W3Schools and CodeAcademy both have a set of great resources to help you learn how to code. The languages you’ll need to learn to get your website up and running include HTML, CSS, and PHP. This will allow you to build a website exactly how you see fit.

It can be beneficial to pick up some basic coding skills, even if you aren’t thinking about building a site from scratch. Having basic coding knowledge will enable you to become more comfortable with customizing and maintaining your site, regardless of platform. Check out our HTML cheat sheet for a quick primer.

Which Should I Choose?

The route you go down will depend upon the overall goals of your website. For instance, if you want a website that is super quick to make and easy to manage, check out the Gater website builder. 

If you’re looking for a full-fledged website suite that will enable you to build and grow an online business, then WordPress is a great choice, as it can grow with your company.

If you’re truly a do-it-yourself person and want to know the inner workings of your website, then you can build one yourself. Just know that this will take a lot of time and it might even be a few months before a basic version of your website is live.

My personal favorite is to use HostGator’s hosting, coupled with the QuickInstall of WordPress. Then, pick up some coding knowledge so you feel comfortable customizing your WordPress theme to your liking.

Of course, there are dozens of ways to build a website. The three mentioned above are some of the most common ways HostGator users choose to build out their sites. Click the button below to get started making your website!

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What’s your favorite way to build a website? Please share in the comments below.

Kevin Wood writes about technology and human potential. You can find him at his virtual homes Wooden Writing and Counter Culturist.