Whether you want to make a website for your small business, create a WordPress eCommerce website, or start a blog to share your thoughts with the world, creating a website is easier now than it’s ever been. And with so much of human interaction and commerce now happening online, that website you’ve been meaning to build has taken on more importance.
This blog post will provide the basic instructions you need on how to create a website, regardless of the website type or purpose you have in mind.
We’ll cover the foundational steps you’ll need to take before you start building, which website building tools and platforms you should use, and finally walk you through two different approaches to building out your site.
What to Do Before You Start Building Your Website
Before you start the process of creating the website itself, you have a few decisions to make. Anyone with design and coding skills has the option of building a site from scratch. But for the majority of people, that path will be time consuming and difficult, and you risk putting a ton of work into a website that doesn’t look that great anyways.
For anyone new to creating websites that wants an easier route, you’ve got better options. You can use a content management system (CMS), like WordPress, or a website builder, like the one HostGator provides. Both options make it possible for anyone to create a website, regardless of the level of skill you start with. When using a website builder or WordPress, creating a website is faster and easier, and the end result will be functional and professional.
WordPress vs. Website Builder
The two best options new website creators have to choose from are WordPress or a website builder. Here’s a look at these two options in-depth, so you can decide which option best suits your needs.
Creating a Website with WordPress
WordPress currently powers over 38% of the entire internet. That alone suggests something about the power, flexibility, and usefulness of this tool.
WordPress is designed to be easy for non-developers to use, but it does have a bit of a learning curve. But if you’re willing to devote some time to learning, the sheer amount of helpful tutorials online—many for free—make it easy to teach yourself.
WordPress is popular in large part due to its flexibility. It’s used to build small personal blogs, all the way up to massive online magazines and eCommerce sites.
WordPress gives you the ability to build a custom, professional site. All you have to do is install WordPress on your server, pick a theme, and add the features you need via the extensive library of popular plugins.
With WordPress, you can feasibly create a basic website quickly. But if you have a specific vision in mind for your website, or aim to include much functionality, the process will have enough moving parts to require some time.
Creating a Website with a Website Builder
WordPress can help you build a highly custom and robust site. But, some users might not need all that flexibility. When it comes to ease of use, website builders reign supreme.
There are dozens of different website builders to choose from, but the core focus of all remains the same: to help total beginners create a professional site in the shortest amount of time possible.
Typically, you won’t have access to the same level of features as with a platform like WordPress. But you may not need an extensive set of features. The developers behind website builders have a pretty good idea of the main features and functionality most individuals and small businesses will need.
If you want a relatively basic website that looks professional and is intuitive for visitors, using a website builder can deliver. And while the exact process of creating a website varies based on the website builder you choose, typically you need only fire up the website builder and follow the instructions the tool walks you through. You’ll usually start with a design the website builder provides, that you can then customize with your own copy, images, and color choices using an intuitive website editor.
How to Build a Website [Step-by-Step Guide]
Now onto the specific steps you should take to get started.
Step 1. Secure Hosting and a Domain Name
Before you start building your website, you’ll want to set up a domain name and hosting.
Your web host provides the service of storing all of your website files and making them available to visitors. Your domain name is what visitors will type into their browsers to access your website. Without these two elements, it’s impossible to have a website that’s accessible on the internet.
Many different companies offer web hosting and domain registration, and often you can purchase them both with the same company (including with us here at HostGator). Keeping them in the same place can make administrative steps easier, since you only have to keep up with one account.
To sign up for hosting, head over to the HostGator hosting page and select your plan of choice.
On the next screen, you can even register a new domain while you complete the rest of your hosting account setup. Easy, right?
Step 2. Lay Out Your Website Foundation
You’ll have an easier time building your website if you take time to think through the structure and pages you want it to have in advance. Do some research to see what other websites similar to the one you have in mind look like. Pay attention to the design elements they use and pages they typically have. Take note of what you like and don’t like.
And think through your typical goals. Different types of websites will want to accomplish different things. A website for your business needs to help you attract and convert customers. A portfolio website should help you prove your skills and impress anyone likely to hire you. And a personal website can be primarily focused on sharing your thoughts with loved ones, or helping you find a community of people with similar interests.
By knowing the type of site you’re building, you’ll be able to create a website that matches your goals.
Now, it’s time to plan out the structure of your website. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be too complicated. Many sites have the same main set of pages:
- Home page
- About page
- Contact page
- Products/services pages
Whether you’re using a website builder or WordPress, all of these pages will be easy to create.
Step 3. How to Design Your Website
As a beginner designing your site, the best approach is to rely upon the professionally created designs of others. With WordPress you can peruse available themes as a starting place for creating your website. These get the main design elements into place, and you can customize from there.
With HostGator’s smart website builder, you need only answer a few main questions and the website builder will automatically build a starter website that matches your needs. Then you can easily fill in unique information and tweak a few design elements to make it entirely yours.
Option 1: How to Create a Website with WordPress
With WordPress, the theme you choose will supply much of the design you’ll end up with. Once you’ve installed WordPress on your host, navigate to the backend of your website, it should be a link that looks like the following: https://mysite.com/wp-admin.
Once you’re in your WordPress dashboard, navigate to Appearance>Themes and select Add New.
Here you can browse themes, search for a specific theme, or even search by keywords. Once you’ve found a theme you like, hover over it and click ‘Install’, then ‘Activate’.
Depending on the theme you’ve chosen, you’ll have different customization options. You’ll either be given a settings page within your theme, or you’ll use the built-in customizer which you can access by navigating to Appearance>Customize.
No matter which method you choose you’ll find a ton of different options that’ll allow you to change things like your background, sitewide colors, header options, menu display, site layout, and more.
Creating Website Pages with WordPress
Adding pages to your site is a pretty simple task. All you have to do is navigate to Pages>Add New.
Then, type in the name of your page and add your body text, images, and more.
Adding Website Features via WordPress Plugins
You’ll probably want to customize your site further. Plugins are how WordPress handles adding more features to your site.
These may run in the background, like SEO or security plugins. Or they can be used to help customize your front-end functionality, like social media sharing. Within WordPress, you can add plugins by navigating to the Plugins menu, selecting Add New, and either browsing to see what plugins are available, or performing a search to find a specific one.
This is just a brief rundown to provide you with enough information to build a solid site foundation. You’ll want to spend more time experimenting, customizing, and tweaking your site to perfection.
Option 2: How to Create a Website with a Website Builder
If you’re using a website builder to create a website, the instructions will depend on which website builder you choose. Most are designed to walk you through the process once you get started.
For the sake of this tutorial, we’re going to be using the HostGator website builder. Gator is a smart website builder that automates much of the website creation process for you.
To start, it will ask you to provide the category of website you’re creating, as well as your website’s name.
The website builder will generate a basic website design based on the information you provide. Then it will walk you through, step by step, how to choose the main design elements for your site, such as your color scheme and background image.
Once you’ve completed the initial walk through, your website’s design will be mostly in place! From there, you can get to work on the details.
You can add unique copy by clicking on the words already on the page, and typing in what you want it to say.
The website builder will automatically supply relevant images for your site, but you can change them out and add your own by clicking on the image, choosing Select Image, and either selecting from the image library that shows up or clicking on My Images to add your own.
And you can move the blocks the website builder supplied for each page by clicking on the blue arrows that show up when you scroll over it. If you want to get rid of a block altogether, click on the trash icon that shows up next to the arrows.
Once you’ve got your main pages looking the way you want, you can start adding any new ones you need. When you click on Pages in the menu on the left side of the screen, you’ll be able to provide the page name you want, and choose whether it should go under an existing parent page on the menu, or become a part of the main menu itself.
This will help you create the structure for your website that you worked out back in step two.
The HostGator website builder is designed to take most of the work of creating a website out of your hands, while also making it easy to customize the parts you need to make it unique. Spending a little time playing around in it should familiarize you with the different options you have for making any changes you want.
Over to You: It’s Time to Create Your Website
As you can see, creating your own website is surprisingly easy, no matter your skill level. With the power of WordPress or a website builder behind you, creating your own website without the help of a web design professional is simple.
If you’ve completed all of the steps above, then you now have a website that’s ready for the web. Congratulations!
Remember, most websites are truly never finished. As you learn more about your audience, experiment with content, and test your results, your site will grow and evolve. The beauty of using the website building tools highlighted in this post is you can quickly make these changes yourself, learning more about how your website works in the process.
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.