Building a website used to require learning how to code, but those days are in the past. Now, anybody can easily create a new website using a website builder.
Whether you own a small business or you are looking to create your own blog, website builders make it so you don’t have to hire a web designer to have a professionally designed site. If you are wondering, “What is a website builder?” you have come to the right place.
But, hearing that website builders are easy to use doesn’t mean you just automatically know what a website builder is, or how one works. Website builders make it easy for users to make their own website with little effort or coding skills. By using this platform, anyone can achieve a professionally designed site without using a web designer.
If you’re ready to get your website off the ground, but are stuck at the step of figuring out how to use a website builder, we walk you through the main steps you need to know.
10 Steps to Use a Website Builder
Each website builder will work a little differently. To learn the unique details of using the particular website builder you choose, you’ll want to consult the company’s educational materials.
But most of the main website builders available today have some similarities in how they work. These ten steps will cover the basics.
1. Choose your website builder.
There are a lot of different website builders on the market, so you have options. Wading through the available choices can be overwhelming. But the good news is that you can find an affordable website builder today that packs the functionality you need to create a professional-looking website.
Look for a website builder that offers:
- Ease of use – You should be able to use it from day one without a steep learning curve. Look for drag-and-drop functionality and a website editor designed for beginners. Because of the user-friendly interface and tools, business owners and bloggers alike can easily get their site up and running in no time.
- Customer support – The moment you need help, you want to know you can reach out to someone willing and equipped to provide it.
- Lots of website template options – Building your website with a website builder is much easier if you can start with a template you like, so make sure the website builder you go with has a solid library of website templates to choose from.
- Mobile compatibility – Having a mobile-friendly website is no longer optional. A good website builder will make it easy to create a website that looks good on mobile.
- Affordability – Website builders cost anywhere from $4-$25 a month. Figure out your budget, so you select one you can afford over the long term.
Once you’ve selected your website builder, check out what educational resources the company provides to help you get up to speed on learning it. They likely offer tutorials or a tour to walk you through all the features. Taking a few minutes to review those resources on day one will make the process of building your site easier.
2. Select your website builder template.
Templates are a big part of what makes website builders easier to use than building a website from scratch. With a template, you get all the basic structure and design of your website into place right away. Then all you have to do is tweak what’s already there to bring it in line with your vision for your site.
If you can find a template that comes pretty close to what you want your website to look like, the work of customizing it will be that much simpler.
To help you find the right template, here are a few things to consider:
- Was it designed with your industry in mind? Many website builders provide templates categorized by industry or website type. Someone building a website for their coffee shop will get a headstart if they’re able to use a coffee shop website template. Check first to see if your website builder provides a template that’s specific to the type of website you’re building, as it could make your job a lot easier.
- Is it responsive? If you’re not familiar with the term, a responsive website is one that automatically changes to fit the size of the screen it loads on. If you start out with a responsive template, creating a website that works well on mobile devices will be much more straightforward, since the work is mostly already done for you.
- Is the basic structure in line with what I want? Pay attention to things like the layout of the home page and the menu items. Switching out things like images and colors will usually be easier than re-working the template’s structure, so this is the most important part to get right.
- Do I like how it looks? While you can make a lot of visual changes to your template based on your personal preferences, you’ll end up doing less work to get your website in line with your aesthetic style if you like the design of it to begin with.
Browse the templates your website builder offers to find one that comes close to what you want your website to be.
3. Choose your website color scheme.
The colors you choose will be one of the defining visual features of your website. Thoughtfully consider which main colors you want your website to display. If you don’t have much experience creating a color scheme, there are free tools and websites that help you identify colors that look good together.
Coolers is an automatic color scheme generator. You pick a color you like, and it will rotate in different colors to show you how they look together. Canva also has a color wheel tool that lets you select a color you like, and see suggestions for colors that look good with it.
These resources all provide HTML color codes for the colors you select (the six-digit number and letter combo), so you should have no problem finding the colors within your website builder once you’ve decided which to go with.
4. Update the website template colors to match your scheme.
Use your website editor to sub in the colors currently in your template for the ones you chose in your color scheme. In the Gator Website Builder, you do this by clicking on the section of the page you want to change the color for, clicking on Style, choosing which part of the block you want to change (e.g. background, border, overlay), then selecting your new color.
You can easily pull up a specific color by clicking on More Colors, then entering the color code next to where it says HEX.
If you’re using another website builder, the exact steps for changing out each web page’s colors will differ, but will likely be similar to this process.
5. Determine what pages to add to your website.
Figure out what pages your website needs. Most websites will want at least a home page and about page. If your website is for a business, you’ll want to add pages for each of the services you offer or products you sell. If you’re starting a site to share your content with the world, add a blog or visual gallery.
Create a plan for the specific pages you want to include on your website, and determine which are the most important. Your priority pages need to be especially easy for visitors to navigate to, which usually means including them on the main menu which shows up on every page of your website.
To create a new page in Gator, click on Pages on the menu on the left-side of the screen. Then you have two options: you can either duplicate the page you have open by clicking the icon with x2 on it, or add a new page by clicking on the icon with the + on it.
Duplicating a page is often the easiest option, since the new one will maintain the color scheme and any other details you filled in on your first page. If you choose to add a new page, you’ll be provided a number of templated options based on the type of page you’re creating (an about page, and ecommerce one, etc.).
6. Upload your images to the website builder.
Some of the images on your template may work just fine for your purposes, but chances are, you’ll need to load in some images of your own to make the site truly yours.
In Gator, you can tap into a free library of stock images. Simply click on the image you want to change, select Change Image, and choose Stock Images from the menu.
The images are helpfully divided into categories so you can more easily hone in on the ones relevant to your site.
To upload an image of your own, click on Add Images, and Upload Images.
Do this on each page of the site, for every image you want to include.
7. Add text and copy to your pages.
Your template will have some generic copy included as a place filler. While there are parts of your template it’s okay to keep, the copy it comes with is not one. Each page of your website needs to have original copy that communicates something about your brand.
Some best practices to keep in mind when writing copy for your website are:
- Prioritize your audience. It’s tempting to make your website copy all about you, but your site will resonate more with your visitors if you think about their needs first. That doesn’t mean your copy won’t communicate what you do (that’s kind of the point), but try to frame it in a way that focuses on how what you do helps solve their problems or make their lives better.
- Figure out your unique positioning. Take a little time to research other websites doing something similar to yours. Now think: what makes yours different? That’s your unique value proposition. Highlight what makes you special in your website copy, so visitors know why to stick around.
- Learn search engine optimization (SEO) basics – Search engine optimization (SEO) is how you increase your chances of ranking in the search engines when people look for what your website offers. Before you write your website copy, it’s worth learning the basics of SEO so you can incorporate best practices for on-site optimization into what you write on each page.
To change out your copy in Gator Website Builder, click on a text box on the page, highlight the text that’s there and either type out what you want to say in the box or paste in text that you’ve already written elsewhere. You can also choose the style and size of the font in the menu that shows up when you click on the text.
8. Explore other features of the website builder.
When most of us visit a website, the main things we notice are the copy and images. But each page typically includes a number of other elements. Some common examples are:
- Social links
- Contact forms
- Embedded maps
- Embedded videos
Most website builders will make these easy to add to your pages.
In Gator, Elements is the top option in the menu on the left side of the screen. When you click on it, you’ll see a menu with all the different types of elements you might want to add to a page.
Select the element you want to add, then click on the part of the page where you want it to show up. Each element will come with its own menu once you’ve added it to the page, so you can customize the details of it as needed.
9. Drag and drop everything into place.
You don’t have to keep the same page layout that’s provided in your template. Once you’ve decided on the different images, copy, and elements you want to include on your page, decide where you want everything to go.
To rearrange different parts of your page: click on the block you want to move, hold down your mouse, drag it to the new spot you want it in, and release your mouse to drop it there.
10. Test your website with the website builder “Preview” function.
Before you publish your website, you want to make sure it looks good. Any good website builder will have a Preview function, and some also provide an option for previewing how your site looks on mobile.
Go through your website thoroughly in preview mode. Test out every link. Proofread all your copy—you don’t want to let sloppy typos slip through. Make sure everything looks the way you want it to on both desktop and mobile.
Once you’re confident your website is done, click that Publish button.
Anyone Can Use a Website Builder
The point of website builders is to make it possible for anyone to create a website. Even if you’re a total newbie when it comes to website design, you can take advantage of website templates that were built by skilled designers and a visual editor designed to be intuitive for beginners. Website builders make it possible to carve out your unique space on the web and make it look just the way you want it to. Ready to get started? Check out Gator Website Builder and our web hosting services now to start building your dream website.
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.