Planning is key to the success of creating your own website. You need to plan your site structure, prepare the content, and ensure you have everything you need to develop the site. Visualize what your ideal website would look like, what functionality it would provide, and how it would benefit your business or organization.
Decide on the purpose of your website
What do you want your website to achieve? Read through this list and rank which are most important for your website on a scale of 1-10.
- Give a professional appearance.
- Establish our business as an authority.
- Build a marketing database.
- Attract new customers.
- Sell products/services.
- Provide contact details.
- Allow users access to information for free or for a fee.
- Provide product information/price lists.
- Boost brand awareness.
- Communicate with customers.
- Provide a repository of information.
Define Your Audience
Who are you trying to reach? Even if you think you know exactly who your target market is it is good to think about the type of people you want to reach, not just their demographics.
- Who is your target market?
- Are they local, national, or global?
- Does your website need translation?
- What are your customers expecting to find on your website?
- How often will they visit?
- What device(s) will they be using to view your website?
- What search phrases are they likely to use?
- What social media do they use?
- How will they find your website?
Visit your competitors’ websites to see what information and functionality they are offering. Do they have a blog? Can customers review products? Do they have a forum where users can engage with one another? Note down what you do like and what you don’t like.
Make a Content List
What information do you want to provide visitors to your website with? Here are some of the most common pages found on websites:
- About the company
- Key personnel
- Product information
- Press releases
- Shipping Information
- Site Map
Think about the look and feel of your website
Think about websites you like and what it is you like about them. Is it the simplicity, the bold graphics, and the customized icons? Is it the font, the color combination, or the styling of the menu? Do you have any particular color palette in mind?
Are there any ‘bells & whistles you’d like in terms of functionality? e.g. Search, Animated Banners, Sound, E-commerce, Password-Protected Areas, Forum, Gallery, Live Chat etc.
Building a website is very exciting and, when you see what is possible, you may get a bit carried away and include information or functionality that isn’t necessary. Keep things simple. You don’t want busy pages with so many options that visitors can’t make a choice or functionality that slows down your pages.
Choose a domain name
Choosing a domain name is important because it is the address of your permanent online home. Generally, your domain name would be the name of your business or organization followed by the extension of a TLD (Top Level Domain) like .org, .com, .info, etc.
There are instances where you may not want your business name to be your domain name or the domain you want already belongs to someone else. If your company name is long you may want to shorten it, if the domain you want is not available use a different TLD or add a keyword to your business name. For example, when Tesla was founded tesla.com was not available so they used teslamotors.com.
Here are some factors to take into account:
- Choose an appropriate TLD. If you’re a commercial business get a .com and if you’re an organization a .org.
- Use keywords strategically. A keyword in your domain name can improve search engine rankings. For example, if your business is JBD Consultants you may want to use jbdtax.com instead of jbdconsultants.com.
- Don’t use hyphens. Hyphens make a domain name cumbersome and difficult to express when spelling the domain out.
- Check for multiple meanings. Many people have had the unfortunate experience of not seeing a different meaning in their domain name. Take the Teachers Talking website for example; their name doesn’t work too well as a domain name – teacherstalking.com.
- Leave room for growth. What happens if you choose a country-specific TLD like .co.uk and then expand your business globally? What if you include your product in your domain name and then start selling other products?
- Do proper research. Check whether the domain you want is available and do a trademark check to avoid legal problems.
The most effective domain names are short, memorable, unique, easy to say, and easy to type.
Choose a Hosting Company
There are a large number of domain registrars and hosting companies to choose from. Website building applications have also started including domain registration and hosting as part of their packages so take a look at the various website builders before making a decision about where to host your website.
Now the real fun begins! You’re going to choose your web builder and gather all the information you need to populate it. Website builders have grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years and make website creation for beginners a breeze.
Choose a website builder
The website builder you choose will depend on the functionality you require and how easy you find it to use. Most offer a free trial and it’s worth blocking off some time to compare features and try them out before making a final decision.
Here is an overview of three popular website builders:
Wix is one of the best website builders for small businesses. It’s really easy to use, has over 800 templates, and is competitively priced. Wix also offers a free domain name and hosting. You can expand functionality with custom code and add-ons.
- Perfect for: Small business, basic eCommerce, membership, online reservation, and portfolio sites.
- Limitations: Cannot accept recurring payments, donations, or offer gift cards.
- Pricing: From $14 per month. Free version with limited functionality available.
Like Wix, web.com is also based on drag and drop functionality, offers domain and hosting services, and is very affordable. However, it has not quite kept up to speed when it comes to development and the user interface is a bit clunky. It also has a far smaller range of templates to choose from.
- Perfect for: Small businesses, very basic eCommerce, or portfolio sites.
- Limitations: Not possible to expand functionality. Limited design choices.
- Pricing: From $1.95 per month but read the small print because the price rises after 30 days.
With 40% of websites built using WordPress, you may have expected to see it on this list but WordPress is more of a Content Management System (CMS) than a web builder. Unless you’re up for a steep learning curve you’ll need to have some previous website design experience if you’re going to use WordPress. This is where Elementor comes in. It makes building a website in WordPress as easy as using any other drag and drop web builder.
- Perfect for: Any type of site from a basic one-pager to a complex e-commerce site.
- Limitations: Slightly more difficult to navigate due to being more sophisticated than the average web builder.
- Pricing: From $49 per annum. Free version with limited features available.
If all you need is to get a simple website up as quickly and cost-effectively as possible then web.com is a good choice. Use WIX if you want a more creative design or to sell a small range of products. If you’re going upscale your website as your business grows, you need advanced functionality or have a large product range then Elementor is definitely the way to go.
Draw a Site Map
Take a blank piece of paper and use your content list to draw a mind map that shows the hierarchy of the pages, and how they link together. This helps you organize your content and navigation paths.
Choose a hero image and, depending on the content of the page, an additional 3 to 10 images per page. Quality images are essential if you want an eye-catching website. If you don’t have good images you can use stock images or get a professional photographer to take pictures for you. Many web builders provide you with access to image libraries as part of their packages.
Use a word processor to type up your content. For every page you should have the following:
Keep sentences short, avoid long paragraphs, and use keyword-rich headings and sub-headings to break the content up. This helps your search engine optimization and makes the content more readable for users. Always have some kind of call to action on your page like subscribing to a newsletter or reading a related article.
Search Engine Optimization is the process of using a variety of techniques to rank well for certain keywords. It’s very important and should be looked at in more depth once your site is built. Some web builders have the functionality to assist you with this but, by following the steps below, you will have basic optimization in place from the start.
- Use keywords in the title, the first paragraph, and in headings.
- Use the first paragraph of your copy as your description. Tweak it so that it conforms to the recommended length and reads well standing alone.
- Extract keywords from your description, separate them with commas, and add any extra ones you would like that page to rank for.
- Add ALT text to images when you upload them.
- Link 2 or 3 keywords or phrases to other pages on your website and 4 to 6 to external websites that have relevant content or are ‘authoritative’, like Wikipedia.
You now have an idea of how you want your site to look and what you want it to achieve. You have all the images and content ready to upload. All that’s left to do is log into your web builder account and start pulling it all together.
Building a website step by step
Web builders generally work in a similar way. Once you’re in edit mode you’ll find a menu and/or toolbox on the left, and the page you’re editing on the right. When you click on a page element, the options and settings for that element will display on the left. You can drag and drop elements to different parts of the page or from the toolbox onto the page. It’s really that easy!
- Log in to your website builder.
- Find a template.
- Adjust the colors and fonts.
- Personalize settings like your logo, contact details, and favicon.
- Add pages, starting with the home page.
- Replace text and images in the template with your own. Click on any item to edit or delete it.
- Add internal and external links.
- Insert page information like the title, description, and keywords.
- Add sections or components by dragging modules from the toolbox to where you want them on the page.
- If there is built-in SEO functionality, check the page complies.
- Save and preview.
- Add or edit any apps.
- Check menus are in place.
- Test your website on different devices.
- Ask others to test your website
- Tweak according to feedback and launch your website!
As if that isn’t easy enough, a couple of web builders have launched an AI builder which literally builds your website for you. You choose an industry type, put in some keywords, select a color palette, choose the pages you want, and the builder generates an entire site, complete with appropriate images and text. All you need to do is personalize it with your logo, your own content, your contact information, and voila! You will have a beautifully designed website.
There is a myriad of ways to make a website but using a good web builder is the easiest way for anyone to get a professional web presence quickly. After reading this article you should now know how to make a website from scratch and a professional one at that!