Building your own website may sound like a daunting task, especially if you have no prior web design experience. While it is true that if you need a very large or complex site you will certainly want to work with a seasoned web professional, the reality is that for many smaller and basic sites, you may indeed be able to do that work yourself!
These seven steps will help guide you in building your website.
Step 1: Hosting Your Site
Web hosting is like paying rent for your website’s virtual storefront, including the pages, images, documents, and other resources needed to display that site. Web hosting uses a web server, which is where you put those website resources so others can access them through the Web. You can build a fully functional website on your personal computer, but if you want other people to be able to see it, you will need to use a web host.
There are several types of web hosting options you can choose from, and while many new web designers will gravitate to free web hosting, there can be significant drawbacks to those no-cost services, including:
- You may get less server space where your pages will be stored. Depending on the size of your site and the resources it needs (video, audio, images, etc), that storage space may not be sufficient.
- You may be required to run ads on your site.
- There may be bandwidth limits that could be too restrictive if you get a lot of traffic. In some cases, if you exceed your monthly limit, they may even turn your site off.
- There are sometimes limitations on the kinds of content you can put on a free hosting provider. For example, some don’t allow Ecommerce websites.
- Some free hosting providers tack on maintenance and renewal fees to their “free” accounts.
Be sure to read all the fine print before you put your website on any web host. Free hosting providers may end up being good enough for testing web pages or for very basic, personal websites, but for more professional sites, you should expect to pay at least a nominal fee for that service.
Step 2: Registering a Domain Name
A domain name is a friendly URL people can type into their browser to get to your website. Some examples of domain names include:
A domain name provides valuable branding for your site and makes it easier for people to remember how to get to it.
Domain names typically cost between $8 and $35 a year and they can be registered at a number of sites online. In many cases, you can get domain name registration and web hosting services from the same provider, making it easier on you since those services are now contained under one account.
Step 3: Planning Your Website
When planning your website, you will need to make a number of important decisions:
- The type of site you need: Is this a news or informational site, a site for a company or service, a non-profit or cause-driven site, an Ecommerce shop, etc. Each of these kinds of sites has a slightly different focus that will influence its design.
- Navigation design: How users will move around your site affects its information architecture as well as the overall usability of that site. Plan out the pages a site, create a sitemap, and develop a navigational structure from there.
- Content: As the saying goes, “content is king” online. The quality of your site’s content will play an important role in its success. Content is everything that your pages will contain, such as text, images, video and more. Before you start designing or building pages, you should have a clear strategy for the content that those pages will contain.
Step 4: Designing and Building Your Website
This is easily the most complex part of the web page creation process and there are a number of topics to be aware of at this stage, including:
- Design Basics: The elements of good and appropriate design and how to use them on websites.
- Learning HTML: HyperText Markup Language or HTML is the building blocks of a web page. While there are many platforms out there that will code a page’s HTML for you, you’ll do better and have far more flexibility and control if you learn the basics of HTML.
- Learning CSS: Cascading Style Sheets dictate how web pages look. Learning CSS will help you change the visual appearance of a site to match the design needs of a project.
- Web Page Editors: Different web page editors will allow you to accomplish different things. HTML and CSS can be written in simple text editors, like Notepad, or they can use software like Adobe Dreamweaver to get some assistance with the pages you are creating. You may also decide to use a Content Management System, like WordPress, to build and power your website.
Step 5: Publishing Your Website
Publishing your website is a matter of getting the pages you created in step 4 up to the hosting provider you set up in step 1.
You can do this with either the proprietary tools that come with your hosting service or with a standard FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software. Knowing which you can use depends upon your hosting provider, but most providers should have support for standard FTP. Contact that hosting provider if you are not sure what they do, and do not support
Step 6: Promoting Your Website
One of the most desirable ways to promote your website is through search engine optimization or SEO. This is because it allows your site to be found by people who are looking for the information, services, or products that your site provides.
You will want to build your web content so that it is appealing to search engines. Additionally, you will want to ensure your site as a whole conforms to search engine best practices.
Other ways to promote your site include word of mouth, using email marketing, social media, paid search marketing (SEM), and all the traditional forms of advertising.
Step 7: Maintaining Your Website
Maintenance can be the most tedious part of website design, but in order to keep your site going well and looking good, it needs regular attention and maintenance.
It’s important to test your site as you’re building it, and then again after it’s been live for a while. New devices come on the market all the time and browsers are always updating with new standards and features, so regular testing will ensure your site continues to perform as expected for those different devices and browsers.
In addition to regular testing, you should produce new content on a regular basis. Do not simply aim for “more” content, but strive to create content that is unique, timely, and relevant to the audience you aim to attract.