How to Create a Website
To build a website you used to need 4 things:
2. Design Skills
3. Technical Skills
To build a website today you need one thing:
Today the website design world has changed, anyone can easily build any website they want for free and the only thing you need is time.
Yesterday if had the money, you hired a web design agency and paid from about £500 for a basic website and anything up to £10,000 for a top quality World class website.
If you didn't have money then you needed to learn the technical skills, even then if you weren't a design orientated person you would still need help.
Today if you have the time you can build your website for free with no technical and virtually no design skills.
Step 1. What Is Your Website For?
Before you start ask yourself two questions, why am I building a website and who is my audience?
You need a firm understanding of what you want your website to achieve. This give you focus, if you define your purpose before you start it stops you being sidetracked and adding unnecessary content. Your website is going to be your window to the world, so keep it focused on your business.
Lets look at Tim's example:
What Tim does?
He owns a garage which does services, MOT's and mechanical repairs (engine, gearbox, exhausts etc..). Tim's Garage provides additional services such as picking up customers cars from home and providing a courtesy car while their car is being serviced, he also does on-site valeting.
Why does Tim need a website?
He wants to tell people about his garage and what it does so he can get more customers.
Tim needs to tell them where his garage is, what it does, how well it does it, how dedicated his staff are, how much he charges and what his garages USP (Unique Selling Point) is, the reason they should pick his over other garages and call him.
Who is Tim's target audience?
He is aiming at car owners in his local area (within a 5 mile radius of his garage).That's anyone in the age bracket 17 upwards across all social classes.
Step 2. Get The Basics Done.
A. Domain Name.
This is your online business website address, If you haven't got a Domain name yet then see our article on Choosing a domain name
B. Logo / Branding
This is an image and color scheme that people will associate with your business, if you already have a logo and brand identity you’ll want to incorporate that into your website design.
If you don't have one already, there are several logo design companies that will create a logo for you or suggest some options Have a look at fiverr for a range of designers starting from around £4.
The free Jeta Logo designer. is a downloadable tool which lets you use and manipulate your own images to give a professional logo (as good as ones costing £100s).
There are other free logo sites online but we find these more than adequate for making decent logos and they are easy to use.
A good logo means instant brand recognition
C. A Website Builder.
Depending on the kind of business you have you may need a simple one page site, a quick build stock multi-page site or want to build your own bespoke site.
If you haven't decided yet then see our article on Getting a free website to find out how to get a free website. We've selected the very best and easiest to use free options available. All use simple drag and drop construction and need no coding knowledge.
You need to rent space on an online server to store your website so people can visit and interact with it, this is called hosting. If you are using Google business or a stock website builder (Site123 or WordPress.com) you don't have to worry about hosting as it comes with the package, when you have finished building it is done automatically.
If you are using WordPress.org to build your own bespoke website, you have to find your own hosting package before you start building see our article on Hosting Your Website
Step 3. Research
Do a Google search for business like yours and spend an hour or two browsing your competitors websites
Look at the organic listings on page 1, look at websites listed on the lower pages, look at the websites which have paid ads, the idea is to get a flavour of what your industry is doing and how it represents itself online.
These are a few things to look for:
- Load speed: if a web page takes more than 3 seconds to load on a mobile then 53% on visitors will abandon it, that drops to 2% on a desktop. 75% will abandon if you load in over 4 seconds another reason not to bloat your web pages. Google considers any web page it's spiders cannot crawl in under 2 seconds as slow.
- Bad navigation, if people cannot find their way around a website they leave, and the more pages there are the more difficult they find the navigation. Another reason not to have too many pages. Google ranks you down for bad navigation
- Clutter, if there is too much information on the page visitors get confused. If information seems too difficult to find they will leave.
- Pop ups; Annoying boxes which jump at you covering what you are looking at and offering you free stuff, or to join a mailing list. Google ranks down web pages which do this on mobile websites.
- Color: This has a marked effect on how people react to a website. Harmonious pastel colors work the best
- Readability: Clear simple text using a large font (at least 16 pt) broken down into short sentences. Text sections clearly separated by headings.
- Layout: Good use of white space, pleasant to look at, good use of images.
When you've bookmarked about 10 websites that 'grab you' take another look and note what you like about them, why they appeal and why some of the others didn't.
To build your own unique site. You need to know what makes a good website and what makes a bad one.
Your aim is not to make a copy of another website, there is nothing wrong in copying good ideas, there is plenty wrong in stealing other websites content.
By now you should have a good idea of what you want your website to look like. Looking at the ones who are doing it right and mirror their best practice and avoiding the mistakes of those who are doing it wrong will help you to tweak up your design and give you ideas on how to arrange your content.
If you want to do some more research at this point try taking the free Google web academy course, it is worth doing as 60% + of all your business is going to come from search engines and Google has 89% of the search engine market, following Google guidelines and best practice will help to get your web pages listed higher on the search engine result pages (SERPS).
The course is a series of 3 online modules which take about 3 hours in total to complete.
Step 4. Managing Space and Time
Find a space.
You need somewhere where you can work and think quietly at home (a room, shed, garage or even a corner of the kitchen when it's empty) or in your work space.
You need uninterrupted use of your PC, laptop or tablet and somewhere to stack a few papers safely.
For security reasons do not build in public areas using open WiFi, you're going to setting passwords and using other sensitive info' you need to keep private.
I am assuming that you've never built a website before, even though the tools we recommend are easy to use and need no specialist knowledge, you still need to familiarize yourself with them so you can get the best possible results.
Our time estimates include this learning time.
You need to give yourself a clear time window, preferably when your mind is at it's best.
You are building a shop window to the world so don't do this at the end of a long day when your tired, or just slot it in and rush.
You need to give this your best shot, so clear a few hours to dedicate solely to your website build.
Estimated build times:
- Google Business: These easy build one page websites can take under 10 minutes to design and publish, you may want to take a little longer to think about what you are doing as you are looking for maximum impact in a minimum space, most people get it done in under an hour.
- Site123 and WordPress.com: These stock websites are quick and easy to use but you will want to play around with them first to see how they work how they work, you can get a good website up and online in under 2 hours.
But we say don't rush as you are going to have to write decent content and source suitable images. Then you may want to revise your content afterwards so give yourself time to tweak it. Depending on size, building one of these from scratch should take anything up to 5 hours.
WordPress.org: Your going to design and build your own unique website, it's your design and it will take a little longer so set aside a few hours a day (or even 2 half days a week) to work solely on this and you can get a really professional website designed, built and online in between 10 and 30 hours depending whether it's a one page or multi page site.
This is for your core website you blog will mean adding fresh content once or twice a week, so set aside a couple of hours a week for that.
To pay to design and build the type of top quality professional website you can achieve with WordPress can cost Thousands of pounds.
Step 5: Plan out Your Site – Pages Layout and Content
The next step in building your website is planning how many pages you are going to have and how you are going to position your content on each of your pages.
For this step leave the computer alone and use a pad of A4 paper, doing it this way will give you a clear view of what you are going to build and save hours of playing around with web builders.
Plan out Your Site – Pages.
Your website will contain at a minimum:-
- A Home Page: Instantly telling visitors who you are and what you do and backing it up with an enticing offer such as freebies, cut price introductory offers etc.... and a nice visible call to action button so they contact you right away.
- An About Us Page: Briefly telling visitors about the business, your potted history, how well you deliver your services and include a mission statement.
- A Services Page: Listing your services in more detail
- A Contact Page: Where visitors can find your address, phone number, e-mail and get a detailed map of how to get there.
- A Blog: Where you keep visitors and customers updated about what you are doing, latest offers, industry related information and anything else relevant to your trade.The fresh content you regularly post here is a very important part of your SEO.
You may also want to include
- A FAQ Page: Where you list answers to common questions about your products or services
- A Testimonials Page: where they can read reviews from all your satisfied customers
- A Privacy Page: where you put info about what you do with any information you get from visitors, what cookies you use and the rest of the legal stuff you need to protect yourself. You can read about this here privacy page info
- A Sitemap: A page which has a list of links to all the pages and posts on your website. This lets visitors jump anywhere without having to navigate around the site and makes your website more search engine friendly.
Plan your core pages (or sections if it is a one page website) and stick to them or you may start adding pages of 'relevant information', before you know where you are you've added another 20 pages to your website.
This is extra information, so keep it off your main website then when you have finished you can write these extras as posts for your blog.
Plan out Your Site - Layout
Step 5 lists minimum pages or sections (these are the most visited pages on all websites and so are the most important) : Home, About, Services, Contact and Blog.
Take one page of paper for each page or section and write the title. For the blog page just title it blog and put it to one side.
If you're creating a Google Business one page website the sections Home, About, Services and Contact should be enough, you need the website to convey the maximum amount of information as briefly as possible.
If you provide more than one service, think about creating individual pages or sections for each of them.
Think about what a user would like to know about your business, or other information that you would like to highlight. You will need images on the pages
Don't try to write your content yet, just draw a box for each place you plan to put text and write the title of what you want to write, so on your About Page you might have a couple of boxes titled, "Our history" and "Our Team" along with a few photos
For your images, the ones you already have, write what they are in spaces. If you need images write what kind of image you want (you can get thousands of free images from Pixabay). Include any video that you want to showcase.
Juggle the size of images and text boxes so you get an attractive uncluttered layout
If you are building a your own WordPress site you will need a site map page, this is done easily using a free plug-in. Leave this as the last page to add to your as with a free plug-in the page builds itself, you just have to put a title on it see our site map. We put a Title, our logo and a background image on the page and adverts in the sidebars, but everything else is done automatically with a free plug-in.
When you are finished you should have a rough mock-up of each page.
Plan out your site - Content
People have short attention spans and do not like reading loads of text so do not over stuff your website, keep it to relevant pages only and keep the text content short, If you have extra info' add it as pages on your blog.
Always remember your website is a selling tool, your creating a sales brochure not an information site about you and your business. If you want to share information like that keep it in your blog.
Now put a few bullet points in each of your text boxes, an indication of what you want to put in there.
As you choose content keep thinking about what you need to tell people to get them to buy your product or service in the least number of words. This will get you used to being brief by giving as much information as you can in as few words as possible.
Step 6 - Get Building
Now you've got everything planned out you can start open your web builder and start playing with all the lovely toys. All our recommend free websites have full easy to follow instructions to take you through the process.
With The Google business one page website just follow the instructions and upload your content as requested.
For Site123 and WordPress.com self build websites select the templates you feel most suited to your design and upload your content.
You may have to make adjustments to your layout at this stage to suit the templates also you may find that once built you may wish to start tweaking it.
Make use of any tools provided to adjust your color scheme, fonts and image sizes.
If you are building with WordPress.org and have not already installed your website with your host please go to the section on Installing your WordPress site, you need to do this before you can get started.
Once your WordPress site is installed you are given a default theme, there are thousands of free themes on WordPress so you can choose one to suit you, once done you can start building with one of our recommended free WordPress Page Builders.
Using the page builders you can quickly get your layout built, then using free plug-ins which give you things such as picture slide shows, animated displays, professional contact page, purpose-built FAQ pages and many more features.
You can upgrade your website adding the touches which bring it up to a professional build . For tips on how to elevate your website take a look at our Building World Class Websites article.
Take a look at this video to see just what is achievable with WordPress.org.
WARNING:- There are hundreds of YouTube videos showing how to build websites, most have affiliate links to hosting companies, if you choose one of these hosting plans please check it out first before spending any money.
Step 7 - SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Building good SEO into your website will help it to work better for your visitors and rank higher on the search engines, see our article on managing your own SEO for a quick introduction into how you can do this, it's easier than you may think.
Google Webmasters Guidelines tell you what Google looks for in a website for it to be compliant with search engines
Google business Websites and Site123 will automatically optimize your website so all you have to concentrate on is choosing the right keywords (the search words people put into search engines to find what products or services you are selling) and putting them in the right place, see our article on Keyword Planning to see how to choose and find keywords and where to place them in your website.
If your building a WordPress.com hosted website or building you own website with WordPress.org you will need to make sure that your pages have links to each other, this helps with navigation and helps the search engine spiders to crawl your site to get it indexed on the search engines.
This is a simple process and is done as part of writing your content, see our Quick Guide to Internal Linking for help with this.
Step 8 - Social Media
If you don't already have them then set up as a minimum Facebook, Twitter and Google+ for your business and a Linked in account for yourself (all accounts are free).
You can set up Pinterest, Instagram and the rest but you are managing these accounts and have to update content on them regularly, the more you have the more time spent on them, make sure share and follow links to all these are on your pages.
On each social media site include your logo or branding and use the same color scheme as on your website, this will give you continuity across all platforms.
Step 9 - Site Launch
With a Google business site you build and launch instantly so check though it thoroughly before you go live.
With Site123 you have a preview button so keep checking as you go when you are satisfied, go live then check the live site.
A WordPress.com hosted site has the same preview function and you keep checking as you go.
If your building a self hosted using WordPress you can use the free under construction plug-in which will publish a soon coming or under maintenance page at your web address.
This allows you to build and comprehensively test your website as if it were live. When ready you turn of the plug-in and your site really goes live.
Test the site in a different browser as a non-logged in user to make sure that the maintenance plugin is truly deactivated.
Step 10 - Testing
Once you’ve built your site, you should test it on different browsers and make sure that everything looks the same. All browsers have differences so your websites appearance on each.
The top browsers to check are: Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Microsoft's Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera and Apples Safari, and there are many others. You can find a list of current browsers (updated monthly) at Web Developers Notes Browser List.
To see how your responsive site looks, Screenfly by Quirktools. Is free resource that shows you how your site looks on tablets, PC’s, TV’s and cell phones.
To scroll through your site on simulated mobile phones and tablets use: Responsinator.com.
Take the time to Click on every link on your website to make sure it is working as expected.
Scroll over your images, what you have written in the ALT tag will show, check each description is correct and your pages keyword is present.
If you find any issues go back into your websites editing dashboard and correct them.
There are site checking tools you can use to check page loading speed and other factors that will affect your websites performance, these tools will find issues and show you how to fix them a list is on our Free Tools And Resources Page.