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I’ve been where you are. So keen on creating a website, but I need to figure out how. Everything felt so overwhelming!
That was more than ten years ago. Back then, putting all the pieces together was still challenging if you needed to gain technical knowledge.
Luckily for you, it’s much easier to make a website today.
Before we get started with our step-by-step guide to website creation, let’s get one thing out of the way:
Will I need technical skills?
But there are other ways to create a website: you can easily set up an excellent website even if you aren’t very familiar with the technical side of things.
By using a website builder. If you can use Word, Facebook, or PowerPoint, you’ll be able to use a website builder without any problem. These easy-to-use platforms offer a visual drag-and-drop editor and web hosting and can even provide a custom domain name: truly a one-stop shop!
Let’s get started now, shall we? Just follow these simple steps, and you will make your website in no time!
How to set up a website: 7 steps to get started
Most website projects go through these steps:
- Identify the type of website you need
- Decide on a platform and budget for your website (or hire someone to do it)
- Register a domain name – ideally, pick a .com
- Make a plan for your website’s structure and content
- Pick a theme you like and customize it
- Add your content (text, images and other media)
- Publish and promote your website
A few important terms for absolute beginners
- Identify the type of website you want to create
Websites come in all shapes and sizes. However, here are the most common ones:
An example of a minimal website would be an online portfolio or resume. A typical use-case would be a copywriter, translator or illustrator showcasing some references, contact information and an ‘about us page. Usually, these websites have around seven pages or less. It could even be a one-pager website where you display all the information on a single page.
Online Portfolio template by Wix (‘Creative CV’)
This type of website only gets updated a little and is mostly static. You create it once, make sure everything works as it should, test the mobile version and then let it sit there. Traffic comes mostly from people directly typing in the URL or from local directories like Google Maps.
Time required: Setting up such a small website usually takes little time: a weekend should be enough for a decent-enough first version.
If you like to share your thoughts frequently, you can also start a blog. This gives your visitors a reason to return to your website and invites them to comment. Adding blog posts is usually done via a simple editor where you can upload text and images. A typical example would be a travel or food blog.
A blog page can also be added to portfolio websites, but this has become less popular due to the rise of social media.
Time required: A small blog can easily be set up within a few days. The most significant time investment comes from posting regular content.
Ideal ways to create it: Squarespace or WordPress
Larger business-focused websites
In this type of business, the website is usually an integral part, meaning that the company wouldn’t exist without the website.
The website might be the primary marketing channel, for example:
- A food delivery service
- A membership program (e.g., online fitness course)
- A booking website for a vacation rental home
- Online consulting or coaching services
The website can even be the business:
- An Online Store
- A website comparing different products (like Tooltester.com)
- An online education website
- An online newspaper or magazine
Time required: It depends a lot on the design and functionality of your website. For example, using a website builder like Wix, you can create a site for your yoga business (incl. online appointments & payments) easily within a week, just using standard components.
However, if you want to build a more prominent website with bespoke features and page templates, you must use a CMS like WordPress. Depending on your technical knowledge, we are now looking at a timeframe of at least a month. This will further increase if you need to hire a designer and programmer for specific tasks.
After identifying the website type, you now have a clearer idea of the project size.
Let’s go over the most popular ways to start a professional website. There are many solutions. Some are more flexible than others, and some are more complex.
Option 1: Setting up a website with a website builder
Let’s start with the most straightforward option: a website builder. This is an “all-inclusive” package, so to speak: a single company will usually provide the template (design), drag-and-drop editor, web hosting, domain name, email address and support. The web builder takes care of the complex tasks.
This isn’t only useful for beginners. It simply depends on the project. Why complicate your life if there are easy ways to do things? For example, almost all site builders let you create a free essential website on a subdomain (e.g., yourname.sitebuildername.com), which is ad-supported. Using such a plan, you can try it in detail before deciding if the cost is worth it.
However, if you want to take your business online, you should consider a paid plan. Prices start at around $8/month, but it includes all the essentials. For example, add approximately $3-5/month if you need a professional email address for your business website.
To better understand exactly how it works, please watch our step-by-step tutorial for website creation!
- It’s straightforward to use.
- You don’t need additional software or even a web host.
- You can start without technical knowledge.
- The website builder company handles updates and security aspects.
- Predefined themes that you can adapt as you like.
- The mobile-optimized version is included by default.
- You can only sometimes add extra features (depending on the website builder).
- It isn’t as flexible since you’re dependent on the provider.
- They aren’t designed for very complicated projects that require a database (e.g., a job board or real-estate directories)
Quick start guide to setting up a free Wix website – 4 steps
Option 2: Creating a website with a content management system
Content management systems (CMS) are a bit more complicated. Even though they essentially work similarly to a website builder, they are far more challenging.
That is because they are prepared to accommodate massive website projects (e.g., Typo3, Joomla! or Drupal). A typical user would be a larger enterprise, creating hundreds of pages while having a dedicated tech team working on the website.
Fortunately, there’s also one more CMS, which is much more accessible: WordPress. Thanks to hosting companies that offer a one-click installation, it’s easier to set up. This is also one of the reasons why it’s the most popular CMS worldwide.
WordPress – the beginner-friendly CMS
Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of WordPress:
- You can freely choose the web hosting company.
- Great for multi-language websites.
- Technical flexibility: you can access the complete source code (if you know what you’re doing).
- You can get more features with plugins.
- You can optimize your page loading speed.
- No direct personal technical support (limited support from your web host or theme provider)
- Creative freedom depends on the template.
- It can have additional costs for the plugins.
- You may need a programmer even to make minor, aesthetic changes.
In this introductory video, we look at what you need to consider if you’re setting up WordPress.
You’ll need to install a WordPress theme that matches your vision to get a customized layout for your use case. Usually, you’ll find a few basic themes when you first log into your new WordPress site.
Fortunately, you can find various specific themes for multiple industries that can be adjusted and customized. Cheaper themes are available on Themeforest, for example. To increase the chances that your theme will be supported for years into the future, it’s essential to check its ratings, and the number of sales is reasonable.
Then there are also premium theme providers such as Astra. They provide a basic free version (mainly to test) and premium plans that include customer support and integrations with page builders such as Elementor.
Keep in mind that customizing a WordPress theme can be a lot of work. If there is something you don’t like, you’ll often have to modify the CSS or HTML (you or a programmer).
The hosting, domain name, email address, installation and level of support you choose will depend on how much you want to spend and your technical knowledge. However, it can be pretty cheap if you do it yourself. Please take a look at our pricing guide for typical website projects here.
Of course, there may be better solutions than that, especially when you’re busy running a business. In this case, you can hire a web designer to help you set up a WordPress website.
Additional website features via plugins
An enormous advantage, especially for WordPress, is that you have thousands of plugins that let you add unique features to your website that are not initially included. A typical example would be WooCommerce, a plugin that adds a complete online store.
By default, WordPress is designed to be in a single language, but there are plugins, like WPML, that let you translate the page. Another of my favorites is the Yoast SEO plugin, which enables you to change the search engine settings (e.g., to rank higher on Google).
Option 3: How to program a website yourself (or hire someone to do it).
This is the supreme discipline: opening the editor and starting to code. Those who need total liberty will have to make the page themselves. It would be best if you had the patience for this; for beginners, it is usually overwhelming (and frustrating).
An excellent place to start is websites like Codecademy, Mozilla, or W2Schools, which have step-by-step tutorials for beginners. But expect a long journey before your website is ready. Of course, to speed up the process, you can hire a web designer. Remember that your coder shouldn’t be doing designs and vice versa. The skills required for each of these tasks are very different.
Giving a general price is not easy here since it depends on the project. You’ll need to pay for hosting, but there are plenty of cheap web hosting providers to choose from. Above all, it will be much more expensive if you need to hire a programmer: paying $8-15 a month for a website builder will always be cheaper than what any designer or agency will charge for an hour of work.
- Register a domain name
If you want to use something other than a free domain name (which looks quite ugly as it will have the name of another company in it), you need to purchase your domain. This will then look like www.mycompany.com. Usually, it’s best to get the .com extension unless you are strictly operating in one country like Canada (.ca) or the UK (.co.UK). Then, of course, many successful businesses use one of the newer domain names like .me or .agency, for example.
Our domain name
There is plenty of registrars that sell custom domain names.
But depending on where you build your website, you can get it also included in your website builder package. For example, Wix, Weebly, and Jimdo have a free domain name included in the first year. In the following years, they charge slightly more than Namecheap, but the added convenience of only having to deal with one company is usually worth it.
If you are using WordPress.org or building the website yourself, you will need to organize your own web storage. This can be bought at the same place you get your custom domain name from or at another specialized company like Siteground or WP Engine. But if you are only starting, this will be fine.
Let’s now look at an area that is closely connected to the domain name:
How to get a professional email address?
If you’re running a business, you likely don’t want to use a Gmail or Hotmail address. A custom email address on your domain name looks much more professional! And it’s pretty easy to get. So let me give you a few different options:
- Get it from your website builder or hosting company: a few of them include email addresses at no extra cost
- Get it from your domain registrar: Namecheap, for example, offers it for less than $12 per email address per year.
- If you love Gmail, you can try Google Workspace. It’s the most feature-rich solution but will set you back $6 per email address. This is also the solution most website builders offer (Wix, Squarespace, Jimdo etc.)
- Tip: For a completely free solution: use Zoho Workplace, which includes up to 5 email addresses. It’s more complicated to set up, but your domain registrar should be able to help you with that.
- Plan the structure of your website
Just like it isn’t always a good idea to start cooking without following a recipe, at least if you have no experience, the same goes for creating a website. Here, improvising is not a good idea. Instead, planning will help you decide what sections you need, the best content for you and how your website should be designed.
Mind map for an online shoe store
An excellent way to start is by creating a mind map with ideas of what your website will need. Then, the main items of this mind map can be used for your website navigation.
Tips for planning your website:
- Use paper and pen to write down everything you want on the website. Brainstorming and creating a mind map are the perfect ways to organize your thoughts.
- Look at other attractive websites in terms of design and content. Note what you like and what you don’t.
- Once you have a draft of what you want on your website, ask people you trust what they think. You’ll undoubtedly find some interesting perspectives you can incorporate.
- Create a list (e.g., in Excel) with all the pages your website will have. Note down the title, what kind of content you’ll have, keywords, the purpose, the sort of page and their importance.
- Bonus: If you want to position yourself well in search engines, this is when you should find out what keyword each page will have and add them to the list in point 4. Read this SEO guide for more information.
Remember that the navigation menu is an essential element of your website so visitors can move from one page to another. Make sure everything is organized logically, and use standard terms such as About, Contact and Services.
Being too abstract can lead to confusion – for example, I once saw a website that used Who, How and What for the three items mentioned above. That is not the most intuitive way to describe it.
Examples of pages that could be important for your business:
- An “about” page on the company and its history
- A page to present services or products
- A contact page (with a contact form)
- A blog with informative and valuable articles for your customers
- A calendar of events
- A FAQ or a glossary
- Choose a theme, customize your design and add your artwork
The way forward is now determined by your choice in step 2 (Decide on a platform).
If you’ve chosen a website builder like Wix, you’ll have a range of templates to choose from. These themes are generally arranged by category (shops, sports, portfolio, blog, etc.).
Once you’ve chosen your favorite template, creating your site is a pretty straightforward affair:
- pick your preferred color scheme and set up the general design
- Set up all pages you require (see step 4 – Planning of a website)
- Customize the copy and images (more on that in step 6).
Wix is one of many site builders that are equipped with website templates. This is also the case with Squarespace, Zyro, and Shopify, the best solution for creating more significant eCommerce sites.
If you go for a CMS like WordPress, you must choose a theme. There are free and premium ones. We have a dedicated WordPress tutorial that shows you where to get a WordPress theme and how to set it up.
Finally, If you choose to program the website yourself, you will need to create your design or hire a designer and then create the CSS. But this method is generally reserved for companies or individuals who need a bespoke solution and have the correct type of budget (or a lot of free time on their hands).
What about the website design?
However you choose to create your website, you will need to make some design decisions.
Creating visual web designs is a challenging task. Unfortunately, online, there are more examples of terrible designs than good ones. So make sure to make sure your website is one.
Just like bell-bottom jeans were stylish in the 70s, they were ridiculous in the 80s and 90s. The same happens with web design. Remember that what was considered good practice five years ago can now seem old or outdated.
Here are some tips to make a design your visitors will love:
- Try to use a light (or white) color for the background.
- Choose attractive colors that complement each other.
- Keep the design clean and simple, and leave white space between the elements. How to make readable text.
- Use only a few fonts: one for the titles and another for the text is usually enough.
- Keep consistent style and format. The users should not notice any differences between your pages. Don’t create a Frankenstein.
- Your website should also be perfectly adapted to mobile devices.
- Any images you add must look professional. Don’t upload a selfie you took in front of a bathroom mirror. Keep in mind that today’s smartphones take adorable photos. If you plan right, you can get great headshots.
- Less is more. When in doubt, go minimal.
Creating a logo for your website
A logo is crucial to getting that professional look for your website. Similarly to creating your website you can also DIY your logo with a logo maker. Or you outsource the logo creation to a professional designer.
Finding good artwork and images
A website that has only written words on it looks dull and overwhelming. For that reason, you’ll notice that website templates usually have placeholder images.
Most of the time, it’s not a great idea to keep them as they aren’t customized to YOUR website.
The best artwork for your website is always your artwork and photos. You can either create it yourself or get help from a photographer or illustrator.
But there are good alternatives too. Most website builders are connected to stock photo providers such as Unsplash or Creative Commons, free, or Getty Images / Shutterstock, paid premium platforms. This is an easy way to add professional-looking photos and illustrations to your website.
And even if your website builder or CMS is not directly connected to these stock photo providers, you can now browse said websites and get the images from there.
Moreover, you can find more professional-looking photos (starting at $1) on many other websites, like Depositphotos and Shutterstock. In addition, here are some more free stock photo options.
Ensure you understand the available image formats: .gif, .jpg and .png are the main formats. Plus, you have to optimize the size and quality of the image to the standard web browser.
Before uploading images to your site, use TinyPNG or ShortPixel to compress your photos for free.
Although the human eye will hardly recognize any change in the image, it will speed up your website and improve the user experience for your visitors. But, of course, search engines love fast-loading websites too!
Likewise, it will be handy to have an editing program to edit and change the size of the images. The most professional ways to manipulate photos are Figma and Photoshop, but not everyone will be able (or will want to) afford them.
There are increasingly more tools to create graphic resources simply without learning to use Photoshop or Illustrator. For instance, you can use Stencil, Canva or Snappa.
- Add content and start publishing.
After defining the style in the previous step, we are finally ready to add content to our brand-new website.
Speak the language of your customers
Your potential visitors and customers must be front and center in your content strategy.
For that reason, you need to speak a language your visitors understand. Remember, they only have a little time and won’t be happy if you throw cryptic jargon at them. So try to use clear and straightforward language without much fluff.
Structuring and optimizing your content
We are generally less formal on a website than in a book or a letter. Nevertheless, we must help busy visitors find the information they need.
Things you should do:
- Make it scan and skip-able: structure your pages using titles and subtitles because your visitors love to review the content to skip to the most relevant sections. It feels just as good as skipping YouTube ads and Netflix intros.
- Short sentences with a generous amount of line breaks. This makes it easy to read.
- Bulleted lists: just like this one. Another way to consume content with little effort
- Effective fonts: as mentioned in part 5, our design section uses a reduced number of fonts (max. 2-3 different ones) that are easy to read on screen.
- Own your content: make it clear who is behind the website and generously use photos even if it makes you slightly uncomfortable. Also, show relevant qualifications.
Things you should avoid:
- Using complicated language to sound smart. This will drive visitors away from your website faster than a bullet train.
- Not using a call to action: too many websites lose business because their visitors need guidance on how to get in touch or initiate a transaction. You should make it as easy as possible! Use CTA buttons, contact forms, online booking tools, and live chat. Whatever works for you and your customers.
Outsourcing content creation
As with all the previous website elements (design, logo etc.), you can hire someone to create the copy for your website if you are not a natural-born writer.
External copywriters usually require a briefing from you. They will typically provide a briefing document for you to fill in or have a call with you.
Ways to find a good copywriter:
- Google search (usually “copywriter [add your industry])
The good thing about copywriters is that they can be far from where you are. So this job can easily be done remotely. Just make sure you hire a native speaker of whatever language you produce.
- Promote your website
If you’ve already created your website and published it, you can start promoting and optimizing it to increase visits and improve the user experience.
- Update your website: Websites are not books. Once published, they can still be updated. Make sure you create new and relevant content when you have the chance and that you’re constantly updating the website. For example, imagine a restaurant’s website: if the menu changes, it should be reflected on the website as quickly as possible.
- Online positioning: To attract as many visitors as possible, you’ll have to optimize your website’s SEO further. This is simple, but it requires time and work. Check out this guide for more information on which website builders are good for SEO.
- Web analysis: Your efforts in online positioning (above point) will only be helpful if you measure your website traffic. That’s how you’ll know whether it’s working or not. The most popular website analysis tool is Google Analytics. And it’s free!
- Once you publish your website, you should register with Google Search Console to notify Google that your page exists and get information. Or at least send your website’s URL (address) to Google so that it can index it.
- Email Marketing: Another common strategy, especially for businesses, is to send regular emails to their visitors to maintain contact. This is especially useful for online stores, small businesses, and bloggers. Email marketing is a science in itself. You can read this how-to guide to find more information on how to get started sending newsletters.
- Social media: Finally, most websites also have social media profiles (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, etc.) for being able to interact with their target group beyond the realms of their website. This works exceptionally well for visual professionals like illustrators, jewelers, or photographers.
Making your website can be daunting. But with the right platform and some effort, it’s doable! This guide has encouraged you to get started.