Maybe just like you, at first we didn't have a darn clue about how to build a website, nevermind write half a line of code if our life depended on it! We wanted to build a website to start a side business, and felt overwhelmed, confused & scared about how to actually do it, which builder to use, and making wrong decisions. After years of trials & errors using different website builders, we're here to share our experiences with you.
If you're ready to get going, this guide will introduce you to the services and software that can get you started building your own website, even if you have no experience. Keep in mind, none of these tools will give you an idea for a winning website—that's on you. They also won't make you a web designer, a job that's distinct from building a site. Still, these services and software will ease some of the headaches that come from a lack of extensive expertise in CSS, FTP, HTML, and PHP.
Whether you’re providing a product, service, portfolio for your work or launching an ecommerce storefront, your website not only should reflect you and/or your brand, it also needs to be the central location for your business. There’s simply no other way around it. All of your marketing efforts lead back to your website. Which is why it’s of the utmost importance to set up your website correctly.
I own a small business and am looking to redesign our website. Thanks for all your comparisons of the website builders! I currently use Mailchimp to send out weekly emails to my customers. Do you know if any of these website builder sites allow you to create an email list? Then use a template to create an email (like Mailchimp) and send it out to all your subscribers. Ideally there would be a tab on your website people can click on to enter their email address…..They would then get your emails. Thanks for any feedback :)
You want to create modern websites that stand out and offer all the functionality that users have come to expect. Good news—it's never been easier, even for absolute beginners. Using tools like SquareSpace, WordPress, and HTML and CSS, you can build impressive sites that no one would guess were the work of a newbie. This Learning Path gives you all the skills you need the build the sites you envision.
Hey, Jeremy, thanks for an informative article. I'm planing to start my own blog but choosing the right hosting provider gets me a bit confused... I'm still a beginner at this, so would prefer something that would offer a free plan, at least for testing purposes. A (very!) user friendly interface is obviously a must... Could you please share some hosting companies that match my requests or at least point me in the right direction where to find them? Many thanks.
I bought a condo in Puerto Vallarta this last year that I am wanting to make available to friends and family. I want to create a simple, yet attractive, website with photos, descriptions, local information and an availability calendar that I can keep updated. I don’t want to use one of the major vacation rental websites as I don’t want to open the property to the world. I have no experience at all in website design, however I’m a reasonably intelligent person. How reasonable is it that I would be able to create the website I am imagining using your tutorial, and would you still think WordPress is the best option for what I am envisioning?
I manage a running club. On the advice of a pal, we used Drupal to develop the club website. This went well enough when my pal managed the Drupal site, but when he got too busy, the thing became a nightmare. Our club management (a handful of runners) ended up spending an inordinate amount of time and money addressing Drupal updates and hacks and technical stuff that was far removed from doing what we loved and were good with (managing a running club.)
Click-to-call buttons are especially helpful if you want mobile visitors to dial your business. This is a button that – when clicked from a mobile phone – automatically populates your business’ phone number into the visitor’s dialpad. An embedded Google Maps widget is also key for customers who are browsing on-the-go, as they can quickly bring up navigation to your store.
TIP: if you require a lot of changes on a ready-made template, it may make more sense to use another template or better still, create a custom page (known in some website builders as ‘canvas’ mode). It should be noted that when using a website builder, you may still require the assistance of a developer or designer depending on your specific capabilities and needs. For example, logo design, technical integrations with your CRM, layout of custom elements (especially on mobile) are just a few of the many tasks that could be better handled by an expert.
Hi Jeremy. Superb article, which I would also use to describe the other articles and reviews you have created for building a web site. I've understand that Shopify is your primary recommendation for an ECommerce site. I'd like to see the capability of various vendors availing of our site's services to post and sell their products. Can Shopify handle this as well? Thanks for helping a lot of people! Wishing you more success. JP
In this project-centered course*, you’ll design, build, and publish a basic website that incorporates text, sound, images, hyperlinks, plug-ins, and social media interactivity. We’ll provide you with step-by-step instructions, exercises, tips, and tools that enable you to set up a domain name, create an attractive layout for your pages, organize your content properly, ensure that your site functions well across different operating systems and on mobile devices, keep your site safe, and finally, let people know your site is online. We’ll even show you how to track your visitors. Throughout the course, you'll engage in collaboration and discussion with other learners through course forums and peer review.
Getting your own website used to require a lot of tech wizardry, such as knowledge of servers, HTML, FTP, site registrars, and web hosting services. Thankfully, we now live in the age of easy online site builders. The services included here let you make a well-designed, mobile-friendly site with minimal technical knowledge. They can even take a small or sole-proprietor business to profitability with buy links, online stores, and other money-making options.
A domain name is the virtual address of your website. Ours is websitebuilderexpert.com. That’s where you find us. The New York Times’ is nytimes.com. That’s where you find them. And so on. Your site needs one too, and when setting up a WordPress site it’s something you may have to take care of yourself. Bluehost lets you choose a domain for free as part of the signup process.
Hey Amanda, Yes. Squarespace has partnered up with Google Apps to offer you the ability to create custom email addresses. The interface is the same as Gmail, which we like as it's user-friendly, reliable and secure. If you sign up to annual Business or higher plans, you get a custom email address for free for your first year. After the first year, you will pay about $4 per month for the email address. If you sign up to Squarespace's Personal plan, you won't get a free custom email but you can definitely pay $4 per month for this. In our view it's a pretty reasonable price so you can brand your email and business (or whatever you are building) properly. Looks so much more professional than just using a generic Gmail address. Jeremy
Thanks for sharing your experiences with BigCommerce with us! That's awesome and I'm glad you're having a great time and getting great support from their team! I also heard that they are working on their own native Point of Sale system. I'm not entirely sure when it will be released, but hopefully soon. Shopify has their own POS system, which integrates smoothly with an online store built with their software. For those who are curious about BigCommerce, take a look at this discussion here. Thanks again for sharing and adding to this discussion! Jeremy
Of course the design of your website should be visually appealing, you don’t want people to leave your site screaming in horror, but it’s not everything. On top of having a website that’s easy on the eyes, it needs to convey the message you’re trying to present, such as your business objective, plan of action for visitors and the quality content that you’ve been busy creating.
Hi Jeremy, This is the most informative article on web design that I have come across. And I have read quite a number! I had a question though. I don't know anything about html/css or any code for web design, and I need to include a searchable database in a website I'm to create. Any ideas/tips on doing this on a WYSIWYG website builder? Thank you very much
At its core HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is a way to add properties to text. It is a way of telling the browser how text should appear. This is accomplished by adding tags around text. For example, by adding the tags around text the text becomes bold. Over the years HTML has evolved to include tags for much more then just text. With HTML tags you can create tables, forms, pictures. Everything you see on a webpage is defined by a HTML tag.
WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system. If you are not a technical person, and are just looking to quickly get started with making an easily customizable website — you just learn to install and use WordPress, and that’s pretty much it, you don’t need to look any further. It has an infinite amount of themes and plugins that will cover 90% of your needs.
Mobirise Website Builder offers 30+ themes that include sliders, galleries with lightbox, articles, counters, countdowns, full-screen intros, images & videos, features, data tables & pricing tables, progress bar & cycles, timelines, tabs & accordions, call-to-action, forms, Google maps, social blocks, testimonials, footers, and more. Blocks are designed considering the latest trends in web design, and they are flexible and full of customizing options.
Top article Jeremy ! I own a cosmetics company, pre start up and I am looking at a web presence. I want to keep costs down but quality very high due to the nature of my business, lipbalm. Can I run my own video ad on a homepage of any of the drag and drop site s? I will be creating one for initial social media marketing campaigns) I want it to start playing as soon as someone lands on the homepage. And are they mobile / cell friendly ? Thanks Paul
Superb article! Don't know if you can help here; My dad is a vegetable farmer and he sells his products to a small group of organic customers. I wonder if you could recommend a website builder so his customers can view the veggies available, rate them and even purchase online. Only thing I think it would be best if they would have to log in to get their individual pricing. Any idea? Thanks already. BTW I don't necessarily need the easiest builder, I do some tech work; just a professional looking, free solution with our own domain cause my Dad won't spend a dime on this until I make him see the benefits.
You have probably heard about the Wix web builder, when the company advertised their product during the 2015 SuperBowl games. As a publilcy traded company and market leaders, they aggressively advertise their product, neglecting the fact the the main product is free of charge. If the name Weebly rings a bell, it could be the fact that Tim Ferris, publisher of several best selling books and a top tier consultant recommends it with passion, stating it is one of the top website builders available, helping him build a fully functional web site in less than 2 hours. The rest are widely known as well, may it be for Ecommerce uses, or being a leading internet services company like Web, which is publicly traded at the NASDAQ stock exchange.
I am currently looking at setting up a blog for the area I specialise in. I am aware of wordpress.org but have been a bit daunted by the number of webhosts out there offering this and that. One particular issue is that I use macs and I was wondering whether bluehost is compatible with the mac, and whether there are any other extra steps I have to take when using a mac over windows. Would it be as simple as registering with a webhost then clicking one-step installation on a mac?
“Wow! I mean WOW. Stupid easy and brilliant website builder software. How did it take so long for this to be created. I have been out of Web Dev since 2010 so maybe just being away from it all impresses the hell out of me but you guys deserve a GOOD JOB! Award. I will pass on your name to all I know. Best of luck to you and I can not wait to see what is next.”
Maintenance on a large site can easily be a full-time job, so build the costs of continuing maintenance into your budget. If you're working with a web developer who is helping with aspects of your project, the company may offer a maintenance agreement as part of the contract. Ask about this at the beginning of the project. Working with the same people throughout ensures consistency; a new person or company won't have the same working knowledge of your site.
Finally, when you will go further and gain more skill — you will need a VPS(virtual private server). It is, to put it simply, a remote computer you have the complete control over, and will use to serve the sites you have built with frameworks. I highly recommend using DigitalOcean, it has great prices, beautiful and intuitive interface, and I’ve been happily using it to host all of my websites for the past 4 years.
I used to use Microsoft’s FrontPage to do my web design stuff to make it easier for my family and I to keep in touch when I was stationed overseas. I liked FrontPage because it did it all for me. I’d design the page like I was using Word or Publisher, stick in my pictures, and FrontPage would make sure everything matched. Layout, colors, fonts, graphics, etc. Then I’d just hit a button and FrontPage would ship everything to my web server.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to creating a website. Remember that nothing you do in website creation is permanent. Many websites evolve as time goes by. The key is to do the best you can in the beginning with your website and to always look for opportunities to improve it. There are always more things to learn, so feel free to visit our Resources page to improve your webmaster skills.
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Hi Jeremy, Thanks for your article. I have a question I am hoping you can help me with. The original site I started was a free blog through wordpress website. I then decided to go towards an actual site with a blog attached, I made the switch to Hostgator. During this switch Hostgator took our domain name and is requesting $700 to get it back even though we paid the yearly fee. They are now saying they will not release our domain name until May. Does this seem correct? Thanks Kate
Hi there Shannin, What you're looking to create is a bit too advanced for the website builders we suggested above. You'll probably need a more specialized website builder (perhaps search for a "marketplace website builder"?) or have one custom built for you. If you decide on the latter, take a look at our guide on how to hire a website developer. Jeremy
Hello Mart, I don't think WYSIWIG website builders have any built in searchable databases - at least not the ones I've used before anyway. I "think" I've seen an external widget that you can use and plug it into a website. Have you tried searching for one? If there isn't any, I'd imagine you'd have to have one custom built to work the way you want it to. One "hack" you might want to consider is to use the website builder's search bar tool. So you would insert all your data into your website as pages, and let people use the sitewide search bar to find what they're looking for. It's not an elegant solution, but worth considering or testing. Jeremy
Things to look as you vet hosts for ecommerce include drag-and-drop store builders, Secure Socket Layer (SSL) software for safeguarding financial transactions, and email marketing plug-ins, so that you don't have to work with an outside vendor to promote your business. There's nothing wrong per se with using an unconnected marketing service, but anything that adds convenience means more time to spend on the rest of your business. For more in-depth advice on getting started selling online, you should consider our story on the 6 Factors Companies Need to Consider When Choosing a Web Host.
Hey Vivy, I haven't used any of those hosting services before so I can't quite comment. I've used Bluehost and WP Engine. WP Engine is more expensive, but they're good. They're a hosting service that is dedicated to WordPress users, so their support people are quite knowledgeable about WP in general. I've had excellent experiences with them. Jeremy
I want to create a website that promotes a drugless, non-surgical service for patients in pain and weekend warriors. I want my site to have video testimonials, information about services, inquiries for consultations and possibly the ability to schedule appointment for service. Essentially we need a web presence for this service that drives traffic to us, demands them to take action to increase sales (who doesn’t, right?) Recommendations? Thanks.
The demand for easy, no-code website-building options from individuals and SMBs alike has rocked the state of the website design industry and irrevocably changed the landscape. Years ago, the only way to build a website was to do it yourself or hire a professional to do it for you. Gradually, programs popped up with limited templates that allowed basic website creation, but they were limited and typically built without mobile viewing in mind. As mobile connectivity has grown, the demand for responsive design has exploded, and today most website design software automatically scales to any screen. Programs today also allow users to do things like embed media and integrate with outside apps like Google Maps and PayPal.
Choosing a website builder may seem like an easy step, but when you begin your search you will be met with a long list of potential builders. And whilst many seem to offer a similar result, the builder you select should depend on your business type and the features you want on your site (you see- there’s a reason we made you plan in stage #1!). Additionally, you will want to consider the price, ease of use, compatibility and a multitude of other factors before deciding, which you can read more about in our website builder reviews .
As a new up and coming web designer what is your opinion on the best software to use where I will be able design websites effectively and then pass it onto a client. My preference was to use Adobe Muse to allow for a freedom of design. However lots of people suggest WordPress and Dreamweaver both of which are not favourites of mine as WordPress is not as creatively flexible and Dreamweaver and coding is a struggle for myself. What is your opinion on Muse and is it a software that is suitable for this kind of work as a web designer where I will be giving the client the reigns of the website once I have completed it?
I want to create a website where can I post the restaurant and retirement home business of my hubby. I would like to edit the website at least monthly depending on our promotional activities. No payment option needed yet but a simple information for local customers and travelers as well. We want our website displays when people searched from their phone while on their travel since our place is in between 2 big cities. I trust you, and since I described my main objective which one do you highly recommend?
Use Fiverr.com: Fiverr.com is a site that matches you with all kinds of service providers who are willing to do projects, including logos, for just $5. If you use the $5 option you will have to wait a couple of weeks to get your logo. For around $20, you can generally get it that same week. If you find a designer with a portfolio you like, this is easily the best option for the money.
But don’t let all the lingo and information scare you away. Start small and take toddler steps. Don’t worry if you can’t grasp every aspect of HTML. Read a little about it, do a tutorial, and then go for a walk in the park. Let it sink in slowly. You will not ‘get it’ in an hour. It takes time and a practice. Get dirty, play around and learn a little at a time. Start with a single web page, add a hyperlink, add an image, and make text bold. Tinker and keep learning.
In the end, you are likely to find one or two that can provide the services you need. At that point, you can compare pricing models and see which one works for you over the long-term. And, if it ever stops being the right solution for you, don’t be afraid to look into transitioning to a different format because, even though you signed up for a specific website builder today, that doesn’t mean you have to use it forever.
All of the web services listed here have you start by choosing from a selection of templates for your site. The better ones, such as Duda, Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix, use templates that automatically reformat your site for viewing on mobile devices. They also offer specifically targeted templates based on your site's purpose, such as for promoting a bakery's sales, getting gigs for a musician, or keeping wedding guests informed.
Hi Ben, Thanks so much for the great feedback, so glad you enjoyed reading the article! Please do share it on if you think your friends will find it useful too. It's true Wix isn't for everybody, but it did do extremely well in our research (which is why it's our best all-round website builder)! WordPress is another great option and I'm glad you're happy with them - Bluehost is certainly a great choice of provider for your WordPress site! If you were looking at changing or setting up another site why not check out our comparison chart or our article on the best Wix alternatives? I've included the links in case you find them interesting. Thanks for reading, Lucy