Websites aren’t for businesses anymore. These days, creating a website is so easy and fast that nearly everyone is expected to have one. Newlyweds are creating their own website instead of sending out invitations the old-fashioned way, professionals showcase their experience and work on a website under their name, and of course businesses and freelancers use websites to promote their business and reach more customers.
In this article, the first in a series of four, we’ll take you over everything you need to create a professional looking website.
Buying Your Domain
You’re going to need a domain name if you want to build a website. If this is for a business or if you’re a freelancer, you need a unique domain which can be purchased from any registrar. If you’re making a website that is just for fun, most site builders will give you a free sub-domain: for example, yourname.wix.com instead of a unique domain like www.yourname.com.
Getting a unique domain can sometimes be a little tricky, especially if your business name is something generic. If you can’t find a domain name that fits, try adding a dash between words or choosing other extensions like .co or .net.
If you have a local business, you can buy local domains, like .fr, .it, .co.il, etc. Not all registrars have all extensions and the local domains often cost a lot more than .com domains that are available.
Now here’s the tricky part: before you buy your domain, continue through the next steps and make sure you know all of the other details first.
You’ll need a domain, a host, and a site builder, and they don’t have to be from three separate companies. Sometimes, you’ll get more than one, or even all of the services you need from the same company so check the prices and the features before deciding.
Choosing a Host: Where Will Your Website Be?
Before you build a website, you need to get a better idea of how websites “work”.
In simplest terms, a website needs to be placed, or saved, somewhere. Whether you use WordPress, a site builder, or have a developer build you a website from scratch, you’ll need to save it somewhere and link your domain to it. This is what a host does.
Usually, you’ll pay a monthly or annual fee which can be anywhere from $3 a month to hundreds of dollars, depending on the features you require and the traffic you expect to get.
A few popular hosting sites to consider are eHost, BlueHost, iPage, and Web.com, among many others. If you’re not sure which host to choose, read reviews about each one to learn more about their features and benefits.
If the company you choose for hosting is not the same as the registrar (where you purchase the domain), you’ll have to point the domain to the hosting site.
This means that you “tell” your registrar where your website is saved so that when people visit your domain, they get sent to the right place. All hosting sites have instructions on how to do this, but if it is too technical for you, make sure to ask for support or purchase the domain from the hosting company.
How Will You Build Your Website
The three most common ways to build a website are:
Building a Website from Scratch
This method takes the most time and is the most expensive. The benefit is that you get a website that looks exactly the way you want it and has all of the unique features that you require. When building a website from scratch, you’ll have to hire a designer to design it for you based on your specific requirements, and then a web developer will do the rest. In this case, you’ll need a registrar and hosting service, and the web developer will take care of the technical details.
Using a Website Builder
There are many different website builders that let you create a website yourself within hours without any technical or design experience. Each site builder has different features and works differently. Wix, for example, gives you complete control over your design and layout, while Strikingly is simpler and more suited for users without any design experience. All site builders have premium packages that include hosting and a domain. You don’t have to buy the domain from them, but the hosting will always be with the site builder.
Building with WordPress
WordPress is somewhere in the middle of the previous two. It is an open source site builder that can be used to create simple websites with templates, or more complex websites based on unique designs. It usually requires a little bit more technical and design experience. WordPress is self hosted, meaning you will have to choose a host and registrar and install WordPress (most hosts have 1-click install options).
Designing Your Website
If you’re not building your website from scratch, you’ll be using WordPress or a site builder. That means that you will have to choose a template. Before choosing, here are a few things to consider:
Choose a template that is closest to the end result you want so that you’ll only have to make minor changes to the design. If you’re using WordPress, consider a premium template (known as a ‘theme’) instead of a free one, as these usually include more features as standard.
WordPress and most site builders have apps and plugins that let you add additional features to your site, like subscription, Facebook feeds, maps, and more. Make a list of the features that are important to you so that you can choose the right template, and the right site builder.
Your website must be mobile-friendly if you don’t want to miss out on most of your traffic. Make sure to choose a template that is responsive or mobile-friendly. A responsive template, like those available on Strikingly, change automatically to fit any screen size. Wix, on the other hand, offers mobile-friendly templates, which means that a mobile version of your site is automatically created and you can edit it separately.
There are a lot of decisions to be made in the beginning, but if you build a site yourself using a site builder, it doesn’t take very long once you get started and it’s not that expensive. Make sure that your website is always backed up and read reviews of hosts and site builders before making a purchase!