Many bloggers and business owners have been where you are right now—in need of a website and not sure where to start.
First of all, breathe in, breathe out, and relax!
It’s a lot easier to set up a website than you might think.
This article will go over the process of creating a website in eight simple steps. We’ll start with some cautionary advice about proper planning, easing into the topics of hosting options, domain names, content management, and site design. We’ll then continue with a brief discussion on how to best add site content and some recommendations of helpful website plugins you can use. We’ll wrap up with tips on how to attract site visitors.
1. Determine What Your Site Is For
When a small business first creates a website, it’s not uncommon for the owner to underestimate or overestimate the role the site will play in their business. As a result, they might have to upgrade their hosting plan within the first few months, or, for a while, they pay for a level of hosting service they don’t need.
The time to figure out your site’s purpose is before you select a hosting plan.
A blog site and an online store will have different requirements, for example, and there are finer distinctions to be considered. Some online stores will never need to support more than ten product pages, while others will need to catalog thousands of products. Many retail websites will need to conduct eCommerce transitions, but it’s not a given—some may be promotional sites geared toward driving traffic to brick and mortar locations.
As far as blogs go, bear in mind that one that hosts a massive amount of video/imagery will require more server resources than one that hosts a handful of text posts.
Hosting providers create packages and set rates based on server resources—taking into account on factors like storage and bandwidth requirements. Determining how your site will function as part of your business is an important step in creating a new website. In fact, the intended use of the site should influence your decisions in all the following steps as well.
2. Select the Right Hosting Plan
When shopping for a hosting provider, you’ll encounter a competitive marketplace, with many companies vying for your business. Factors like the technology used, monthly rates, and customer service have become key differentiators that help customers choose a provider that’s right for them.
Here’s a list of things you should expect when considering a hosting plan:
- The provider should offer a range of plans to meet different needs.
- There should be no setup fees.
- The provider should offer free tools for building a website and a control panel for site management.
- Popular CMSs like WordPress should be fully supported.
- Hosting plans should be supported by high-performance servers to ensure optimal website reliability.
- Customer service should include email and phone support, ideally 24/7.
Domain email addresses, support for multiple domains or sites, dedicated servers, disaster recovery, enhanced security options, and other advanced plan features should also be available.
In some cases, business owners who opt for a more advanced hosting plan do so because they require dedicated server access.
The least expensive hosting is provided using shared servers, where one computer runs many websites. With shared hosting, there is limited access to server resources and restrictions on the applications you can run, plus, site performance can suffer if the load of all the other sites becomes too high.
An affordable option that helps businesses avoid the limitations of shared hosting is VPS hosting.
VPS stands for virtual private server. A dedicated virtual machine ensured full access to the server’s capabilities, providing fast, reliable performance.
If you’re looking for a full-on guide on how to choose the best web hosting provider based on your business needs, we’ve got you covered here.
3. Register a Domain Name
A key part of any website is its domain name. Although it’s associated with a website, it’s not a permanent connection. Every website has an IP address, which is its official identifier on the internet. When your website is created, your site’s IP address will be associated with the domain name you purchase. If you buy a different domain name in the future, it will be easy to redirect your website to the new domain.
When you buy a domain name, the seller (registrar) will typically be a web hosting company. For a small fee, you can gain exclusive access to a domain name that perfectly suits your business. You can opt for a popular extension, like .com, or choose a newer extension like .club or .shop.
The domain name is of vital importance to a website owner’s online identity. Great care should be taken to choose one that represents the business in the most effective way.
You can get a domain name for free, but it’s not a good idea. Website building companies like WordPress and Squarespace will let you use a sub-domain, like yoursite.wordpress.com, for example. Still, a business might not be taken seriously with that sort of domain, so it’s important to invest in your own domain.
4. Choose a CMS
It’s not advisable to manage your website contents manually using HTML, CSS, and scripts—not when you can use a CMS (content management system) like WordPress instead.
If you do decide to create and manage your site without a CMS, you’ll want to take advantage of a website builder. There are excellent options that include professionally designed templates, so even without any experience, you’ll be able to create a good-looking site that works on all devices.
But, why take on the duties of a content management system when there’s a range of CMS platforms that will handle most of the work for you?
Millions of websites all over the world, some owned by very large companies, are hosted with a CMS like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla. Hosting with platforms like that is easier, offers suitable flexibility, and delivers performance that meets the needs of small business websites, eCommerce sites, blogs, or an entire enterprise.
When you choose a CMS-based hosting package, you can expect boosted performance from servers that have been optimized for the platform. That means high reliability and fast page load times, plus, most CMSs feature built-in security and monitoring capabilities to ensure your data is safe.
5. Design Your Site
Every website owner wants an attractive and usable website, one that engages visitors and makes them want to come back. But when a novice jumps into the world of website design, things can go wrong fast, with wild fonts and retina-burning color schemes coming into play.
It’s important to keep it simple. Your site needs to be highly readable and easy to navigate. A straight-forward design can greatly increase a site’s usability.
Select a Theme
Whether you’re using a website builder, a CMS, or designing without help, your site will have a theme. It determines the site’s general layout, including banner image size and placement, color scheme, the location and appearance of text, and other design factors.
If you use a CMS, you’ll start with a very basic default theme. To set your site apart, you’ll need to find a new theme that will create the impact you want when visitors go to your site.
You’ll have plenty of themes to choose from—some are free, and some will cost you. WordPress offers many themes for free, and they’re highly customizable, so, even if you select a popular one, with a few tweaks, you’ll be able to make it your own.
Create an Attractive Layout
While your theme will offer default text locations, allow you to modify the color scheme, steer you toward readable fonts, etc., it’s your responsibility to keep your design within some basic usability boundaries.
Don’t create a site that emphasizes appearance over usability. Choose colors that are pleasant and will resonate with your audience. When designing for text content, use an eye-friendly font and leave plenty of white space. Separate the content into easily consumable chunks and eliminate visual clutter.
You should choose graphics with your audience in mind, as they can help establish a connection between you and your visitors. You can find low-priced stock photos and even free ones on the internet, on websites like Unsplash. Bear in mind though that very large images can hurt your website performance. This means that all your images should be optimized so they don’t contribute to long page load times.
Make it Mobile Friendly
It’s important to consider users who will access your site using mobile devices like phones and tablets. To make sure your site is mobile-friendly, you need to strive for responsive design. That means there will be only one version of your content, and it will display differently depending on the device used to access it.
Many themes are created with responsive design as a built-in feature, but it’s possible to customize the template in a way that will cause the site to look bad or function improperly on mobile devices.
When creating your design, think about which elements of your content will be most valuable to your users and ensure those elements can be located quickly on a mobile device. Consider mobile users when you select fonts and implement functional elements—buttons and menus that are easy to click with a mouse cursor might be hard to deal with using a finger on the screen of a mobile device.
6. Add Content to Your Site
Whether you opted for a CMS or you’re knee-deep in HTML and CSS code, at some point you’ll move from designing your site to adding content. You’ll have important decisions to make, some of which may even send you back to the design phase. Adding your content is all about using the right structure.
- If you are running a blog, should your posts be organized by date or topic?
- In an online store, what’s the best way to organize the product pages?
Answering questions like that will be required when determining the best structure for your site content.
Beyond structure concerns, there’s the content itself to consider. Your site will represent your business. In some cases, from the user’s perspective, your site is the business. You must ensure that the content takes full advantage of the opportunity to communicate your messages in a consistent brand voice.
We’ll delve into that subject more when discussing the final step, but for now, keep in mind that it’s your content, not a font or color scheme, that will do the heavy lifting when it comes to visitor engagement. Make sure your content properly represents your brand.
7. Install Helpful Plugins
There are many auxiliary applications for content management systems; they’re called plugins and they can greatly extend the features and functionality of your website. Most are tied to one CMS or another, but you can find a plugin of every category for almost any CMS you choose, and you can employ similar helper apps for homegrown sites.
You can choose to add plugins that provide enhanced security or enable you to monitor your site’s performance. There’s something for everyone: from plugins that will help you improve your site’s SEO, implement a contact form, manage your backups, or combat spam, there are tons of plugins to choose from.
During the setup and design phase, think about the plugins you’ll need and before you go live, download and install them.
8. Attract Visitors
Once your site is up and running, you’ll need to take steps to attract visitors. The list below summarizes common approaches that a site owner can use to get more visitors.
- Leverage social media. Social media has become a big part of many people’s daily lives, and your business needs to be present in that world. This involves having a direct link to your Twitter and Facebook prominently featured on your site. Likewise, your social media profile and posts should link to your website. Using social media as a platform to reach out to your audience is a proven tactic and one that you should be included in your web strategy. Think about your target audience when you choose the social media platforms where you’ll be present. If you’re a make-up artist, for example, you’ll want to be on Instagram and Facebook, but LinkedIn might not be a priority for you.
- Focus on SEO. Ensure that your content contains the keywords that your target audience uses to search for your site. Don’t overdo it, because content that’s oversaturated with keywords will cause your site to be ranked lower in search results.
- Maintain great backlinks. Backlinks are links between websites. If another website links to yours, you have a backlink. If your site includes an external link, that’s a backlink for the target site. Not only do well-placed backlinks (meaning those that appear on high-authority websites) bring in the visitors you want, but they also play a significant role in how search engines rank your site.
- Have a clear and consistent brand voice. When visitors access your site, they’ll expect to be presented with a clear value proposition that syncs up with their initial introduction to your business, whether that was a social media post, a backlink, or an online ad. Ensuring that your brand message is strong and consistent adds to a unified user experience and strengthens your online presence across all channels.
Starting a Website Is Easy!
Unless you’ve done it before, going from no website to an awesome online presence might seem like a difficult task. Still, with the right approach and by taking into account your business requirements, your end-user, and having a consistent brand voice, it can be done! We hope the eight-step process we went through together has helped prove that it’s not that complicated.
If you know where your headed, with clear goals as to what your site will do, tick off tasks like purchasing a hosting package and a domain, and design an appealing site with great content, you’ll have a website that’s a perfect representation of your business online.