Building a website once required coding and technical knowledge. Fortunately, website builders and site editing tools have made a formerly complex process easy, even for beginners. With pre-designed layouts and responsive templates, almost anyone can design a professional site to showcase artwork or sell products online. It requires a web hosting or website building service, a domain name, and a plan.
Many hosting providers offer image galleries, integrations with third-party software, and free and paid plug-ins. You can choose the right program by understanding what you want to accomplish with your site. If you’re ready to dive in, we’ve outlined the seven key steps for learning how to make a website.
Thanks to drag-and-drop website-building tools, most people can create a website, even if they lack technical skills. Web hosts provide customizable templates and pre-built layouts, so you don’t have to learn to code or know where to place page components. Instead, you can customize professional designs with your favorite colors, images, and text.
Many website builders offer options for various elements. For instance, do you want users to click a button with square or rounded edges? Would you like to display a gallery of photos? Or set up a blog where readers can comment on posts? With website-building platforms, you can add features with a couple of clicks, with no code required.
However, all websites require a domain and web host. So, you’ll need to compare services before developing your site.
Although domain registrars and web hosts offer services for personal and professional use, it’s helpful to first know what you want to achieve with your website. The goals you establish now will guide future decisions, from choosing a web hosting plan to picking the correct layout. For instance, if you’re setting up a family site to share information about an annual family reunion, you won’t need to pay for advanced e-commerce tools. However, you may want payment options, so your extended family can pitch in for the venue or food.
Likewise, some web services only support recurring subscriptions on higher-priced tiers, which can be too expensive for a startup that isn’t generating income yet. So if you want to sell subscriptions immediately, you can look specifically for website builders (like WordPress.com) offering this feature on base plans.
Popular reasons for making a website include the following:
- Increase personal or professional brand awareness
- Sell physical items via an online store
- Generate leads
- Showcase a resume or portfolio
- Offer gated content to members
- Start a personal blog
- Establish an online presence for a small business
- Sell digital content either one-time or through subscriptions
- Inform the public about a nonprofit
- Connect to family for a one-time or recurring event
- Promote a podcast, book, or other services
A domain name is your website’s name and address. People type it into the web browser, and your site pops up on the screen. A great name should suit your purpose and be easy for site visitors to remember. You may want it to match your social media handle (for example, for a personal branded site) or incorporate a family name (for example, for an event blog).
Either way, you must verify that your preferred name is available. Head to any domain registrar, like Namecheap or Domain.com, and search for your site name. The results show available top-level domains (TLDs) and pricing.
Along with picking a domain name, you need to choose a TLD extension like .com, .net, or .org. While these extensions are generally well-known, hundreds of options are available for personal and professional use cases.
Consider extensions like:
You can register your domain name through a domain registrar and purchase web hosting separately. Alternatively, you can use one provider for both services, as many website builders offer a free domain name registration for the first year. Some people prefer a single-vendor solution, as it’s easier for billing purposes. Yet, your web host may charge more for domain registration renewals than another domain registrar. See our rating of the Best Domain Registrars to explore our top picks. If you’re on a tighter budget, we’ve also got you covered with our rating of the Cheapest Domain Registrars.
There’s no shortage of web hosts and hosting types. Most new website creators start with a shared web hosting service. The host provides a server, and many users share its resources. Alternatively, a virtual private server (VPS) splits a physical machine into several separate virtual environments, or you can opt for a dedicated server all to yourself. Pricing and features vary by provider and subscription tier.
WordPress and web hosting services furnish different tools for creating sites. Although WordPress customization tools assist with website creation, the learning curve can be greater than drag-and-drop website builders. For instance, Squarespace, Wix , and Weebly provide the builder, templates, and layouts. All you have to do is add your personal touch.
The Bluehost WonderSuite integrates with your WordPress experience, allowing you to customize a theme with page templates and block patterns. And GoDaddy’s website builder has hundreds of mobile-responsive templates and built-in tools for SEO.
Compare website builders and plans by:
- Trying free versions or demos of website builders
- Reading customer reviews that rate usability and support services
- Looking over the themes and templates
- Finding subscriptions within your budget with the features you need
- Checking out guides, like our rating of the Best Website Builders
Although the terms “theme” and “template” are sometimes used interchangeably, they differ depending on whether you use a website builder or WordPress customizer. However, both concepts relate to the front-end appearance of your site and should reflect your overall design wishes. When using a website builder, the first step to making a website is choosing a template.
Website builders typically provide a selection of pre-designed or blank templates. These provide a general page pattern with demo images and content, so you can visualize the page and swap out generated content with your own photos and text. Most website builders categorize templates by industry or hobby, allowing you to sort through relevant options quickly.
For example, a restaurant layout may include a map on the contact page, whereas an artist’s theme might allow users to zoom in on product images. Templates often have several pre-configured pages, including a page for your contact information. Website editing tools let you alter the template fonts, colors, and more.
WordPress sites may require users to install WordPress first. Then you can use the administrative dashboard to select a free theme. Another option is to choose a theme from WordPress.org or buy one from a third party. Unlike templates, a WordPress theme defines the overall style of your website. Each WordPress theme includes template files that define how certain page elements will look, like sidebars, headers, and comment sections.
Site navigation refers to the menu bar or tabs visitors click on to visit various website pages, from your blog to your portfolio. It helps to have a general idea of what information you want to include on your website and how you will organize it. Most websites have pages for visitors to contact the site owner (“Contact Me”) and to learn more about the business or individual (“About Me”).
Depending on your goals, you may want to add a portfolio, blog, online store, CV or resume, or client testimonials. After adding pages to your menu, you can customize each one. Again, the configuration process for navigation and editing depends on whether you’re using a website builder or WordPress customizer.
How To Make a Website Using a Website Builder
With website builder tools, the template includes several editable pages. Although you can customize your templates anytime, many experts recommend setting up your site’s structure first. This process varies between providers like Shopify and Weebly. But, in most cases, the method is straightforward. You click to add a page and then choose from a blank layout, a pre-designed page, or possibly a collection-type template like a blog, scheduling, or store section.
Then you can edit each page. Website builders let you drag and drop different sections into your layout, such as testimonials, quotes, or images. From there, you’ll be able to play with the colors, fonts, and images. Many website builders even offer pre-made color palettes and image libraries.
How To Build a Website Using WordPress
After installing the theme, you can use the “Customize” option in the WordPress dashboard to change styles and colors. Another option is downloading a third-party WordPress page builder or choosing a WordPress website builder like Bluehost.
Then you will add pages and create the layout for each one using Gutenberg Blocks.
Since WordPress requires a bit more technical know-how, professional reviewers recommend that new users read a tutorial or watch a video guide to learn best practices for WordPress website building.
Once you’re pleased with how your site looks and feels, it’s time to ensure it functions as intended. This is where you will add payment processing for subscriptions or your online store. You can also connect your website to your social media channels to encourage visitors to share content.
Website builders like Squarespace offer extensions. These allow your site to sync with accounting programs like QuickBooks Online or extend your website functionality by integrating with programs such as Mailchimp, LiveChat, and AfterShip. Wix also offers free and paid apps, including plug-ins for creating a community forum, photo album, or FAQ page. Like website builders, the WordPress content management system (CMS) has many plug-ins to choose from, including Yoast SEO for optimizing site content for search engines.
Before taking your site live, view it on different devices. Make sure you can read the text in a dark room and click the buttons on a mobile phone. If there’s a feature or function that you’re unhappy with, head back to editing mode. Of course, there are many other considerations and steps you can take, like connecting to Google Analytics and fully optimizing each page for SEO. But if you aim to make a website quickly, you can publish it now and share your URL.
The factors influencing website building costs include domain registration fees, web hosting, and add-ons. Our rating of the Best Free Website Builders identifies a few options for making a site when you don’t have a big budget. Free websites typically don’t provide a custom URL like “usnews.com.” Instead, for Wix, it would be “accountname.wixsite.com/site-name.” However, this can be a good choice for people who want to try building their first website without spending money.
Another way to save money is by selecting an inexpensive domain. In our rating of the Cheapest Domain Registrars, IONOS places No. 1, with many URLs starting at $1 for the first year. In addition, several website builders offer a free domain for one year, including Bluehost, GoDaddy, Weebly, WordPress.com, and Duda. Paid website builder subscriptions start at $5 monthly. More expensive plans may add e-commerce functionality, additional storage capacity, and advanced analytics.
Other services can increase your initial costs. For instance, several website builders have professional designers available to develop a site to your specifications. Paid integrations, premium content, and marketing services increase the website-building price.
The necessities for website creation include a site goal and a web host. Once you decide why you want a website, you can determine which hosting service serves your purpose best. You may choose to go with a Free Website Builder, in which case, you won’t need to purchase a separate domain name. However, if you want a custom URL, you can buy a domain through a registrar or pick a website builder plan that includes a complimentary domain for the first year, such as Bluehost or IONOS.
Knowing what overall visual design you’re going for is a good idea. When choosing a website builder, glance through the templates to see if any appeal to you. Check out the layouts and features to ensure each has the required functionality, whether for a slideshow gallery portfolio or a community forum page.
To simplify your website-building process, jot down your basic site structure. Make a list of must-have pages, such as an “About Me,” “Contact Us,” and “Blog.” Also, you may want certain plug-ins or integrations for point of sale (POS), accounting, or SEO tools. By considering these factors before you begin, you can avoid challenges mid-way through the process.
Why You Can Trust Us: 22 Website Builder Services Researched
At U.S. News & World Report, we rank the Best Hospitals, Best Colleges, and Best Cars to guide readers through some of life’s most complicated decisions. Our 360 Reviews team draws on this same unbiased approach to rate the products that you use every day. To build our ratings, we researched more than 22 website builders and analyzed 10 professional reviews and 3 consumer reviews. Our 360 Reviews team does not take gifts or loans of products or services we review. All sample products provided for review are donated after review. In addition, we maintain a business team that has no influence over our methodology or recommendations.
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