Step One: Decide on Your Website’s Purpose
Whether your website will focus on promoting your brick-and-mortar business or selling your products and services via an online store, it must provide some basic information about why it exists. You want to avoid confusing potential customers or forcing them to find information about your business elsewhere.
Creating a website requires determination and focus so you need to start with a clear purpose. That purpose will then help you map out all the essential information your site should include regarding your business and the products or services it offers.
Step Two: Choose Your Domain Name
Choosing a domain name is one of the most important steps in building a website. Because you’ll ultimately share your site’s domain name with everyone, you want to ensure it’s as short as possible.
Your domain name also should be unique, easy to remember, and, ideally, easy for customers and potential clients to pronounce. Avoid anything too complicated, such as domain names with symbols that people may not recognize or may need extra time to type in.
You also should consider your website’s top-level domain — the “.com,” “.org,” “.net” or other extension found at the end of your domain name. It’s a best practice to use one of the established options instead of a more creative alternative (e.g., “.ru” or “.xyz”) unless you have a strong rationale for doing so.
Some businesses opt to use an alternative top-level domain to help them stand out from competitors and better express their purpose. For example, certain websites now use domain extensions like “.pizza,” “.tech,” “.life,” and “.fashion.”
Step Three: Use a Website Builder
A website builder (e.g., Elementor, Wix.com, Squarespace, uKit, and GoDaddy) will help you create your website without requiring you to learn how to code. When you use one of these tools, you can focus solely on your website’s appearance.
With an array of themes and plug-ins, website builders offer plenty of options from which to choose. They also provide plenty of customization features, such as the ability to drag and drop elements like text blocks and images wherever you want on your web pages.
Many website builders also allow you to design your website with smartphones, tablets, and other compact screens in mind. While these tools — both the free and paid ones — may not offer as many options as you’d get using the HTML programming language to build a site, they can make an ideal choice for beginners.
Depending on your skill level, you have several other options beyond using a website builder. These include building your website from scratch or hiring a professional to do so.
Build Your Website From Scratch
Building a website from scratch requires some experience using both HTML and the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) programming languages. It also will take a lot more time than using a website builder, but the payoff is a fully customized website tailored to your exact vision.
Here are some key tools you’ll need to create a website from scratch:
- CSS: This simplifies the process of adding customizations to the HTML code. It also helps you make some essential changes to your website, such as to the typefaces and color schemes.
- Python: This — or any other server-based scripting language — will allow you to create or customize forums as well as change the type of web pages your site displays to different users. Python also helps you save your user settings and other user information as well as create shopping carts for e-commerce websites.
- XHTML: This is a web language similar to HTML that helps users add minute changes to the way they write code.
- HTML5: This is the fifth modification of the main HTML standard.
- AJAX: This is a programming method that uses both a browser-based and a server-based language to enable a web page to receive added information from a server without needing to refresh itself. For high-traffic sites, AJAX can help reduce user wait times by more efficiently using the existing bandwidth.
Hire a Professional
If you don’t see yourself creating your own website for whatever reason — either with a website builder or from scratch — you can hire a professional to do all the intricate work for you. But, due diligence is essential if you take this route.
Review each candidate’s portfolio carefully to verify their expertise and legitimacy. The fees charged by professional website developers also vary significantly by location so do plenty of research to ensure you get the best value for your money.
Bonus Tip: If you decide to hire professional help, learn How To Get High-Quality Web Design and Development with our buyers' guide.
Step Four: Select Your Website’s Design and Layout
Next, you’ll need to select a design and layout for your website that aligns with its content. A minimalist design is one of the most popular options because it gives websites a sleek, modern look. But, if your site targets a niche market, you may want to tailor its design to that audience.
As you consider various designs and layouts, keep the following tips in mind.
Make It Easy To Use
Usability is critical. If someone grows frustrated when navigating your website, they may go elsewhere for the products or services you offer. An easy-to-use website also speaks volumes about your business’ professionalism.
While selecting a design, think about the websites you browse the most. What makes them engaging? What makes them easy to navigate? Even adding a search box or a categories section to the main navigation menu can make a considerable difference to your site’s ease of use.
Don’t shy away from using creative, personal touches that will enhance the distinctiveness of your website. Just ensure your creative decisions don’t cause any glitches or make your site look clumsy.
Customize your homepage to give it character by using bright colors to highlight a specific part of the page, creating an interesting section that tells visitors about your business. Don’t be afraid to use an exciting video, some music, or fun and professional pictures that aren’t stock photos.
You may even want to create a custom “content not found” page — also known as the “404” page.
Ensure It’s Found With Good SEO
What’s the point of building a great website if it remains the world’s best-kept secret? Every beautiful website needs visitors. To drive a steady stream of quality traffic to your site, you’ll need to improve its search engine optimization (SEO) rankings.
Learn how to improve your website’s SEO rankings here.
Even the best web designers ask their clients to share examples of websites they really like or a top competitor’s site they envy. If you’re unsure how you want your website to look or just want to know which design would best suit your needs, seek some inspiration. With millions of sites to explore, you should easily find several you’d like to emulate.
As you search for inspiration, keep the basic goals of your website in mind. They’ll provide guidance in terms of which websites to explore and the site structures to consider. Beauty product websites generally try to exude a calm vibe, for example, while other sites aim to evoke excitement from visitors.
Step Five: Test and Publish Your Website
Once you complete your site design, it’s time to test it to ensure it works well on all commonly used browsers. As you click through your site on each browser, check for any glitches like links that go nowhere or to the wrong page as well as image display issues.
Next, check the performance of every page and how each page performs on different devices. If your website enables people to make bookings, for example, your clients must find it just as easy to do that on a smartphone as on a laptop.
If you’re unsure how to fix any issues you find during testing — a process called “debugging” — consult your web hosting provider. Most reputable hosting providers offer in-depth guides on how to debug websites prior to launch. Many also recommend debugging plug-ins you can use with a WordPress site, such as Query Monitor and New Relic.
While the testing process may feel tedious, it’ll save you from the potential embarrassment of launching an unprofessional-looking site. Remember to complete all testing and debugging before publishing your new website to the internet.
Ongoing Website Maintenance and Updates
Post-launch, you should regularly check your website to ensure it continues to run smoothly on different mainstream browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome as well as on a variety of mobile devices. If you notice any glitches, address them promptly — either by yourself or with professional help.
Beyond maintaining optimal site performance, you also should update your website’s content frequently. This helps with SEO rankings and ensures your site will continue to resonate with your target audience as customer tastes and needs evolve.
Best Practices for Building and Maintaining a Great Website
Along with the key steps involved in building a website, you also need to understand the elements that make — and sustain — a good website. While the quality of your content will influence your site’s overall quality, many other factors also contribute to creating and maintaining an engaging website.
Some best practices include:
- Use Audience-Specific Content: A good website has a clear objective and knows its target customers. Your content should reflect what visitors expect to see.
- Prioritize Performance: When a website loads quickly with no glitches, visitors will view it as reliable and trustworthy. That can have a positive impact on your business and its reputation.
- Stay on Top of Security: A website’s level of security can affect its quality so make sure you keep up with the latest security patches and software. Insecure websites can earn bad reputations and discourage visitors.
- Consider the User Experience During Design: A well-designed layout and intuitive navigation can transform an ordinary website into one that attracts more visitors and more business.
- Take a Mobile-Friendly Approach: Mobile optimization can significantly impact a website’s usability. Because most people browse websites on smartphones and tablets, a mobile-friendly approach is vital to success.