How To Make a Website
Step-by-Step Instructions to Build a Website for Your Small Business

If you have a small business or are in the process of starting one, there’s a good chance you’ll need a website. In fact, we believe all businesses need a website regardless of their industry or size.

So, how do you build a website? Luckily, technology has recently caught up with the massive demand for tools to simplify website creation.

Tools like WordPress, Wix, GoDaddy, and many other website builders now make it easier than ever to create your own website without the need for an engineering background or any web development experience.

This article provides an overview of the steps to build a website for your business as well as suggestions for which tools to use based on your business type and knowledge level. It also will lead you to more specific articles to help you accomplish your goals and get your business website up and running quickly.

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What Kind of Website Do You Need?

The first question to ask yourself when creating your website is: What kind of website do I need?

Depending on the type of business you operate, the kind of website you need will vary. While all websites have many similarities, your business site will need certain features that others don’t. 

If you own a restaurant, for example, you’ll likely want to display a menu on your website. In contrast, a certified public accountant (CPA) likely will consider an easy-to-use contact form essential.

Below you’ll find a list of business categories along with recommendations on what website building software makes the most sense for these types of businesses.

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Note: We discuss more about the different types of website building software later in this article. Don’t worry if you aren’t quite sure yet which is best for you. Just keep reading and we’ll make sure you have all the information you need.

Local Business

Examples of local businesses include restaurants, CPAs, plumbers, real estate agents, flower shops, and many other stores, shops, or markets you might find when driving down main street.

While these businesses generally don’t need large or complex websites, their sites must provide basic information about them while helping customers solve their problems.

Some local businesses need extremely basic websites, which feature just one page that displays their contact information and hours of operation. Others will need sites with greater functionality, such as ordering systems, chat responders, or internet data exchange (IDX) integrations (for real estate agents).

Ultimately, your website needs will depend heavily on the type of business you run.

Recommended Software

For local businesses, we recommend the GoDaddy Website Builder.

The newest version of this tool offers an extremely simple solution for folks with little to no experience building websites. GoDaddy meets the needs of almost all small businesses while also providing an extremely simple, straightforward user experience.

Visit GoDaddy

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Warning: It’s not enough to simply have a Facebook page, a Google My Business account, or a Yelp profile for your business. While all of these will help promote your business brand and increase its visibility, a website for which you have 100 percent control represents the first real step to becoming a legitimate business.

Large Business/Brand

Large companies or brands include the businesses most people already know by name. All of the companies who put items on the shelves of your local grocery store, for example, also need a business website.

Surprisingly, they often create much simpler websites than you may expect. Many of their sites are just blogs on a much larger scale. While a large business website may include hundreds or thousands of pages, the technology required to create it is actually no more complicated than what you need to build a small, simple blog.

Recommended Software

For large businesses and brands, we recommend WordPress.

There’s a good chance that a large business will already employ a few technology people or web developers. This means your business absolutely has the internal capabilities to build and run a proper WordPress website.

Start With WordPress

If you’d rather give your marketing team complete control over your site without interference from your technology team, a solution like Wix also could suit your needs quite well.

Visit Wix

Online Service Business

A few examples of online services businesses include software-as-a-service (SaaS) firms, membership sites, social media companies, and forums. Similar to businesses that need a blog/portfolio site, an online service business’s website takes center stage in promoting the company. The major difference, however, is that these businesses need sites with advanced functionality and technical integration.

Unless you’re an experienced web developer, you’ll almost certainly have to hire or contract with technical experts to create a website with the level of flexibility and expandability your online service business needs. 

Recommended Software

For online services businesses, we recommend WordPress or a custom-built website.

If you need to build a technical tool with which your clients will interact, then off-the-shelf tools likely won’t prove robust enough. You may find it possible to build such a tool and then set it on top of the WordPress platform. But, if you have a team of developers or engineers, consult with them first to determine the software that will best suit your business's needs.

Start With WordPress

Ecommerce

If you want to sell products directly to customers online, then you need an ecommerce site. 

The number of small ecommerce businesses grew significantly during the past few years, including those selling physical and digital products as well as those using a dropshipping model. Much of the fuel for this massive growth came from new software products that simplified the ecommerce process and lowered the cost for small businesses and entrepreneurs to enter the market.

While slightly more complex than a standard blog/portfolio site, ecommerce websites are simple to build and operate thanks to software specifically designed to serve this need.

Recommended Software

For ecommerce businesses, we recommend Shopify

Specifically designed for ecommerce businesses, Shopify is one of the world’s most popular website builders for online sellers. Given its ecommerce focus, the Shopify platform provides the most robust tool on the market for new online stores.

Visit Shopify

Blog/Portfolio

Generally, a blog or portfolio website suits people who want to have a personal, online presence or artists who need a place to showcase their work.

In the case of a blog, the website is the business rather than a support feature of the business. This will influence the software you use to create the website. Because you’ll “live” in that software on a daily basis, you’ll need to ensure it’s a comfortable place that provides all the technological features you need.

If you want to create a portfolio website to showcase your artistic work, then design control may play a more important role when choosing software. Most web building software platforms make design simple by offering a wide variety of templates from which to choose.

If you’re interested in starting your own blog, check out our free blogging course. It’ll walk you through all the required steps to get your blog off the ground.

Recommended Software

For blogs and portfolios, we recommend WordPress.

An extremely popular website-building platform, WordPress powers almost 40 percent of the world's websites. Its popularity stems from its flexibility. You can build almost anything you want on WordPress.

Start With WordPress

But, WordPress isn’t a silver bullet. With its flexibility comes complexity. Despite the many tools and services that simplify the WordPress experience, users still face a learning curve when building a site on this platform.

We also recommend Wix if you aren’t tech-savvy, but still need a great option for your blog or portfolio.

Wix offers a simple, drag-and-drop interface that makes it easy to create your website. As one of the most popular website builders available, Wix has grown and improved greatly over time.

Visit Wix

Choose a Website Builder or Platform

Based on the above software recommendations, you may wonder why we recommend some tools over others.

This section provides a bit more context to help you make an informed decision on which software to use as you create your website.

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Note: For the purposes of this guide, we’ll combine all website builder software (e.g., GoDaddy Website BuilderWix, Squarespace, Weebly, and Shopify) into one group called website builders. To learn about the major differences between these tools, check out our Best Website Builder 2021 article.

The major decision factors when choosing between the WordPress platform and website builders include:

  • Required Skill Level – How much do you know about building websites?
  • Required Resources – How much time, money, and patience do you have?
  • Flexibility – How complex are the needs of your website?
  • Sustainability – Will the complexity of your website grow as your business grows?

WordPress

WordPress is an extremely flexible, open-source, website-building platform. Since its launch in 2003, WordPress has improved and expanded many times. Its massive plug-in marketplace — a collection of more than 50,000 third-party applications — makes WordPress an even more adaptable platform. Overall, WordPress powers almost 40 percent of the world’s websites.

So, why would anyone choose not to use WordPress?

Because with all that flexibility also comes much complexity. In order to begin creating your website using WordPress, you must:

While these steps aren’t particularly difficult, you should understand that building a WordPress website is a modular process. Each time you want to add something to your site beyond the core functionality of WordPress, you must either install a third-party plug-in or find a custom-coded solution to make it happen. Even something as simple as getting started usually requires two to three purchases from separate companies.

WordPress Summary

  • Required Skill Level – Medium: You should have some web experience before creating a WordPress website.
  • Required Resources – Medium: You’ll either need quite a bit of time and patience if you plan on doing it all yourself or a significant cash investment to have an expert build it for you.
  • Flexibility – High: You can build almost anything you want on WordPress.
  • Sustainability – High: If built properly, your website can scale to infinity on WordPress.

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WordPress isn’t for beginners unless they have a substantial amount of time to learn how to use it properly. If you aren’t a beginner or if you have a business that requires much more flexibility, WordPress is probably the right choice for you.

Start with WordPress

Website Builders

Website builders also have been around for quite some time. Modern builders like Wix and Squarespace have grown more popular in the past few years due to their increased quality and ease of use.

Unlike WordPress’s modular feel, these website builders offer an all-in-one solution for building your business website. Generally, you select an available domain name within a website builder’s platform and then the tool will lead you through a series of questions about your business. After answering those questions, you’ll have a working shell of a website — all within about five to 30 minutes.

The trade-off for this colossal boost in simplicity is reduced flexibility. But, this only matters if you need complex features in your website. Ninety percent of small businesses won’t miss that expanded flexibility, which can sometimes slow the process of getting your site up and running.

Website Builder Summary

  • Required Skill Level – Low: You don’t need any prior web development experience, but basic computer operational experience will come in handy.
  • Required Resources – Low: Website builders charge extremely affordable, monthly fees and, because you won’t need to hire a developer, your time represents the main cost.
  • Flexibility – Medium: Depending on the platform, you’ll probably find the options you need to operate your website. But, don’t expect to see a simple solution for every wild feature you can imagine.
  • Sustainability – High: Website builders can sustain almost all websites built using their software for the lifetime of the site. If not, you can always migrate your site to WordPress.

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If you’re a beginner or just need a simple website to represent your business online, then a website builder will provide the best option for you.

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Choose a Template or Theme That Suits Your Business

After selecting the software platform on which you’ll build your website, you must choose a template or theme to give your site a design and layout that fulfills your business needs.

WordPress uses themes to change the look and feel of your website. The best and most useful themes come from third-party companies. These themes control not only the design of your site, but also its back-end functionality in many cases.

Check out our article on the Best WordPress Themes.

Website builders use templates, which only control your site’s look and feel, instead of themes. Your template choice won’t impact your site’s back-end layout or capabilities.

Your choice of theme or template will vary, depending on the type of business you operate and your style preferences. 

Use the following attributes to help guide your decision on which theme or template to choose.

Functionality/Simplicity

The most important attribute of a theme or template is its user-facing functionality and simplicity

If people visit your website and can’t figure out how to navigate its pages or find the information they seek, then your site becomes a liability instead of an asset.

We’ve all been “trained” over the past several years to recognize some key elements of a well-designed website. You should, for example, find navigation bars and buttons in the expected locations so visitors don’t have to hunt around for answers to their questions. Well-designed websites also avoid crazy color combinations that make their text difficult to read on a variety of screen sizes.

Most themes and templates don’t stray too far from the median, so you should easily find one that satisfies all of these functions.

Brand/Visuals

Once you ensure your customers will find your chosen theme easy to use, you should look for an option that conforms to the visual elements of your business branding. Many new businesses actually derive their brand visuals from their websites instead of the reverse.

If you’re unsure about your business’s overall brand or style, just use your logo as a starting point. If you don’t yet have a logo, check out our free logo maker tool.

If you’re not even to that point yet, check out our business name generator or business ideas generator to start the process of creating your business from the ground up.

Create the Pages Your Business Needs

Websites consist of a carefully curated set of pages. Each page should have its own value and reason to exist. Without overcomplicating things, all websites need certain core pages while you’ll also want to add other pages specifically tailored to your type of business.

Pages Every Site Needs

Here are the five pages every website needs:

  • Home Page: As the front page of your website, this should briefly describe your business’s purpose and how to interact with your business. It also should provide any other information you deem important for your customers to know.
  • About Page: This page should provide an overview of your business, its people, its vision or mission statement, and any other identifying information you want to share with your customers.
  • Contact Page: This page tells customers how best to contact you. Many sites feature contact forms, but you also should give customers direct ways to reach you. In addition, you may choose to include your hours of operation and business address on this page.
  • Privacy Policy Page: While customers may rarely visit this page, it’s important to include if you collect any customer information in the daily operation of your business. 
  • Terms and Conditions Page: Similar to a privacy policy page, this page essentially outlines an agreement between you and your customers regarding how your business and/or website operates.

You should find it fairly easy to create your site’s Home, About, and Contact pages on your own. If you need some inspiration, just look at any website you admire and see what they feature on these types of pages.

The Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions pages will require a bit more work. If your business has an attorney, ask them to help you draft proper language for these pages. If you don’t have an attorney or don’t want to spend lots of money to consult one, check out Rocket Lawyer®. It offers a variety of forms, including templates for such pages, for a fraction of the cost of an attorney.

On the topic of lowering liability and protecting your business, if you haven’t started a limited liability company (LLC) for your business yet, check out our guide on How To Form an LLC in any state.

Pages Specific To Your Business

Along with the pages that every website needs, you may want to add a variety of other pages tailored to your specific type of business.

While not an exhaustive list, here are some page types that may make sense for your business website:

  • Product Page: This type of page describes a product you sell. If you run an ecommerce store or have a physical shop, then a product page can help your customers understand the product and may offer them a chance to purchase the item.
  • Pricing Page: Popular among businesses that sell services, a pricing page describes a company’s different service level offerings and their related prices. You’ll typically find a link to a pricing page on a website’s top-level navigation bar.
  • Menu Page: If you operate a restaurant, then you absolutely need to create a menu page. You don’t want your customers to only find blurry images of your physical menu when they look for your menu online.
  • Service Page: If your business offers more than one type of service, a service page provides a great place to provide a detailed list of these services.
  • Blog Page: Every type of business can have a blog. In most cases, people start business blogs to help with their site’s search engine optimization (SEO).

Whether or not you choose to add these pages to your site will depend on what type of business you operate. You also can get creative and combine or add any of these page types as you see fit. Just remember that internet users expect to see certain patterns so stepping too far outside the norm may do more harm than good.

Calls To Action

While not a specific page type, calls to action are an extremely important part of any properly functioning website

A call to action (CTA) is an element or object on your website that tells users what action to take next. A CTA could take the form of a “Buy Now!” button, a “Fill Out This Form” heading, or a “Click here for more details” link.

If you’re thinking this might make your site seem “scammy,” consider the last time you sought the next action to take while visiting a website and couldn’t find one. How did that make you feel? Sites without strong CTAs may encourage customers to leave and find a different solution for their needs.

How To Create a CTA

Creating strong CTAs really depends on the action you want customers to take. Different situations call for different tactics, but, in general, effective CTAs take the form of a button or link that moves a customer further down the purchasing funnel. Here are some examples:

  • A brightly colored button that reads “Buy Now” or “Add To Cart” can provide a strong CTA for customers visiting your product pages.
  • Text that reads, “How To Reach Us” alongside a phone number or contact form can make an effective CTA for customers on your contact page.
  • A button that reads “Schedule an Appointment” can spur action from customers who land on your services page and want to book an appointment. 

As you can see from the above examples, creating strong CTAs isn’t rocket science. Almost every page on your website should have a CTA. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and try to anticipate what action they should take next to make them happy.

Review and Publish

After you determine and build the pages your website needs, it’s time to go live.

You only need to follow two key rules when publishing your website for the first time:

  • Test Everything. Go through each page you created for your site. Read all of the text, press every button, and fill out every form. This quality control review will ensure your site works properly when your first users visit.
  • Don’t Wait for Perfection. The most important feature of your website is whether or not it’s live. Creating a website for the first time is a learning process. You’ll inevitably find something about your site you don’t like. You may want a button to appear six pixels to the left, for example, but can’t figure out how to move it there. You’ll also likely find broken links you thought you already fixed. But, perfection doesn’t exist so there’s no point in waiting to publish after you complete an initial round of testing.

Maintenance, Updates, and Optimization

Successfully launching your business website doesn’t mean your job is done. Throughout the lifetime of your business, you should continue to look for ways to improve your website. Even if you choose not to make large enhancements, you must still ensure the site remains current.

The level of hands-on maintenance required will differ based on the software platform you used to build your website. In most cases, WordPress’s modular architecture will require more consistent input than a website builder platform.

You’ll need to perform other types of optimization tasks, such as SEO, no matter what platform you use to create your site.

Remember to consider the following items as your plan for the future of your website.

SEO

SEO is the practice of making your website’s pages rank higher in search engine results pages. Depending on how you market your business, improving your Google rankings and increasing your online visibility could have a monumental impact in your success.

SEO is a major topic much too large to cover in this article, so check out our beginner’s guide to SEO: How Do People Find Your Website - SEO 101.

Plug-Ins and Updates

If you choose to build your site on WordPress, you must ensure your theme, plug-ins, and core WordPress software stay current with all relevant updates. While this involves a manual process, it’s generally as simple as logging in and making a few clicks.

Due to the modular nature of WordPress, each plug-in will have its own update schedule. While some will have more updates and patches than others, you’ll need to update all of them from time to time. These updates generally fix bugs and prevent security issues, but also can add new features and functionality.

If you choose to use a website builder to create your business website, you generally won’t need to worry about updates. The all-in-one structure of these tools enables their developers to work behind the scenes to update your site with almost no input from you. This is one of the major advantages of using a website builder.

Start Your Business Website

Building a business website is easier than ever before. The availability of high-quality, easy-to-use tools should make your job much easier than you may have thought.

Based on our recommendations above, you should now have a good idea of which software platform will best suit your business. If you’re ready to learn more about the different tools themselves, check out our Best Website Builder 2021 and How To Build a WordPress Website articles to get started.

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