How to Make a Website

Even beginners can learn how to build a website. Understanding the process behind each site-building method is the first step. From there, it's simply a matter of choosing which method works best for you.

Use a Website Builder

This is usually an application included with site hosting packages, either free or for a small fee. GoDaddy’s Website Builder is one such app. Sometimes website builders are a subscription service which includes free site hosting, like Wix and Squarespace. The main focus here is the design of your site. Templates are the foundation of either type of builder.

Templates let you personalize a site without having to code anything. You’ll start building your website by choosing a template. This provides a basic design. Begin customizing by arranging your page layout. Some apps make this especially easy by letting you drag and drop page elements, like text boxes. Next, you’ll input your business information and branding.The degree to which you may manipulate templates differs widely. You may find you can pay extra to have more flexibility and control.

What’s included with site builders varies significantly from provider to provider. Domain names may be included, cost a fee, or you may not even be able to use your own domain. Some providers limit the number of pages you can create in your site. Some automatically create a mobile optimized version of your site. It’s important to compare all of these features carefully when considering website builders and their varied pricing.

Use a Content Management System

Perfect if you have few technical skills, this option focuses on managing the information on your site. Content management systems (CMSs) are easy-to-use applications that allow you to create, edit, and publish content on a website. You’re also able to upload, store, and manage a variety of media for your site.

Most popular systems, such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, may require you to purchase your own hosting, then install the CMS. Though some hosted CMS options are available, most of them are designed with resellers in mind. No matter which you choose, setting up an aesthetically pleasing site is as simple as choosing a theme.

Free themes are readily available for most CMSs, so you can get your site set up quickly and inexpensively. Alternately, you can purchase pre-made, professionally designed themes, or hire a designer. Themes give you as much or as little control over site design as you want. They may be used straight out of the box. Themes are available straight through your CMS console and via numerous other websites. Usually, you’ll download a zip file that contains your theme files, then upload it to your CMS either via an admin console or file transfer protocol (FTP).

With a CMS, you can also make use of bits of code called plugins. Also known as add-ons or extensions, depending on the system you use, they add functionality to your site. Adding a plugin is usually a very easy process. For example, within the WordPress Admin Panel, you can install a plugin with one click. In other circumstances, you may need to download a plugin file, then upload it to your CMS. Plugins may be free or fee-based. They can do just about anything, from adding social sharing icons to automatically backing up your entire website on a schedule.

Code Your Own Site

Writing website code is not particularly easy, nor is it fast, but all the resources you need to learn are available for free online. If you code a site from scratch, instead of starting with a template, you’ll create the skeleton of your website yourself using hypertext markup language (HTML). This code will tell Web browsers how to display text and images on your site. Cascading style sheets (CSS) and Javascript are used along with HTML to further manipulate the aesthetics and functions of your site.

HTML is the predominant language for website creation. Sites created with website builders, and even those on some content management systems, cannot be exported or have limitations on which elements can be exported. Coding your own site with the most widely used language means that if you need to move your site, you can do so more easily. It also means anyone you hire to work on it, like designers or a webmaster, will likely already be comfortable with the language.

You can code a site by hand or in an editor known as “What You See is What You Get,” (WYSIWYG). In fact, you can use them in concert with each other. Each option has its pros and cons. Coding by hand can be very time consuming, but you control every last detail. It allows you to keep the code as minimal as possible. WYSIWYG editors show you how the code will be displayed, which can be very helpful in making layout and style choices. Many offer drag-and-drop features similar to a site builder. It is possible to sometimes end up with code that doesn’t work properly with WYSIWYG editors.

An important point to consider if you want to choose between hand coding and WYSIWYG is the purpose of your site. If you’re looking to create a personal blog or other simple site, it's probably not worth your time to learn HTML and hand code the site on your own. Using a WYSIWYG editor will give you more control than other options while minimizing the learning curve involved in setting up your site. If you’re already a bit familiar with HTML or you’re a designer, hand coding may be worth the effort to get exactly what you want.

Hire a Developer or Designer

You may be surprised to learn that hiring someone else to make your website can be affordable for nearly anyone. The most attractive thing about this choice is that you need not spend valuable time learning any method of site creation. This is especially worth considering if you won’t ever need to create more sites in the future.

Site developers and designers can be large firms or individual, freelance service providers. You can hire them to do nothing more than create your site, or as part of a broader package of services. Choosing between a firm or an individual may come down to what your budget will allow. One will not necessarily create a better site for you than the other. Ask for references and examples of their work before making your decision.

When you get started with a designer, the first step will be clearly outlining the goals for your site, including details like expected traffic and business goals. Next, they will create a sitemap, which is a chart detailing the organization of pages in your site. They’ll also create a wireframe. This shows the layout of information on a page. From there, designers can create mockups to share with you. Revisions come next, eventually leading to the final product. They will also manage testing and launching the site.

Many developers and designers include update installations, site backups, and other management services. However, if you will be responsible for maintaining your site once it’s built, make sure the person or firm you hire will leave you with the tools to accomplish that. Typically they will provide you with some amount of training and even support in maintaining the site.

Each of these potential solutions for making a website has definite pros and cons. It is most important to consider the purpose of your website. Budget and time constraints, plus learning curve are also very important to keep in mind while weighing your options. Remember that no single method is better than the others, but one of them will be the best fit for your specific website building needs.