If you're ready to get going, this guide will introduce you to the services and software that can get you started building your own website, even if you have no experience. Keep in mind, none of these tools will give you an idea for a winning website—that's on you. They also won't make you a web designer, a job that's distinct from building a site. Still, these services and software will ease some of the headaches that come from a lack of extensive expertise in CSS, FTP, HTML, and PHP.
Identify the features you want on your site: If you’re a photographer, you’ll need a photo gallery to showcase your portfolio. If you’re a retailer, you’ll want a website with a storefront. If you want to build authority in your niche, you need a website with a blog section. Write down what you want your website to do, then research the most suitable website-building platform.
Whichever website builder you’ve chosen, you’ll have an extensive selection of design templates to choose from. Generally speaking, the better your plan, the more templates you’ll have access to. The top builders provide hundreds of templates across dozens of categories. Whatever the focus of your site is, there will be a template for it. For example, if you’re thinking of starting a fitness website, most builders will let you filter your template search accordingly.
Getting your own website used to require a lot of tech wizardry, including knowledge of servers, HTML, FTP, site registrars, and web hosting services. Thankfully, we now live in the age of easy online site builders. The services included here let you make a well-designed, mobile-friendly site with minimal technical knowledge. They can even take a small or sole-proprietor business to profitability with buy links, online stores, and other money-making options.
At this point, things get a bit complicated, but with attention and patience, you can achieve your goals. Most website builders feature hundreds of templates across tens of categories. The rule of thumb here is to pick one that is relevant for your business and scalable to allow your business to develop. One of the most significant advantages of website builders is that they offer easy drag-and-drop customizations for any template you pick. It means you have the freedom to build a personal portfolio, an online fashion store, an online magazine/blogging site, a travel website, and more.
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If you already signed up for hosting, you’ve created an account. If you don’t already have a web host, we recommend signing up for the Wix sitebuilder via its website. Simply enter your email address and password at the Wix.com signup page to begin. Note that the email address handle will become part of your free domain (if you don’t have a custom domain), so keep that in mind when signing up. If you’re still unsure, I welcome you to check out our expert review of the Wix platform below.
When it's time to go beyond the blogs, beyond the online resumes, beyond the page of links, which service do you turn to for a full-blown site that gives you the flexibility to build nearly anything you desire? There's no lack of them, but three of our favorites are DreamHost, HostGator, and Hostwinds, well-rounded services that feature numerous hosting types and tiers.
The strict responsive approach of Simvoly, uKit, and Weeby means you get no control over the mobile-only view. Gator, Ucraft, and Wix, by contrast, offer a mobile site preview and let you make customizations that only apply to mobile viewing. For example, you may want a splash page to welcome mobile viewers, or you may want to leave out an element that doesn't work well on the smaller screens.
More-advanced options found in some builders let you process credit card payments and add your own cart and checkout pages. The more-powerful site builders include product promotions, email marketing, and inventory and shipping tools. Some let you sell digital downloads, while others don't; see the table above to find out which do. Only a couple of these builders let you put ads on your site, though most of them allow some degree of custom HTML code insertion.
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You can create a free website with Wix that comes with a Wix domain. To instantly look more professional online, get a custom domain name. It adds credibility to your brand and helps visitors find you online. You can start building your brand by using your domain in a custom email address ([email protected]), your social channels, email marketing campaigns and more.
If you prefer a more traditional URL, you'll need to purchase one from the likes of GoDaddy or Namecheap. Domain name pricing can range from extremely cheap to extremely expensive, depending on whether or not domain squatters are looking to flip a valuable piece of online real estate. You'll want to get something short but evocative and catchy, and depending on what you do, you may find that many of your first choices are taken by either other legit domains, or by squatters who've scooped up the names as an investment. For more, please read How to Register a Domain Name.
Okay, how do you register a domain? First, you need to think of some possibilities that would represent who you are and what you do. If you’re making a personal website to promote yourself, you should consider calling it namesurname.com. If your name is difficult, you may have to get creative though. Keep in mind that a .com website address is considered the most respectable in many industries. Try to get one whenever possible.
Jennifer Young is a specialist in educational technology with experience in web design and development. She also has 12 years of editorial experience writing for print and the web. Jennifer is passionate about covering topics related to web tools and technologies and enjoys learning about tech as much as she loves teaching it. She embraces the challenge of making web hosting accessible for every type of user and is delighted to share her knowledge with the HostingAdvice.com audience.
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