There are three main ways to build a website. If you’re a beginner, by far the easiest way to build and launch a site is to use a website builder provided by your web host. If you’re at least somewhat web-savvy, you could use use WordPress or a content management system (CMS) such as Drupal or Joomla. If you are already well-versed at coding, you can start from scratch and use HTML to build the site from the ground up. Each approach has its merits and challenges:
First, let's discuss why you even need a webpage in this day of social media domination of the web. On a personal level, you wouldn't want to send prospective employers to your Facebook page, so a personal website makes more sense as an online, customized resume. Another reason worth considering, for both personal and business purposes, is that building your own site gives you endless design choices. You have total control over products and services you may sell and how they're delivered, too.
For more than a decade, Jeffrey L. Wilson has penned gadget- and video game-related nerd-copy for a variety of publications, including 1UP, 2D-X, The Cask, Laptop, LifeStyler, Parenting, Sync, Wise Bread, and WWE. He now brings his knowledge and skillset to PCMag as a Lead Analyst. When he isn't staring at a monitor (or two) and churning out web hosting, music, utilities, and video game copy, Jeffrey makes comic books, mentors, practices bass and Jeet Kune Do, and appears on the odd podcasts or convention panel. He also collects vinyl and greatly enjoys a craft brew.
With all these services, you build everything yourself, starting with a template you choose from a (hopefully) wide, well-categorized selection. Most use simple drag-and-drop interfaces that let you include items such as social share buttons, photo galleries, blogs, and media players. Some even let you restrict viewing with a password and let you have people join up as members of your site (see the table).
Larger businesses spend many thousands of dollars to get their custom-designed and programmed sites, but there's no need for smaller organizations and individuals to go to that kind of expense. For about $10 per month (or around $25 if you're selling products) and a few hours of your time, the services included here can help you create a unique, attractive website.
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There are thousands of templates to choose from in WordPress’ own Theme Directory. Search for the types of themes you’d be interested in. If you’re setting up a newspaper search ‘newspaper’, if you need a site for your café search ‘cafe’. There’ll be dozens, if not hundreds, of contenders. Clicking on a theme takes you to its own page where you can see user reviews and preview the theme in action.
WordPress started off as a blogging platform but has evolved to be a great platform for business websites too. As such, you have a way to specify what shows up as the home page for your WordPress site. If you have a blog, you’d want your visitors to see a list of your blog posts. If you have a business website, you’d want your visitors to see a home page (static page).
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.
All of the site builders included here let you put Facebook Like and Twitter Follow buttons on your pages, and some even let you display feeds from the social networks. Some give you help building a Facebook Page and tying it into your site design and updates. Many products offer some sort of SEO tool, but too often this is just a form on which you can enter meta tags. You're mostly left to wrestle with that black magic known as SEO for yourself. It's very important to submit and verify your site to the search engines, unless you don't want anyone to find it!
About.me and Flavors.me are examples of nameplate services. You simply upload one big photograph as the background for your personal webpage, then artfully overlay information and links to create your digital nameplate. These free sites help you pull images from your social networks or from a hard drive, then provide the tools to make the text and links work unobtrusively, though it really behooves you to check out other personal pages for an idea of what works.
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