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1. Identify Your Website’s Purpose

Wix.com templates
Source: Wix.com

Creating a website could take as little as a day, or it could take months. How long it takes to create a website depends on your experience, goals, and how you build your website.

Before you create a website, you need to decide what you want your website to do.

You can use a website to inform, educate, sell, entertain, or gather data. Starting with your goal can help you choose the best website builder for your purpose. For example, if you want to sell products, choose an e-commerce platform or a website builder with e-commerce features.

Here are the types of websites you can create:

  • E-commerce/online store
  • Personal blog
  • Small business
  • Portfolio
  • Lead generation
  • Membership/subscription
  • Nonprofit
  • Podcast
  • Family/wedding/baby shower site

Once you know the type of website you want to create and what its purpose will be, it will be far easier to tackle the next steps.

2. Register Your Domain Name

A domain name is the URL or website address that users type into a browser to visit your website. For example, our domain name is digital.com. It’s important to register a domain name that represents you or your business because it will be a big part of your branding.

Here are some tips to choosing a domain name:

  • Choose one that’s easy to spell and remember
  • Avoid abbreviations
  • Relate it to your name or business
  • Keep it short
  • Pick a common top-level domain (TLD) like .com

There are already so many websites on the internet that you may not be able to secure your preferred domain name, but that’s OK. Be flexible and choose a .org or .net, or you can add dashes, if necessary.

Remember that you’ll have to be very specific when telling people how to reach your website.

Where To Register Your Domain

Domain.com landing page
Source: Domain.com

You have two choices when it comes to registering your domain name: registering your domain name separately or with a web host and website builder. Some people prefer to use a domain registrar to get their custom URL separately and then choose a host and website builder. Others prefer to register a website name with the builder they pick.

If you plan to use WordPress.org, the self-hosted content management system (CMS), use a domain registrar or host for domain registration. Otherwise, an all-in-one website builder with a domain will work.

Often, website builders or web hosting providers offer free domain name registration for the first year. It’s a good idea to check the renewal pricing on both domain registrars and website builders because you may be able to save money with one or the other. Look for add-on features, including secure sockets layer (SSL) certificates for extra security on your website.

Also, it’s worth noting that you do not own your domain name in the strictest sense. When you register a domain name, it’s a bit like leasing a car. No one else can use it except you, unless you stop paying for it, at which point, another person can take over that lease.

Here are some of the best domain registrars to consider:

GoDaddy Logo
  • Basic domain protection included
  • Deep discounts for first year registration
  • Extended domain renewal periods
Domain.com Logo
  • Great security features with automatic email forwarding
  • TLD registration starting at $2.99/year
  • Auto renewal protects against domain theft
Ionos Logo
  • Free Wildcard SSL certificate
  • Use up to 10,000 subdomains per domain
Namecheap Logo
SiteGround Logo
  • Affordable renewal fees
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

3. Choose a Web Hosting Provider

You’ll need a hosting service for your website whether you plan to use WordPress or a website builder. A host server is where your domain name will reside — it’s where you’ll “park” your domain name. Many hosts include one-click installs of WordPress, and several include proprietary site builders.

Types of Web Hosting Services

Think of a host as a device that lets your website show up online. It’s kind of like your PC or mobile device and an internet connection. You may have the option of choosing shared hosting, virtual private servers (VPS), or a dedicated server, all of which have different use cases and costs.

  • Shared hosting: This is the most popular and cheapest web hosting service that’s available. Your website will share space on a server with multiple other websites. Often storage and bandwidth are limited or throttled to ensure all sites can handle traffic spikes.
  • VPS: When you need to upgrade from shared hosting, you might want a VPS. You’re still sharing a server, but you get a portion of that server and its resources just for your website. The result is usually faster page load speed and more room for files; however, it also comes at a higher cost and it requires a bit more technical know-how to manage.
  • Dedicated server: The only reason to choose a dedicated server is when you have so much web traffic that you outgrow shared or VPS hosting. Pricing for a dedicated server is much higher, but you get unlimited resources and VIP customer support, typically.

The best web hosting services are affordable, include helpful features for new users, and offer excellent customer support. Look for a host that doesn’t limit storage or bandwidth, has a user-friendly interface, and grows with your website (such as with VPS or dedicated servers).

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4. Choose and Install a Website Builder

Now it’s time to choose a website builder that makes the most sense for what type of website you want to create.

A website builder is a user-friendly app that you can usually use on a browser or through a mobile app with features in a dashboard that help you create a website.

There are a few different types of website builders, including e-commerce platforms, with varying types of editors and tools.

Here are the types of website builders available:

Choosing the right website builder depends on how much customization and control you want or how user-friendly you need the editor to be. All-in-one website builders are traditionally the easiest to use, with walkthroughs and tips to help explain each feature.

Web hosts with site editors are more affordable, while e-commerce platforms come with niche features for online stores.

Alternatively, you could use WordPress to create your website. It gives you more control over the design and functionality of your site, but it requires more technical know-how. To use WordPress, you’ll have to choose a hosting service rather than a website builder (more on that below).

The best website builders should be easy for anyone to use, offer affordable, but scaleable, plans, and help you build your on-page search engine optimization (SEO) and brand. Here are some website builders Digital.com recommends:

Wix Logo
  • Drag-and-drop editor
  • Pricing starts at $16/month
  • 14-day trial available
  • Automatic backups of your site
Web.com Logo
  • Easy-to-use website builder
  • Pricing starts at $4.95/month
  • Offers e-commerce features
  • 99.9% uptime
Zyro Logo
  • 24/7 customer support via live chat
  • Pricing starts at $2.90/month
  • Includes AI-assisted tools
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
Squarespace Logo
  • Award-winning template designs
  • Pricing starts at $14/month
  • Offers e-commerce features
  • Helpful app integrations
Shopify Logo
  • Robust e-commerce platform
  • Pricing starts at $29/month
  • Includes payment processor (Shopify Payments)
  • Omnichannel sales support

WordPress vs. Website Builders

WordPress is the most common CMS ever, used by more than 40% of websites on the internet. It provides almost limitless customization, so you can create whatever kind of website you want. But it’s more challenging to use if you don’t have experience building websites.

A website builder is a great choice if you’ve never created a website before. Drag-and-drop editors are common. A “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) editor makes it much easier to build a website because you can see your design as you build it rather than using code.

WordPress is flexible, but website builders are easy to use. You can add plug-ins that make it easier to create a website with WordPress, but it still requires you to have a little more technical knowledge than any website builder.

The pros and cons are fairly even when you compare WordPress to website builders:

WordPressWebsite Builders
  • Highly customizable
  • 55,000+ plug-ins available
  • 11,000+ templates available
  • Can use almost any hosting service
  • Free to use
  • Highly scalable
  • Easy to use
  • No installation required
  • Built-in guides and walkthroughs
  • Usually offers lots of free, pro-designed templates
  • Typically affordable plans
  • Steep learning curve
  • Requires plug-ins for added functionality
  • Overall cost may be high (plug-ins, templates)
  • Must use hosting from website builder
  • May not scale with your business’s growth
  • Doesn’t always have the functionality needed
Get WordPress
Source: WordPress.org

How To Manually Install WordPress

  1. Login to your cPanel
  2. Create a new database under MySQL
  3. Add a new user and login details
  4. Add the new user to the database
  5. Use an FTP client to log in to your hosting account
  6. Follow onscreen instructions to finish installing WordPress

Although most web hosts offer one-click installation of WordPress (or it’s pre-installed), some may require you to add the CMS to your web hosting account manually. Before you begin the process, make sure you’ve downloaded the latest version of WordPress and unzip it to a folder on your desktop or in a documents folder.

Here’s how to manually install WordPress:

  1. Log into your cPanel through your web hosting account dashboard.
MySQL Databases
Source: Digital.com
  1. Create a new database under MySQL databases; write down the prefix and the name you gave your database (you’ll need it later).
Password Generator
Source: Digital.com
  1. Add a new user with a password; save the login details.

Add User To Database

Manage User Privileges
Source: Digital.com
  1. Add your new user to the database and give them all permissions.
Using FTP Client
Source: Digital.com
  1. Use an FTP client to log into your web hosting account; upload WordPress to the public_html folder (or a subdirectory, such as /blog).

Installing WordPress

Installing WordPress
Source: Digital.com
  1. Go to your domain and follow the on-screen instructions to finish installing WordPress.

If you’re uncomfortable with using FTP or creating databases, choose a web host with WordPress pre-installed to skip installing it manually.

5. Customize Your Website

Now it’s time to customize your website, from how it appears to how it functions. How you customize your website depends on whether you’re using a website builder, a web hosting service with WordPress, or an e-commerce platform. Keep in mind that every website builder is different, too.

Creating your website usually starts with a template, but some site builders name these themes (such as WordPress). Adding functionality to your website can be done with elements or blocks, plug-ins or apps, and various built-in features.

Choose a Template

Choose a Template
Source: Wix

Templates (or themes) are pre-made designs you can use on your website and fill in with your own content. Choosing the right one for you comes down to a few key factors.

Look for a template that:

  • Makes sense for the type of website you’re creating, such as an online store
  • Works with your or your brand’s aesthetic
  • Fits your budget (many are free to use)
  • Resizes based on the device used (mobile-responsive templates)
Weebly Page Builder
Source: Weebly

Usually you don’t have to worry about the color scheme because most builders make it easy for you to change it. Some include pre-built themes with color combinations that are popular or have two complementary colors.

Install and Customize Plug-ins

Installing Customized Plug-ins
Source: Elfsight

Your builder of choice may refer to plug-ins as apps, but they work the same way, adding functionality to your website. To determine which plug-ins or apps to add, consider first which built-in features you can use. For example, Weebly includes elements for you to add a contact form, map, and image gallery to your pages, but it doesn’t include pop-ups.

Plug-ins to consider for your website:

  • Yoast SEO: Can guide you to creating better content that’s optimized for search (more on that below)
  • Elementor: An excellent plug-in for WordPress that acts as a website builder
  • Tidio Live Chat: Add a live chat messenger to your website to provide support to visitors
  • PayPal: If your website builder allows it, a PayPal button can help you secure more sales on online stores — more than 70% of online stores have a PayPal buy button
  • Social Media Feeds: Add your Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook feed to your website to encourage engagement

Many website builders create their own plug-ins for you to use and most are free. Third-party companies often create plug-ins for builders or for WordPress — some are free, but many come with an added monthly cost, so keep that in mind for your budget.

Every website builder or web host handles app or plug-in installation a little differently. Generally, you can find an app or plug-in marketplace through your builder, click on the plug-in you want, and there will be an “add” button.

After you’ve chosen a template, added plug-ins and placed your content on your website, it’s time to work on your SEO strategy.

There are a few things you can do to optimize your site for organic search. Optimizing your site helps Google or other search engines index your website and rank it appropriately when someone performs a search that falls within your industry or category.

Add Google Analytics

Google Analytics Dashboard
Source: Digital.com

Google Analytics 4 is a great way to track your site visitors. It helps you understand where your visitors originated (search traffic versus direct traffic versus referral traffic).

Use the Google Analytics e-commerce features to see which pages are most popular, which days you get the most traffic, and which keywords work best for your site.

Adding GA Tracking ID in WP
Source: Digital.com

Most builders offer an easy way to add Google Analytics to your website — just add the tracking ID to a field. You can find your tracking ID in your Google Analytics profile after creating an account.

Just copy your tracking ID from your profile and add it to your header.php file (you can usually access this from a WordPress dashboard under Appearance > Theme Editor to do it manually.

Change Permalink Structure

It’s a good idea to change your permalink structure at the beginning of your website’s journey before you get too deep into adding pages and content. If you change the structure later, you could deactivate any pages you previously published.

change your permalink structure
Source: Digital.com

Every builder is different, so you may need to find the answer in help documentation or speak to a customer support agent.

In Weebly, you’ll have to change the permalink structure in the SEO settings section of every page you create.

WP Permalinks Settings
Source: Digital.com

For WordPress, go to the Dashboard > Settings > Permalinks. From here, you can choose the structure you like the best, or create a custom permalink structure.

The best permalink structure is the post name. These links are much more SEO-friendly because they’ll usually include keywords related to your industry, website, or content. It’s good for visitors and search engines for the same reason: the link text informs what the page or post is about.

Use Google’s Keyword Planner

One of the most useful free tools you can use to help your website rank in organic search results pages (SERPs) is Google keyword planner. It’s a tool within Google Ads, an advertising platform that uses keywords to help your ads appear in relevant searches. Create your account at ads.google.com and go to the keyword planner.

Google’s Keyword Planner
Source: Digital.com

Type in keywords that are relevant to your industry or the content you’re creating. For example, in this case, I typed in “sticker subscription box.” The information I got isn’t granular, but it does give me a good idea of what my competitors are targeting (and what audiences may be searching for).

Given the information in the screenshot above, I might create content around the keyword “sticker surprise box” if I offered a product such as this.

Chances are my page, post, or product would rank high in the search results because there isn’t much competition for that keyword. On the flip side, it doesn’t look like there are many people searching for that term, either.

7. Publish and Manage Your Website

Finally, you’re ready to publish your website. As with all other steps outlined in this guide on how to make a website, publishing will be different with each website builder. Usually, you can find a “Publish” button in the site editor you’re using.

Weebly Page Builder
Source: Weebly

Click on the publish button and wait as the site builder creates a sitemap and gets your website live. You can then go to your URL and see your live website. On WordPress, you’ll see a publish button at the top part of the menu.

Congratulations! You’ve published your website. Your work isn’t done, however.

8. Managing and Maintaining Your Website

You should have the foundation of your website done now, including the home page, at least. Now you can take the time to build out other pages, such as a contact page, product pages, an about us page, and a blog, depending on what type of website you created, such as an online store.

If you’re using an all-in-one website builder, a lot of the maintenance of your website is automatic. Plug-ins get regular updates, as well as the site editor. Automatic backups are common, too.

WordPress site plugin page
Source: Digital.com

WordPress users may need to set up automatic updates of plug-ins, or check regularly to ensure you update to any new versions. Keeping WordPress and plug-ins updated is part of security, so stay on top of this.

Create backups of your website any time you make significant changes, so if anything goes wrong, you can roll it back to the most recent version of your website and not suffer a big content loss.

Marketing is a big part of the ongoing management of your website, too. It is important always to keep on-page SEO in mind.

Also, consider adding your website to online directories, budgeting for a pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign, posting to social media, and finding ways to attract new visitors and retain customers or readers you already have.

Here are some other steps you can take to maintain and manage your website:

  • Establish pages: When adding content to your website, you have two options: pages and posts. Pages are static and contain consistent content such as “category,” “about,” “contact,” and other core pages.
  • Create blog posts: Most website builders that include a blog let you schedule blog posts, so you can work ahead with a content calendar. You can create lots of content ahead of time and then schedule the content to publish at regular intervals.
  • Include categories: This can make it simple for readers to find content on your site that’s relevant to them. It organizes your content for search engine crawlers, too, making it easier to rank for keywords and topics.
  • Add a contact form: This gives site visitors an easy way to get in touch with you without them having to go to their email clients.
  • Post privacy and terms of service (TOS)/use pages: Small businesses will need to add privacy policies and TOS pages to outline precisely how collected data is used. If you use cookies to track visitors, you should be General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant, regardless of where you operate your site.
  • Address your navigation: Consider how well your menu flows and ensure it makes sense with the customer journey. For example, policies, about us, and contact pages are usually at the end of a navigation menu.
  • Add lead generation popups: If you have a small business website or online store, adding a pop-up to collect email addresses for a newsletter or coupons is a great way to build an email list for email marketing campaigns.
  • Include social media share buttons: Adding social media buttons to blog posts generates “word-of-mouth” marketing online. This is how you may get referral traffic to your site.
  • Add images to pages and posts: Images pique readers’ interest and help with SEO. Insert relevant images into all posts and pages to make your website better. Be sure to add alt text for images, a description of the image, to make your website more accessible for all users.
  • Submit your website to directories: Fill out your Google My Business profile and your Bing Place profile to ensure locals can find your site and your address, if you have a physical shop. There are many other online directories to consider for various industries, too.
  • Automate backups: It is essential to back up your website or online store, otherwise, you risk losing all of the information it contains. Using an automated WordPress site backup and restore service will give you peace of mind. You will also want to make sure your site is secure from hacking, viruses, and other threats.
  • Utilize widgets: These help you customize the look of your website by adding content in the sidebars and footers. WordPress offers many different widgets for social media, e-commerce, communications, and more.

Over time, you’ll create your own marketing strategy for your website. A combination of content, PPC ads, and social media marketing will help you improve your online presence.

FAQs About Building a Website

Can you create a website for free?

Yes, you can. Most free websites require you to use a subdomain (yourdomain.webhost.com), are branded with the web host’s name, and may include ads, though. These requirements aren’t very professional, so it isn’t suggested for business or e-commerce websites. Some hosts offer free domain name registration for a year when you purchase web hosting.

How much does it cost to create a website?

Expect to pay about $200 annually to create a website with your own domain name on an all-in-one website builder, if you use a free design template. If you hire someone to design a website for you, the cost is likely to range between $500 to $5,000, not including hosting or online store fees.

How long does it take to build a website?

It can take as little as a few hours or up to several months to create a website, depending on what your goals are for the site and how you design a website. Using a builder to create a simple website is much easier and faster than making a complex website from scratch.

What do you need to run a website?

At a minimum, you need a domain name, web hosting service, website builder or CMS, and content for your website. If you plan to run an online store, you’ll need an e-commerce platform.

Do I need a web host to create a website?

You can create a website without a web host, but you won’t be able to get it live on the internet without hosting of some kind. Technically, you could host yourself if you have a stable, fast home connection and a server, but this is unlikely. To have a viable website online, you need a web host.

Which is the easiest website builder?

Although most website builders are inherently easy to use, Digital.com’s pick for the easiest website builder is Web.com, thanks to its drag-and-drop editor. Zyro is a close second because of its simple site editor and AI-assisted creator tools.

How do I build an online store?

There are several ways to build an online store. You can create a WordPress website and add a shopping cart plug-in. Alternatively, you can choose an e-commerce platform, like Shopify or Square, which are like online store website builders.

How long does it take to set up a WordPress website?

Setting up a WordPress site can take as little as a day to do. If you’re doing it manually, you’ll need an FTP client and a web hosting service. Creating your website is easy, especially if you use plug-ins to give you custom website-building features.

Learn More About Website Builders