In this digital era, having your own website is essential for most small businesses. They can amplify your brand, help you connect with old customers, and allow you to reach new customers.
In fact, not having a website can make your business look archaic and out of touch.
The good news is that establishing your online presence is easier than ever before. In this step-by-step guide, we cover everything you need to know about how to make a new website.
How to Make a Website in 5 Steps — Tutorial
Here’s a quick beginner’s guide on how to create a website.
1. Determine Your Website’s Purpose
First decide what you want to accomplish digitally.
A few use cases for websites include:
- Building brand awareness by showcasing your products or services
- Collecting emails through a sign-up form
- Selling products or services through your website
- Fielding customer service inquiries
- Blogging about your business and industry, as well as announcing new products
- Providing a forum for customers in your industry and/or community to network
- Directing customers to retail locations or social media platforms that sell your products
It’s important to map out your goals because the amount it costs to make a website can vary depending on your needs. For example, you may be able to use a free service if your only goal is to collect emails.
2. Pick a Platform
Next, choose a website builder or platform. These services allow you to create your website using drag-and-drop interfaces, which means you don’t have to code anything by yourself. Simply create an account, then start customizing the look and feel of your site.
Here are a few of the top website providers.
- Shopify — Designed for online stores and e-commerce businesses of all sizes, Shopify takes care of all your payment processing needs. Their user-friendly interface also makes it easy to create beautiful product pages that instantly make your business look professional. Pricing scales with your business.
- Wix.com — Great for any kind of business. Known for its user experience, Wix is one of the most customizable platforms available with features for every industry. Whether you’re building an e-commerce site or simply a landing page, they make it easy to build and scale stunning websites.
- GoDaddy — A one-stop shop for both domains and website building, GoDaddy comes with a platform that lets you customize your site, like Shopify and Wix. They also have a service that handles the entire design process for you.
- MailChimp — Designed for landing pages with opt-ins and sign-up forms, Mailchimp is primarily an email marketing automation tool for email lists. But they also offer a site design feature that’s perfect if your only goal is to collect contact information.
- Squarespace — Great for any kind of business. Squarespace is a close competitor to Wix and features similar features, including the ability to create beautiful sites quickly and effortlessly.
- WooCommerce — Perfect for ecommerce stores and online businesses looking for slick homepages and reliable payment processing, WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that integrates into your WordPress dashboard.
- WordPress — Designed for businesses and bloggers who want even more customizability than what the solutions above offer, WordPress is a free, open source platform that is an ideal choice if search engine optimization (SEO) is important to your business. It’s also the go-to content management system for some of the world’s biggest websites, and can be a great fit for personal websites.
And of course, there’s always the option to code your own site from scratch or hire a web developer.
3. Grab a Custom Domain Name
Once you’ve chosen a platform, lock down a domain name for your website. Domain names are the address users will enter to go to your website, like nav.com or wikipedia.org.
Most website providers now offer the ability to buy a domain name within the platform, but you can also browse domain registrars like namecheap.com and domains.google if you prefer to get yours through a third party. Note that domains no longer have to end in “.com” or “.org.” There is a sizable list of other options, including “.co,” “.finance,” “.us,” and “.biz.” To see the full list of what’s available, just enter a keyword on your domain provider’s site.
Domain names can range from as little as $12 a year to as much as seven figures. Longer domains tend to be cheaper, while one-word ideas are often much more expensive.
4. Get Web Hosting
“Hosting” is a technical term that translates to “renting storage space for your website’s files.” Your site needs somewhere to store its data, and web hosting providers provide the digital real estate.
Popular hosting companies include Bluehost, HostGator, and Hostinger. Pricing for a basic hosting plan can start at as little as $2.75 per month, and scales up according to your needs.
You only need to follow this step if you’re building your site on WordPress or coding your own. Other platforms come with hosting services built in.
5. Check Off Everything On This List
If you’ve made it to this step, you’re ready to start designing your website and attracting visitors. While you design, make sure you’re accounting for these important features.
- Analytics plug-ins — At some point, you’ll want the ability to analyze user behavior, including where your visitors are coming from and how they’re interacting with your site. With free solutions like Google Analytics, there’s no reason not to start tracking this from day one.
- SEO plug-ins — If you plan to drive traffic from Google and other search engines, make sure your site is using search engine optimization (SEO). For WordPress users, one of the best plug-ins is Yoast.
- SSL and security measures — If your site runs on WordPress.org, you may need to install an SSL certificate, as well as other security plug-ins to keep your site safe. Other platforms like Shopify and Wix often come with built-in security features.
- Make sure your site loads quickly — Don’t spend hours beautifying your site only to find that it takes forever to load. Periodically check your site’s speed –- especially on mobile devices.
- Include an email opt-in or contact form — Email is one of the most powerful ways to turn visitors into customers. Make sure you have a way for visitors to enter their contact information somewhere on your site. You may also want to include a pop-up that gives away a freebie in exchange for an email sign-up.
Can You Create a Website for Free?
There are a few free website builders that allow you to create a fully functioning business website for free.
If you’re looking for a standard site with basic functions like the ability to host a home page, contact page, navigation menu, and blog, consider using WordPress. There are two versions: WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
The .com version is as plug-and-play as it gets, and is a great choice if you’re designing your first website. Create a free account and start building immediately. The .org version comes with a slightly higher learning curve. It requires setting up hosting and a domain name before you can start building. If your goals include SEO optimization and html and css customizability, choose the .org option.
If you need an ecommerce website with capabilities like the ability to process payments and create product pages with shopping cart functions, you’ll either need to buy paid WordPress themes and apps, code your own WordPress site, or hire a website designer.
Another platform that allows you to create a free website is Mailchimp. Mailchimp’s landing pages are great if your only purpose is to collect email addresses or other contact information. Keep in mind that the free plan only supports domains with Mailchimp branding. To create a free-standing site with your own domain, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan.
Finally, most platforms allow you to build the foundations of your website for free. You’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan to make your website live, but Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, and other similar sites all allow you to poke around and design a rough draft for free.
How to Find the Best Website Builder
Online business has grown at an incredible rate in the last few years, and website providers have scaled with the industry. There’s no shortage of choices for website providers, which can be overwhelming.
One way to find the best platform for you is to use Nav. Our platform curates the leading website making services and regularly updates our selection as new options become available.
With that said, here are a few high-quality options we recommend. This short list is optimized for reliability, customizability, and affordability. Some of the world’s biggest businesses use these sites, and their long-standing reputations make them trustworthy.