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Creating a website can look like an incredibly daunting task. With a minefield of platforms, hosts and providers, all speaking in "tech talk", it can be hard to know where to start! What's more, your website is critical to making you look credible and helping sell your services or products so it's essential to get it right.
In this article we run through the whole process of creating a website and how you need to go about it. We look a the various platforms, technology and make it easy to understand, making it simple, so you can decide what you need to do.
The following points all play a vital part in how to create a website:
What's in this article
In this article we will look at some of the top platforms and compare their pros and cons.
But in recent years, we have seen the arrival of various "no code" website builders that allow you to build a website "point and click", without having to learn any code.
This sounds amazing, but there are pros and cons to each way of building websites and we need to fully understand them before we opt for one or the other.
With no code solutions, you choose a theme, build your pages and add your content within the platforms interface and deploy the site without professional design and development knowledge. Of course, there is code behind the scenes, but you don't have your hands directly on it.
The advantages of nocode website creation tools are:
However, there are some disadvantages you will need to accept if you go this route:
Here are some of the top nocode website platforms:
To get started you would need to create an account and set up everything they need within the account.
"Code" platforms typically require coding expertise, although a lot can still be done with an off the shelf theme. The big advantage is that they allow you to access the code and do more bespoke stuff in the future, once your site goes from a small brochure to something more complex.
Some of the top "code" platforms include:
Everyone's heard of Wordpress, it's massive! Wordpress accounts for around 43% of the web and has over 45,000 plugins. A major advantage is the number of plugins available, which allow you to do a lot of different things with your website.
Wordpress started as a blogging tool and it still shows, it's not so slick of comprehensive "out of the box" as some other Content Management System (CMS) platforms.
Visit the official Wordpress site
Not as popular as Wordpress, Concrete CMS has less plugins available, but is still an open source platform you can take a use for free. It is a more comprehensive CMS, that is easier to use with a more up to date interface. It's very easy to work with it's drag and drop interface. In-context editing means you edit your content on the "front-end" of the website, as you look at it, avoiding any nasty surprises. We use Concrete CMS for the websites we build for our clients. There are still a lot of developers around who use Concrete CMS should you need help. Some plugins (addons) are free and others are paid, but this encourages developers to create new addons for the CMS.
Visit the official Concrete CMS site
Another open source platform, Drupal is used for over 1 million websites worldwide. It is not so user friendly for end users, but offers excellent security and is potentially more of an enterprise level solution to the likes of Wordpress. It is more suited to Web Applications, rather than Web Sites.
Visit the official Drupal site
Like the others here, Joomla! is Open source. Unlike Drupal and Wordpress, (and like Concrete CMS) you have to pay for a lot of the plugins. Joomla! is easy to work with, but editing is done behind the scenes and doesn't offer the in-context editing of Concrete CMS.
Visit the official Joomla! site
For each of these, you would need to buy hosting and install the system using the Documentation from the official website of each platform. However, Wordpress do offer their hosted solution if you prefer, making it very easy to get started with their system.
In addition, it should be noted that these are all PHP based platforms. There are a variety of other ones based on ASP.NET and non-open source solutions which yearly costs that offer more support for larger organisations.
If you are building an online shop, it would be wise to start with one of the leading ecommerce systems available. Your online shop needs to be slick and build trust with visitors before they will complete the checkout process.
The top eCommerce platforms have invested heavily in creating smooth cart and checkout experiences to provide the best ecommerce experience, which will help you sell more on line.
Here are the current market leaders:
If you want to learn how to code a site from scratch, it can be a very satisfying experience. You'll want to learn HTML first, which is relatively simple and the basics can be learned in a day or so.
Next comes CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), which is a set of rules for how things look on the page. Although CSS is quite simple at first glance, it takes time to master.
You can start with a site like W3 Schools and go from there, of buy a book.
Next you need to choose a domain name. A domain name is what users will type into their web browser to find your website, for example www.google.com
You'll need to decide what top-level domain (TLDs) to choose, but what is a top-level domain?
A top-level domain is the part of the address at the end, after the last dot. The most common types are .com, .org, .net, .info, .biz.
But not all of these will be suitable for you, which is why we need to bear this in mind first. For exaxmple, .edu domains are for places of education like school, colleges or universities. If you are running a private company, you don't really want a .edu and you also won't want a .org, they are "organisations", but usually for non-profit organisations and charities. For the uk the most common is .co.uk
Often the best thing is to go to a website hosting site and do a search for your desired name and see what is available.
There are lots of "New" TLDs which are very specific for certain types of business, for example .coffee or .film.
For the full list check this Wikipedia article.
Your website won't just magically exist on the internet, it needs to be hosted somewhere. It is best to choose a host in your country so you can get support from them when you need it.
Sometimes smaller hosts will offer a more personal service, but you want to check the level of support before you commit to hosting. You also need to ensure they offer the right technology for your website (e.g. My SQL, PHP, ASP.NET etc) and that their servers are fast and offer backups to keep your data safe.
Ensure you have an SSL certificate, provided by your host, so it can run on https and be secure. This is especially important for forms that send personal data or for ecommerce websites.
All professional web design services use fast and reliable hosting providers so there is no compromise when it comes to page load speed.
Don't buy hosting on price alone, it is critical to ensure that your hosting is up to the job and the supplier offers you the support you need going forward. Read our article on why you shouldn't buy cheap hosting for more information.
As with most big tasks, it makes things much easier if you break it down into smaller parts. This is certainly true when working on a new website.
Creating a website involves some clearly defined stages. It's important to follow these in turn so you end up with a successful website that works well for your visitors and also for you as an individual or organisation.
Here's a bit more detail on the key stages you should follow when creating your website, all which are followed by any successful web development company:
To create a successful website, it is essential to properly plan and design the site before jumping into the build. First of all list the things your users will want to see and the things you want to tell them. You may need to develop "personas" to work out what people are going to want to see.
Next you can list the pages and build a sitemap showing the heirarchy of the site and what pages you will add to the site. This may be overkill for a site with a hand full of pages, but for large sites it is essential.
You can also create sketches of the layout and develop wireframes in order to work out where all the popular content will go. Find out more about planning a new website in this article.
A web development agency places great emphasis on the design stage due to the importance of getting it spot on. Users first impressions of your website will be based off the visuals, all down to getting the design right. The design stage comes when all the planning is agreed and it's time to work on the exact look of the new website. You now need to decide if you are going to choose a theme or start from scratch.
You will need your branding which will consist of logo, typefaces (fonts) and colours at the bare minimum. It's worth getting the branding set out before doing anything else because you can use this brand across the website, social media, print work etc.
Next you need to pick a theme if using a nocode web builder, or if you are starting with a blank canvas you can use software to design the site. We used to use Photoshop to design websites but modern software like Adobe XD and Figma is much faster and suited to designing websites. It is an advantage that they product vector graphics like SVG's that can be used at any screen size without loss of quality.
Do you have a logo and branding, e.g. colours, fonts and imagery? Ideally you will be able to answer "yes" to these questions before starting work on the new website. Developing a strong brand is the best possible start to launching a new business or organisation.
If you're going to be spending lots on marketing, you'll need to get your brand ready and make sure everything you do follows your brand guidelines.
If you're just starting out, a theme on Wordpress could be good enough to offer you a basic brand but it could be similar to lots of other businesses. If you need something unique, hire a company who offer web design services to create something from scratch that will perfectly reflect your branding.
When designing your new website, it is great to brain storm and come up with ideas. One thing to remember is to keep the navigation conventional. If it's too difficult or unusual visitors may get bored quickly and leave.
It's a good idea to think about your audience. Who are they and what are they looking for? You can then design your site so your users see what they expect to see and are not confused or mislead.
Another key design consideration is to make sure that users don't have to click too many times to reach their goal. Have a think about what actions users will want to take and what you want them to take and make sure it is easy for them.
Everyone is different, using different devices and with different technical ability. Make sure your website is accessible for all users, no matter who they are.
Another important consideration is the images on your website. You can take photos or hire a photographer, for the ultimate personalised look. But this is potentially expensive and time consuming, so you may wamt to use some stock images from a site like iStock, Envato Elements or Adobe Images.
Your product and brand may even require your own graphics, so you will need to hire a graphic designer to create graphics for you that are truely unique.
The content in your site is very important. Your visitors will need to understand what you do, learn more about you and your products and services and be encouraged to purchase from you. You can either write this yourself or hire a copywriter to do it for you.
There is not really a minimum wordcount per page, but you should write informative, in-depth content that Google will consider to be a useful resource. This means Google (and other search engines) will rank it higher, thus you will attract more traffic to your website. This adds value to your content for your users too, people want to read something informative, not just waffle.
Think about how your websites' content will grow over time - will this be through a News/Blog section, or will you add more landing pages and other content pages for marketing campaigns and users to learn from?
As mentioned previously, you need your website to work for everyone, no matter what device they are using. Just because you are using a desktop computer to build your website doesn't mean all your visitors will be using one. They could be using a mobile phone, tablet or computer with a different screen size.
Doing this can take a long time, with many tweaks to various page elements to make everything look and work well on mobile and desktop. The experience of a professional web developer can really pay off here, as they make the site work well at all possible screen sizes.
Once built, the website needs to be fully tested to make sure that it works across all devices and all screen sizes so that all users can access your new website.
You can start by testing in Chrome dev tools. Press F12 (on the PC) or Ctrl Option J (on Mac). In here you can open the emulator, then choose device.
Then you can test on any different browsers (e.g. Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari) and physical devices you have such as Android or iPhone etc.
Open Console and click on the emulator:
Change device and test site:
Finally you can test on many more devices using an emulator like Lambdatest
To come up top in the search results on search engines like Google, you'll need to optimise your site and content. There are many ranking factors that determine where you appear, but you can start by making sure these technical "on page" items are set up correctly before you go live:
This requires a lot of careful research, planning and thought on top of the designing stage which is why many people seek help through web design and marketing service companies.
When you are happy, it's time to take the plunge and set the website live! This means you remove any username and password required to see the site, or copy it over to the live space on the server. If using a nocode platform, you may just be able to click a button to do this.
Even after going live, it is good practice to keep testing and refining the website and content with a number of users (even if they are just friends and family) to make sure I understand how the site works and they can find what they're looking for.
Now you have "gone live" with your new site you'll be happy and releaved, but this is really just the start. Noone is going to visit it unless you tell them about it.
There are so many ways to do this, which go beyond the scope of this article, but here are some ideas to get your started:
Building links to your site is one of the most important ways of promoting your website on line. Inbound links are a major ranking factor and help give it a boost further up the search results.
Links can be expensive to earn and an SEO professional can help with this, but here are some ideas for link building which we can all work on to improve our websites' position in Google and other search engines:
You can and should promote yourself on social media. Social media is massive and sites like Facebook and Twitter have huge audiences. If you have the right content, it can be shared or retweeted resulting in extra visits, links and possibly even sales!
There are a lot of social media sites to choose from, but they have different audiences and content types. By content types we mean text, image, video etc.
Familiarise yourself with the main demographics and content types on each platform and create amazing content that people will want to share! Link back some of your content to your website to help promote it.
Google My Business is really important for all businesses and local search helping to give you a way of promoting yourself on Google for free. Read more about how you can use Google My Business for your business.
There are many other ways to promote your business and drive people to your website, that do not involve social media, link building and other "digital" methods.
Sometimes with a bit of lateral thinking, we can come up with some other promotion ideas such as:
You may be looking to make money from your website itself, here are some ideas:
There is no definitive answer for how long it takes to create a website. This is because there are many dependent factors that play a part such as the requirements of what you would like to see created like the number of service pages or product pages.
To design and put live a professionally built website by yourself, it could well take between five and six months. However, this process can be sped up through the help or professional web design agency's, and they will openly communicate to you how long they expect the process to take.
As we have learned here, creating a website is not that quick or easy and there is lots to consider. Are websites ever really complete? The answer would be "no", because to compete in the ever changing online world we must continue to grow and adapt.
When choosing a platform make sure it has the longievity you need, whether you are investing money or time and it looks good enough to act as your shop window, promoting confidence, expertise and the right results to users, encouraging them to buy from you.
We are a digital agency specialising in Web Design, Development, Concrete5 and digital marketing, based in London & West Sussex.
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