Website: The makings of one

Today anyone can build a website but not everyone wants to or has the time to do it alone.  Thankfully there are a lot of tools and resources available online for the dedicated do-it-yourselfer.   YAY for the internet.  So where to start.  Here’s a DIY guide to get you going that outlines 4 key areas to know.

  1. Your Domain:

This is the URL that identifies your webpage.  Ideally, you’ll have thought of something unique, short and sensible.  With some luck you should have no problem securing it.  There are really only 2 choices to do this:

  • purchase your own domain through a registrar (GoDaddy, HostPapa etc)
  • purchase your domain through a website builder ( see below)

There is an annual fee associated with keeping ownership of your domain so be aware of renewal dates.  Buying it back can be an expensive process, especially if you’ve managed to get a popular name.

  1. Website Builder

There are numerous options available and they all make it easy for you to use.  With drag and drop simplicity all you need is your own content and voila, it’s done.  You don’t need any coding knowledge, however website builders do have limitations.  Try a few to see what best suits your needs and ability.

Our top 3 recommendations for someone with no coding whatsoever that are easy to use are: WIX; Squarespace and Weebly

Using a builder like WordPress, Shopify or Bluehost will require you to be somewhat technical.  It is certainly doable but can be challenging.

Do your research and take each (or your 2 favourites) for a good trial run.  Ask yourself:

  • Which is the easiest to use
  • What templates and designs do you like
  • Does it have the functionality you need to build what you imagine

One thing though, make sure it’s mobile friendly.  You don’t want to get 80% through and find out you have to do something else to make it work on a phone.

And, there’s no such thing as free.  Many will advertise that you can build your site for free.  This is simply not true.  Yes, you can use the builder for free but now what?  Your site needs to be hosted, what about your domain and there’s always that limitation with free where you can build, say 3 pages but you really must have 5.  Shop around and see who offers the best value for what you need.  Is security important?  If so, choose a builder that handles all the updates so your site isn’t hacked.  Will you be selling through your site?  Now you’re looking at e-commerce capability.

One thing we suggest is that you understand what functionality and features are offered with paid plans.  Most builders offer subscription bases services, with each offering more storage, bandwidth, templates, SEO, analytics, email etc.

So now that you have chosen your website builder you can focus on actually building it, creating your content and growing your business.

  1. Templates

You have your domain, chosen your website builder, now what!

It’s time to start looking at some design layouts.  The templates dictate what your home page and menu bar looks like, what the content width is on each page.  You will have a few options to choose from so take some time to play around as this will give you the biggest visual impact.  This is the fun part.

Finally, you’ve found the template that speaks to you.  Next us is customizing that template so it stands out and reflects who you are and what you’re about.  This includes adding your own images and copy, adding pages, changing colours & fonts.  Making it look how you want it to look.

Remember, the more advanced your subscription the more you can customize the template.

  1. Test, Preview, Publish

You’ve built a website.  Go you. Now before you hit “publish” please do yourself a favour and take some time to test it.  You’ll be glad you did.  Ask yourself the following 4 questions:

  • Are there any spelling or grammar mistakes
  • Do all the menus and buttons work properly, do they take you to the proper page
  • Does the site do what you imagined it would do for you
  • Is the formatting consistent

Use the built-in “preview” function until you’re completely satisfied.  If possible, have family or friends test and provide feedback.

Now you can publish.

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