Building your own website is probably a whole lot easier than you currently think. Even if you don't have your own business you can benefit from having your own website.
An increasing number of us have the idea of creating something more individual than just a LinkedIn or Facebook profile page. But why not set up your own website with your own domain name?
1. Do I need a technical background to set up my own (great-looking) website?
This depends how much functionality you want on your website. To take a deep dive, you could teach yourself HTML or CSS, the building blocks of every website on the internet. A popular resource for this is W3Schools. To host your website on the web and get a domain you will need a hosting package with a provider like GoDaddy, 1&1 or Namecheap (just to name a few). Learn more on web hosting and HTML editors here.
But this is not the only route you can take: if the technical side of things leaves you cold, you can still create a great-looking website using a website builder. If you can use MS Word or PowerPoint you'll be able to use these tools in no time. The provider of your website builder will offer both a domain name and webspace in a package.
How an online website builder works
2. What's the price tag on building a website myself? What kind of free software is available?
Aside from your time investment, the cost of a self-built website is not very high and can even be free if you can do without business features.
If you choose to use a site builder the price will be roughly in between $5 – 15 USD per month including a domain name (.com or .net for example). Choosing one of the free plans usually means having advertising on your site. I found two great website builders that hardly feature any ads on your web property: Jimdo and Weebly.
In case you want to have your website built by a professional, check out Upwork or Freelancer.com. (Myself I've had great experiences with Upwork.) Doing this will give you an idea of prices as web designers will bid on your project. Check their ratings before choosing a provider. These sites can even help you find copywriters and graphic designers.
3. I was told that website builders don't produce professional-looking sites – is that true?
Functionality and design options used to be very limited with the first generation of website builders. If you remember Geocities you know what I mean. With the advent of Web 2.0 site building systems this has changed completely. Click here to see some example sites other people have created using site builders.
There are many different kinds of website builders available, depending on your requirements you can have a blog on your site and/or even build a professional online store with a system like Jimdo. A Web 2.0 website builder can make your life easier, while still leaving you the freedom to choose what design options and functionality you want to have on your site.
You can choose from the extensive libraries of templates and also customize those until you are entirely happy with the result. Every website builder offers their own style – I would recommend you sign up for a free account, take a look at their template galleries and see if you like it.
Of course, the building block system is not completely free of disadvantages. Ease of use comes with certain limitations. Learn more about pros and cons here.
If you realize that website builders are not up for the task, you can also use WordPress as it allows for much more complex sites. However, you'll also have to invest more time learning it. Find our WordPress tutorial here for more details.
4. Should I plan my website before getting my hands on software tools?
This is up to you! But in general a little planning beforehand is time well spent. Here are my top 3 tips:
- Use a pen and paper to write down everything you'd like to have on your website. Mind mapping can be a great way to organize your thoughts. Forget the technology just now.
- Take a look at other websites you like: both from a design and a content perspective. Make notes of what you like and what you don't like.
- Once you have a draft version of your website ask people you trust for their feedback. This can give you some valuable insights as “outsiders” usually see your project from a different angle.
5. What elements do all great websites have in common?
Important: always read the respective image license agreement as you may have to give credit to the artist by linking back to his website or profile.
Make sure you understand the image formats available: .gif, .jpg and png are the main ones. Everything you need to know can be found here. To be able to edit and resize your images it comes in handy to have an editing program. A professional yet free Photoshop-alternative is Gimp. If you have used Photoshop before it can be a bit tricky to understand. If you only need some basic functionality you should check out Sumo Paint or Snappa.
Then there's your website copy: for some excellent advice on effective web writing check out this article. Keep in mind that website surfers mainly scan text and don't necessarily read all of it line by line.
To make a professional impression on your visitors you should use contact forms rather than email addresses. Fortunately any good website builder will enable you to add one at the click of a button.
What are you waiting for? Building your own website can be great fun 🙂
For a selection of the best website builders on the market please check out our current top 10.
Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below!