Guide to Launching Your Website

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Person working on computerNo matter the size of your business, having a website is like a virtual business card. At the very least, people want to validate that you exist and have a way to get in touch with you. But it’s also an affordable way to showcase your products and services. Even if you don’t sell products online or need the extra marketing, it’s a good idea to have a little corner of the internet that’s all yours. But how do you go about making a website? We know that it can seem overwhelming, but luckily you’re in the right place! We’ll walk you through the steps and break down the terminology in an easy to understand guide below.

How to Create a Website

Building a website is very similar to building a home and we’ll use that analogy when breaking down the steps in the process below. On that note, grab a shovel and let’s get to work!

  1. Get a Domain Name
  2. Get Website Hosting
  3. Design Your Website
  4. Publish Your Website
  5. Secure Your Website
  6. SEO and Marketing
  7. Ready to Launch?

Step 1: Get a Domain Name

The domain name is the address for your website. Much like you give your address to a friend to mail you a holiday card the address tells the post office and mail system how to sort the card and deliver it to you. But in this case, there are servers and IP addresses that are working behind the scenes to get the person to view your website. Without a domain, your world has no way to find you.

And as they say in real estate “location, location, location.” That couldn’t be more true when securing your domain “address” too. While there are an infinite number of possibilities to live, there is only one GPS coordinate for any one unique location. So imagine an open field and everyone running to “squat” on their piece of land to claim it. That’s what you are doing when purchasing a domain name. Even if you aren’t anywhere near close to starting to build your website, it’s a good idea to go ahead and claim your address before anyone else does. Also, register for similar domains and misspellings. Unregistered domain names (that someone else hasn’t claimed) are cheap so you might as well buy the plots of land on either side of you (or in this case domains like yours) just to be safe. Check out our reviews of the best domain name registrars.

Step 2: Get Website Hosting

Next up is hosting. Hosting is like the foundation of your home where everything inside it physically lives. It can be a sturdy foundation like a concrete slab (or a dedicated server in the case of hosting), or you could build your home on top of a less stable environment (like a shared server). Both will do the job. It’s just a matter of how much you’re willing to spend to ensure the long-term stability and safety of your website. Some content management systems (see next step) come with self-hosting which is the closest equivalent of buying a model home where the home and the foundation are all under one roof, you just plot it down on the plot of land you picked out (i.e. address/domain name). Learn more about how to select a website host in our web hosting reviews article.

Step 3: Design Your Website

A content management system (or CMS; such as WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal) allows you to update the contents and look of your site on the front-end, without needing a coding degree; similar to how you would decorate your home, pick out paint colors and furnish it. You can hire a contractor and interior designer to help you build and design your home, or you can do it yourself. Same with websites – you can hire a web developer or graphic designer or do it yourself. It’s up to you which route you decide. Rolling up your sleeves and getting the hammer and nails out can not only be more affordable but has become easier and more manageable every year with the help of full-fledged website builder solutions.

Video: Building a Website with Weebly

Weebly is our #1 recommended pick for website builder and in their newest platform, Weebly 4, they have email marketing and automation built in too. Watch this quick video which has a time lapse of how easy building a website from scratch is using Weebly 4.

Step 4: Publish Your Website

Once you’re done building your website, it’s time to go live and “open the doors” for others to see what you’ve created. Remember that unlike your home that has privacy, the web is wide open for the world to see, so make sure you are putting your best foot forward (and aren’t letting people inside with unfinished rooms/pages). Just because the website is live doesn’t mean you can’t change things. If you are looking to remodel your site, it’s easy to pick out new paint colors, spruce it up for the holidays and build additions later on. The options are only limited by your imagination (and budget).

Step 5: Secure Your Website

While you can’t pick and choose who comes and goes inside your new home on the web, you can keep out burglars and unwanted intruders who could harm your website using various security options. If you are using a fully hosted solution like the website builders we mention in Step 3, you’ll typically have security settings already built in. However, if you are planning to build a large custom site with HTML, PHP, or even a CSM such as WordPress that you plan on self-hosting, you should look into a tougher lock like Incapsula.

Step 6: SEO and Marketing

Remember, just because you build it does not mean they will come. It helps to have a general knowledge of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and even if you find a way to hire Larry Page and Sergey Brin (inventors of the Google search engine, where the majority of organic website traffic emanates from) to help you with this, you’ll still need to tell people via traditional marketing methods about your site. Because let’s face it, the internet isn’t exactly tiny, and no offense, but you’re just one tiny spec in the universe (for that matter, so are we, so don’t feel bad ;-). We’ve reviewed several SEO Tools that can give you a leg up on the competition. And we’ve also got practical marketing tips to help you get some customers in the door. Again, you could hire a professional like you do when getting a realtor to help market your home, but know that an SEO consultant worth their salt doesn’t come cheap (litmus test: do they rank for a generic, high search, high competition search term (such as “SEO consultant”), or are they telling you they’re #1 for a highly specific, hardly ever searched for, and not all that hard to rank for term (such as “Most awesome SEO consultant of all time in 2017 and beyond”)? With 571 websites being launched every minute (according to an infographic from PC Magazine in 2013) your competition is fierce, so you better have a good plan in place to stand out and be the best house on the block!

Ready to Launch Your Website?

Now that you know more about building websites and hopefully have more confidence, what are you waiting for? Time to get started! If you want to dig in deeper, we welcome you to check out our comprehensive How to Make Your Own Website Series, which has dozens of article going into more detail on all the topics we’ve mentioned, plus more. If you’ve got any questions, fire away in the comments below!

Have you built a website before? Tell us about your experience!

About The Author:

Sadie has over 15 years of experience in digital marketing, graphic and web design, social media strategy, email marketing and more. She is a 4th generation small business owner and has worked with a wide range of brands from fortune 500 companies to startups and entrepreneurs.

Sadie is a self-proclaimed Apple/Mac guru and keeps up with all the latest tech trends at conferences including South by Southwest. Sadie has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Texas at Austin's Moody School of Communications and a concentration in Business from the Red McCombs School of Business.

Her expertise has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The New York Times, Forbes, People, Reader's Digest, Apartment Therapy, and other regional news organizations.

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