How to create a website: guide for beginners
Having a website, for a startup , is today an almost indispensable requirement. For this resource to truly prove to be a value-added asset, however, it must have certain specific characteristics, chief among them being the ability to capture the attention of those who visit it and ease of use. Knowing how to create a website, therefore, can prove to be of great help to entrepreneurs or startuppers who decide to start a new business.
If you are reading this beginner’s guide on how to create a website from scratch, you are most likely not a programmer or, more generally, an IT professional. Nevertheless, it is good for you to know that you, too, may still be able to create a website, even without any special computer skills and with a relatively modest financial outlay.
The first doubt you have to clear when you realize you need a website, then, is to decide whether to proceed on your own or to rely on an expert or team of professionals in the field. The next few lines in this guide can help you make the best decision for your specific needs.
Who to contact to create a website
The most banal answer to the question ” Who to contact to create a website?” would, of course, suggest turning to one or more professionals in the field. However, the most immediate answer is not always also the most correct one, and this specific case is precisely one in which less superficial thinking is required: nowadays, in fact, as already pointed out, it is possible to create a professional website independently and (almost) free of charge. Let’s see how.
Create the site (almost) free on your own
Until recently, to create a website it was essential to know computer codes and to program the website itself, line by line. The natural consequence of this was that anyone who wanted to start a website was practically forced to hire a programmer.
For the past few years, however, the Net has been offering several more or less “off-the-shelf” solutions that make it possible to build a website even without specific skills: these solutions are called website builders.
These are online tools that allow you to create your website easily and in minutes, without you needing to write a single line of code, simply by placing your content within predefined templates with limited graphic options available.
It may be very useful for you to know that some site builders also offer you the opportunity to take advantage of free web hosting services. In this regard, it is good to remember that hosting refers to the space on the web that hosts the content of the site and, on a practical level, makes it reachable by users browsing the Internet.
Site builders, however, are not the only tools available to those who want to create a website on their own: another viable route leads to CMSs (Content Management Systems). Such a solution allows you to publish and manage the content of a website within an interface that requires more advanced computer skills than those needed to use site builders. Again, however, there is no need to know (and apply) specific programming techniques.
Compared to website builders, a CMS gives you more control over the structure of the site and all of its elements and gives you the option of choosing your preferred hosting service (website builders are tied to the platform builder’s host). The main disadvantage of CMS systems, on the other hand, is related to the need to provide the management and maintenance of each component of the site yourself.
In general, it is possible to conclude that a website builder is more suitable for those who want to create a landing page or website with few elements and no special needs from a graphical point of view, while a CMS is recommended for those who need a more structured site with more updatable content.
In terms of pricing, it is difficult to determine whether it is more cost-effective to opt for one solution or another: generally CMSs are free, but you have to consider other expense items, from hosting to additional applications to get new features; similarly, many website builders offer free packages, but to get a more professional-looking site you generally need to upgrade to more advanced (and not free) packages.
Rely on a professional
Now that you know, at least on a theoretical level, how to create a business website from scratch on your own, it is important that you also know the alternative paths you can take.
Opting for a website builder or CMS can give you the opportunity to build a site for free or at relatively low cost (the biggest expense is related to the annual cost of hosting, domain, etc., which more or less hovers around 100 euros), saving you the money you would have to allocate to a programmer for his or her work.
In this regard, it is good for you to know that the fee of a professional who creates websites is usually between 1,000 and 2,000 euros for a relatively “simple” site, but can rise to tens of thousands of euros for more complex sites.
Without a website builder or CMS, it is necessary to program the site, line by line, working on the HTML code: clearly, the more pages there are to create and the more elements there are to include, the more work the professional you turn to will have to do (and the higher, inevitably, his fee will be).
Engage a specialized agency
To introduce the third option available to you, further thought is required: website programming is only one aspect of designing, creating, and developing a website. To make the site truly effective, you need textual content, photographs, videos, and graphics designed and implemented in a certain way: if you decide to rely on a programmer, you will have to provide this content yourself, perhaps through Canva, or turn to other specialists.
This is where specialized agencies come in: nowadays, agencies that deal with the creation of websites for businesses can provide you with a whole team of developers, web designers and specialists in SEO or Web Marketing, so that you are guaranteed to create and manage a complete and effective website from the very beginning.
Obviously, the point made above for the programmer applies: the more services you will need, the higher will be the investment related to the creation of the website through specialized agency. Several agencies, nowadays, are able to develop custom sites, that is, custom-built to meet even the most specific needs: in projects of this type every aspect, from the graphics of the site to its structure, passing through the control panel, is designed ad hoc.
Don’t be in a hurry to create your website: you now know how to create a website in practical terms and who you can turn to in order to do so, but before you proceed to the creation of your space on the Net, it is necessary for you to carry out a preliminary analysis (or, rather, many preliminary analyses) on several aspects. Let’s look at some of them.
One of the best ways to avoid proceeding in the dark when you decide to implement a new project (in this case a website) is to observe what, before you, your competitors have already done. This does not mean that you have to copy the site of a brand competitor, but you can (should) look very carefully at the way it offers its services or products and interfaces with the user, so that you can note what works and what is improvable and, finally, draw the right inspiration for the style and content of your website.
Customers (and investors)
Always keep in mind that, to be effective, a website must demonstrate that it can respond quickly and completely to the needs and desires of the users who come to visit it. It is necessary, therefore, that you know who the (potential) visitors to your site are. Think about it: how can you expect to communicate effectively if you do not know well who will listen to your messages, i.e., your buyer personas?
For a company, the users on the site represent potential customers; for a startup, on the other hand, the site also serves to intercept potential investors. Clearly, however, knowing this is not enough: knowing the target of your site, in fact, means understanding what users want and what problems you are able to solve for them, how and when they browse the Web, what platforms they frequent, and how you might interact with them.
Tone of Voice
Earlier we talked about how to interact with your site’s target audience: a key aspect to be taken care of very carefully is the tone of voice. There are multiple communication styles you can use, depending on your brand identity and your audience, but whether you choose to use an ironic tone of voice or go for a more “institutional” style, you must always make sure that your message is understood by your target audience clearly and without misunderstanding.
Last but not least is the analysis that takes into account user searches, which are very useful clues to better understand what your target audience needs and what their desires are that you could intercept.
Two of the most useful online tools in this regard can be mentioned: Google Trends and Answer the Public. The former is a free tool offered by Google that allows you to understand what users are interested in in real time, while the latter is a tool (partially free) that provides an overview of what users are asking search engines (Bing and Google).
Choose the technologies best suited for the purpose
Once you have successfully conducted all the preliminary analyses just mentioned, you can break the buck and begin, concretely, to build your website. As will be clear to you by now, you have several arrows in your bow to shoot, and you need to be careful to choose the right one. In order to identify the technological solution best suited to your specific needs, however, knowing what a website builder or CMS is is not enough. The time has come for you to learn in more detail what the main platforms in each “family” are.
If you plan to create a website using a website builder, you should know that those listed below are some of the most widely used platforms in the world:
If you need to create an eCommerce site , Shopify (paid) is probably the best solution to start selling online with your own virtual store, managing sales, payments and marketing without having to worry about the more technical aspects of the site.
With the Wix website builder you can create different types of websites (from corporate site to eCommerce) quickly and easily with a simple drag-and-drop editor, hundreds of templates to choose from, and hosting service included. Wix is a service that uses cloud technology and can be used in freemium mode (i.e., free for some basic services and paid for other more advanced features).
The operation of Weebly is in some ways very similar to that of Wix, but these two website builders differ in a few points: unlike Wix, for example, Weebly currently offers unlimited storage space and unlimited web pages.
If you are still thinking about how to create your website and are considering doing so using a CMS, you should focus your attention on the following platforms:
WordPress is the most widely used CMS in the world for creating websites, as well as the one that, because of this, offers the most guarantees in terms of support and development. The basic package is free, and it is possible to customize the site with other features according to your needs by adding so-called plug-ins.
You have probably already heard of WordPress, but what you may not know is that it comes in two different versions: wordpress.org and wordpress.com. The former is open source software that you can download for free and install on your server; to use it and take advantage of its full potential, you need to purchase a domain and hosting plan. WordPress.com, on the other hand, is an online platform (and not downloadable software) and, to use it, does not require you to purchase a domain or hosting plan.
Another CMS popular among those who want to create a website while not knowing the programming language is Joomla: with such a platform you can create both simple blogs and more complex sites, thanks to the possibility of providing categories and subcategories. Again, you can choose from several templates and enrich the site with additional extensions (plugins, modules and components).
Magento is an open source CMS platform designed specifically for those who need to create a professional eCommerce site. Through the control panel, it allows you to manage every single aspect of the eCommerce store, making multiple features available to those who use it.
Up to this point there has been no mention of “frameworks”: this word, in computer science, refers to a layer of code that is based on a programming language (and, possibly, other frameworks) and that facilitates the programmer in software development by giving him or her advice and tools.
Don’t let the technicalities scare you: what you need to be interested in now is that frameworks are building blocks for programmers, allowing (to those who know how to handle them) to save time and work safely, resulting in performance-optimized Web sites that are adaptable to your communication and design needs. Let us now look at some examples of frameworks:
Lavarel is a web application framework designed to develop moderately complex websites of different types, including corporate and business management websites, as well as web apps.
Another example of a framework is Django, which is free and open source. Designed for back-end web development, it contains within it everything needed to program APIs and back-end web applications. Its complexity makes it suitable for particularly complex and large projects.
The Internet offers many other online services dedicated to those who want to create a website from scratch. The following are some of the most popular examples:
Google Sites is Google’s free web application that allows you to build websites on your own without the need to be proficient in programming or design, simply by dragging and dropping site content (documents, videos, images, presentations, and other attachments) into a single space and sharing it with a small audience or with all users.
Google also runs Blogger, a blogging service that can be accessed for free and that allows you to create an online journal by choosing from proposed templates, with some customization options. The difference with Google Sites is that, with the latter, you can create simple and static websites, while with Blogger you can make blogs and publish new content every day.
The (continuous) optimizations after the site is published
A guide on how to create a website cannot be called complete if it does not consider another aspect, subsequent to the publication of the website itself: once online, the performance of the website must be constantly analyzed and, when necessary, optimized.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and User Experience (UX) play a key role in this “game.”
SEO includes all activities (both internal to the site and external) aimed at optimizing the structure and content of a site so that it ranks best (for specific keywords) within the SERP of search engines.
CRO, on the other hand, refers to a multidisciplinary approach that aims to improve the conversion rate, that is, the ability to turn visitors into customers. This approach includes persuasive writing techniques, data analysis, conducting A/B tests and surveys, and user experience components.
User Experience refers to the complex of feelings a user experiences when interacting with a product or service (in this case, the website) and includes every aspect of navigation, from the site’s functionality to its speed and intuitiveness.
In this very regard, for those who want to know how to create an effective website nowadays, there is one last great lesson “signed” Tim Berners-Lee, co-inventor with Robert Cailliau of the World Wide Web. Never forget his words:
“Web users lately want to get to data quickly and easily. They no longer care so much about attractive sites and sleek design.”