How to Build a Website

Last updated on July 24, 2014

How to Build a WebsiteIf you’re wondering about how to build a website (even for free), then this article will be helpful for you. If you don’t know exactly where to start, don’t worry – you’re not alone as for most people, building a website online is still a bit of a mystery.

For most people (including us a few years ago), creating a website is something that only IT geeks are capable of doing. These coder lock themselves in the basement, has no friends, and wears glasses. Right? Right??

Well, that was the old school stereotype that most people had for coders (including us – we confess!). I’m not sure if it’s because of the media, movies, whatever. But that’s definitely not how a lot of websites are built nowadays, and that’s definitely not how coders behave!

You don’t need to be an IT geek to learn how to build a website today. You don’t even need to know code (a bit will help, but not a necessity and it won’t hold you back), you don’t need to manage hosts / servers, and you don’t need to have a lot of money.

Keep reading and we’ll show you how to you can build a website in less than a day, and almost for free.

HOW A LOT OF WEBSITES ARE BUILT NOWADAYS

Technology has really advanced over the past few years. The internet has grown faster than ever before. Facebook has taken over, Google is king, and normal folks like yourself can build your own website for free.

More and more people are creating websites online as a way to express themselves and get in touch with others. Businesses cannot afford not to have websites as a way of reaching more potential customers.

If you want to build a business, or if you already have a business but haven’t built your website yet, you’re falling further and further behind.

But is building websites easy?  What is a good website builder?

In the past? Very challenging. Today? Not challenging at all.

Think about it. Facebook made it easy for you to connect with hundreds, if not thousands of people. Smartphones make it easy for you to surf the web on a tiny device. It’s not that hard to believe that building websites can also be easy, right?

There are a lot of website creators that have emerged over the past few years that enable you to build websites without knowing code. They programmed the website building software so now you literally just have to use your mouse and drag a slideshow, a block of text, images, videos, into the website. You can then insert your own text, upload your own pictures, insert your own videos (such as YouTube), and click publish. That’s it.

How to build a website - Drag and Drop

Weebly.com

I know it sounds ridiculously easy. After all, we’ve been taught that if something is too good to be true, it’s probably not, right?

Well, that’s a good rule of thumb, but not always the case. In terms learning how to build a website, this is definitely not the case.

For sure you will have to invest time into creating your own content and setting things up, but being a super freak in technology or codes is no longer a barrier to entry if you want to build a website all by yourself.

ARE ALL WEBSITE BUILDERS GOOD & EASY TO USE?

All website builders are built differently – each has it’s pros and cons. Some are easier, some are more challenging. I think the general guideline is that the more sophisticated and powerful the builder is, the higher the learning curve. That makes sense, right?

So for instance, WordPress is a very powerful website builder. It is flexible, advanced, and can almost be programmed to do almost anything you want as a website.

However, the learning curve to become proficient with using WordPress is rather steep. You will most likely have to invest quite a bit of time to learn how to use it well, and perhaps you will have to pay some freelancer or WordPress expert to help you set up your website.

Then there are WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), drag and drop website builders. These are the ones that do not need you to know any code to get a website up and running in a little amount of time.

(The following promo video is from Squarespace – Click here to see Squarespace)

These builders are ideal for people who don’t have the time to learn code (life is busy, right?), or don’t have the budget to hire someone to help build a website.

It’s great for people who enjoy DIY (Do-It-Yourself).

WHAT ABOUT WEBSITE DESIGN AND TEMPLATES?  MY SITE HAS TO LOOK GOOD!

Website builders nowadays give you a really good selection of design templates to choose from.  Let’s face it, the majority of us don’t know how to design well, let alone coding up our own web design!

So what do website builders do?  They create design templates so you can use them for your website, allowing your site to look good.  Think about them as “clothes” for your website.  If you don’t like one set of clothes, just change to another one to give your website a completely different feel.

how to build a website - templates

Templates from Squarespace

Almost all website builders give you these templates for free, and hands down, using these design templates will give your website the biggest visual impact in the least amount of time.  You don’t need to touch any codes whatsoever!

POPULAR DRAG & DROP WEBSITE BUILDERS

If you don’t want to learn code, or have a budget to hire freelancers to help you build a website, there are a few good website builders that you may want to test out to see if they can help you out, and if you like using them.

Here are a few that we recommend you taking a look at:

  • Squarespace
  • Weebly
  • Wix
  • Jimdo
  • IM Creator

All of them have their own pros and cons, and some of them are better at certain things.

When we started building websites ourselves, we researched for days as it was hard to figure out which one best fit our needs. There is so much information out there that it overloaded us, and pretty much paralyzed us in terms of choosing which website builder to use.

So we decided to test a lot of them. After investing hundreds of hours in using many different website builders ourselves (gosh those days were painful!), we’ve compiled a few different comparison resources so to help make your research (and life) a bit easier:

At the end of the day, there really isn’t a “one website builder fits all” type of solution. We recommend that you narrow down your search to 2 or 3 website builders, and just invest a day to try them out. It’s almost like shopping for a car (except MUCH cheaper). It makes a lot of sense to test drive a few of them just to see if they work out for you.

All of the website builders that we recommend are free to sign up, or at least they have a free trial period where you can give it a test drive.

WHAT ABOUT E-COMMERCE WEBSITE BUILDERS?

If you are thinking about building an online store, there are e-commerce website builders for you as well!

The best of the bunch that we recommend is Shopify if you need a very comprehensive e-commerce solution. Their themes are great, and they have a very powerful App Store to add more powerful tools to your store.

Shopify is great if you have many products that you want to see online, or if you already have a physical store and you just want to start selling products online. They have a Point of Sale system where you can take advantage of using iPads to run your physical store, while having all the inventory, sales records, fully integrated with your online store. If you use Shopify, there is no need to separate both your online and offline store anymore.

If you don’t need too many advanced tools and only have a handful of products to sell, Squarespace, Weebly and Jimdo are also excellent candidates to consider. These are great e-commerce solutions if you are selling unique, boutique products, photographs, art, or just anything that are not mass produced.

WHAT ABOUT DOMAIN NAMES, HOSTING, SECURITY EMAILS?

One of the best things about these growing website builders is that they take care of a lot of your concerns so you can focus on just learning how to build a website, creating content and growing your website.

They provide all the hosting services for you so you don’t have to pay for it separately. They also take care of all the security upgrades for the hosts so you don’t have to bother with all this techie stuff. They ensure that your website is always up and running, and doesn’t get hacked.

How to Build a website - hosting

Shopify Hosting

As for domain names, you can either purchase your own custom domain name through the website builder, or you can purchase it on your own through registrars such as GoDaddy. Some website builders such as Squarespace, Wix, Jimdo and Webs will give you a free custom domain name if you sign up to their premium plans.

Keeping your own domain name requires you to pay an annual fee and the yearly investment is roughly around $12 for most people. So signing up to their premium plans will save you the domain name fee, which will effectively lower your yearly investment in the website builder if you sign up to their premium plans.

Just bear in mind that when you purchase a domain name from a website builder or through separate registrars, you own the domain name and can take it to wherever you want. This is a very common question we get (and certainly one of our own question when we first started as well!) so hope this clarifies things a bit for you.

A lot of you also wonder about how to get your own custom email address. Not all the website builders provide email services built into their platform. If you see our comparison chart, you’ll see that Jimdo, IM Creator and Webs provide email services if you subscribe to their premium plans.

If you decide to use the other website builders what don’t offer email services – fear not. Windows Live offers you the ability for you to create your own custom domain email address for free – you just have to verify to them that you own the domain name. Or, if you prefer to use the Gmail interface, Google Apps can also help you create your own email address for a few dollars a month. If you sign up to our free Top 8 Tools newsletter, we have more details on where you can find these resources.

CONCLUSION – HOW TO BUILD A WEBSITE

Hopefully through this post, we’ve shown you that you don’t necessarily need to know how to code or become a tech guru in order to learn how to build a website. Those “old school” barriers are now gone.  We certainly weren’t tech saavy when we first started out, so you don’t have to be either.

There are plenty of drag and drop website builders available in the market that literally allow you to drag content into a website, and publish it without touching any codes.

The learning curve of using these website builders is not too steep, but you do have to invest a day or so to test them out. Not a bad investment if you are serious about building and growing your own presence online for years to come!

Once you become comfortable with these builders, it doesn’t hurt to pick up some very basic coding knowledge so you can modify your website if you want. It’s not a must, but just something to consider if you want to have a bit more flexibility in terms of styling of your website.

Again, here are a few helpful links to get you started in comparing which website builder can help you get your website online!

Click to see Website Builder Comparison Chart

Click to see E-Commerce Store Builders

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About Jeremy Wong

We worked with various website builders extensively on live projects. We've discovered the pros & cons of each website builder through our own trial & error, and we want to share our experiences and recommendations with you. Choosing the right website builder depends on your individual needs. Our website provides comprehensive expert reviews on website builders, so you can pick the perfect website builder that fits your unique needs.

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About Jeremy Wong

We worked with various website builders extensively on live projects. We've discovered the pros & cons of each website builder through our own trial & error, and we want to share our experiences and recommendations with you. Choosing the right website builder depends on your individual needs. Our website provides comprehensive expert reviews on website builders, so you can pick the perfect website builder that fits your unique needs.

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15 Responses to How to Build a Website

  1. Grant June 29, 2014 at 1:28 AM #

    Hi Jeremy, found your website VERY informative! Thank you. Since many web hosts (e.g., godaddy) have their own site builders, do you have any recommendation? I would seem easier to register and build site with them, plus you get email accounts for employees to use. Any thought? Thanks in advance!

    • Jeremy Wong June 29, 2014 at 10:37 AM #

      Hey Grant,

      Glad you’re finding our discussions helpful! GoDaddy is a pretty good website builder and we’ve discussed it in more details here.

      In general, while using website builders with hosts does give you access to a broader range of services, at times, their support teams may not be the best in terms of answering very specific website builder related questions.

      For instance, Weebly offers really good website building services, and you can reach them by going to Weebly.com. You can also use Weebly through hosts such as Bluehost.

      Both will work and enable you to build your website, but when it comes to support, if you are using Weebly through Weebly.com directly, you get Weebly’s direct customer / technical support team.

      If you reach out for help through Bluehost, you get Bluehost’s support team. We have a much deeper discussion about this specific scenario here.

      While some of the website builders don’t provide you with email accounts, you can also easily sign up for Google Business App’s email services for a few dollars a month. This way, you can take advantage of having your own custom domain email addresses, a familiar Gmail interface, and also that your email is stored on Google’s servers which is probably a lot safer / reliable / accessible.

      - Jeremy

  2. Laura May 15, 2014 at 8:06 AM #

    I own a small business and am looking to redesign our website. Thanks for all your comparisons of the website builders! I currently use Mailchimp to send out weekly emails to my customers. Do you know if any of these website builder sites allow you to create an email list? Then use a template to create an email (like Mailchimp) and send it out to all your subscribers. Ideally there would be a tab on your website people can click on to enter their email address…..They would then get your emails. Thanks for any feedback :)

    • Jeremy Wong May 16, 2014 at 12:35 AM #

      Hi Laura,

      If you are using Mailchimp (we use Aweber ourselves), you don’t need the website builder to be integrated with Mailchimp at all,unless you run an ecommerce store (I’ll address this below). Newsletter services allow you to create a sign up box, then provides you with some codes where you can copy and paste these codes into your website.

      All website builders have a tool that allows you to embed codes into wherever you want on your webpages. Once you publish your website, then the sign up box will show up.

      If you are operating an online store, you can integrate Mailchimp with websites built with Squarespace, Shopify or Bigcommerce. This way, after your customer buys from you, they are automatically invited to join your newsletter so you can continue to share news with them, or even promote other products to them.

      Hope this helps!

      - Jeremy

  3. vivek nikathithara April 7, 2014 at 10:02 AM #

    I am using wix for building my e-commerce site in India, but after spending so much time building it i realized that it doesn’t support Indian Rupee. So i am just stuck at this and don’t know what else to do. My question is that, is there any other payment option that can be added to my site so that my customers can choose different payment options ( even if that means a third party payment gateway).??

    • Jeremy & Connie April 7, 2014 at 8:03 PM #

      Hi Vivek,

      Wix actually doesn’t control what currencies you can use as it is up to the transaction services provider such as PayPal. So if you use PayPal, Shopify App or Ecwid App that you can find in Wix’s app market (see our review), I’m pretty sure you will be able to find some transaction options in Rupees.

      - Jeremy

  4. Latisha Slaughter March 24, 2014 at 4:56 AM #

    Hello Jeremy and Connie,

    I really have to first say, Thank You for all of your time and energy that you put into providing us, with informative and helpful education!

    I am starting an online business in women’s clothing, So I am extremely into design. Shopify seems to be a strong interest for me but, I do not know too much about codes. So does Shopify have alot of codes? and do you think this would be too much of a challenge for a beginner of codes?

    • Jeremy & Connie March 24, 2014 at 9:58 AM #

      Hi Latisha,

      Shopify is great for those who are not super technical as they are much easier to use compared to other e-commerce platforms. This is not to say that you can make unlimited number of customizations to the themes without ever touching codes, as some levels of modifications does require touching some codes.

      But if you just choose a theme, and work within the capability of the theme with Shopify’s tools, then you can get a really good store up and running fairly quickly. But if there is a certain look / feel / feature that you want to achieve that is outside the design of the theme, then you may have to code it yourself, or hire a Shopify expert to do so.

      Hope this gives you a bit more guidance!

      - Jeremy

      • Latisha Slaughter March 26, 2014 at 10:20 PM #

        Wow, What a great response! You have answered my question for me and what you said really helps me make a great decision. Thanks a bunch for the awesome guidance and I look forward to following your work.

  5. David March 18, 2014 at 9:43 AM #

    I’m having trouble finding the right fast website builder with ready-made goodlooking templates and high-quality free stock images; time is really an issue for me these days; what do you guys think about IMcreator.com?

    • Jeremy & Connie March 18, 2014 at 9:53 AM #

      Hey David,

      I think that IM Creator is a pretty good website builder, especially if you want to build a very basic website really quickly. Their tools are not he most comprehensive, but in a way that reduces confusion and allows you to focus on the basics which work really well in way.

      If you haven’t seen our review on IM Creator yet, check it out. You can also take a look at our website builder comparison chart here to get a high level overview of who are some of the leading platforms available today.

      If you want great looking templates, definitely take a look at Squarespace.

      As for great quality stock images, see our resources guide here.

      Hope this helps!

      - Jeremy

  6. Joel March 8, 2014 at 1:44 PM #

    Hi,

    I’m trying to build a website for my engineering consultancy business. I’m really new to all this website building thing. Looked at a few reviews on your site as well.
    Could you guide me a bit more?

  7. Gertrudes M February 2, 2014 at 9:26 AM #

    I want to create a website where can I post the restaurant and retirement home business of my hubby. I would like to edit the website at least monthly depending on our promotional activities. No payment option needed yet but a simple information for local customers and travelers as well. We want our website displays when people searched from their phone while on their travel since our place is in between 2 big cities.

    I trust you, and since I described my main objective which one do you highly recommend?

    • Jeremy & Connie February 2, 2014 at 3:32 PM #

      Hi Gertrudes,

      I think if you want to build a simpler website, then Squarespace, Weebly and Wix are good candidates for you to test and see which one suits you better.

      Weebly has the lowest learning curve, then Wix and Squarespace. But from a design perspective, I think Squarespace will give you the most professional and beautiful looking website.

      All of them are mobile device friendly and so your visitors will be able to find more information about your website through their mobile devices.

      I think the best way forward is to sign up for them for free, then invest some time to play around with their tools and see for yourself which one you prefer. It’s a very personal choice when it comes to which builder interface you prefer, so investing a bit of time in testing them out is well worth it.

      - Jeremy