How To Build a Website in 2024: A Beginner’s Guide

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Building a website is one of the best ways to grow your online presence and share your work with the world. Whether you’re looking to showcase your business, sell products, or simply want a digital home for your passion, there are a lot of steps to consider before getting started.

We recommend using a website builder to help simplify the process, but we’ll walk you through your options and the building journey step-by-step.

#1. Determine Your Site’s Purpose

The first thing you need to do is determine what type of website you want to build. What purpose do you want it to serve? Are you looking to create an online community to sell products to customers? Do you want to share your expertise through long-form blog content?

Whatever your goals, we recommend outlining the following details before proceeding:

  • Type of website – think about what you want to share with visitors and what actions you want them to take, whether that’s through a blog, online store, or restaurant website
  • Brand identity – your website’s tone of voice, color scheme, font choice, and unique selling point, will help your website stand out and bring consistency across your site’s design
  • Goals and vision – make a note of what you aim to achieve through your website, such as growing email subscribers, and refer back to this as you build your brand and website
  • Market research – see what your competitors are doing, identify gaps in the market, and recognize opportunities to connect with your target audience in a unique way

Having this information at the ready will help you as you start your website-building journey. And, if you’re more of a visual learner or you’re short on time, check out our video guide on how to build a website:

#2. Choose a Domain Name

Every website needs a domain name – the part of your site address visible in the browser’s search bar that identifies the website for people browsing the web. For example, ours is websitebuilderexpert.com.

The good news is that plenty of website builders package a domain name with your subscription (usually for the first year only), so keep that in mind when choosing your website builder in the next step. And don’t worry if you need to switch builders or platforms down the line – you can take your domain name with you.

Besides using website builders, you can also get a domain name from a registrar, such as GoDaddy or Domain.com. This can cost around $10 to $20 annually for a .com domain name.

Screen showing discounted domain registration deals with price comparison and savings highlighted on GoDaddy
I used GoDaddy's domain checker to see pricing and available names. Source: Website Builder Expert

There are a few things to consider when choosing a domain name:

  • Make it unique and relevant to your website, business, or brand so repeat visitors and customers can easily find your site again
  • Keep it as short as possible so it’s not a pain to type in the search bar or search engine
  • Avoid numbers to reduce confusion when reading or typing (numbers can also be harder to remember!)
  • Think long-term and choose a domain name that you’ll stick to – changing a name, especially for an established business, requires a lot of time and effort

Choose a short, memorable domain name that represents what your brand does. A concise name is not only easier for potential visitors to remember and recall, but it’s also simple to type into a browser. No need to forcibly add a keyword in your domain name either – this is not a ranking factor! Prioritize what makes sense for your audience and what aligns with your brand identity.

I would also recommend opting for a recognized Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) such as .com, .ai, .org, or .co. gTLDs are not tied to any country and can be used worldwide. This is the ideal choice if your audience spans across more than just one country, or you plan to expand internationally in the future.

Headshot of Caitlin Hathaway
Caitlin Hathaway Content Strategist

#3. Pick a Website Builder

To get started, you need the tools and instruments to build a website – a website builder is our top choice.

Website builders help you build, customize, and manage a website, no matter your skill level. They’re a user-friendly option for anyone short on time or lacking confidence when building a site from scratch. The best part is that website builders cater to all users, from beginners looking to create a personal site to industry-leading businesses. For example, Shopify is home to titans of ecommerce, such as Mattel and Gymshark.

Screenshot of the Shopify dashboard showing the "Get ready to sell" setup guide with steps to add products and customize online store.
I had no trouble adding products and setting up an online store with Shopify. Source: Website Builder Expert

Of course, if you want to get into the nitty gritty when building your website, you can also choose to build with a CMS, like WordPress, and organize your web hosting yourself. While this gives you total creative control, it’s not as accessible or intuitive to use as website builders, so we’d only recommend this route if you have prior building experience.

We regularly review the best website builders in the market, using our years of experience and rigorous research process to share recommendations based on 200+ hours of testing. You can see our top five website builders below:

Swipe right to see more
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Wix

Squarespace

Shopify

GoDaddy

Hostinger

Overall Rating
4.8
Overall Rating
4.6
Overall Rating
4.4
Overall Rating
4.3
Overall Rating
4.3
Starting from
Starting from
Starting from
Starting from

$10.99

Starting from

$11.99

$2.99 + 3 months free (with the 48-month plan)

Free plan or free trial

Free plan

Free plan or free trial

14-day free trial

Free plan or free trial

3-day free trial

Free plan or free trial

Free plan

Free plan or free trial

30-day free trial

Number of templates

900+

Number of templates

150+

Number of templates

150+

Number of templates

200+

Number of templates

150+

Visit Wix View Squarespace Visit Shopify Visit GoDaddy Visit Hostinger

As you can see, Wix is our top-rated website builder overall. It offers over 900 stunning templates, impressive built-in website features, and a beginner-friendly drag-and-drop editor.

That said, if you’re looking to build an online store, Shopify’s ecommerce features are unparalleled. And, for a simple editing experience, Squarespace is the easiest website builder we’ve tested in 2024.

What type of website do you want to create?

Find Your Builder

Building With AI

If you’re not too confident when it comes to building a website or you’re short on time, AI is the answer. Website builders are jumping on the AI hype in 2024 – you can start up a conversation with Wix’s AI chatbot, suggest a basic structure and style using Squarespace Blueprint, or let GoDaddy’s newest addition, GoDaddy Airo, help you build an online presence.

AI website builders are a great way to save time and energy, whether you use it to create pages or write content. But be wary of overdoing it! AI-generated websites won’t be as unique as something you can craft manually.

Wix AI chatbot mid-conversation for generating a hair salon website
I shared a website plan with Wix's AI chatbot and it quickly generated a site based on my responses to its questions. Source: Website Builder Expert

How Much Does It Cost To Build a Website?

We know that cost is a big concern when building a website, but how much should a website cost? Thankfully, the majority of website builders offer a free plan or free trial. This is a great way to get familiar with a builder before splurging on a premium plan.

If you decide to pay for a premium plan, website builders are still considerably cheaper than shelling out for a web developer or designer to build your site which could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Website builder plans vary in price, costing around $3 to $30 per month (billed annually).

For example, Wix has a free plan and its premium plans cost between $17 and $159 per month (billed annually). However, GoDaddy came out on top in our value for money research this year, offering an affordable entry point to building a website with its $10.99 per month Basic plan.

If you’re on a budget, check out our guide on the best free website builders and cheap website builders to see what’s available at your price point.

#4. Customize Your Template

Now that you’ve got this far, you should have a pretty solid foundation to build on. You know what type of website you want to create and have a set vision in mind, you’ve settled on a domain name, and you’ve signed up to a website builder. So, what’s next?

It’s time to design your website – your website builder should direct you to choose a template during onboarding (if you’re not building with AI).

Wix offers the most variety with 900+ templates to pick between. Most template libraries can be filtered by industry or website type, such as “Blog” or “Wellness.” Plus, the majority of templates are free to use but do factor cost into your budget since some website builders, like Shopify, slap a one-time price tag on their templates.

Squarespace's template library showing a preview of three "food" templates
I could filter Squarespace's template library by industry or website type, such as "Food". Source: Website Builder Expert

With your chosen template, you can then start customizing your site. Builders like Wix and Squarespace offer a drag-and-drop editor, making it easy for beginners to move elements around and position sections. Others, like Shopify and GoDaddy, use a section-based editor that limits you creatively but keeps things simple.

As mentioned before, we recommend using the free trials and plans available to play around in the editor first – see which editor style works best for you.

Wix's drag-and-drop editor in use, moving a text box on the homepage
I found Wix's drag-and-drop editor incredibly easy to use. Source: Website Builder Expert

When customizing your site, draw ideas and inspiration from the brand identity you determined in step one. The important things to consider are:

  • Color scheme – use the same color palette across design elements to pull the site together and keep things looking intentional
  • Font type – we recommend choosing a font type that aligns with your website goals or business type (e.g. a trendy, modern font for an artist website or something more classic and professional for a real estate website)
  • Visuals – add your eye-catching images and graphics to break up the text
  • Content – make sure to replace any default template text with your own copy
Squarespace's color palette editor, showing the existing website palette and options to choose from presets or upload an image to style from
I loved using Squarespace's color palette editor, especially since I could upload an image and have a palette generated based on those colors. Source: Website Builder Expert

#5. Create Relevant Website Pages

Once you’re happy with your site’s appearance and aesthetic, you’ll need to flesh it out with relevant pages. A lot of templates come with pages built-in already, so the work is sometimes done for you. When testing Wix, for example, I could add pages from the editor using the “Pages & Menu” button in the sidebar.

Screenshot of preset pages on a Wix website with the option to add new pages
With Wix, I could view my site's pages in the editor sidebar and easily add more. Source: Website Builder Expert

Regardless of your template or builder, it’s important to know what pages to include when building your website:

  • Homepage – this is the heart of your website and should engage your visitors appropriately, sharing key information and branding so that people know the purpose of your site right away
  • About page – use this page to tell your story, mission, and goals, whether that’s for an individual or business
  • Shop and product pages (if you’re creating an online store) – naturally, an online store should feature pages for shopping so make sure to include plenty of product images and information to help drive sales
  • Contact page – help website visitors connect with you or your business through a contact form, social media links, and general contact information (such as an email address or your store’s opening hours)
  • Blog page – a blog is the perfect place for you to share engaging content, build an online community, and showcase your expertise in the market
  • Some bonus extras could include a FAQ page, customer review page, membership area, or booking page to take appointments – these can be great pages to further customer relationships and build trust in your website

While we recommend that every website have a homepage, about page, and contact page, the rest is up to you and your website needs. If you’re building a portfolio website, you’ll want to add a portfolio or gallery page to showcase your work so potential clients can see what you’ve been up to.

#6. Add Website Functionality

The level of website functionality you need will depend on the type of website you intend to build. For example, you’ll need ecommerce tools if you’re looking to sell products or services, but a simple blog won’t need these features at all.

The features and tools you add to your site will also vary depending on your chosen website builder. Wix includes a lot of powerful features built into the platform, such as email marketing and internationalization tools. Shopify, on the other hand, relies heavily on third-party apps to add functionality.

Ecommerce

For online stores, we recommend choosing a dedicated ecommerce website builder, like Shopify. You’ll want a platform that offers intuitive product management tools and important features, including:

  • Lots of payment options to give your customers choice at checkout
  • Multichannel selling so you can reach and sell to customers across social media and online marketplaces
  • Ecommerce-focused marketing tools, such as Shopify’s 3D scanner to dynamically present your products or email marketing features to engage with customers
  • Security measures, such as SSL certificates and fraud detection, to keep your business and customer data safe from malicious threats or attacks
  • Shipping methods that suit your business – for example, Shopify offers real-time shipping rates and label printing

Apps & Plugins

A lot of website builders offer third-party apps and plugins that you can install to add additional functionality to your site. Some are free to use, such as Wix’s own Wix Bookings app, while others can cost extra on top of your subscription, such as Mailchimp for advanced email marketing tools.

While it’s great to explore available apps to enhance your website, we do recommend taking the time to properly research plugins before downloading them in case of security issues or poor performance.

Shopify app market showing apps for sales channels and store design
I could browse over 8,000 apps in Shopify's app store. Source: Website Builder Expert

#7. Optimize Your Content

The next step is to optimize your website content and design. This will help boost your site’s visibility across search engines, improve the overall experience for visitors, and build brand awareness.

Consider these factors when optimizing your content:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) – boost your website’s visibility and traffic by optimizing your site for search engines, like Google, through SEO basics and best practices, such as keyword research, image alt text, and more
  • Content hierarchy – place important information in prime locations on your pages so visitors don’t need to scroll or search around for it
  • Publish content regularly – build up your authority and expertise in your niche by sharing relevant and valuable content with your readers, such as blog posts
  • Consider all devices – almost 59% of website traffic comes from mobile devices instead of desktops, so make sure your website looks and works well for all screen types
  • Optimize your visuals – compress any images or videos to prevent slowing down your pages and frustrating your website visitors, but don’t compromise on quality
  • Assess the user journey – review the navigation and desired user journey to make sure the experience is smooth and intuitive

#8. Review and Publish Your Website

The final stage of building a website is to review your work and push it live! You don’t want to publish your website blind – even an experienced builder is bound to make an error along the way, whether it’s an element that needs moving or a line of copy that needs editing.

Before you publish, you need to make sure everything’s working and looks the way you want it. Go back through the steps above for final checks:

  • Is your site’s purpose clear to visitors?
  • Do all of the buttons and links work?
  • Have you checked your content for errors or spelling mistakes?
  • Is it easy to navigate?
  • Has everything been optimized for SEO?
  • Does your site run and load quickly?

Luckily, website builders make previewing your website really easy. Many include a button in the editor so you can see what your site looks like live – it’s handy to get a visitor’s perspective when editing. Lots of builders, like Wix, also offer a toggle to change views, so you can see what your site looks like across devices.

Wix mobile preview mode in the editor
I toggled between desktop and mobile view when building my test website with Wix. Source: Website Builder Expert

Finally, we recommend getting external eyes on your website before publishing. You know the website, pages, and content inside out, so request feedback from family, friends, and strangers.

What Happens After Publishing Your Website?

Is your website ever really finished? No. After you’ve published your website (congrats!), the work doesn’t stop. You might want to tweak the design, expand your audience, write new blog posts, or adjust your pages based on the user experience.

Website Maintenance

It’s important to monitor your website and listen to feedback to make effective improvements. Keep an eye on traffic and performance through your website builder or third-party integrations like Google Analytics. This will give you insight into how people are engaging with your website, meaning you can use this data to share future updates or edits.

For example, people might regularly visit your “About” page – over time, this could become outdated as team members change or your business evolves, so editing the page is an easy way to keep things fresh.

We recommend running regular checkups and audits of your website. Now, this doesn’t have to be every day or every week, but keep an eye out for things like broken links or outdated content.

Promoting Your Site

After publishing your site, you’ll want to spread the word, whether that’s across social media platforms, like Instagram and TikTok, or through email newsletters. This is a useful way to encourage traffic back to your website and build awareness.

Sharing content between your website and social media channels can also help foster trust in your brand and improve customer relationships. Plus, additional channels like these can be great if you’re trying to share updates about your website or bring attention to new products or content.

How To Build a Website: Recap & Next Steps

If you’ve followed these eight steps so far, that means you’ve successfully built and published a website. Congrats! To recap, once you’ve figured out your site’s purpose, chosen your domain name, and picked an appropriate website builder, the rest of the building process is all about customizing and optimizing.

And, as we’ve mentioned, make sure to review and regularly check your website to spot areas for improvement. There isn’t a finish line when building a website – while you can get your site up and running quickly, be prepared to dedicate your time and energy into keeping content up to date.

FAQs

You can, but it’s a hassle and quite a manual process. That’s why we recommend doing as much research before subscribing to your first website builder, and make the most of any free trials or free plans available.
Most leading website builders can get your website up and running within an hour or so. And, if you choose to build with AI, you can have a AI-generated website created within 30 seconds! However, we don’t recommend rushing the process. Give yourself time to get familiar with the editor and features. Of course, the length of time will vary from individual to individual, business to business, depending on your number of pages, level of customization, and content to add.
A Content Management System (CMS) is a software that enables users to create and schedule content on a website. It differs from website builders in that it requires a little technical skill to use, and doesn’t have drag-and-drop editing. The most well-known CMS platforms include WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.
Written by:
emma ryan author bio
Emma’s been a Senior Writer at Website Builder Expert since 2022, having first-hand experience with website builders, such as Wix and Shopify, through hands-on testing and research analysis. Her work and expertise have been featured in Digiday, TechRound, Industry Today, and Digital Information World. Specializing in writing about website builders, ecommerce platforms, and hosting providers, Emma stays in the loop of industry updates by attending conferences such as eCommerce Expo and managing Website Builder Expert’s news articles.
Researched by:
natasha_willett
I love to understand human behavior and the cognitive biases that drive us to do what we do. For over nine years I have worked as a mixed method researcher – research using a mix of numerical data and personal experiences – across a range of sectors, from insurance and policy development to finally arriving at Website Builder Expert five years ago. Fascinated by consumer decision-making, I meticulously built our leading ranking methodology to explore where providers like Wix sit within a competitive industry and what value they truly bring to our audience.
As a member of the Market Research Society, I’m an advocate for high ethical, commercial, and methodological best practices. All of this combines to give you the most ethical recommendations based on real data.

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