If you’re wondering about how to make a website (even for free), then
you’ve come to the right place.
Have no idea where to start? Worried it will cost too much and take too long?
Don’t worry, that’s what most people think (including us seven years ago).
We’ll take you through the process of creating a website step by step and show you why:
- You don’t have to be an IT geek to build a website from scratch nowadays
- You don’t need to know code, manage hosts or servers
- You don’t need to have a lot of money
If you want to build a website, you just have to know where to start.
Follow our step-by-step guide and you could have your website up and running online in a matter of hours. If you’re looking to build a personal website, or want to create a site for your small business, this process is right for you.
Start your website-building journey at step one below, or navigate to the step that you’re currently working on:
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 a website as a way of reaching more potential customers.
The reason normal folks like yourself can build your own website for free is because of website builder tools.
Thanks to these drag-and-drop website builders, building your own website is as simple and as intuitive as creating a powerpoint presentation.
Website builders have programmed the software you need to make a site, so now you literally just have to use your mouse and drag a slideshow, a block of text, images or video into your website. You can also insert your own text, upload your own pictures, insert your own videos (such as YouTube), and click publish.
You don’t need to have any coding knowledge whatsoever, so if HTML (Hypertext Markup Language – common coding language for text fonts and styles) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheet – used to layout web pages) sound like foreign languages, don’t worry!
Mastering code takes months (and a lot of skill) and using it to build a website is complicated and time-intensive.
Using a top-quality website builder means anyone can build a website. It’s why picking a builder is your first step when creating a website.
Sounds good right?
But how do you know which one to pick?
After all, it’s not just about choosing any old builder, you need to choose the right website builder.
When we started making websites ourselves, we found it hard to figure out which website builder was the best fit.
So we decided to test a lot of them.
Our comparison chart shows you what we found out. You can see which is the best all-round builder, which is the best builder for designers and which is the easiest builder to use, and compare them.
If you already know what you need from a website builder, our comparison chart will show you which builder offers the features important to you.
If you need more detailed information to make a choice, see our big comparison chart.
With any of the builders in our comparison chart, you won’t need to code and you won’t need to spend loads of money hiring freelancers to help you design and build your website.
When we started out, there was so much information out there that it overloaded us, and pretty much paralyzed us in terms of choosing which website builder to use.
After investing hundreds of hours in using many different website builders ourselves (gosh those days were painful!), we’ve compiled a few different resources to help make your choice (and life) a bit easier.
If you’re torn between two and need more information about the best website builders for specific industries, below you will find some industry focussed comparison charts and in-depth reviews of our top-rated website builders.
This guide is for people looking for the easiest way to build a website (without any coding knowledge). You can also build a website using WordPress and BlueHost, but we only recommend this option if you are technically skilled. If you are, find out more here.
If you’re still unsure about which website builder to choose, and are struggling to whittle down our list of recommended builders, take our guided quiz and we’ll point you in the right direction.
Take a minute to answer our four key questions and we’ll give you personalized advice on which website builder is right for you.
Other helpful pages:
Looking to build an online store?
E-Commerce Online Store Builders Comparison Chart for 2018 – if you’re looking to build an online store, use one of our top-rated builders.
The 5 Best Business Website Builders – if you’re a small business owner looking to get online, these are the 5 best website builders if you’re looking to get your company online.
Top 5 Website Builders for Photographers – if you’re a photographer looking to build a website and show off your work, these are your best options.
Top 5 Website Builders for Portfolios – are you an artist or a designer? These are the 5 best website builders for creating a portfolio and growing your fanbase.
Once you’ve chosen a website builder, the next step is to make sure you’ve chosen the right website builder.
All of the website builders in our comparison chart have their pros and cons, and some of them are better at certain things.
When it comes to choosing, there really isn’t a “one website builder fits all” type of solution.
You’re probably thinking:
“But I can’t afford to sign up to all of them, how do I know I’ve picked the right builder to create my website?”
All of the website builders that we recommend either offer free trial periods or have free basic plans. Signing up to a free trial lets you experiment with each website builder, without having to spend any money first. You just might enjoy using them, too!
Think of it like shopping for a car (but MUCH cheaper). You can take each website builder for a test drive to see if it works out for you.
It’s that simple!
We recommend that you narrow down your search to two or three website builders, and spend a little time playing around with them.
When testing different builders to find the best one to create your website, ask yourself:
- Which interface do you find the easiest to use?
- What templates and design features do you like the most?
- Does the builder’s functionality help you build the site you picture in your head?
You can see how each website builder compares on several key factors in our comparison chart below. Just select the builder that appeals to you and use the free trial button to take it for a spin!
But that’s not all!
You can also see how each website builder caters for mobile websites. With more people (your site’s potential visitors) using smartphones to browse the internet than ever before, it’s very important your website looks good on any device.
All of Squarespace’s themes are mobile responsive (meaning they will automatically look as good no matter what device your visitor is using, without any legwork needed from you), freeing up your time to focus on other parts of your site.
Jimdo and Weebly both offer a selection of themes that are mobile-responsive, while Wix and GoDaddy provide mobile editors that allow you to tweak your site’s display so it looks good on mobile, or hide certain content from mobile browsers altogether.
This approach does take a little bit more of hands-on approach, but gives you greater freedom to design a personal mobile experience for your visitors.
Good website builders let you toggle between desktop and mobile view, so you can see how your site looks to visitors using different devices. You can easily step in and tidy up any problems.
Let’s get started by comparing each builder’s key features…
Wondering what each of our rated features actually means?
We’ve provided definitions below (if everything is clear, great! Pick your builder and start testing).
Chart Features Explained:
1 Ease of Use – our score is based on how easy it is to learn how to use the website builder (even if you have no technical skills). Quite simply, we put ourselves in the shoes of someone using a website builder for the first time and tested each one out to see how intuitive it is to use. Is adding functionality and images simple? Is editing straightforward? Do you have support readily available? Is the interface clear? The higher a builder’s ease-of-use rating, the better they answered these kind of questions.
2 Template Design – to rate our recommended builders on template design, we looked at the overall variety and quality of the themes each one offers. Wix gives you access to a huge library of over 500 professionally designed themes. They span practically every industry, so whatever your website is about Wix has you covered. Squarespace’s themes are best looking and can make your site look like it’s been built by a designer.
3 Features & Flexibility – the higher a website builder scores in this category, the more apps and features they offer to help you take your website up a level, and the more types of website they support (ecommerce stores, for example). The more flexible builders let you integrate third party tools with just a click of a button. If you’re looking for a builder with endless possibilities, pick one with a high features and flexibility rating.
4 Popularity – The more users a website builder has, the higher their popularity rating. While this doesn’t reflect the number of live websites or paying customers, it will give you a general idea of how popular the builder is.
5 Mobile ready – mobile readiness of a website builder tells you how easy it is to make sure your site looks great across devices. We have rated them on how good their responsive themes are at scaling across devices and the adjustment options they offer for mobile experiences.
6 Pricing – Monthly pricing based on annual plans. Monthly price will be a bit higher if you enrolled on month-to-month payment plans.
One of the best things about these established website builders is that they take care of a lot of your concerns, so you can focus on building your website, creating content or growing your business online.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
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.
We know there’s A LOT to think about and choice can be a bit daunting.
But getting started is as easy as clicking on the builder you want to trial, entering your email address and password, or signing up through social media, and off you go!
Don’t believe us? Take a look at this:
A free plan is a great way of creating a website and getting up and running (or testing out which website builder is the best for you).
But if you want to build a website with real personality and add all the bells and whistles, then you’ll want to think about upgrading to a paid plan to access more advanced features and functionality.
It’s your call.
All of our recommended builders come with quality templates – set designs that let you build a stylish website in no time whatsoever.
Editing your website’s template by changing fonts, styles, colors, images and navigation bars is the best way to build a website with really personality.
As there’s no one-size-fits solution, when you’re experimenting with different website builders test which one you find the easiest to customize.
We’ll explain more about customizing your template in step 6.
What about ecommerce website builders?
If you are thinking about building an online store, there are ecommerce website builders for you as well!
The best of the bunch that we recommend is Shopify if you need a very comprehensive ecommerce solution.
Their themes are great, and they have a very powerful App Store to add more functionality and tools to your store.
You can see how Shopify stacks up against the best ecommerce store builders on the market in our comparison chart.
Dedicated ecommerce website builders like Shopify are 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.
If you don’t need too many advanced tools and only have a handful of products to sell, Wix, Squarespace, Weebly and Jimdo are also excellent candidates to consider. These are great ecommerce solutions if you are selling unique, boutique products, photographs, art, or just anything that are not mass produced.
It all boils down to this:
If you know your website is going to be used to sell lots of products, you might want to check out our 5 best ecommerce website builders.
But if you’re just looking to get a website up and running as quickly and painlessly as possible, you’ll want one of the builders we’ve recommended in this guide.
As well as picking the right builder to create your website on, you need to choose the right plan.
Website builders offer different levels of subscription and, as with most things, the more you pay the more you get.
All of our top website builders are reasonably priced and are far cheaper than a custom-built site, which can run into the $1000s. Their cheapest monthly paid plans are often less expensive than the price of a coffee.
You’re not obligated to sign up to a paid plan (and our recommended builders won’t auto-enrol you when your trial ends) and you have the power to cancel and walk away any time you want. You can build your website for a transparent monthly fee, so there’s no surprise bills. Most website builders also have generous money back guarantees. For example, Wix lets you cancel your Premium Plan at any time within the first 14 days and get all your money back. So you can basically try premium without being left out of pocket!
If you’ve come to the end of your free trial, or you’re finding the free version of a website builder too limiting, step 3 is to think about what premium plan to sign up to. You might want greater functionality that shows you how to make a website with all the bells and whistles.
If this sounds like you, here are four questions to ask yourself to find out if you need a premium plan:
- Do you want to get rid of your website builder’s logo?
- Do you need a personal domain?
- Does your site need a lot of images, videos or other big files?
- Do you need access to premium templates?
If the answer is yes on any of these, you’ll probably want a more advanced plan.
Let me explain.
While most website builders offer free hosting no matter what plan you’re on, upgrading to a paid subscription will typically get you more bandwidth (the ability to handle more visitors) and more storage (the amount of pictures, video and media you can have on your site).
With most website builders, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan to get rid of the builder’s logo and give your site your personal branding. You’ll also need to sign up to a paid plan to create a personal domain for your website (more on this in step 4).
These two factors alone show how even paying a small amount give you the power to create a really personal and unique website.
Paid plans will unlock more templates for you to use. The better your plan, the more templates you can use and the more you’re able to customize features like menus and images.
Upgrading your plan will also give you access to more SEO (search engine optimization – where your site appears in Google’s results pages for key related terms) support. The higher your site ranks in Google, the most visitors – and customers, if you’re running a small business website – you will get. Weebly, for instance, will only index your site if you are on a paid plan.
For some sites, particularly if you’re trying to create a professional small business website, a free plan might not be enough.
OK, so a premium plan opens A LOT of doors, which one do I choose?
Just like choosing a website builder, to pick which plan to sign up with you need to weigh up what you want from your site.
So let’s get down to business.
Use our comparison chart to compare different builders, based on three important features and whether you get them on a free or paid plan. The features are:
- Free of Adverts – whether the builder’s ads are display on your site or not
- Personal Domain – whether you get your own personal website address or not
- Unlimited Bandwidth – the amount of traffic and data your site can handle
*Squarespace is the only builder that doesn’t have a free plan, so to get the features you will have to pay a modest monthly fee. It does, however, offer a 14 day free trial so you can try before you buy.
Now you’ve signed up to a free trial, and picked the right website builder and the right plan, step 4 of our how to make a website guide is to choose a domain name.
A domain name is the bit of the URL (the long address in your browser’s search bar) that identifies a web page – in this case your website.
You have two choices when it comes to 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 or NameCheap.
As we covered in step 3, website builders such as Wix, Squarespace and Jimdo will give you a free custom domain name if you sign up to a premium plan.
Keeping your own domain name requires you to pay an annual fee – roughly $12 for most people. So signing up to a premium plan will save you the domain name fee and effectively lower your yearly investment in the website builder.
Once you’ve got your unique domain name, what happens if you want to move?
This is a very common question we get (and certainly one of our own questions when we first started figuring out how to make a website well!).
Here’s the deal…
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.
Having your own domain name is a great way to add personality to your site.
So is creating your own custom email address. Not all the website builders provide email services built into their platform.
Let’s rewind: if you look at our comparison chart, you’ll see that Jimdo, GoDaddy and IM Creator provide email services if you subscribe to their premium plans.
If you decide to use the other website builders that don’t offer email services, don’t worry. Google’s G Suite (using the friendly Gmail user interface) can also help you create your own email address for a few dollars a month.
In fact, Wix, Squarespace and Weebly all partnered up with Google to offer you this customized email addresses. Google’s G Suite email service is integrated with these website builders so setup is straightforward.
OK, so you’ve followed our steps to the letter: you’ve chosen a website builder and are ready to start creating a website.
The next step is creating the website you want.
How do you make your website look good? After all, you want to build a website that stands out, right? And you want to know how to build a website with personality?
Let’s face it, the majority of us don’t know how to design well, let alone code up our own web design!
That’s where website builders come in.
They create design templates so you can use them to populate your site and make it look good, without having to spend money and time hiring a designer.
Whichever website builder you’ve chosen, you’ll have a really a good selection of design templates to choose from (generally speaking, the better your plan, the more templates you’ll have access to).
Templates dictate what your homepage header and menu bar look like, and the content width on your site, so they’re pretty important.
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.
Almost all website builders give you at least a selection of templates for free, and hands down using these design templates will give your website the biggest visual impact in the least amount of time. Some are better for certain types of template than others.
Wix has a massive library of of over 500 templates that cover a wide range of industries, so you can easily pick which one best suits your website. Squarespace’s themes are highly polished and give off a very professional feel. Play around with each one to find the right templates for your site.
You don’t need to touch any codes whatsoever!
Stylish, easy-to-use templates mean learning how to build a website from scratch isn’t just simple, it’s fun too!
Drag-and-drop website builders (if you haven’t chosen a website builder yet, head back to step 1 and we’ll show you how) give you really good looking design templates to give you a head start already. There are more important things to focus on while your business is still young than hiring a professional (and potentially expensive) designer. We’ve got more on the cost of building a website here.
If you’re sitting in front of your computer looking at a hundreds of templates, thinking “I didn’t know how to make a website five minutes ago, how can I possibly pick one?”, ask yourself:
- Do you want a modern, artsy look? (full-width design) or a more professional and traditional feel? (boxed-width).
- Does your design’s header tell the story of your website? Does it reflect what your site (and you) are all about? Play around with slideshows, static images and videos until you find one that makes you scream ‘Yes’ to these questions.
For inspiration, you can check out the best free templates for your business website in our collections below.
If you think that now you’ve chosen a template all you need to do is sit back and admire your site, you’re wrong.
The next step when learning how to build a website is to customize your template. After all, you want your site to stand out from the crowd don’t you?
In the design section of your website builder you can edit the pre-made features in your template to add your own flavour.
The template image is just a set design. You can use it or choose to add your own image (you won’t need any coding to do this), but we recommend you only replace the builder’s set image with your own if you’ve taken a really high-quality image or one that is very personal to your business.
Why should you do this?
Most builders provide quality images that make your site look very accomplished, so it makes sense to use them! The more professional your website looks, the more your visitors are going to trust you.
Customizing your template could include:
- Adding new pages to your menu
- Changing the size, colors and fonts of the buttons on your menu
- Editing the images on your homepage gallery
- Choosing a different color palette for your template
Building a website is like cooking a dinner. Just like cooking, knowing how to build a website from scratch is much easier with the right tools and instructions. A template gives you a recipe – you can choose to follow it or you can mix up the ingredients and style to give your dish your own flavor.
In Wix’s Design Editor, you’ll be able to see your changes in real time, meaning that as you start making a change, you’ll be able to see that change happening on your site. This is great because you don’t waste time saving each change and then checking what it looks like live.
The more advanced your subscription, the more opportunities to customize your website: another reason you might want to spend a bit money on your website builder.
Watch our video tutorial to see how easy it is to customize pages and menu bars in Wix:
One neat aspect of Wix, Weebly and Squarespace that’s worth mentioning is the ability to add multiple editors to your site. This is really useful if you’re building your site with a partner or a friend.
All this talk of customizing your website might make you think: why don’t I just hire a designer?
As we said earlier, if you’re building your first website (as we’re guessing you are), we’d urge you NOT to hire a designer.
While website builders aren’t absolutely perfect (nothing is), they are the best solution to setting up a website quickly and affordably.
We explain in full detail why we’re against first-time website builders like you hiring designers in our guide here, but the key reasons are:
- Website builders mean you can personalize your store without design expertise
- Designers cost a considerable amount of money
- A designer might produce a site you or your visitors aren’t happy with or don’t actually want, and you’d have to spend more money to change it.
If all those template customizations are not enough for you (and if you’re building your first website, they will be), you might want to think about building your website on an open source platform like WordPress. You will get more flexibility, but if you’re not a coder learning WordPress takes A LOT of time – especially compared to drag-and-drop builders.
Looking to learn to code? Here’s our guide on coding for beginners.
With your template chosen and customized, you’re probably itching to publish and get your website live.
Slow down for just a second.
Knowing how to make a website is one thing. Publishing your website blindly is another.
Publishing your website without previewing and testing would be like doing the opening night of a play without any dress rehearsals.
Before you publish, you need to make sure your site looks and functions how you want it to.
Stick with me and I’ll show you how.
The best way to do this is to preview & test your website. You’ll want to do a thorough test, but four key things to ask are:
- Is all the spelling and grammar correct?
- Are all the buttons on the menu working? Do they take you where you’re supposed to go?
- Does your site fulfill a purpose? You want your visitors to land on your site and know exactly what you’re about and think ‘this is EXACTLY what I wanted’.
- Is your formatting consistent? Make sure, for example, you don’t have different font styles on different pages.
Wouldn’t it be a shame if you took the time learning how to make a website only to publish an unfinished site.
Website builders make previewing your site really easy. You just have to hit the preview button in the editor mode to see what your website would look like on mobile and desktop if you published. Some builders let you see how your site displays on different screen sizes, so you can further improve the experience for your visitors. For example, Squarespace’s zoom feature means you can test what your site looks like on browsers with different widths.
An easy-to-use preview mode will save you a lot of time as you won’t need to keep saving changes and switching back and forth between editor and preview mode. You can make a change and then just hit preview to see how it would look live.
Top Tip: Don’t just test your website yourself. You’ve just finished building it and might be blind to some of its faults. Plus, you know how your site is supposed to work, so while you might find navigating it easy that’s not to say a stranger will. Ask your family members and friends to test your site and give you feedback. If they’re anything like my family or friends, they won’t be afraid of offering criticism.
Wix’s Get Feedback feature makes this super easy by giving you a link that you can send to people for two weeks and let them access your site, without needing to publish it first.
It’s a no-brainer.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the 8th and final step in our ‘how to build a website’ process.
We hope we’ve shown you that anyone can learn how to build a website, no matter what technical level you are – thanks to easy-to-use website design software.
Before you hit the button to publish your newly built website, make sure everything you need has been ticked off with our final checklist.
Here are the seven things you should have sorted out creating your website:
- Chosen a website builder
- Tested your chosen website builder
- Picked the right subscription plan
- Chosen a domain name
- Decided on a template
- Customized your template
- Previewed and tested your website
Keep in mind that these are just the basic items you need to create a website, and you can expand this list as you become more comfortable with the process.
Still not convinced?
If you’re still a bit unsure whether you can do it, especially if you feel that you’re not the creative type, we have a comprehensive What You Need To Build A Website guide that covers all of the checklist items above, plus Google Analytics, logo design and images, in detail.
Once you’re ready, publish your site and share it with the world!
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