Website is not rocket science. How to create a website from scratch
You need knowledge and time to create a website. Professional web developers have knowledge. They will create a website for you pretty swiftly but they will take some money for this job. If you possess time, you can do the job yourself and use the money you have saved to promote and optimize your website.
Find below a few methods to create your first website. We’ll start with the common goals, describe what a website consists of, review popular engines and website builders, go through technical details, and finish with a list of free services to support your website after it has been created.
Without any preamble
- how to create a website for free by using a website builder,
- how to create a website for free by using WordPress.
When you need a website
About 80,000,000 people surf in the Internet every day. They read the news, follow weather forecasts, watch movies, listen to music, communicate with their friends, pay taxes. They look for dentist’s contacts, search for a babysitter, and order food delivery.
If you need clients, you need an online presence. Your online page is one of the ways to present yourself in the web: a painter shows his/her arts, a businessman looks for customers, a non-profit organization raises funds on good things.
A website can serve as a business by itself. A good author can create content and earn money on advertisement.
When you don’t need a website
You can use different ways to find clients in the Internet - website is not the only option. You can use social networks, messengers, and other platforms with users and tools to communicate with them.
If the audience is grouped around one social network or a messenger, all you need to do is create a new group there. It’s free and allows to find potential clients pretty easily:
- a small fitness club – a group in a messenger,
- a hand-made shop – an account on Facebook,
- a barber or stylist – an account on Instagram.
Just a group in a social network won’t work if you want to get traffic from SEO, use ads outside of just one social network, or earn money on your website.
If you want to create a portfolio or a blog, pay attention to some of the services below.
|Portfolio platforms||Blogger platforms|
When you’d better not to create a website by yourself
Sometimes, it is really better to pay for a job of a digital studio or a web developer.
If you have an e-shop with more than 1000 positions inside. Navigation, filters, and payment modules are better to be set up by professionals.
If you have an important project where “style” really matters. A web studio will help you with a logo and your style, work with texts and images, let alone create a website itself.
If you have a web app with interactive elements and account area. Such websites are really hard to develop and optimize. A web studio will take care of it, adapt your website to different devices, and make it fast.
Everyone understands basics about how websites work: just enter an address to your browser, and it will open a page – pretty easy, right? However, you have to know much more to be able to develop websites.
Why theory is importantDigital agencies and freelancers might take advantage of your lack of knowledge. They can charge a lot for a simple task because you don’t know it is a simple task. But it might be difficult to charge more from a client who knows some stuff. Read this section to learn how to assess their work and do some job (or all of the job) by yourself.
Standard action plan
To simplify things: A website is a file with content and code inside. In our case, content is a description of our company and its services, product images and screens, feedback from customers, etc. The content is located all around a web page: description, images, feedback - everything is in its own place.
To make the content look decent on a web page, developers wrap it up in the code (HTML, PHP, etc.). You don’t see the code on a website page but the code is there. Websites might be wrapped up with a lot of code. The main page of ISPsystem contains 46,000 symbols. The Facebook code has more than 670,000 symbols (equals to 3 books of “War and Peace” by Tolstoy). So you can’t live without code.
Files with content and code are located on a computer (server) inside a data center. A server must always be up and running, and it has specific software installed on it so that any web user could get access to it. Normally, people don’t buy servers but rent them. This service is called hosting.
You need to know the address of a server to get access to it. Any server has a real IP that looks like 10.0.0.0/8. However, there is also a more “human” address that looks like ispsystem.com. This “human” address of a place where a website is located is called a domain name.
Let us assume that we want to visit the ISPsystem website. We need to enter its domain into the address bar, then our web browser will find the real address of a server with the content, send a request to it, take the files and show to us. If we enter something on a website page, the browser will send it to the server. That’s all.
Things websites can’t live without
- Domain name. It’s impossible to find your project without it.
- Hosting. Your website is out of the Internet if you don’t have it.
- Code. Browsers cannot show any content without code.
- Content. Nobody will understand what you want to say without it.
To pay or not to pay
In order to create a website, you need to prepare your content, wrap it up in the code, upload it to a server, and assign a domain name to the server. Most of the tools can be free, and a lot of things you can do on your own. But sometimes it is really better to pay to somebody else to do the job.
You can tell about yourself or your company, make some pictures, prepare service descriptions, and collect clients’ reviews on your own and for free. For instance, if you have a car repair shop, you can pretty easily describe what you do, take a couple of pictures, and grab some feedback from your existing clients. If you’re a designer, just tell a couple of words about yourself and show your portfolio. You don’t have to pay for this.
If the content is crucial e.g. you want to attract clients from SEO for free and interest them with your services, or you have a bevy of goods, then you need to understand that creating content will take time. Have no time really to do it yourself? Then pay. It’s not obligatory though.
Code – can be free
If you’re not a web developer, then you’d unlikely create code from scratch. But you know what? You don’t really need to create it from scratch. You can use the ready templates created be somebody. It’s like building your own house with bricks and blocks as opposed to using crude clay. It is very easy to use website builders. It is a bit more tricky (but more useful) with a CMS. Developers would deny both of these and use frameworks like Angular or React. We’ll tell you more about website builders and CMS a bit later below.
With website builders and CMS, you only have to configure a website template and add content. A website created this way may not be very unique and be quite common. To tune it a bit, you will need to learn how to edit it. If this seems to be too difficult, then it’s better to ask help from professional web developers. But – this is also not obligatory.
Hosting – better pay
Every website needs hosting. The bigger your project is, the more space is required. You can organize simple hosting at home with your laptop or PC but we’d not recommend it (but there are some guides in the Internet). Hosting can be free if you use a website builder. But there are caveats here because when your project grows, you will have to pay. Read more in “Website builder or CMS”.
If you use templates and CMS, you have to buy hosting. It’s pretty easy and pretty cheap, from 2-3$ per month for a few gigabytes of storage. Read more in the section “Buy hosting”.
Domain – have to pay
When search systems, users, and partners find a new website, they save its link and add it to their databases. Any change in a domain name will have a negative impact on website traffic. Therefore, you’d better buy a domain from starters and not to change it later. Normally, a domain is rented for a year at least.
You can have a free 3rd level domain like site.sitebuilder.com. Websites built with website builders get such names. Such a domain works but it’s more difficult to remember and it doesn’t look very trustworthy. Also, such websites cannot be monetized. So we don’t recommend using such domains.
What we don’t recommend paying forIf you need a simple promo website, it can be free. Freelancers may charge from 100$ for CMS installation and adding content to such a website. But you can actually do it yourself and for free. You just need to buy hosting, install a CMS, and add content. Read more about it in “Create a website for free by using CMS”. Go to professionals only when you need a pretty big e-shop, a website with a specific design, or a corporate portal.
Determine your goals
We have considered a few situations when you don’t really need a website, or you’d better not create it on your own. If you know for sure that you need one, then it’s the best time to define your goals. Why do you need a website?
Depending on your goal, you can decide what website type you can use and what tools to utilize.
Types of websites, considering goals.
- Sell – landing page, e-commerce
- Present – promo website.
- Show – portfolio, blog.
Below you can find a description of a few website builders and CMS for different website types. Choose your tools wisely.
Website builders: what and how
The simplest way to start your own website is to do it in a website builder. This is a website where you can create another website. You don’t have to know any programming language, or buy hosting and domain; all you need to know is how to move a mouse. Registered, selected a template, set it up, added content – done. Plain and simple.
Website builders are commercial services but most of them have free plans. However, there are at least two problems with such plans. First: you cannot assign a domain. It means that if you gather some clients and then decide to change your domain, your website will lose traffic because it will become new to SEO engines again. Second: if you decide to move your website to another hosting company or add your own elements to the code, you will have to pay. This is the reason why:
A free plan works great подходит for a portfolio, presentation websites, small company portals, and non-commercial organizations.
A free plan doesn’t work for e-commerce, blogs, and mass media with some growth potential.
Read more about the pros and contras of website builders in the section “Website builder or CMS”. Below you will find a few popular services with free plans.
Google Sites is a free website builder from Google. It’s interface reminds of Google Slides. You can add text, images, buttons, maps, documents, and tables. It really lacks themes, templates, and features but it seems to be enough to create a simple adaptive website. You can also assign a free domain.
WIX is the most popular website builder in the world. It works great for both companies and individuals.
Free: subdomain at wix.com, 500 designer templates, adaptiveness, integrations with payment services, AI for automatic website creation. There are limits on download speed.
Paid: second level domain, the addition of your own domain, removal of Wix ads, better performance and more storage for data. Subscription costs 4-24$ per month.
Jimdo allows creating a website for just three minutes by using a form or a standard builder: select a template, upload a photo, add text. Promised to optimize for Google and adaptiveness. English language interface.
Free: subdomain at jimdofree.com, 500 Mb storage, the bandwidth of 2Gb, HTTPS encryption. Advertisement from the service.
Paid: domain, more storage and bandwidth, mobile optimization, SEO optimization, a module for e-commerce, assistance from experts. It costs 5 euro per month for personal projects and 15 euro per month for companies and business owners.
Weebly is a website builder for e-commerce. It has designer themes for portfolio or blog but focuses on e-shops.
Free: subdomain at weebly.com, designer themes, 500 Mb storage, SEO.
Paid: own domain, extended statistics, website search, modules for e-commerce, etc. It costs 3-19 euro per month.
Ecwid is also a website builder for e-shops. You can create a standard website or a shop window website and integrate it with social networks (Facebook, Tumblr, Blogger) or other platforms (Wix, WordPress, Weebly, Joomla).
Free: 10 products, adaptiveness, a subdomain, a possibility to assign your own domain.
Paid: support, more products, extended SEO, calculation of price, e-shop in social networks, mobile app, etc.
Focused on design
Tilda Publishing is a website builder focused on design. Its distinctive feature: it allows to download the code of your website created with Tilda but it’s a paid service.
Free: a subdomain at tilda.ws, up to 50 pages and 50 Mb storage on a server, label “made on Tilda”.
Paid: adding your domain, adding the HTML code, acceptance of payments, uploading your fonts, adding forms of data collection. Paid services cost 10-20$ per month.
Readymag is for websites, magazines, photo stories, portfolios, and presentations. It works well if you need a pretty ambitious design, for designers or editors.
Free: unlimited number of projects, 10 pages for a project with Readymag advertisement.
Paid: adding a domain, unlimited number of pages, teamwork, Google Analytics, user fonts, extended SEO, etc.
Overview of content management systems (CMS)
CMS is a content management system. It is a software tool helping to create a website with sections, text, pictures, products, and payment systems. It may be free or commercial, with free systems sometimes having paid addons.
It is more difficult to work with CMS than with website builders because you will have to buy hosting and domain and install a CMS itself. Furthermore, you might need help from a professional developer. However, there are pros too: you can assign a domain easily and move a website to any hosting provider later. You can read more about CMS in the section Website builder or CMS.
A CMS works for any website, from a personal blog to a corporate portal. The question is: Are you ready to spend some time and efforts to work with your CMS? You might have to pay for services of professional developers or spend time trying to do everything yourself. Depending on how much your time costs, it may be a good or a bad investment.
WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world. 26,000,000 websites use this CMS. It works great for blogs or any other projects. There is a lot of good content guiding how to use it. There is also a separate plugin for e-commerce. Some hosting providers sell hosting with pre-installed WordPress inside. The main shortcoming is that a lot of hackers try to hack this CMS because of its popularity.
Joomla is the second popular CMS around the globe. It’s a bit more complicated than WordPress. It offers a lot of templates, tutorials, plugins, and extensions. Part of the plugins is paid. Normally, Joomla is used to build e-com websites and social networks. It’s a bit less “friendly” with SEO though.
Drupal is another popular CMS. Web designers say that it’s more difficult to master than WordPress but has wider functions. A newbie will face difficulties but a professional will be able to develop his/her own plugins. Drupal is also considered a more secure CMS so it is oftentimes utilized to create corporate websites and e-shops. There is also a plugin for e-commerce..
PrestaShop is a free CMS for e-commerce. You can select your logo and template from a list of designer themes, as well as manage products, orders, users, and track statistics.
It depends on your goals. Website builders are easier to master but CMS will give you more features at fewer expenses.
It’s always easier with a website builder
If your choice is a CMS, you will have to pay for hosting and a domain first and then install your CMS on this hosting and assign the domain. You can do it without deep knowledge but it will take time.
You can skip that all when using a website builder. You will only need to register and get your free second-level domain and hosting (however, be prepared that it will be free only for some time).
2. Select a template.
3. Add content.
1. Buy hosting.
2. Buy a domain.
3. Install a CMS on hosting.
4. Select a template.
5. Add content.
After a CMS is installed, content management will look like it’s done with website builders: there are templates, themes, drag-and-drop, etc. However, website settings and some other features will be totally different. You can also do some server configurations.
Website builders lack flexibility
Building a website with a website builder is like renting a house or a room and adding your own furniture to it. Building a website with a CMS is like building a house with blocks. One or another option may work, depending on your goals.
You can create one website and then forget about any additional work with it e.g. for a painter page. However, a lot of websites need attention after they have been created e.g. e-commerce websites. You will have to add content and features, forms for contacts, blogs, support, etc. Then you will want to attract more users from SEO and optimize your website for search engines. Then, your website will become too large and you will have to migrate it to another hosting provider or a dedicated server.
You can do it all with a CMS but it might be impossible with a website builder. For the latter, you will have to pay for functionality extensions. You will not be able to edit code because it’s closed. You will also have to pay for SEO optimization; furthermore, SEO features are quite limited. And – it is impossible to migrate your website to anywhere (only a few builders allow that for money).
Website builders are more expensive
If you have decided to use a CMS, you will have to pay for hosting and a domain. When selecting a website builder, you don’t pay for it. However, when your website grows, you won’t have to pay anything in the first case if there is enough space on your hosting and modules and templates are free, while you’ll definitely have to pay in the second case.
The most popular website builders include for free up to 500 Mb storage. If you want more, you have to pay for it, as well as for a domain. If you use a CMS, you on your own select where to buy hosting and a domain. Monthly subscription on a website builder starts at 4$; the average price with all common features included costs from 12$. Hosting costs from 3$ for 20-30 Gb and from around the same 3$ for a domain.
If you compare plans on CMS and website builders, you’ll see that WordPress hosting is almost twice cheaper than a website builder. However, if you are ready to pay and don’t want to spend time on development, then a website builder is the best choice.
Free website builder plans work well for portfolio or presentation websites. If you’re ready to pay more, then it’s reasonable to use a website builder for e-commerce and corporate portals.
If you would like to create your website for free, then choose CMS. This tool will provide you with more flexibility and fewer expenses but will require more time.
If you have decided to ditch website builders and work with a CMS, get a detailed guide on how to create a website by using a CMS below. For starters, you need to buy hosting and a domain name, then – install a CMS itself. In this guide, we’re using WordPress as the most popular and universal system.
Buy a domain
You can buy a domain from any certified registrar or a hosting provider. Sometimes, it’s easier to buy it from a hosting provider as in this case you don’t need to look for registrars, register there, and add your payment information again. Just register for a hosting provider, attach your credit card, and you can buy both hosting and a domain there.
- Select a domain from a registrar like GoDaddy, NameCheap, or any other registrar or hosting provider.
- Pay. Domains cost from 3$ depending on the demand. The average price is around 10-15$. A lot of domains in the .COM zone are already bought but there are more available in other zones like .SITE, .STORE, or .EDU. You can buy a domain for 1 year and prolong it later.
- You will need to specify your first and last names, email, phone, passport details, and your address.
- After a domain is purchased, you need to configure name servers (NS). They are needed for web browsers to find an IP address of your website by your domain name, and the website would be available in the network. You can find guides and instructions on websites of registrars and hosting providers.
Now you have it! All you have left to do is assign your domain to a server with website files as described below.
When you choose a hosting provider, please remember that availability of your website will depend on the quality of hosting. Go through reviews first. Note what users are saying about the quality of support and amount of failures. You can find reviews in aggregators or hosting groups in social networks.
Look closer at hosting configurations. There are normally two options here: hosting with a preinstalled CMS or a standard hosting plan which you will later have to install a CMS on by yourself.
Many hosting providers offer hosting with a preinstalled CMS. If you go on with this one, you will receive something like a website builder but on your hosting tariff plan with your own domain, which is good.
If you decide to buy hosting and install a CMS by yourself, make sure your tariff plan has the following parameters:
- disk storage from 1 Gb,
- RAM from 128 Mb,
- PHP version not lower than 7.2,
- MySQL 5.6 or higher / MariaDB 10.0 or higher,
- ISPmanager control panel.
Normally, large hosting providers sell such parameters on their starter plans with price tags from 3-4$ per month.
If the plan you have purchased has a different configuration, ask the support team of your hosting provider to change it, or do it yourself if you can.
Web hosting vs. VPS
Hosting may be different. Apart from standard web hosting, there is VPS hosting. They differ in reliability and pricing. VPS is more reliable but costs more too. Web hosting doesn’t provide a dedicated IP address which means that you won’t be able to add an SSL certificate. SSL is almost a requirement for every website especially if it attracts a lot of traffic or accepts payments.
So, if you have big plans on your project, then you’d better use VPS hosting. If you feel that you won’t need SSL in the nearest future then web hosting is a good fit. Later, you will be able to buy an IP address and move your website to a VPS. Read more about SSL in the section Website is created. What’s next?.
Hosting is normally equipped with a control panel, a special software program helping you manage hosting. Below you will find a guide telling how to install a CMS by using ISPmanager control panel.
Step 1. Prepare hosting
You need to start with creating a directory on a server and assigning a domain to it. No rocket science, just follow the steps below.
1. Log in to ISPmanager. Configure the panel if you have logged in for the first time. After that, go to WWW-domains.
2. Click on Add.
3. Configure the settings: enter your domain, enable SSL, and click on Ok. Done!
Step 2. Install a CMS
4. Now let’s get to CMS. Click on Scripts.
5. Select WordPress — Quick install. Wait until the script is loaded.
6. Accept the license agreement and configure hosting for the CMS: create a new database and its user (this data will be saved to a separate file and will come in handy later).
7. Create a password for WordPress and save it to a separate file. Select your language interface. Click on Next.
Click on Finish. We’re done!
9. Visit your website to make sure everything is done properly.
If you see WordPress, it means that everything is done correctly.
Step 3. Configure a CMS
Now, you need to log in to the CMS administrator panel, select the design for your website, and add content. Easy!
1. Visit your website. You’ll see the WordPress welcome page. Click on Log in. Use your login and password generated during creation of the CMS.
2. You are inside the WordPress admin interface.
3. Click on Customize your site inside the block Welcome to WordPress. In the pop-up window, click on WordPress templates and select one. There are 3,700 templates inside but you can use filters in the top right corner.
4. Select a template, install and set it up. After it, you can start adding content to it, replacing elements, etc.
Your website is ready!
After you have selected a template, you have to fill up your website with content, add mail and an SSL certificate.
Content shall sell, tell, and entertain. If you are the creator of your content, then make sure that it’s unique for better SEO and useful to attract clients.
Try to write correctly and shortly without copying texts from other websites.
Use images that are licensed per Creative Commons. Make sure that an image is not prohibited for commercial use. Compress the image before uploading it.
Once you have created a website, you might see an alert saying that your “Connection is not secure”. This alert might be different, depending on your web browser. This notification appears because there is no SSL certificate.
You can buy an SSL certificate or take a free one. The free certificate works well for websites that don’t collect payment data and other user-sensitive information. See more in How to select an SSL.
If you use ISPmanager, you can add an SSL in a few clicks. Here is the guide on how to get a free SSL from Let’s Encrypt:
You can add it only for websites on VPS because you need a unique IP address for an SSL while web hosting has one IP for a few websites. You can buy a dedicated IP address.
If your website is not visited, it doesn’t really matter how beautiful it is. Website promotion is a huge topic so we’ll describe the basics here and bring a few sources that might help you make your website more popular.
A user may find out about your website from search, information on other websites, or from advertisement.
SEO positions of your website are impacted by the following criteria: website structure, content, usability, technical parameters (speed, security) etc. Start with registration in the panel for web professionals from Google — Toolkit for webmasters. There you’ll find more information about website status and a few tips on how to improve its ranking.
Another way to get access to users is to tell about your project on other websites. Look through other projects of similar areas and try to offer their owners your content with a link to your website. Add information about your project to guides and portals. Create pages in social networks and update information there on a regular basis.
The fastest way to tell about yourself is the advertisement. Use context and media ads. You can buy it directly from Google. You can also buy it from mediators, web agencies, or web studios. However, make sure you know the basics to avoid wasting money on something you can easily do by yourself.
- If you need a big corporate website or an e-commerce shop with 10,000 articles, go to a digital web agency.
- If you need a website for your home business, start with a simple page in social media.
- If you need a portfolio, use portfolio services.
- If you need a website quickly and you are ready to pay, use website builders.
- If you need a website for a long time, buy hosting with ISPmanager and install WordPress.
- It is not enough to just create a website. You also have to spend time and money to make it work.