How to build a website – a practical guide
When someone asks ‘how to build a website?’ they’re taking a massive step into the rabbit hole. There’s so many different ways of building a site, you’re asking for trouble by asking such a broad question.
If you’re asking this question, then you’re probably at the start of your website journey. This makes things easier. It means we don’t have to look at the more complex and difficult techniques at the more specialist end of the spectrum.
Instead, we’re going to offer a short, but practical guide on how you go about building a site. How to build a website – a practical guide.
To set your expectation, we are going to break down the steps that you need to get going. If we touch on anything more technical, we’ll save that for a later date and do another blog post. Then we’ll come back and link to the new post from this post, so the information is easier to find.
Starting to build a website
When you start to build a website, there are three areas that you need to look at Very simple, but key to getting things going.
- Domain – This is also called the domain name or web address. It’s the www. bit that you type in to the address bar at the top to access the site.
- Hosting – This is where your website and emails are saved. It’s where they live. Like a big memory stick, but it’s somewhere out the way. You pay for this every year, but if you stop, your hosting will terminate. Your site and emails will disappear.The domain and hosting can both be bought from the same place, a hosting company. Here is a list of the Best Web Hosting companies (2020).
- Platform – Basically, the software that is used to build your site. You can choose a web builder that comes with your hosting, a free platform like Wix or a free platform with more functions like WordPress, Joomla! or Drupal.
Ready to build your website
Once you’ve bought your domain and hosting, there’s normally a step by step guide to get you online. You can get something online in minutes, but obviously it’s going to look naff. Here are the next steps to think about.
- Theme – The first thing you have to do is choose the style or theme of your site. Normally with a web builder there are built in options to choose from. Even with WordPress, Joomla! or Drupal there’s free options to choose from, but there’s the additional option of buying a premium theme and uploading it.This will dictate how your site works, what the menus look like, what fonts are on the site, the lot. The theme is the structure of the site and it’s not really editable unless it gives you options or you have more experience or knowledge under your belt. To be on the safe side, don’t try and mess with the theme – if in doubt, ask!
- Options – The theme options normally give you some control over the colour scheme, let you add a logo and make a few other changes. Generally, the options will let you put in links to your social media accounts etc, but this is less likely to be the case with a more premium theme.
- Pages – Once you’re happy with how the site looks, you can then start adding pages. There will be a section in the platform that you are using that says ‘Pages’ here you can add, delete or manage your list of pages.Most people have used Word and typed on a computer. It lets you make text bold or italic, align your writing left, right or centre, add pictures etc. This will be the same in your platform. It works on the principle of ‘what you see is what you get.’ Website gimps refer to it as WYSIWYG (said ‘wizzy wig.’) So basically, if it looks a certain way when you’ve put it on the page, it will more or less look like that on your site.To make what you have done on your pages in the background go live on your site, you generally have to save it and click publish (or whatever the equivalent is).
- Menu – Your pages don’t always go live in the order that you want them. Most of the time, you have to reorder them in the pages section or physically build a menu and drag all of the pages into it.Typically you would have something like this:- Home
- Sites with more pages would have a dropdown menu under one of the other pages. So for example, if you had a list of services, they would go as a dropdown under services.- Home
—- Service 1
—- Service 2
—- Service 3
Sites with more pages would have a dropdown menu under one of the other pages. So for example, if you had a list of services, they would go as a dropdown under services. It is important because it makes your pages easier to find. It also lets Google and other search engines find your pages, but that will be discussed another time.
- Features – The last point we will look at is on page features. Again, the more experienced that you are, the more complex this can get. Most often, people want some form of slider on their home page. On a web builder, this is normally covered in the theme options and will show automatically on the home page. With something like WordPress, it’s more complex and you would have a whole section of the site dedicated to the slider only.Some features are already built in to the theme, some have to be uploaded to your site separately in the case of WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal. Some are paid features, but the majority are free. They are also referred to as plugins.If you want a feature on your website, such as a contact form on your contact page, then would would normally be using some sort of feature or plugin. It would have it’s own settings on top of what ever you are doing else where on the site, but they help to make the site look professional and interactive.
Different levels of website
Don’t get us wrong, there are umpteen different levels above what has been described in this blog post, but what we’ve described will get the ball rolling. With what we’ve said, you should at least be able to get something live. Our WordPress for Beginners course covers this in more detail, but with a focus on the WordPress platform.
If you have more complex requirements, then we can deliver the job ourselves. It’s horses for courses, but whatever you need we’ve got you covered.
Toodle pip 🐤