How to build a website – a basic guide

How to build a website

Building a website for the first time might look like an overwhelming task. There are many little steps to consider and decisions to take. However, splitting them apart and taking them one by one helps to get you going. Even if you can’t do everything on your own. Having a general idea sets you on the right track and highlights areas where you should organize some support.

Content

The first step when creating a website is to get a clear picture of the content. Ask yourself what do you want your site to be? Should it be a commercial portal to sell your products or will it be a simple “business card” on the web.  Possibilities are endless, but it is important to get the basics right. It saves a lot of work in the long run.

Although you might not know how to realize your ideas in the beginning, clearly define what you want to achieve. Find examples you like on the web, combine them with your own ideas and design your perfect site on paper.

  • What kind of information do you want to share? e.g. contact data, ongoing activities, photos
  • What is your target group? e.g. age group, social group, language 
  • What should the targeted users do with the information you provide?
  • Which features your site should offer? e.g. social media integration, store, contact form
  • What is special about the content of your site, how do you differentiate it from other sites?

Design

Continuing to work on paper, take a closer look at the desired design of your site. This includes on the one side the graphical elements such as logo, color scheme and fonts. On the other side you also have to decide on more technical elements like the navigation system.

There are many templates available which can help you to build your desired site. Depending on the basic system you decide to run, you can get inspired by the respective directories and example setups.

Usability is an important topic when designing an intuitive website. The basic rule is to keep it as simple as possible. Users get easily confused so try to follow a few basic rules:

  • Create a clear visual guidance! e.g. header hierarchy, identifiable links
  • Stick to common labels and link to expected content!
  • Avoid fancy animations and sounds!
  • Consider different devices users access you site with! e.g. desktop vs. mobile

Technical setup

For beginners this is most likely to be the trickiest part: new terminology and lots of different choices.

First you need an address on the web – a domain name. Although this is of course directly related to the branding of your site it is an important part of the technical setup. Depending on the solution you chose be aware what options it does give you.

In respect to theunderlying system you could write your own code. Simple HTML with CSS is a good beginning to understand the basics. However, there are also a lot of good systems which let you concentrate on the content and do the technical part for you. Have a look at Content Management Systems such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. There are also some more specialized ones, such as Koken for photographic or design portfolios.

Thehosting of your website can be realized in two main ways:

  • Self maintained: to run your site on a self maintained web space gives you a lot of flexibility and control. However, you are also responsible for everything on your own. Technical setup, regular maintenance and integrating new technologies.
  • Special service provider: For each kind of website there exist many providers of out of the box hosting. For example wordpress.com offers a basic WordPress installation for free. The also take care for the regular security updates and backups. However editing the code itself is limited in the system. Another good example is Squarespace. This New York based provider offers a hosted service with high quality templates and a very intuitive backend for the administrator.

Regular maintenance of the running site is important. Update the system on a regular base to avoid security issues. Also make sure to run regular backups in case something really goes wrong.

Marketing

For a private site this might not be relevant. Nevertheless, spend some thoughts on how you want to spread the news about your appearance on the web. While already building it get an idea about SEO to bring your site up in search results of Google & Co. To really be on the top, content as well technical optimization is necessary. Still, keeping certain basic rules in mind when writing the text for posts and pages you can increase the visibility significantly.

In case you can spend money, think about using Google Adwords or Bing Ads. Also site directories of your respective area can be interesting. Be careful with too good to be true offers for promoting your site. Some of them could be not only a waste of money, but even hurt your sites reputation.

And last of course also promoting it in in real life can bring visitors to your page. Think about where to place your link. Business cards are an easy one, but be creative in letting the world know about your site.

Resources – Time & Money

Setting up a website requires time and money. For every “budget” there are options available, but it is important to be realistic about the possible results. Consider the needed resources for the first setup (installation of the site, development of the content, design) as well as for the continuous maintenance (writing articles, updating the infrastructure, implementation new features).

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