Let’s say you’re opening a brick-and-mortar store. Assuming you have the capital or investors, you’ll need to lease or buy a space, fill it with inventory, and customize a marketing plan to build your brand.
Building an online presence is no different — and getting started is actually even easier. These days, you can have a fully-functioning website built and launched in less than 10 minutes. It costs you just a few dollars per month, and customization can be done in a few clicks of your mouse.
We’ll walk you through the process, minute by minute, of how to build your website from scratch.
1. Get Hosting With a Free Website Builder — (Minutes 1-3)
Like renting office space or buying a warehouse for your offline business, the very first step to building a site is paying for its “home” on the Internet. Let us act as your real estate agent and show you some charming options for hosting companies with easy, online website builders. We tested the top website builders, and here are three our favorites:
- No coding skills needed with drag-and-drop website builder
- 100s of templates with industry-specific designs
- Add features via the App Market
|Money Back Guarantee||14 days|
|Disk Space||500 MB - 20 GB|
|Website Builder Hosting Plans||www.wix.com/site-builder|
Our Expert's Wix Review
Website building is where Wix shines. The thousands of templates, the intuitive editor, the industry-leading designs that cater to a variety of specific fields and use cases — all these facets represent a platform that excels at facilitating easy web design for the non-tech-savvy user. Sign up with your Facebook account or email address and get started for free.
I'll admit, the Wix Editor may appear daunting when you first meet it, but get to know the interface. Once you familiarize yourself with the environment, you'll realize that what first comes across as overwhelming is actually empowering — the customization functionalities to be had are many, and they're awesome. There's no need for coding of any kind. Just drag and drop elements of your new site and BAM: What You See Is What You Get (i.e., Wix is a WYSIWYG website builder!).
You don't have to design your website from scratch with Wix, though blank templates are available. There are thousands of templates, each one categorized by design need and further classified into industry niches, and the site's look can be molded to match your brand or personality very easily. Layout and design options include parallax themes (where the viewer scrolls down the screen and one page rolls seamlessly into the next), custom sliders, multiple columns, mobile-specific and mobile-responsive displays, and tons of button and menu navigation tricks.
While Wix isn't our favorite host in terms of expert support or top-of-the-line hardware, it's an industry-leading platform for website building. It's popular for many reasons: the simple startup process, the ease of use, the array of customization options, and the WYSIWYG results, as examples. Its reputation precedes it, and we can totally see where the rave reviews are coming from.collapse info -
- Choice of Weebly or WebsiteBuilder by iPage
- #1 Pick for WYSIWYG site building with FREE domain
- 100s of professionally designed, customizable themes
|Money Back Guarantee||30 days|
|Disk Space||100 GB - Unlimited|
|Domain Name||FREE (1 year)|
|Website Builder Hosting Plans||www.ipage.com/site-builder|
Our Expert's iPage Review
Do you want your website built today? If you answered "yes," you should look no further than iPage. In fact, it's possible for you to be online before you even finish reading this article. Thanks to iPage's user-friendly interface, instant provisioning, and free domain name, you can have a live, attractive website in mere minutes.
For those that have been around the Web for a while, you may remember when it took a day to get your server online; thankfully those days are gone. Your site is live the second you complete your order with iPage. A domain name is also included, so the ordeal of purchasing a domain name, setting name servers, and waiting for them to propagate is also extinct. Once that's completed, you are taken to the incredibly user-friendly interface, where you can begin your site creation process.
Powered by their own proprietary builder, iPage's WebsiteBuilder makes it easy to have a professional-looking site created in minutes. It all starts with your choice of template — with hundreds of options available. From there, you can customize color schemes, fonts, and sizes, and add your own pictures and videos. Adding forms for comments, RSVPs, or business contacts is just as simple. Before you know it, you have an attractive, functional website.
From the ease of use to the speed at which you are able to get a site live, iPage leaves us with little doubt as to why we've ranked them #1 on our list of web hosts with site builder functionality. An already incredible value, their 30-day money-back guarantee means that you can feel at ease knowing that iPage stands behind its product, and they're confident that you will be happy with their service.collapse info -
- Integration with Fotolia and Flickr image databases
- Pre-built and customizable content with GridBlocks
- Responsive themes with tablet and mobile editing views
|Money Back Guarantee||90 days|
|Domain Name||FREE (1 year)|
|Website Builder Hosting Plans||www.inmotionhosting.com/boldgrid|
Our Expert's BoldGrid Review
After taking the BoldGrid suite of plugins for a test drive, we experienced how they make WordPress more accessible for beginners and much more efficient for professional developers.
Because BoldGrid requires a separate hosting account and WordPress installation, it is a little more challenging for wide-eyed beginners to get started than it is for other website builders. However, by signing up with a reputable host — we recommend BoldGrid partner InMotion Hosting — you'll be equipped with a helpful support staff to lead you through the setup process.
BoldGrid themes are beautiful, modern, responsive, and come with usable content out of the box. Choose from pre-made page layouts or create your own using GridBlocks, which create clean, modular designs without any coding. Simply drag and drop each element to adjust its position and size. Unlike most other site builders, BoldGrid generates pristine code that is friendly to SEO and developers who want more control.
The two features most appealing to us, however, are the staging environment and editing capabilities for mobile and tablet views. The lack of a staging area has long been one of the few complaints about WordPress, and BoldGrid has solved that issue with aplomb. Use it to test new looks, plugins, or updates before you deploy them to the active site.
Although many other site builder themes boast mobile-optimized responsiveness, BoldGrid is one of the few platforms that give you control over exactly how your site will look in tablet or mobile modes.collapse info -
Most hosting companies will include a free domain name. Your best bet is to look for a site builder with a wide range of options, such as mobile optimization. If you’re still worried about making your website, pick a host that provides easy-to-use setup wizards, 24/7 support, or additional materials to help you succeed.
2. Choose a Template & Customize — (Minutes 4-7)
Once you select a location for your small business website or blog, now it’s time to paint the walls and hang some curtains. With thousands of pre-made themes or templates to choose from, you can customize the look of your site as much or as little as you’d like.
Some website builders use a drag-and-drop interface, where you can move an icon or placeholder onto the screen to signify where you want an image or text to appear.
A souped-up version of the drag-and-drop platform is called WYSIWYG, which stands for What You See Is What You Get. A WYSIWYG site builder will show exactly what your site will look like before you publish. Neither editor requires any coding.
A few site builders, including iPage, enable small business owners to create an online store, integrate with payment methods such as PayPal, and access online marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon.
3. Launch Your New Site — (Minute 8)
Once your storefront is all stocked and decorated, now it’s time to open the doors! Just like you might advertise your business, you need to make sure people know your website is open and ready for visitors.
Most of our top site builders will give you at least $100 toward search engine marketing, and some even provide online marketing guides. Look for analytics and SEO tools, as well as social media integration, to make sure you get the most out of your marketing bucks.
With Tools In Hand — Begin Building!
Now that we’ve given you the blueprints to successfully starting your personal or business website, start playing around. The most successful site builder is the one that best fits your specific needs, so invest a few hours toward peering in the windows and gauging what will help you the most.
When you’ve mastered drag-and-drop and WYSIWYG site builders, consider scaling up to WordPress. All the hosts we covered here offer 1-click installations of a variety of platforms that might offer even more features and capabilities. Strap on your tool belt and get to work!