I’m no professional when it comes to web design — and I have major respect for those who are, because it’s hard work! Building my business website was one of the most intimidating things I’ve had to do as a small business owner. There’s nothing more soul-crushing than opening up WordPress only to realize I don’t even know how to insert basic web features.
Clearly, though, I learned quickly, figured it out, and created a site that I’m happy with. If you’re a business owner or you’re looking to build a site for whatever reason — a blog, an e-commerce site, etc. — and you don’t have the luxury of being able to hire a professional to build a site for you, you’re on your own. But there are plenty of resources out there to help you!
Check out these helpful tips I learned in the website-building process:
1. Determine clear goals for your website.
What do you hope to accomplish with this site? Is it to showcase a product or service? Is it to provide a place for community? Are you wanting to publish a blog and eventually monetize it? Don’t just consider your immediate goals — try to look forward and consider what you want to do with your site down the road.
Thinking about your goals will help you determine what platform to use to build your site. For example, WordPress paid memberships allow you to monetize your site with ads. Squarespace is a favorite for e-commerce sites. And Wix, Weebly, and other similar platforms are often used for simple, just-for-fun blogs or to showcase small, medium, or large businesses.
2. Create a budget and stick with it.
If you’re just starting out, you may not have much of a budget — and that’s okay! Most platforms have the option of a free version, though you won’t get your own domain name. But if you’re in the early stages of your web design experience, that may be just enough.
Decide how much you can and want to spend on a website. WordPress.com and WordPress.org (self-hosted) have rather economical personal, premium, and business plans — though if you plan to choose a self-hosted blog using a hosting service like SiteGround or BlueHost, you’ll need to factor in the cost for hosting.
The great thing is that you can always upgrade. Just because you choose a plan with minimal perks now doesn’t mean you can’t upgrade when you need more support or add-ons.
3. Self-Hosted or Hosting Platform?
This is one of the more confusing parts of website design for us non-techy folks. WordPress.com sites provide hosting with a paid membership — meaning they take care of updates, security, backups, etc. for you. WordPress.org sites are “self-hosted” — in other words, you choose a hosting service that will host your site on their servers. You get more plugins and design features, but you’ll had a few added steps of set up and maintenance, like updates and security, and some of these more necessary features may add to the cost of the site.
Check out this great explanation of the difference between the two at WP Beginner here.
I can speak to both of these because I have a self-hosted site (this one) through WordPress.org and I also have a WordPress.com site. For the lay web designer, I do think it comes down to preference – I appreciate the added design features and plugins on the self-hosted WP, but my WordPress.com site is very easy to maintain and doesn’t require much work now that it’s set up.
4. Consider Your Design Carefully
Once it comes down to designing and building your site, it’s okay if you don’t know what you’re doing.
It’s important to really take your time with this step. One of the most helpful things I did was to look at other freelance writer’s websites and start determining what features I liked on their sites and which ones I hated. It helped me narrow down what I wanted my own site to look like, rather than just picking the first half-way decent template and flailing around the editor aimlessly.
Trial and error is the best way to get your site the way you want it. In my opinion, though, designs that are clean, visually organized, and that minimize unnecessary distractions are the best.
5. Create Rich Content
Once you’ve set up your site, it’s time to fill it with engaging copy and content. You can either do this yourself, or hire a copywriter to do it.
Think of what you want your website to say, and organize it in a way that you would appreciate if you were seeing this site for the first time. This may mean having pages dedicated to each of your products or services, an “About” page, as well as a contact page where potential clients can reach you.
Text is an important part of any website. It informs your visitors and keeps them interested; helpful, rich, original content — not spun articles or plagiarized content — will give readers something valuable and will keep them coming back.
Most importantly, enjoy the process!
No matter your goals, your website will express the message you want to convey, whether that’s a business, a blog, or something else. Take your time and enjoy the process of learning how to express that message in your web design. You’ll be glad you put in the time and energy to do it right!
Check out a few helpful links below that were lifesavers for me as I designed my website. I especially recommend any of the WP Beginner blog posts as they are particularly insightful.
How to Create a Website (Wix)
How to Start a WordPress Blog (WordPress)
How to Make a WordPress Website (WordPress)
Getting Started with Squarespace (Squarespace)