You can learn how to make a website in 5 easy steps with this simple guide. All businesses today need a website even if you serve a strictly local clientele. A website helps potential customers discover your company online, research what you sell, and learn more about you, It’s a useful selling tool and a “must” for all businesses, big and small.

If you just need a simple website to get started, this guide to how to make a website in X easy steps will walk you through the basics. Although you won’t need to invest in a professional graphic designer, you will need about $100 – $200 to pay for a domain name, hosting, and perhaps licensed stock photography. We’ll get into the costs in a moment. There are free options for all but a domain name, so don’t worry if you’re a startup on a shoestring. With these steps, you can create a great website with a minimum investment.

How to Make a Website in 5 Easy Steps

Step One: Choose a Website Host

A website host is a company that rents you space on their server to save your website and display it to potential customers.

There are many hosting companies available. Some charge a monthly fee. Others will provide you with a website at no charge but will display advertisements on your site. They make their money from the ads displayed on your site.

Think carefully about a free host, since you can’t control which ads are displayed. You may accidently display ads for a competitor and you won’t be able to control this.

Another potential problem with a free site is that the site itself may close down. Users of Yahoo’s old Geocities platform, a popular free website in the early 2000’s., found this out the hard way when the company decided to migrate the free sites into their paid SiteBuilder platform. While SiteBuilder wasn’t expensive and offered decent features for a reasonable price, for those using Geocities for personal websites or small business needs, it was an unexpected move.

Your website host is like a real estate company renting you land. The “street” where you virtual land exists may be in a “good neighborhood” and get a lot of potential website traffic. Or it may be in a “bad” or “shady” neighborhood, which can decrease the amount of site traffic that you get. “Self-hosted” websites, or those that you pay a monthly fee to rent, tend to be in ‘good’ virtual neighborhoods, while some free hosts are in the part of town that doesn’t get as much traffic.

Hosting firms also offer different features, and you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of these features before choosing your host. For example, some offer you more space than other. When you first build a website, you may not need much space, but as your business grows, you may need more. An online retailer or a company who needs to post a lot of pictures or videos to sell their products or services probably needs a lot more space than a service-based business who may only have words and a few pictures on their site to sell products.

Some of the more popular hosting platforms or sites include:

Free website hosts are also readily available. Some of the better free companies include:

Many of these free companies also offer online interfaces and templates to easily build a custom website. Wix and Weebly offer both designed templates and flexible, customizable site templates so that you can make your website truly your own.

A word to the wise: Do not rely on a Facebook page for your company website. Facebook pages won’t rank on search engines the way a website will, and you don’t control them. Facebook can shut them down at any time, change their policies, or remove your content without warning. Yes, you should have one for social media marketing, but no, please don’t rely on it for your website. It’s a common mistake many small business owners make, and one that can be costly. Always build a separate website!

Once you’ve taken a look at the potential hosts and weighed the pros, cons and features of each, it’s time to pick your domain name.

Step 2: Choose a Domain Name

Your domain name is what customers type into the browser to open up your website. It is like your street address online. Most companies use their company name as the domain, which is a smart move. It’s easy to remember and continues the branding for your company.

But what if your company name is already taken, or is very long or difficult to spell? You have a few options. Some of the current best practices for choosing a domain name include:

  • Choosing a name that ends with “.com” or “.net.” There are other endings out there, including .us and .biz, but customers still tend to default to .com and the less familiar .net.
  • Use keywords that describe your business in your domain name, if possible.
  • Keep it short, if possible. No more than two or three words.
  • Use common spellings to make it easy for people to type it into their browser.

Domains must be registered. The most widely used domain registrant is perhaps GoDaddy.com. They make it easy to register your domain and set it up quickly. Companies that register domains may charge different fees, so check out a few for the name you want, and go with the company that charges the least and offers the easiest setup.

You can’t register a domain that is already registered elsewhere. Once you pay for your domain name, you will need to provide your name or company name, address, and contact information to the registrant. This is legally required in the United States, and once a year you will receive an email from your domain registrant asking you to update the information.

You can make your registry information “private” to avoid unsolicited emails and contact from companies trying to sell you services. Your domain registrant may charge you for this service. Whether you choose public or private registry, you must display your contact information on your website in some way so that people can get in touch with you regarding the content on your website.

Once you pay for your domain name, it’s time to build your site!

Step Three: Building Your Website

You’ll need a design package to build your website. Many hosting companies such as Wix and Weebly offer free templates. The template establishes how your website text and pictures display on the screen to your customers.

WordPress is another widely-used and well-regarded website design tool. It’s a standard site package that can be customized for any business, and WordPress offers hundreds of free templates plus add-ons called “plugins” and “widgets” to customize various features. Designs are called Themes. Themes can be changed at any time, too, so if you want to update your website’s appearance, it’s easy to do so with the click of a mouse.

Take your time building your website. A typical business website includes the following pages:

  • Home page
  • About Us page
  • Contact page
  • Services page
  • Other information, such as a sales page, blog, information, etc.

Try to name your pages using simple conventions. Include the navigation bar at the top or on the left or right sides where people naturally look for navigation elements.

Use headlines that describe your services using words customers may use to search for your products or services. These are called “keyword phrases” and will help search engines find your website and return the results to people browsing online for information.

Each web page should be at least 250 words or more, but try not to go over 1,000 words on an information page. People usually scan headlines and information at the top of a page, then skip to big, bold words and information.

If you use pictures on your website, it’s very important to understand which images you can legally use online, and which you should not use. Not all websites marked “free” or “free photos” are truly free. All images online are under someone’s copyright, not matter what you read. Some copyright owners allow you to license or use their images as long as you give them credit for the picture. Always read the terms of use for a website selling or sharing images, and follow the terms exactly!

The best photos are those you take yourself. It’s easy to take simple workplace pictures, and people love to see actual images of your store or office.

If you need different types of images to convey your brand, you can find free images which you can legally use on the following sites:

  • Morguefile.com:  This is a repository of thousands of high quality images submitted by photographers from around the world. Most can be used commercially and without attribution, but you cannot make them available to download. Read and follow the licensing terms!
  • Flickr.com: Flickr is a photo sharing website that also offers high quality images, but not all images may be used. The site uses the Creative Commons licensing system. Look for Creative Commons licenses that allow “commercial use” which means that your business can use them legally.

Low cost stock photos may be legally licensed from:

Digital images cost about $1 – $5 per photo to legally license. Maintain a copy of your license in your records in case the company has questions at a later date about how you obtained their images.

NEVER use Google Image Search to find images for your website.  Although you can find images quickly, it’s notoriously inaccurate in terms of showing which photos are legally available to license and which are not.
For more information on stock photography use online for blogs and websites, see: Stock Image Copyright Explained.

Step Four: Build Your Site

Now comes the hard part—building your website. A few tips:

  • Draft the navigation on paper first, then set up your site. Draw a picture of how you want people to work through the pages on your website.
  • Write website copy in Word and copy/paste it into the site template. This makes it easier to work on and revise without messing up your designs.
  • Resize images before uploading them to your site to keep the file size small and help them load quickly.
  • Use standard fonts and black for text. Blue should be reserved for hyperlinks only. If you want to highlight your site’s call to action, make it in one bright color and only use that color for the call to action.
  • Proofread your work. Run spell check!
  • Check your site on different browsers to see how it displays. There’s a great free tool online called BrowserStack that lets you type your URL into one bar and see how it looks on 300+ different browsers.
  • Don’t forget to add your social media buttons to your website so that customers can follow you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or wherever you have a web presence.
  • Include contact information, directions, and any other information customers may need to find your place of business quickly.

After your site is built, you will need to “Forward” your domain to your site or connect the domain to the website. Hosts such as GoDaddy make this very simple, like forwarding phone calls or mail. See your specific domain name provider for details on how to hook your domain up to your actual website.

When you are ready, push “go” and launch your website. Upload the site to your host or publish the pages so it is Live.

Congratulations. You’ve just published a site!

Step 5: Submit Your Site to Search Engines

Although search engines will eventually find your website, it’s helpful to submit the URL to the search engines directly. This helps them get noticed and ranked quickly. EntireWeb offers a free site submission tool that enables you to submit your site to multiple search engines at once.

Websites tend to be a work in progress. Make sure that you update your site frequently, which means different things to different businesses. Search engines take note of website activity such as updates or fresh content, which can help you site become more visible in search engine results.