Disclaimer: We spend hours researching and writing our articles and strive to provide accurate, up-to-date content. However, our research is meant to aid your own, and we are not acting as licensed professionals. We recommend that you consult with your own lawyer, accountant, or other licensed professional for relevant business decisions. Click here to see our full disclaimer.
Getting your own website used to require a lot of tech wizardry, such as knowledge of servers, HTML, FTP, site registrars, and web hosting services. Thankfully, we now live in the age of easy online site builders. The services included here let you make a well-designed, mobile-friendly site with minimal technical knowledge. They can even take a small or sole-proprietor business to profitability with buy links, online stores, and other money-making options.
First things first, you’ll want to check and see if your business name is available. To find out, enter it into the domain search tool below, powered by Bluehost. If you are taken straight to the registration page, it means your name is available, if you see a message that the domain is not available for registration, then you will have to adjust your business name.
WordPress is a big name when it comes to creating websites. But you should know that WordPress.com, which is linked to in the table above, is not what most people are talking about when they mention WordPress. What most internet-savvy people mean by the term WordPress is the free, open-source blogging platform that comes from WordPress.org. Using this requires you to find your own website hosting service. The WordPress.org software is such a popular site-building platform that many web hosting services even offer managed WordPress hosting plans. WordPress.com, on the other hand, is a service that deploys and hosts that software for you, so you don't have to go out and find your own hosting service.
One of the most common questions I get is whether to try to use a website builder or hire a web designer/developer. The answer to this question depends on your situation of course. If you have a really unique project and you have the money to support it then by all means a good web designer will be your best bet. However, the cost for a truly customized website from a knowledgeable professional can easy run into the multiple thousands of dollars. For some people that cost is justified, but for most it is not.
Themes set the tone of your site. They can be a direct reflection of the owner: If you are a person of simple tastes you might choose a minimalist template, while larger personalities might prefer something with strong colors. You should always keep in mind, however, that a website should meet the level of professionalism of the content it hosts. You might want to think twice about using Comic Sans on a medical professional site, for example.
Website uptime is a measure how often your website is available to everyone on the internet. Ideally we are striving for 100%. Websites are loaded from what’s basically a big computer called a server, and since it’s a computer it occasionally needs to be restarted, updated, etc. in order to continue to function well. Because of this maintenance 100% uptime isn’t realistic, but somewhere in the 99% or greater range is. What we are basically looking for here is any red flags where the site is not working for long periods.
If you're ready to get going, this guide will introduce you to the services and software that can get you started building your own website, even if you have no experience. Keep in mind, none of these tools will give you an idea for a winning website—that's on you. They also won't make you a web designer, a job that's distinct from building a site. Still, these services and software will ease some of the headaches that come from a lack of extensive expertise in CSS, FTP, HTML, and PHP.
Above all, make sure your domain’s spelling is very easy to get correct for someone just sounding it out. This way, you’ll be able to mention your domain easily in casual conversation, and the person you’re talking to will be able to find it without worrying about the spelling. This tip really applies to everything – for instance, it’s a lot easier to tell people my Twitter handle, @TomFrankly, than it is to tell them the username I used to use for everything in middle school, electrick_eye. The goal is to make it easy for people to find you.
If those template customizations don’t look like enough for you (though if you’re building your first website, they will be), you might want to think about building your website on an open source platform like WordPress.org. You will get more flexibility, but if you’re not a coder, learning WordPress takes a lot of time — especially compared to drag-and-drop builders.