The material below will be useful primarily to beginners and webmasters who are thinking about creating their own website for the first time. For professionals, many things will be obvious, but that doesn’t mean that beginners don’t need to know about them.
Some issues will be covered only in general terms, so that you have an idea of the sequence of operations.
Websites are not created for nothing. Just like any other technical product, they have a purpose, an objective and a list of functions. Many Internet projects are created to make a profit. Most often it is income from advertising. But there can be other purposes of existence, for example, serving certain functions of the company, collecting traffic, informing, automating processes, etc.
In recent years, there have been many changes in the website building industry. Efficient tools have appeared, which significantly lower the entry threshold and make it possible to create websites without any specialized knowledge and skills.
Below is a detailed breakdown of how to start your own Internet projects and what you need to create websites: skills, tools, etc.
Building websites – what is it?
Building a website is a set of processes, actions and activities aimed at meeting the needs of the site’s users, potential or established. Typically, this set of activities includes: design, marketing and promotion strategies (attracting new users), creating pages, and filling them with useful content.
Each of these tasks may involve a staff of dedicated professionals. At the same time, no one forbids you to deal with all or some of them personally. Everything will depend on the scale of the project, its budget and the tasks it has to solve.
For the operation of any site you will need the following components:
- Hosting. This is a service of renting computing resources on a server that is always connected to the Internet. As part of the service, you usually get disk space, RAM, CPU time and network bandwidth. In addition to the hardware components of hosting includes a set of special software: database servers (MySQL, etc.), web servers (Apache, Nginx, etc.), programming language libraries (to implement the dynamic functions of the site – PHP, Python, etc.), caching systems and other components. Hosting comes in different kinds and types. The most affordable and easiest for dynamic websites is shared hosting (also known as shared or shared hosting). If you need more freedom and guaranteed server resources, you need to rent a VPS (Virtual Private Server) or dedicated server (prefabricated hardware configuration).
- Domain. This is a readable address on the network, which acts as a kind of link to your server (hosting). A domain allows you to link users to files and pages on your site (redirect to the IP address of the server).
- Engine. If the site is static (just a set of linked HTML-pages), then it only needs hosting. But editing pages manually will be very difficult. And the more materials on the site, the more complicated the process. That is why engines are used – CMS or CMF-systems.
- Template / design theme. Most of the engines come with free templates, but if you want maximum consistency and recognition, you must correctly choose a quality beautiful template, and even better – develop from scratch their own (unique).
- Plugins. Rarely is it the case that the engine has all the necessary functions out of the box. Many popular CMS are in demand, because they are easy to customize through extension modules. Quality plugins, as well as quality templates are usually distributed for a fee.In addition to these components can be other: CDN services (content delivery networks), DNS hosting, mail services (newsletter services, domain mail), etc.
You can get the full set of all the necessary components from online services. Here at least you get in one window: hosting, a ready-made engine for content management and the purchase of domains with automatic linking to the hosting.
What is the website for?
The existence of websites can be divided into commercial and non-commercial.
Commercial sites include all projects that involve making a profit: directly, for example, from sales of subscriptions, products or services on the site, or from partners – for example, income from advertising, links, etc.
How to make money from building websites, we discussed in detail here.
Non-commercial projects have other purposes for existence:
- Informing customers.
- Providing related online services.
- Code placement.
- Organising communities of interest.
Based on the aims of the website and the description of the potential target audience, a list of tasks is formed that the project should fulfil.
Such objectives may include, for example:
- Facilitate the publication of new content.
- Easy categorisation of articles.
- Management of navigation.
- Ability to place and manage advertising blocks and track clicks statistics.
- Provision of integrations with external tools (mailing services of notifications and marketing materials, CRM systems, etc.).
- Providing tools for effective communication, moderation of comments or other user materials.
Historically, specific types of websites have been created for certain types of tasks.
- For mass sales – online shops.
- For effective presentation of individual services or products – web pages.
- To provide company/executor contacts – business card websites.
- For presenting examples of work – portfolio sites.Internet forums are used for active discussion of various topics.
- To create communities – social networking sites.
- For keeping personal records – blogs.
There are many types of websites and there are many tasks they can perform. We have listed only the most popular ones.
What does it take to set up a website?
The requirements for profile skills vary greatly. This point depends primarily on the size of the project and on the tools/platforms used by the project owners.
To give an example, here is a list of specialisms that have developed in the field of website building:
- SEO specialists – responsible for promoting the project in search engine rankings.
- Designers – responsible for how the site will look.
- DTP specialists – convert designers’ layouts into HTML code.
- Programmers – because most modern websites are run on CMS-systems or frameworks, are engaged in finalizing the functional under the requirements of the owner.
- Copywriters – write texts.
This is what is called the “gentlemen’s kit”. There may also be project managers, integrators, SMM-specialists, those who deal with reputation (SERM), and others.
Accordingly, if you plan to handle your project without outsourcing, you will handle all the related tasks yourself.
As we mentioned above, many technical tasks can easily be implemented by means of standard solutions or special services. For example, you won’t need to develop the design if you choose a ready-made template for a CMS system or use an online constructor. For automation of SEO-tasks, there are special online services or modules within the designers/CMS-systems. You can easily do without the services of programmers, if you choose the right engine or an online service to create websites (so it would cover the functionality you need as much as possible).
Nowadays, a lack of specialist experience and expertise is not an obstacle to running a website yourself.
What are websites built on?
90% of success is choosing the right platform/engine. This is your main tool that will be responsible for the functioning of the project.
Off-the-shelf engines are used even in the corporate sector, where there are special requirements for load stability, system flexibility, and scalability and expansion capabilities.
For smaller projects, things are much simpler.
The platform is selected according to the set of available features/technical capabilities.
Only the following options should be seriously considered as platforms for self-launching a site:
Online website builers. They boast the most extensive set of features for all occasions in their subject area. Often you can get everything you need from the control panel: ready-made SEO tools and services, templates with content, extension modules, ready-made integrations, etc. But they are mostly suitable for standard projects. And each platform builder specialises in something different.
CMS systems. They provide the necessary development flexibility, as they can be easily extended with ready-made or self-written modules (plugins, themes, templates, etc.) and open access to the source code (in most cases, if it is not a commercial engine). Site owners have maximum control over content, as all files and content are stored on their own hosting. Load limits only depend on the capabilities of the current hoster. In case of need, it is easy to change the provider, and you can get more server resources in place by upgrading your plan or changing your hosting service to a more efficient one.On the downside, a noticeably higher level of expertise will be required. Many tasks, which in online designers are automated, here you will have to do with your own hands. CMS-systems are also divided according to their purpose.
Offline website builder. These are usually programmes installed on users’ PCs or other devices. They provide an easy way to assemble pages from prebuilt elements and blocks – almost like an online constructor, but without the hosting and easy configuration of domains. In output you get a set of HTML pages, which you still need to upload to server (by FTP or SFTP protocol). Offline tools are less user-friendly than their online counterparts, so their use for newcomers is controversial. It is more of a tool for web designers or those who make a lot of simple bespoke websites.
There are also options for running websites based on frameworks or CMF systems, as well as writing your own engine from scratch. These are only suitable for advanced users, as programming skills are required to refine them. We don’t consider the notepad approach to making a website at all, as modern websites have become far too complex, and so has the HTML specification.
Additional tools can be used:
- Professional graphic editors (for working with vector and/or raster graphics). You can use them to easily create media content.
- Video editors (if you plan to use original videos on your site).
- IDEs (for developing your own plug-ins and engine modules).
- FTP or SFTP-clients (for direct uploading of files on hosting, if hoster does not provide special online tools).
- Logo designers (can be replaced by graphic editors or special online services, our rating of the best logo designers).
- Text editors (for easier creation of text content).
- SSH clients (to connect to a server and configure it from the command line – only for advanced users).More specific tools can be used for more specific tasks, such as programs and services for gathering semantic core, position monitoring scripts, page parsers, various plug-ins for browsers, monitoring systems, anti-virus scanners, etc.
Stages of website development
In many ways, the general algorithm for creating a website will be similar, regardless of which engine or platform you choose. Only some of the technical details of implementation will differ.
To make the procedures as meaningful as possible, here are some basic steps using examples of the most popular engines for beginners.
Steps in creating a website based on a CMS system (using WordPress as an example)
WordPress is the most popular self-hosted engine in the world. Our in-depth review of WordPress.
- Renting a hosting service. Choosing a hosting service is actually a difficult task. There are many hosts, each with its own features and drawbacks. We recommend Hostgator (detailed review). You get adequate rates, a full set of technical optimizations for WordPress, and excellent availability guarantees. Ideal for beginners. If this choice doesn’t suit you, explore our ranking of the best hosts for WordPress.
- Domain purchase. If RU/RF domain binding is important to you, then it is best purchased through official registrars. If any domain zone suits you, at Hostgator you’ll get a domain in the general zones as a gift if you pay for hosting services for a year or more.
- Hosting a domain. To do this you need to edit the NS records in the control panel of your domain registrar. The strings that need to prescribe, you will find in the parameters of a hosting package, which will pay. If you can not find the parameters you need, you can contact the technical support or the hosting documentation. Be careful: the procedure of updating the DNS servers can take up to several days.
- Installing the engine. Most modern shared-hosting install popular CMS-systems, including WordPress, is carried out in one or two clicks. In a more complex variant it will be necessary to make manual installation, with creation of a database and connection to it. A detailed guide to installing WordPress, plug-ins and themes for it.
- Template installation. You can choose one of the free ones, or you can buy a cool premium template from a profile site like TemplateMonster. The average price is $20-60.
- Installing and configuring plugins. At a minimum, you need SEO plugins and extensions for URL transliteration. No less interesting would be add-ons for page caching, SMTP plugins, plugins for image optimization, etc. In 90% of cases these are free modules. But there may be paid options, including subscriptions.
- Filling the site with content. As well as the next steps from the general algorithm below.
General algorithm for creating and maintaining a website (for all projects)
- Development of the website concept and its marketing model.
- Design development or selection of a suitable ready-made solution (template).
- Selection of the platform (CMS, constructor, framework).
- Collection of a semantic core and elaboration of the structure of materials.
- Creating a launch site (following the instructions above: domain + hosting + engine).
- Writing (creation) of materials (media content) within the chosen strategy and the compiled semantic core.
- Adding the site to the webmaster panel of popular search engines (for Runet is Yandex and Google). PS will start to index the site.
- Adding the analytics codes and metrics.
- Running advertising campaigns (most relevant to commercial sites).
- Examination of the errors in the webmaster panels and analysis of user behaviour on the pages.
- Eliminating problems if any, updating materials.
- Organising social media promotion (if necessary).
Question: Do I have to hire an SEO specialist?
Answer: It all depends on your willingness to do it yourself. In fact, there is nothing difficult about it. Search engines have long since learned to identify quality content and find useful information for users. If your website is useless for your target audience, no SEO expert will help you. You will only waste your budget. At the same time, it makes sense to carry out a technical audit to identify in good time any shortcomings that may affect the quality of promotion. In some online engines, such as uKit, technical audit function is built-in.
Question: Which engine/platform to choose?
Answer: Here you can argue until hoarse which platform is better. But, as we said above, everything will depend on the goals and objectives of the site, as well as your requirements for the necessary functionality. There are no perfect solutions that will fit all needs. If you have a simple business website, try uKit or Wix, if you have a larger project – start with WordPress and its hosting, if you need a ready-made online shop, there are dedicated platforms for that, and so on. Want more substantive information on the subject – check out our rankings (see footer).
Question: Why don’t you recommend online designers for large projects?
Answer: The answer is very simple. All constructor platforms are a kind of shared hosting. Which means that server resources are shared between members/clients. All the rates of popular platforms are fixed. And if you start consuming too many resources, keeping your site on the platform’s servers will become unprofitable for the provider. That is why all settings within the system are made so that it is difficult and inconvenient for you to create multi-page projects. The target audience for such services is small businesses. This is neither good nor bad. You just have to take this into account when choosing a platform.
What does it take to build a good website? Firstly, a desire. Secondly, a set of handy tools and a little specialist knowledge. In today’s web no one requires you to have superpowers, as many technical issues have already been implemented at the software level. Thirdly, you need a good idea. If you pick the wrong niche or identify the wrong target audience, the project is likely to fall apart quickly or you will lose interest.
Otherwise, there is an abundance of information and ready-made tools. If you have the will, there are a thousand opportunities to implement what you have in mind. The main thing is not to be afraid and do it.
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