The DIY Website Guide

Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace, Google, and WordPress logos on ice background

Why build your own website? Maybe you are just getting started and can’t afford to hire a professional web developer. Perhaps you are an avid do-it-your-self kind of woman. In any case, there are a multitude of options available for you to increase your online presence with little technical skills required.  This post will cover the some of the most popular website builders, software that allows you to design and use a website without a knowledge of coding.  Before we get into the pros and cons of these different software let’s cover the basics of how to build your own website.

The first thing to consider is function.  What is the purpose of your website?  Who is your intended audience, and what are they looking for?  Consider what you absolutely need first.  If you distract your visitors or make it too difficult for them to find what they need, they will leave your site and go somewhere else.  Your ability to design your site will be limited by the software you use to make it, so don’t try to design something overly fancy or complicated.  Look at well made websites that have information that is clearly marked and easy to find and base your own design off of those sites.  Try to find example sites made with the software you are thinking of using and consider browsing through Template / Themes to find a layout that works well for your needs.  The most important thing for you to consider is what content will go on each page, and how easy it is for your audience to find those pages.

Next comes design.  Again, you won’t have too much choice in where you put things on a page if you aren’t too HTML or PHP savvy, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to consider basic aesthetics.  Using a template or theme is a great way to ensure that your page works well together but if you choose to pick your own colors and fonts be sure to follow some basic guidelines.  Use only a couple of colors for your websites and use them for the same things throughout.  This means if you make the main body of your text black and one link green, then make all the links green.  And, if you chose black and green then don’t use blue for your menu.  Too many colors or inconsistent usage looks tacky and confuses readers.  Avoid the overuse of bold, italic, and underlined words, as well as exclamation points!!!!  NEVER USE ALL CAPS, EVER.  Choose a background color that is not overly bright and allows the text behind it to be ready easily.  Don’t worry about adding a ton of links or widgets or fancy buttons.  Keep your content simple, too the point, and relevant to your viewer.  It takes years to learn design and a lifetime to master, but for your first website remember: a great site should be easy to use, easy to read, and contain useful information.

The web design software you use will focus your design into sections such as: pages, posts, menus, galleries, and widgets through a Content Management System (CMS), a graphical interface that will allow you to update your website without any coding knowledge.  When you are using this software to design and update, you are probably looking at your dashboard.  For Example, here is our dashboard showing this blog post being made right now on our favorite CMS, WordPress.

 

The WordPress.org CMS

The WordPress.org CMS

After function, you need to choose a domain name that is easy to spell, remember, and shares your brand identity.  You can use a domain search to find out what names are available and how much they will cost per year.  You don’t need to worry about hosting for most software we will discuss.  All of the software we will mention here will be fully responsive meaning it will work on devices of all sizes,  including mobile phones and tablets.

Google sites is a free web-based tool that allows you to easily assembly basic websites.  There is limited customization, and no support,  but you don’t have to pay for hosting and you can map your custom chose domain name to your Google site.  These sites are not made to handle a lot of traffic, like an eCommerce site.

Weebly is an online software with a little more customization.  The pro version is under $7/mo, includes more customization tools, and allows the use of a custom domain.  The eCommerce version is under $19/ Mo.  You do not have to pay for hosting.  Website response times will be slower and less able to handle large volumes of traffic than a professional hosting service.

Wix is very similar to Weebly in is abilities.  They charge $4/mo to map a custom domain.  For $12-25/mo you can get an upgraded account with increased bandwidth and some basic support.

Squarespace also provides some basic tools to design. You can upgrade to a professional account for $16/mo and a pro for $24/mo (needed for eCommerce) both come with limited support.

WordPress.com is a very different beast.  It is a hosting service with a content management system, and uses much faster and more reliable connections than the previous software mentioned. A premium account is a little over $8/mo and a business account is $25/mo.  The Business version includes templates and better support.

WordPress.org is not a web service at all.  It is software to empower you.  You will need to pay for your own hosting that ranges from $5-10/mo and install the software. Our favorite host is, DreamHost, because they have the best support we have come across, but there are many options that are less costly.  Once you install the software you can browse thousands of free and paid themes and you have a lot of well supported and interesting widgets to add functionality to your site.

So why pay a web developer?  You will get a much more functional and professional looking design, have significantly more creative freedom, and ongoing support and services like SEO and website maintenance.  There is much more to building a website in terms of design.  However, if you want or need to try it yourself, the best thing to do is to read some documentation and watch a few videos on how to use a particular website builder.  From there, you will have a lot better idea of what is takes to be a do-it-yourself website designer.

Comments (5)

  1. Carmel

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  3. google authorship wordpress

    Hey outstanding blog! Does running a blog like this require a massive amount work?
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    in the near future. Anyways, should you have any recommendations or techniques for new blog owners please share.

    I know this is off topic nevertheless I just wanted to ask.
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    Reply
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