Should you spend thousands of dollars on a professionally designed, custom-built website, or do you have what it takes to make your own website? Even if you have no coding experience, it’s easier than you think to build a website that makes a great first impression.
Thanks to today’s outstanding array of online options, all you have to do is to choose a template, personalize it, and publish your website.
The biggest challenge you’ll face when you start to look at website builder templates is the sheer number of options. You’ll see a wide selection of colors, layouts, and design elements, and it can be hard to choose the right one.
Instead of browsing through templates in hopes of stumbling upon the perfect design, start by thinking about what you want in a website. These tips can help you settle on design ideas in advance so that choosing a template is easy.
As you surf the web, take note of websites that catch your attention. You should also take a look at your competitors’ websites to consider what they do well and what they don’t. Some things to notice include:
Colors. Do certain sites have colors that appeal to you? Do they use color combinations in ways you like or in ways you didn’t expect?
Images. Do you prefer images of people, places, or products, or do you like illustrations? What do you think of the ways some sites incorporate video or GIFs?
Layout. Which websites are easy to navigate? Are there certain elements of a layout, including sidebars, menus, widgets, that make some sites really easy and enjoyable to use?
Fonts. Do certain types of fonts appeal to you or seem appropriate for your industry or your subject matter? Do you viscerally like or dislike certain fonts?
Content. Which sites have really persuasive and engaging copy? Do you find yourself drawn to elements, like testimonials or descriptions? What kinds of writing (formal, informal, lots of text, very little text, etc.) match the marketing message you’re trying to convey?
Speed. Do certain page elements take longer to load than others? Do you have the patience to stay with sites that take forever to load, even if they have eye-popping visual elements?
Take some screenshots of both good and not-so-good sites to get a clear picture of what you like. You can also check out some Pinterest boards related to web design to get even more ideas.
If you have a logo, letterhead, brochures, business cards, or ads, you’ve already done at least some visual branding for your business. If you like your logo and your brand messaging, you should choose a template that fits what you’ve already created.
For example, if you have a great logo, pick a website template with colors and font choices that match your logo. Make sure there’s a space within the template to upload your logo so that it’s prominent on your site. Alternatively, if you’re not thrilled with your current branding, your new website is a good place to start fresh. You can use some of the money you saved by not hiring a web designer to hire a graphic designer instead and come up with a new logo and other marketing visuals.
Most templates require you to add text describing your company, your products, or your services. This text is a great place to explain what makes you better than your competitors.
Start by making a list of words that describe your business. Your list should include:
Action words that describe the things you and your employees do best.
Descriptive words that describe your products or the services you provide.
Words that describe your values or your company culture.
Words that explain what you’re not — and that includes how you’re better than your competitors.
After you’ve listed your ideas, see if you notice certain themes emerging from your words, or see if a few core ideas really pop out at you. When you’re choosing a template, keep these words in mind, and choose a visual design that communicates these ideas to your customers.
If your most important words are “tough,” “reliable,” and “durable,” pictures of butterflies and swirly, script-like fonts probably won’t communicate those messages visually. If you want to communicate that your business is “groundbreaking” and “innovative,” you shouldn’t choose design elements that are formal or highly traditional.
Once you know your preferences and what you want to communicate about your brand, you can start reviewing website builder templates. Pick your top three choices, and then narrow those down until you’ve settled on a great design.
Once you’ve selected a template, you’ll drag and drop elements like images, text blocks, and buttons onto your page. Go back to your screenshots of design elements that you really liked and look for similar components to drag and drop into your template.
Many templates have space for a large image across the top of the home page, and this image is the first thing your visitors will see. Keep these tips in mind when choosing your opening image:
Professional. Avoid images that look blurry, appear dark, or have glaring lighting. If you’re displaying photos of your own products, consider hiring a photographer to capture them so they have a clean and professional look.
Natural. Choose images that capture people in a natural, realistic manner, not photos that look stiff and uncomfortably posed. Use your website builder site’s library of stock photography if you need it, or use the money you saved on hiring a web designer to hire a photographer.
Aspirational. Your opening image should show people, places, and things that make visitors envision themselves as part of your customer community. The best opening images make people experience positive feelings, such as excitement, awe, or inspiration.
In most cases, less is more when it comes to writing copy for your website. You want enough text to adequately explain your business, but you don’t want to write so much that visitors get bored.
In addition to crafting a persuasive and strong message with your copy, it’s important to think about how your copy looks. Most people don’t read everything on a web page, unless they’re reading an article on a news site or blog. They scan quickly over the copy to find what’s most relevant to them. For this reason:
Write short paragraphs, preferably with no more than two to four sentences.
Use headings and lists to make your copy easy to scan.
Avoid excessive bolding, underlining, italics, or all caps.
Emphasize important information like your store hours, your address, or your phone number by making it distinct from more general copy. You can place important items in a different place, surround them with borders or backgrounds, or set them off with distinct fonts.
Once you’ve personalized your template, it’s time to publish your web pages under a domain name of your choice. In general, people choose www.yourbusinessname.com for businesses, www.yournonprofit.org for a nonprofit, or www.yourtechcompany.net for a technology site.
The organization in charge of domain names, ICANN, also allows other substitutions for .com, org, or .net. For example, if you run a pizza restaurant, you can choose www.yourrestaurantname.pizza, or for real estate, you could choose www.yourname.realtor.
Your domain name should match your business name as closely as possible, or it should be something so distinctive that it’s easy for customers to remember. In addition to having your domain in your web address, or URL, you’ll use it in your email addresses, so make sure your domain name is in line with your brand’s image. To purchase a domain name, check with the company that offered your free website template, or buy from the company that provides your hosting.
Your website, at the end of the day, is a series of coded documents, images, and videos (if applicable) that are stored on a server. Your host provides server space for your website and keeps that server up and running so your website is available for visitors at all times.
Some business owners try hosting their own websites on their own servers, but that’s an option best reserved for people who know how to manage, patch, and upgrade their servers. Think about it:
If your website crashed, would you have the know-how to get it back up and running?
If an attacker put malware on your server, would you have the ability to fix it?
For most business owners, the answer to both questions is “no.” It’s much easier to choose a hosting provider that offers great technical support. In the long run, the small monthly charge you’ll pay for hosting, and the convenience of letting someone else do the work, is much better than having to pay for service or new equipment following a server malfunction or website crash.
Web.com provides website templates, free domain name registration, and free email addresses when you sign up for a monthly hosting plan. We have plans for all kinds of businesses, including ecommerce. Make your own website today!