How To Create A Website

So you want to get a website, but you don’t know where to even start.

The task of getting a website online can be challenging at best if you have never done it before. Trust me, I’ve been there.

First, here are the basic elements of getting a website up and running:
1) An HTML Editor.
2) A Hosting Account.
3) An FTP Client.
4) A Merchant Account.
5) A Marketing Strategy.

Let’s compare these elements to a simple retail store in a strip mall: The HTML Editor creates your store’s furnishings, fixtures, and inventory. The Hosting Account is the retail space you lease. The FTP Client is the moving company. The Merchant Account is your cash register. And your Marketing Strategy is how you get paying customers into your store.

Sure, you can hire someone to do all this for you, but whoever wants to spend thousands of dollars on something that you can do yourself? And how do you know the person you hire really knows what they are doing? Obviously, whole books have been written and many college-level courses taught about each of these elements, so to start with, let’s focus on getting the first step done: designing and building your website.

WHAT IS HTML?
HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the primary language most websites are written in. Learning HTML can require several college-level classes. However, with the advent of WYSIWIG (What You See Is What You Get) Editors, learning HTML is no longer necessary to create a great-looking and functional website. Now, you can buy software for this, but personally, I use a free program named MyFreeWebsiteBuilder.

Unlike other free editors, MyFreeWebsiteBuilder has an perfect set of tutorials to walk you through all the features and steps required to make your website. Yes, it actually comes with instructions that are easy to understand! There are also a lot of other features and functions that will come in handy when building your website, but I will not go into those here as they are covered in detail in the tutorials.

So the first thing you need to do after downloading the free software and going through the instructions and tutorials, is to decide what you want your website to do, and how you want it to look. This is extremely important. No commercial building is ever built without a detailed set of plans. Before you start building your site, decide how many pages it will have, what those pages will be called, what order you want them in. Do you have a company logo you want to use? Will your customers be able to find and buy what they want? Sit down with a pen and paper and sketch out how you want your site to look.

SOME HELPFUL HINTS:
*KISS (Keep It Stupid Simple) – customers don’t want to click any more than they have to to find and buy what they want.
*Take advantage of the “Golden Triangle” – people tend to click more in the top left part of the screen than the bottom right.
*Make it easy for people to contact you – provide your contact information conspicuously on every page.
*A “pretty” website does not necessarily translate into more sales – generally speaking, a “plain jane” website will outsell a fancy one.

Once you have a rough idea of what your site will do and look like, it’s time to start building! First, find a template that has the features you want. Although there are many templates available on MyFreeWebsiteBuilder, you still might not find exactly what you are looking for. That’s ok. Here is where I go to get free templates for my websites: www.oswd.org. It is a nonprofit open-source community for web designers with literally thousands of templates to choose from, and chances are you will find what you are looking for there. Simply download the template you want to a folder on your desktop dedicated to files for your website. In general, the template will contain an HTML file (usually labeled “index”) and an images folder. Make sure you keep these in the same folder or your images will not work.

Now that you have a template to work with, it’s time to start putting your site all together. Open MyFreeWebsiteBuilder, click on “Create A New, Empty Web Page” then use the open command to start editing the template you just downloaded. You can now follow the instructions and tutorials in MyFreeWebsiteBuilder to modify the webpage to meet your needs.

The first page you will want to make is a “template” page. Think about what all your pages will have in common, such as the header/logo text, navigation buttons, links, footer text, etc. then create a file named “template” so you don’t have to re-create each page from scratch. Some other pages you may want to add include a “contact us” page, a sitemap (helps search engines rank your site), an “about us” page, and a page or pages for the products/services you offer if not listed on your “index” (home) page.

The next step is to simply fill in the blanks. When you are done with your template, save it, then “Save As” whatever page you are currently working on. Be sure to keep your file names short and easy to remember (ie. “index” for your home page, “contact” for your contact us page, etc.). This will make it much easier on you to keep track of everything. Now type or paste in all your materials into each page as you would like it to appear. Use the “Browse” button in MyFreeWebsiteBuilder to view how the new web page will look in your browser.

In sum, MyFreeWebsiteBuilder has a “Validate HTML” tool that you will need to use before publishing your site to the web. Because each browser platform is different (Internet Explorer, FireFox, Opera, etc.), your website might not display correctly on all browsers. Validation ensures that your HTML code conforms to industry standards (set by W3C.org) so that it will be read correctly in most browsers.

Congratulations! You have now built your own website for free! Now that you know how to get started, I strongly encourage you to have your online business started! There is a whole world of customers in need of what you have to offer. Be sure to watch for the next article in this series: How To Get Your Website On The Internet.


Posted by on February 17th, 2017 No Comments

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