How to make a website the back story.
10:10 P.M. EST – Somewhere in New York State – A web developer’s living room.
Ring Ring, Ring Ring, the web developer cringes when he sees the number on the caller id, but answers it anyway. “This is Jim Web Developer”.
A quavering voice on the other end of the phone says “Hi Jim, I don’t know if you’ll remember me but this is (blank) you gave me some pointers on building my own site and now I can’t get my image (table, text etc) to move all the way to the left (left, center, top, bottom), I’m using Dreamweaver (substitute your tool of choice) and I don’t understand ( blank )”.
Jim web developer moves to kitchen to nuke a cold cup of coffee it’ll be a long night… fade to black….
Anyway – I’m a professional web developer and for ten years I’ve been asked regularly by some “prospects” (they aren’t customers unless they buy something and this particular type of “prospect” won’t ever buy) who like to pick my brain for information on how they can build their own website. I try to be a nice guy and give them pointers, but because I’m nice once doesn’t mean I want phone calls at 10 at night asking why their picture won’t move to the left margin. So I put together this article to try to demystify some of these common DIY issues.
I think my biggest mistake was thinking that the “prospect” wanted to know “the right way” to build a website. That’s fine if one wanted to become a web developer but that’s generally not the case so this article is all about the easiest way to make a website. So with that being said, this is an article / checklist for people who don’t want to be web developers, don’t want to pay a developer to build a site for them and just want a basic site without a lot of custom programming. Honestly this will fit 90% of the people that searched for how to make a website. If that you are not in the group I just outlined you might want to stop reading now as you’ll probably already know this. For the rest of you follow the check list below and do the planning first and it will be fairly painless.
How to Make a Website – the checklist
Step 1 – Why do you want a website?
Hobby, business, home and or family, club or charity, this will usually decide what kind of pages you’ll have and what kind of copy (your words on the web page) you’ll have to write.
Please Please do this!!! Do you drive to new destination with no idea how to get there? Ok bad example – don’t ask my wife that question. But seriously this will save so much trouble later. A sitemap serves 2 purposes it helps you organize your thoughts and focus your vision, it will also help you write the content you need for your pages. It also develops your navigation for you. See the sample site map below
Step 3 – Write the content for all pages!
This is the hardest and most critical part. Use your site map and using Word, Google Docs, even Notepad write the content for each of your web pages, while you are doing that think about how the page looks in you mind, if you think it should have a picture or graphic next to the text make a note of it in brackets. Before you put this live you should reread and edit this text at least twice. USE SPELL CHECK!!! Also try to write in short easily digestible paragraphs and bullet points. Unless you’ve already hooked the user they probably won’t read every word on your page so keep that in mind.
Step 4 – Develop search engine stuff
This step is really important for the search engines to find you. If your site is a hobby or family website then it doesn’t matter so much. Also this is search engine optimization at it’s most basic but I can’t tell you how many sites are doing it wrong! Somewhere in your content documents from above you’ll want to decide on a title for you page make it descriptive you’ve got about 60 characters to do it in don’t use Home, about etc. use something like “my business services my location” this will help associate your domain ( web address ) with those terms try to make each page a little different.
Next would be Keywords, try to think of about short phrases or single words that describe your business. If you do dog grooming – keyword samples would be “dog grooming, dog trimming, dog washing, dog brushing, dog deodorizing…, your physical location, surrounding towns etc.”
Next Description – A SHORT description of the main point of your site/ page The Best dog grooming in the tri-county area of NY” it could be longer than that but get your main point in first then fill in the rest.
Step 5 – Web hosting- the last step before it comes together
I’ll give you two different hosts to look at as I think they have great deals on inexpensive quality hosting. ($3.95 and $3.99 per month) They also have some form of website builder software so if you don’t want either of these choose a host that offers a site builder plan.
The best deal out there in my opinion is 1&1 hosting I use them myself for my smaller sites. They actually give you two domain names with their basic plan. Click here to go to their site. The other site is ix hosting and they have similar deals you can pick either Linux or ms windows hosting I would probably go with Linux hosting only because of the component availability. I mean, if you want to add more functions to your website later – like e-commerce, email lists etc you can usually find those components written in PHP a programming language for free.
Step 6 – Most larger hosts have a website builder built in
I encourage you to use their plans usually the host will allow you to use their Website builder plan included in the hosting cost. Anyway they’ll offer you a couple of different ways to build the site either with a wizard or on your own, if you do it on your own it will be a bit more complicated not too much more complicated though. The first thing you’ll do is choose your design it’s generally broken out per industry so just pick your business category and pick out a design you like.
A lot of people will say that using templates is BAD and it makes you look like everyone else. Well there is some truth to that but we’re talking building a website without a developer and on a budget. So what kind of design would you be willing to pay for and then you have to put it together yourself, not a real easy task trust me. So keep your chin up at least you’ll have a website to start with, most get caught up in what they want it to look like and never actually put it up. So you’ll be a step ahead of everyone there.
From this point forward you’ll be pasting in your content that you took the time to write ahead of time. Most site builders are a lot different from each other so I won’t be going into depth about them in this article. Maybe later if I need to….
Step 7 – Add all your content, add pictures, and proof read add your logo.
There are a lot of buttons and areas of almost all the online website builder pages, try not to get caught up in figuring them all out stick with doing only what you need to do. Most of these builders also have pretty decent documentation too. So go ahead and fool around get all your pages the way you want them or as close as you can for the time being. You can ALWAYS come back and change things, including your template if you want. This is one of the things I really like about this type of site building. Also don’t be afraid to use the preview button it will allow you to view the site before it goes live so you check the placement of your page elements. Somewhere there will be a page button you click on a page and a properties tab that is where you can put in your search engine optimization from Step 4. Site builder may have already asked you this but in case it didn’t – depends on the type of software, you’ll have an idea of where to look.
Even if you make a critical mistake and delete a page or mangle something so bad you can’t get it back to looking good you can delete your whole site and start over. Which is why I had you write your content and save it in a separate file. If I had a dollar for every time someone deleted a page they shouldn’t have I could probably retire right now.
The final step is actually the easiest – Publish most builders will have a publish button you push it it’ll ask you if you want to put your site online, you say yes and wham you’re done. You’ve got an Internet presence. Take a few minutes to Now all you have to do is get traffic to it and promote it – if you’re so inclined.
How to Make a Website – the follow up.
If my calculations are correct the hosting for a year will cost you $47.88 or so and that leaves $2.12 for a cup of coffee. Old school coffee from the 7-11 not Starbucks. If some people find this article useful I will be adding more resources so check back soon. or you can sign up here for a newsletter I plan on putting together. Don’t worry I’m not selling your info or anything like that. The next topic I’m planning on is Search engines: submitting, demystification, how they work, how to get ranked etc, maybe something on how to make some money with your site – not sure about that one – slippery slope. Then I was also considering putting up some sort of glossary so if someone comes to you saying “I’ll sell you 20,000 page impressions with a CTR of 1%.” You can say hold that thought – quickly look up page impressions and CTR and then find out how they cost.
Anyway I hope this was useful to you
Jim the web developer
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