With all these services, you build everything yourself, starting with a template you choose from a (hopefully) wide, well-categorized selection. Most use simple drag-and-drop interfaces that let you include items such as social share buttons, photo galleries, blogs, and media players. Some even let you restrict viewing with a password and let you have people join up as members of your site (see the table).
Even if you don't sign up for those web hosts, you should look for services that offer similar features. You'll want a WYSIWYG editor that lets you adjust every page and add images, video, and social links. Plunking down a few extra bucks typically nets you robust ecommerce and search engine optimization (SEO) packages for improved Bing, Google, and Yahoo placement. Most advanced web hosting services include at least one domain name, free of charge, when you sign up.
As far as actually doing the nuts and bolts building and design of your site, you also have plenty of options. You can hire someone to design and code a website, or you can try your own hand (if you're a novice, The Best Courses for Learning How to Build Websites is an excellent starting point). You can use an online service to create web pages, or build it offline using a desktop software tool. Or, if you're a coding dynamo, use a plain text editor to create a site from scratch. How you mix and match these decisions depends on your skills, time, budget, and gumption.
There are three main ways to build a website. If you’re a beginner, by far the easiest way to build and launch a site is to use a website builder provided by your web host. If you’re at least somewhat web-savvy, you could use use WordPress or a content management system (CMS) such as Drupal or Joomla. If you are already well-versed at coding, you can start from scratch and use HTML to build the site from the ground up. Each approach has its merits and challenges:
Shopify’s primary focus is ecommerce, so they are specifically geared toward building this kind of site for as little as $29 a month. There is also a ‘Lite’ plan available for only $9 a month, which allows users to add a Shopify buy button to an existing site (which can be on another platform). Importantly, the industry- standard encryption SSL certificate is included with all their sites.
You can make a website that lets you sell products and services if you have the Ecommerce plan. You’ll have an online store that will allow you to add products and services, set up different types of payment methods, and even specific types of shipping. Your store will be integrated into your website as a page. You can add featured products for your visitors to scroll through, make quick purchases using PayPal and Apple Pay and promote your store/products through coupons. You can also use the same type of email marketing that is included in the Premium plan to send email communications to your subscribers and customers about sales on your website, coupon offers and online events. Establishing a strong online presence can boost your sales.
You can make a website for free, but there are catches. Free accounts on website builders hold a lot of important features back. You can’t use custom domains, and your free site will have ads for that website builder. If you’re looking to learn more about website building then the free options are worth a look. However, if you want a professional, feature-rich website you’re going to have to pay at least a few dollars a month.
Jennifer Young is a specialist in educational technology with experience in web design and development. She also has 12 years of editorial experience writing for print and the web. Jennifer is passionate about covering topics related to web tools and technologies and enjoys learning about tech as much as she loves teaching it. She embraces the challenge of making web hosting accessible for every type of user and is delighted to share her knowledge with the HostingAdvice.com audience.
One downside of most of these services is that, should you someday want to move to another web host, you'll likely be out of luck because of the custom code they use to display your site. Only a few of the services here let you take your site to another web hosting service: The most complete example of this is Weebly, which lets you download the standard site server folders. Squarespace offers some transferability by letting you output your site in standard WordPress format. As you might expect, the same transferability holds for WordPress.com.
Most hosting plans include easy access to WordPress — installing the software with one click, or better yet, having it preinstalled for you. In most cases, you can simply log into your hosting control panel and find the option to install the WP platform. If your hosting service doesn’t have this capability, you can find the manual installation instructions here. These web hosts make installing WordPress especially easy:
There are thousands of templates to choose from in WordPress’ own Theme Directory. Search for the types of themes you’d be interested in. If you’re setting up a newspaper search ‘newspaper’, if you need a site for your café search ‘cafe’. There’ll be dozens, if not hundreds, of contenders. Clicking on a theme takes you to its own page where you can see user reviews and preview the theme in action.