By Jim LeFevre, Senior Director of Marketing, Public Interest Registry
Have you ever wanted to create a website but didn’t know where to start? Or felt you lacked the skills or experience necessary? While the process of creating or updating a website may seem daunting, we’ll let you in on a little secret – you don’t have to be a trained website developer or have prior experience to build your very own website!
A website is an important asset for anyone using the internet for their company, organization, group or for themselves, and we want to be sure everyone feels equipped to tackle creating their own site – no matter how little web experience you may have. Whether you’re an online novice or have a few websites under your belt, we hope this post helps demystify the process and provides some helpful tips. This blog will address some of the myths connected to website development, but before diving in, make sure you’re caught up on our last post in the Domain Industry blog series about how to secure a domain name (even if you think all the good ones are taken).
Myth #1: Coding Skills Are a Necessity
It is a common misconception that you need coding experience to develop content for a website. Luckily, technology can do most of the work for you and there are a variety of different online site builders on the market that can be used to create your site (from layout, to design to content) with little to no coding required!
There are both free and paid site builders to choose from, and we suggest doing a little bit of research on each web builder’s services to determine the best fit. While there are many great options, picking a site builder that doesn’t fit your website needs or your personal skill level can ultimately complicate the process and impact the overall success of the website build. For instance, some platforms do require basic coding abilities – whether that be HTML, CSS or another language to edit and adjust content. However, there are plenty of web hosting companies that provide online tools that are beginner-friendly, such as WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace all of which have a variety of website building options including pre-built templates to drag and drop content that require no previous development experience. It’s also worth mentioning that some online tools are better for different types of websites – so whether you’re setting up a blog, a fundraising page, or an e-commerce site, it’s worth exploring which is best suited to address your unique needs.
Once you decide on a website builder the real fun begins. Each provider is different, but your first step will likely be to choose a theme for your website. A “theme,” in simple terms, is the visual styling and layout of your website. Most platforms have hundreds or even thousands of themes to choose from, so no web-design skills are required to create each of your pages. Once you find a template you like, simply install and your personalized website will be ready to populate!
Myth #2: You Need Design Experience to Create a Visual Website
Visuals are a powerful communication tool on the web. Therefore, incorporating imagery and graphics to your site is an important element of the web design process and critical to making your site engaging for visitors. The good news is you don’t need to be a graphic designer to make your site visually appealing. Once you select a site template, you can easily amplify your template with visuals, whether that’s your logo, existing imagery or stock photos.
If you have knack for photography, you can of course go out and source some of your own images, but there are also many websites with high quality stock photos that are available for download. Stock photography is a common source for website visuals and it is easy to find photos for virtually any topic. Some popular stock photo websites include iStock, ShutterStock, and Adobe Stock, among many others. While some of these sites are free others do charge a monthly fee for access to photos.
If you are looking for something more graphic-based, then there are also many free versions of online tools that you can use to build your own infographics or photos with front overlays. Canva and PiktoChart are user-friendly and perfect for website builders without creative backgrounds. You’d be surprised at how easily you can create high quality and professional graphics using these simple tools! Platforms like these make designing a personalized, eye-catching website much more feasible (and fun) for website builders who don’t have formal design experience.
Myth #3: You Need an SEO Expert to Optimize Your Website
SEO (search engine optimization) services refer to the suite of different techniques that increase the visibility of a website by optimizing it for search engines. While it sounds highly technical, there are some baseline steps that anyone can take to help ensure your website is querying appropriately in search engine results.
One way to help improve SEO is to optimize your images. This includes making your images high quality, naming your images and captioning them (when appropriate) so they can be indexed easily by search engines. Any content on your site, whether it’s an image, blog post, press release or site page, should also have the appropriate keywords tagged. These tags won’t be visible to your site visitors, but they give search engines a basic idea of what each image or piece of content is so that it queries in searches related to that topic. For that reason, it’s important to choose keywords that align with what your users are searching for. Finally, when it comes to tagging – don’t hold back! You can have several tags attached to each website page, image, or content piece to ensure they show up in a variety of search results.
Tagging is one of the basic elements of SEO but there are lots of other tricks to help optimize your content and thankfully quite a few resources that can help guide you through the process. Google’s Search Optimization Starter Guide provides actionable steps you can take to improve your Google rankings. Other tools to consider include Google Webmaster, which helps you monitor and improve the performance of your website in search engines; Google Keyword Planner, which helps you choose the right keywords or phrases and Moz’s Link Explorer which serves as a link checker so you can see who has links to your site, spot any broken URLs on your site and even size up your competition.
Bonus Tip! Content Matters
At the end of the day, as a website builder the most important part of the process is the development of quality, engaging content. No matter how strong your SEO is or how beautiful your template, the content on your website will be the biggest determinant of its success. Your “Home” page will be the first thing that visitors see when they get to your website, so it’s important that this page is engaging, easy to navigate, and visitors can quickly find information about who you are and what you do.
As you can see, you do not have to be a trained coder, skilled designer or SEO whiz in order to create a website. We hope this blog helps demystify the process, builds your confidence and provides a few tools (from web hosting to SEO services) that will make building a website a smooth sailing experience.