How to build a website

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See the best way to create a website by choosing the type of platform you want (i.e. blog, forum, eCommerce, custom) and learning more about the best solutions available for that type of site.

[UPDATE]: Check out our step-by-step beginner guides on how to build sites using Bigcommerce (eCommerce) and Weebly.

There are a lot of ways to create a site. There are a lot of different types of website that cater for different business requirements. There are a lot of hosting and domain packages to choose from.

The choices can be bewildering.

Regardless of whether you want to start a blog, or set up a small business online, this guide will show you the fastest, easiest and cheapest route to get the site you want.

Before building a website

Before you start it is important to understand what the requirements are. It is very easy to pay for a solution far in excess of your requirements.

Conversely, it is also easy to make the mistake of not choosing something flexible and scalable that can grow with your needs, or the needs of your business.

In addition, you also need to think about how much you are prepared to pay to get the site you want.

Remember that paying for a quality site generally saves time, effort and money in the long run because you don't waste time learning how to develop a site from scratch.

It's important for both bloggers and small businesses to get a site operational quickly and efficiently. This allows you to focus on growing your business and making money. Remember that an online business should not be about building a website, but about making money online from it.

Choose what to create

How to build a blog

Blogs are super easy to create without needing any experience. Many top blog platforms offer hosted solutions which means that you don't need to worry about finding a hosting service - although you should always purchase a domain name to build up SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

For a straightforward blog (with domain purchasing and great SEO), your best option is WordPress. WordPress hosts tens of millions of blogs and many of the world's top bloggers use WordPress.

Read How to start a blog with WordPress for a complete guide to designing a killer WordPress blog.

You might also consider the following blog platforms:

How to build a forum

Forum software is readily available but comes in a variety of flavors - commercial, free, hosted, etc.

Assuming you want the easiest solution that will work to grow traffic and start generating money, you can use one of the following solutions:

You can learn more about hosted vs. self hosted software by reading What is the difference between Web hosting and hosted websites?

How to build a small business website

Building a small business website is something that has been done millions of times before. There are plenty of high quality tools and online designers available.

Many website builders offer hosted solutions, which make life a bit easier because you don't have to find a hosting service - What is the difference between Web hosting and hosted websites?

Here is a list of the best Website builders rated according to their SEO (Search Engine Performance).

Rank Software YSlow PageSpeed Load Time
1 Weebly 80 89 0.98
2 Wix 84 95 1.70
3 GoDaddy! 79 90 1.44
4 Yola 80 86 1.32
5 Webs 75 28 0.82
6 Homestead 79 57 2.76

Choosing a builder saves you plenty of time and effort. This time can be spent growing your business or blog. There is no longer any real need to become a development expert as well as an online business owner.

The only thing you need to decide is which site builder offers the best package for your specific requirements.

Check out the section on How to build a niche website for more information about custom Web development for businesses and startups.

How to build an eCommerce site (shopping cart)

An eCommerce site is a complex bit of software. It requires secure payment and transaction facilities, logging, reporting, fulfillment, sales, checkout, shopping carts, stock, tax, and a whole host of other facilities.

Unless you have a serious development team, it is not really feasible to put this together by yourself. The best way to build an eCommerce store is to use one of the existing shopping cart software solutions.

Fortunately, there are a wide range of high quality shopping carts to choose from. Some offer a range of packages from hosted, to self-hosted, to embedded - yes; it is possible to embed shopping cart solutions into existing sites.

The most important aspect of finding the right eCommerce solution, is understanding your own needs (i.e. how many products, what type of products, images, etc) and matching those to the packages offered by the providers listed here.

Rank Software YSlow PageSpeed Load Time
1 Shopify 84 84 0.89
2 Bigcommerce 76 95 1.52
3 Magento 76 67 1.32
4 Pinnacle Cart 79 81 2.16
5 Volusion 80 65 1.87

Remember that it is still possible to develop custom sites with eCommerce features, as we'll see in the following section on niche development.

How to build a niche website

If you have special requirements that can't be met by the various templates and online builders available, then it is time to look at more powerful and flexible development - like the one used by SME Pals.

It isn't necessary to start building a great website from scratch. Most good Web designers and developers use a CMS (Content Management System).

Most CMS are open source and free. However, you should be aware that designing and developing using a CMS generally requires some knowledge of CSS, HTML, and/or PHP.

All CMS systems offer extensions or modules that can be used to enhanced their functionality. For example, the Ubercart project adds complete eCommerce facilities to Drupal.

If you have no experience then it is likely you need to speak to an experienced designer.

Here is a list of the most popular CMS platforms in the world today.

Rank Software YSlow PageSpeed Load Time
1 SME Pals 96 98 1.18
2 WordPress 77 92 1.11
3 Drupal 83 67 1.14
4 Joomla 78 72 1.11

Of these options, Drupal is the most powerful and flexible - but it has a steeper learning curve and is more complex. Check out this article that compares WordPress and Drupal.

Is you're going to opt for the control and power of a CMS then it is likely you'll also want to choose a high quality small business hosting service to go with it.

Have you recently designed and built a website, blog or eCommerce store? Share your thoughts on the various builders, designers, hosting services and CMS systems you used to get online and (hopefully) making money in the comments.