Here's a quick step-by-step, beginner's guide to building a website (for free, or very little cost) using one of the world's best website builders - Weebly.
The reason I chose Weebly to create a website is because hosted website builders, like Weebly, are easier to use than alternative Web design methods for small business - such as content management systems (CMS).
For small and home business startups, or traditional businesses without solid Web design skills and experience, a good website builder is the natural choice to create a professional website quickly, and cheaply.
Website builders offer domains, hosting and Web design in one convenient package, and allow anyone to create a website by selecting a theme or template, and customizing it using a graphic interface (instead of learning HTML, CSS, and PHP).
In fact, Weebly has become so popular that it now outranks the leading CMS platforms - Drupal and Joomla.
You can also check out a full list of Weebly's features.
How to build a website with Weebly
Before you go ahead and start building a website, make sure that you understand what the website must do in order to meet your business requirements.
The reason for this is that Weebly wants to classify the type of website you create during the setup phase.
After all, it's a reasonable assumption that you know what type of website you need.
The options are:
If you want to sell stuff via a website (i.e. run an eCommerce store), then it may be better to use one of the leading hosted shopping cart solutions instead. Check out this complete, step-by-step guide to building an online store with Bigcommerce.
1. Create a free account
2. Site configuration
Weebly combines user registration with the creation of their website, and so prompts you for details about the site immediately after registration.
You'll be asked to provide a name for the website, and select what type of site to create. It's super easy to create other websites later on, so don't worry too much if you get it wrong this time round.
Next, specify how to manage the site's domain. If you have an existing one, it is possible to configure Weebly to use it a bit later on.
For any type of professional website, it is important to use your own domain name so that Google and other search engines credit your domain with that content, and not Weebly (which is what happens if you choose to use a sub-domain).
Either let Weebly handle domains for you, or register your own domain at leading domain registrar. Check out How to find and buy small business domain names for more info.
3. Drag & drop Web design
With site configuration out the way it is time to get down to designing the site. Weebly offers a full featured, drag & drop graphic Web design environment to manage the entire website:
The main tabs along the top allow you to start working with the site by creating and managing the theme, design elements, pages, and site settings:
- Elements: Drag and drop page elements on a page
- Design: Customize your site by choosing from a range of themes and color schemes
- Pages: Create and manage a range of different site pages (like the front page, about us, landing pages, etc)
- Editors: Add a list of people who have permissions to work on and edit the site
- Settings: Configure general, SEO, mobile, and other sitewide settings
4. Create the home page
By way of example, we'll look at the step-by-step process of creating the website home page using Weebly's designer.
Once you know how to create one page, it is easy to copy that page, or repeat the process to create any number of different pages before publishing to the live site.
Before going any further, you may as well select a theme and color scheme for the site. Go ahead and click on the Design tab in the main menu and play around 'til you find one that is suitable (you can change or configure it in more detail later).
Now, follow these steps:
- Create a page: Click on the Pages tab from the main design menu and choose a Page Name and Page Layout, then click Save Settings.
- Edit the basic page elements: Click on the page elements to edit them, and drag and drop new page elements onto the page.
- Add & edit other page elements: When viewing the page in the Elements view, you will notice a sub-menu running vertically down the left side of the page. This contains a range of other page elements that can be added - explore this and add any you want.
- Publish: Click on the Publish button at the top of the page to see the live website.
There are a lot more options to explore in almost every aspect of Weebly's website builder, but at least you have been able to create and publish your first page. Not too hard, right?
5. Account management
The Weebly website editor is only one aspect of your new Weebly account. Click on the red Close button icon at the top right hand side of the page to go to your Weebly account homepage.
From here it is possible to create, edit and manage additional websites as well as view important website stats, manage domains, get help and support, and so on:
For people serious about making the best website possible, I recommend taking advantage of Weebly's live training and plentiful support & educational offerings.
Remember that Weebly offers powerful additional features above and beyond those available to free users, at a very reasonable price (from around $3 per month). Simply click on upgrade adjacent to your site in the site list, or click on Learn more about Pro in the slide box on the right of the page.
Hopefully this guide to starting a website with Weebly has shown you how easy it is to create a cutting-edge, professional website.
I'd love to hear how you created a website, and what problems, if any, you encountered. Share your Weebly web design tips and tricks in the comments below.