Creating a website nowadays is much easier than you think. Most people assume you’ll need to do some programming mumbo-jumbo to put up a new site on the Internet. The truth is you can build a website without any coding experience at all, thanks to simplified tools and services.
Below we explain how websites are created, helping you understand the basic concepts behind them, and outline how you can build your very own website in less than an hour.
How Websites Work
Websites and web pages
Websites are simply a collection of files, just like the photos, documents, and movies you have on your computer. Imagine a website being a folder in your computer, with the folders and files inside it making up the individual web pages of the website.
These web pages are written in a programming language called Hypertext Markup Language. HTML controls what web pages look like when you open them in your browser. Web browsers such as Chrome, Safari, and Firefox are able to interpret the instructions indicated in a web page’s HTML code, stitch together the needed text, photos, and other files mentioned in them, and then display the result to you.
Taking this exact web page you’re looking at right now as an example, you can see how it’s formatted to combine text, images, links, and more so that you can read and understand its content.
Web hosting and web servers
Now, if websites are folders in a computer, how are people able to open a website anywhere in the world? The answer: web servers. The files that make up a website are stored in a web server that are typically accessible publicly. When you enter a website address, such as Google.com or Amazon.com, in a browser, you’re telling it to fetch those files from wherever they’re stored and display them to you. Computers communicate this way via Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), allowing them to pinpoint the exact location of any file no matter how many folders they’re buried under.
Web servers are computers themselves, but they’re more powerful, have more storage space, and aren’t usually connected to a monitor, keyboard, or mouse. Their purpose is to simply serve website files that people request on their browsers and apps. Web hosting companies, such as Bluehost, SiteGround, GoDaddy, etc., manage these servers and charge a fee to provide storage space and other services to website owners. These companies usually have thousands of servers hosting thousands more websites.
Zooming out to see the big picture, the collection of web servers and networks interconnected around the world make up the Internet. People are able to access any public website within it and you can add your own website, too, to join in on the fun.
This is only a very basic overview of how websites work, but it should cover enough so you can understand how websites are created and how they’re stored and accessed.
How to Create a Website
Gone are the days when you need to have actual HTML knowledge to create a website. There are numerous ways to build websites today, and many of them simplify the process to the point where coding is simply not required. Web hosting companies themselves make it easier. You can find all you need to build a website simply by signing up for one of their hosting plans.
Here’s a brief summary of how to create a website, broken down into simple steps:
1. Choose a domain name.
If your website is only one folder in a server containing hundreds, it needs a unique name in order to be found. That’s what domain names are, essentially, and they should typically be as close as possible to what your website will be called. Facebook.com, Wikipedia.org, and USA.gov are the domain names of Facebook, Wikipedia, and the US government, respectively, and you can see how it benefits having a domain name that looks just like the entity they represent.
There are over 300 million domain names already registered, but there’s room for, oh, maybe billions more, so don’t worry if your initial domain name choice is taken. In general, top-level domains such as .com, .net, .org, and .info are best for businesses or personal websites. You can also look into local domain name extensions, such as .us, .fr, .au, and the like, if your targeted audience is limited to a country.
Domain names have an annual cost, ranging from around $10 to thousands of dollars for highly sought-after domains. You can purchase domain names from domain name registrars like Domain.com, Name.com, etc., or get one as part of a web hosting plan.
2. Get web hosting.
Now you need to decide where your website files will be stored so it’s accessible on the Internet. There are hundreds of web hosting companies offering these services for a monthly fee. You can narrow down your options to the most highly-reviewed ones that have plans matching your budget. Some will waive the cost of the domain name for the first year, and most will offer significant promotional prices for the first few years.
Choosing which web hosting to get is an entire article by itself, so we won’t go over that here. For absolute beginners, we recommend looking at the cheapest shared hosting plans from Bluehost, SiteGround, HostGator, and Dreamhost, as they provide amazing performance and value for their price.
3. Select a website builder.
Instead of coding in HTML yourself, you can use website builders and content management systems (CMS) to create your actual website. Nearly all web hosting companies provide access to a wide variety of website builder software so you can make this choice after signing up. Some also provide hosting as part of their services while a few web hosting companies have developed their own website builders themselves, like HostGator and GoDaddy.
Website builders make creating a website really easy. Some, like Wix and Weebly, let you use drag and drop functionalities so you can design exactly how you want your website to look with an easy-to-use interface. Others, like Squarespace, let you customize templates and take off from there. CMS platforms such as WordPress can provide even more flexibility and depth, though they tend to have steeper learning curves and are only recommended if you plan to create a lot of content.
4. Create web pages.
You’ll want to start working on your homepage first, of course, since it’s the web page that visitors will see when they type in your domain name in a browser. Ideally, you’ll need images appropriate for your site’s topic and industry to enhance the site’s design. Colors, font choices, icons, etc., are among the choices you’ll have to make as you go along, though you can simply start with pre-designed templates.
Unless you’re aiming for a single-page website, you’ll need to develop more web pages to add more content to your website. You can look at other websites similar to yours for ideas, but About, Contact, Services (for businesses), and Blog pages are typically found on most sites nowadays. Linking these pages together can be done via menus you can configure in your chosen website builder, allowing visitors to navigate your entire website from anywhere within it.
Once you’re ready to launch your website for public consumption, you can publish it from the website builder or take it live from the hosting control panel. You’ll want to make sure to test your website extensively first to ensure it looks as intended and other concerns (spellings, links, images, etc.) are addressed.
Is That It?
Well, yes. These are technically everything you need to do to build a website. There are obviously more complex processes and concepts within each individual step, and hosting companies and website builders have their own levels of complexity. Still, this should illustrate how websites are created and allow you to get started from scratch. You can continue exploring and developing as you build your website and learn even more during the process.
Vector images: www.freepik.com