It has never been easier to set up your own website and you have never had so many options. Here’s what you need to know to start using that website.
Determine what you need a website for
Before you start, think about the type of website you want. There are plenty of great options for getting started with a website, but they all have different benefits. What you need for an online business card or resume is very different from what you need if you̵
There are three broad types of websites that you are probably considering building.
- A simple personal website: If you just want a simple online presence with links to your contact information and social media accounts, then you really don’t need a lot of website features. Many tools will be much more powerful than you need – and probably more expensive. A one-page site with your bio, a photo, and links is probably enough.
- A full, traditional website or blog: The next level up is what you probably think of as a traditional website: multiple pages for different things or a regularly updated blog. Small businesses or people trying to build their online reputation run these types of websites.
- An online store: If you want to sell things through a website, you need a whole bunch of extra features that people with a simpler website don’t. This includes a shopping cart, the ability to manage inventory, a way to process payments, and something to track orders and handle notifications. There are services that manage everything, but they are more expensive and require more effort to set up.
After assessing your needs and deciding what to build, you can move on to how you will actually manage your website.
Decide how you’re going to run it
The days of manually coding your website are all but over unless you need an incredible custom solution that goes way beyond what this article is all about. There are easy-to-use services for any kind of website you need.
Carrd: Simple one-page websites
For simple one page websites, Carrd is incredible. It’s free to get started and the great looking responsive themes cover just about any use case. I use Carrd when I need to set up a basic site quickly.
For $ 19 / year, you can use a custom domain, add contact or sign-up forms, take payments with PayPal or Stripe, and remove the ‘Made with Carrd’ branding. If you want something professional, fast, this is the way to go.
Wix: big websites, no coding
Wix is one of the most popular website builders and for good reason – it’s an easy way to build a fully functional multi-page website without coding. You can create much larger websites with Wix than you can with Carrd.
The downside is that while it’s free to get started, you have to pay Wix $ 14 a month to use your own domain and get rid of Wix ads. However, this includes the cost of your domain name. Other functions cost extra.
It’s a good option for a business website, but it’s a bit pricey for a simple personal site. The ads on Wix’s free sites are also very annoying.
Squarespace: Expensive, attractive sites
Squarespace is basically a premium version of Wix, although there is no free plan. It starts at $ 16 / month for a personal site (including a domain name) and goes up to $ 46 / month for an online store. While this is quite pricey, the advantage of Squarespace is that it is nearly impossible to create an ugly website. The themes are all well curated and your options are a bit more limited; Wix is kind of free for everyone. Squarespace’s online shopping features are also robust, as is the blog engine.
If money is no object, Squarespace is an excellent option. Since it is paid only, there is excellent customer support. However, at over $ 150 / year for a simple website, it’s expensive.
Self-hosted WordPress: Total control but more complicated
Large amounts of the internet run on self-hosted WordPress instances. It’s what we use for How-To Geek, Review Geek, and LifeSavvy. A self-hosted WordPress site is a framework from which you can build practically anything from a simple website with a blog to a publication with millions of page views per month to a custom online store. The downside to this is that while you don’t necessarily need to know how to code, WordPress requires technical knowledge – or the willingness to go through in-depth tutorials – to make the most of it.
Unlike the other options on this list, WordPress is more of a platform than a service. It’s free, but you have to pay for a domain name, hosting, and any premium themes or plugins you want to use. There is an entire industry dedicated to supporting and developing things for WordPress. You can get started for as little as $ 10 / year or spend $ 10,000 / month on server fees.
If you want the most flexibility to build your site and keep costs down, this is the option to use, but it is also the option that will take the most work to run correctly. If you want to go the WordPress route, be sure to check out our three-part series on setting up a WordPress site:
Shopify: Simple online stores, for a price
Shopify has one goal: to run an online store. Starting at $ 29 / month (and 2% transaction fee), it offers all the features you need. You can display an unlimited number of products in a beautiful store made with Shopify’s great themes. If you’re just setting up a website to sell stuff (and you’re sure to sell a few things per month), Shopify is the easiest solution. Like Squarespace, it’s a premium commercial solution with 24/7 support and excellent documentation to walk you through everything.
The big downside to Shopify is the cost: unless you actually sell products, it’s very expensive. It’s probably best for people who already have an offline store or have sold a few things through social media and want to move to a more professional platform.
The options above are only some of the better options. You may have heard that one or two of them are advertised on popular podcasts. They are far from the only options available. There are dozens of different website building services available at every price point, and with every feature you could dream of. Even if you have a limited budget, you can always go for a professional operation.
Buy a domain and get started
Now that you’ve decided what your website is for and what platform you’re going to build it on, it’s time to get started. The first thing you need to do is register your domain name. If you’re using a service that spans a domain, like Squarespace does, you need to get it through that service. It is automatically set to point to your new website.
If you want to buy a domain name on your own, check out our guide to what you need to know about buying a domain name. We recommend purchasing your domain through Google Domains or Hover.
Once you have a domain, sign up with the service you want to use and start building your new websites. All of the above options, except WordPress, have easy-to-follow sign-up processes.