Step-by-Step Guide: How to Build a Website from Scratch
This post was last updated on October 27, 2020.
A huge part of any business’s success is having a strong online presence. Yet, the process of creating your own website from scratch may seem quite daunting. Even though you, as a small business owner, have already endured many new beginnings in your exciting (yet often rocky) journey to bringing your vision to life, you still are looking for guidance to ease this process. Much like building up your brand, when it comes to designing your website there are a couple of crucial elements you simply can’t overlook. In order for the road ahead (and by road, we mean creating your very own website) to be a smooth ride, we’ve narrowed down a step-by-step guide to learn how to build a website from scratch:
Steps for building a website from scratch
Do your homework
Conduct visual research
Prepare your best content
Define a detailed sitemap
Choose a domain name for your website
Design your website layout
Craft a fitting color palette
Pick the right fonts
Add the finishing design touches
Prioritize your content
Embrace social media
Optimize for SEO
Make sure you’re mobile friendly
Ask for a second opinion
01. Do your homework
There are a few vital, initial steps for steering your website in the right direction. Start by clearly defining the goal of your website, in order to present your business effectively and reap the benefits of your new online presence. Is your site solely for branding purposes? Is it a portfolio website or a platform for selling art online? Is it for getting more subscribers to your mailing list? Next, make sure your site is compliant with your brand identity. Your website should complement every other aspect of your business, including online assets (such as your social media channels and blog) as well as offline materials (such as your business card design and presentations). Your brand identity will impact every detail of your site, from the tone of your microcopy to the color of your buttons.
02. Conduct visual research
Before you start building your website from scratch, you’ll need to feed your curiosity. Inspiration pops up in all kinds of places, but there’s one particular place that’s blossoming with web design creativity: Wix’s website templates page. Spark your imagination by exploring the hundreds of professional, designer-made templates. Then, branch out to other visual platforms like Pinterest and Instagram to find everything from color inspiration to web design trends. Check out what your competitors and favorite brands are doing on their websites and look up the best website designs to gather more ideas. From there, you can start pulling together certain elements that you think will work best for your brand.
03. Prepare your best content
Now that your web design is taking shape, it’s time to collect all your written and visual elements. It’s best to prepare all of the texts that you plan to use before you actually begin building your website. This may include long paragraphs, your site’s tagline for the header, and enticing text for your CTAs (calls-to-action). Be reassured: you can always go back and change the text throughout the building process. And it’s actually highly recommended to give it a quick update every now and then, as it keeps your readers excited and signals to search engines that you’re still alive and kicking. Yet, it’s helpful to start with a solid base of content, both written and visual (images, videos, etc.). The rule here is simple: quality over quantity. Take the time to write website content that will be of value to your users and that will help you in your mission. We recommend only displaying your best and most up-to-date work. It’s always better to leave your visitors wanting more rather than overcrowding your site and causing your visitors to lose interest quickly and leave. Plus, you can’t ignore the importance of your site’s loading time. People have places to be and faces to see – if your site doesn’t load quick enough, no one will stick around. To ensure the best experience, implement website speed optimization techniques, such as not overloading your site with unnecessary content and improving your mobile performance.
04. Define a detailed sitemap
Think of this as the blueprint of your site’s architecture. The sitemap should include all the pages you plan on creating and how they all connect to each other. By planning this in advance, you have a better chance of perfecting your website navigation and offering users a smooth browsing experience. The best practice here is to make sure that your site is organized in a way that a visitor shouldn’t have to click more than twice to move from one page to any other page of your site. To help you in this, make sure to add a website menu that remains visible on every page. If you’re creating a one-page website, don’t forget to add an anchor menu that will take visitors to the desired section of your long-scrolling site. Either way, an important part of your menu is your logo. When clicked, it should lead visitors back to the homepage (or to the top of the page for one-page websites). If you haven’t already done so, create your own logo to feature on your site and other branding materials. Whether you’re creating an online store, design portfolio or anything else, a professional website will always include the following pages:
An inviting homepage: This is the face of your website, which means that you have to make it beautiful, yet informational. Like all of the best homepage design examples, you too should strive to present all the crucial elements right from the get-go. This way, clients will instantly understand who you are and what you do.
An eye-catching gallery displaying your products or services: This is the center of your site where visitors can browse through your offers. Dedicate a good amount of time in writing product descriptions that will grab potential customers’ attention. The same goes for your product photography to ensure that your items are displayed in their very best light.
An ‘About Us’ page: Use this page as your online business card. It’s the exact spot where you can present who you are, what you stand for, your strengths, values and any other crucial information you think your visitors should know about your team and biz.
A contact section: Don’t leave your site visitors astray by making them search for your contact information. Make sure to dedicate a page that lists your contact numbers, email, social links, a map and any other way users can get in touch with you. In addition, it’s a good practice to add your essential contact details in your website footer.
For an extra punch you can also include:
A blog: By starting a blog, you’ll be able to continuously add regular and fresh content to your website. Similarly to these blog examples, you’ll have the chance to establish yourself as an expert in your field, while giving your SEO efforts a well-deserved boost. Read up on the basics of SEO for bloggers to get yourself on track.
An informative FAQ page: Save yourself and your clients some time (and frustration) by including an FAQ page to provide answers to questions that may naturally come up during your visitors’ browse on your site.
An online booking system: Allow customers to schedule and pay for appointments or classes directly from your site. This way, you can spend less time playing phone tag and more time growing your empire.
A testimonials page: This provides you with the perfect place in which previous, satisfied customers can sing your praises. Nothing is more impressive to a potential client or buyer than positive, unbiased reviews.
05. Choose a domain name for your website
Before you begin actually building your website from scratch, choose a domain name. This may sound complicated, but a domain name is simply your website’s unique online address. It is made up of your website’s name plus the extension. For example, if your business name is Cookie Crunch, your domain name could be cookiecrunch.com, with “.com” being the extension. A domain name can help improve your website’s credibility, showing visitors that you’re a professional, trusted brand. It can also help people find you more easily online, especially if you choose a memorable domain that is suited to your line of business. When choosing a domain name, make it concise and easy to pronounce. Explore various available domain extensions and consider which best suits your organization. You can also strive to improve your local SEO by picking an extension that signifies your location (like “.co.uk” for the UK or “.de” for Germany).
06. Design your website layout
Now the fun really begins! If you already know how to design a website and have some prior experience, you can decide to build a website from scratch starting with a blank slate. However, another option is to choose from a selection of professional and well-equipped website templates. Whether you’re creating a personal website or a landing page, you’re bound to find an appropriate match within this diverse template collection. It includes everything from portfolio templates for creatives, to nonprofit website templates, online store templates and more. When picking a template, consider whether the website layout and overall page structure suits your content. Does your content require multiple pages or will you be creating a one-page website? On top of the structure, try to go for a template that already crafts a similar vibe to your brand identity. Either way, you’ll be able to fully customize your template of choice. From the footer to the header, you can change up everything to build a website that is truly unique and has your exact look and feel.
07. Craft a fitting color palette
The use of color is not only for making your site look pretty. Read up on color psychology to see how color has the power to affect and evoke specific emotions within your visitors. The website color scheme you go for will also play an important role in the overall performance of your site, impacting conversion rates, time spent on page, and more. To play it safe, you can opt for a clean white or black background. Then, limit yourself to two colors for the other elements, such as buttons and text. For some extra direction, here’s a guide on how to choose the perfect color palette for your website.
08. Pick the right fonts
Just like colors, typography can also play a key role in evoking certain feelings and bringing up connotations. When choosing the best fonts for your website, there are a number of things to consider. Firstly, like all other elements on your site, your font choice should match your brand identity. Browse different typefaces to find one that reflects your unique personality, whether you’re youthful and contemporary or have a more traditional approach. Whatever you go for, make sure that your font is readable. It should be legible both on desktop and on mobile devices. In addition, stay consistent throughout your website, using the same font pairings in the same contexts throughout.
09. Add the finishing design touches
Just as a gift isn’t complete without a ribbon, a website isn’t ready without a few finishing touches. These can come in the form of a hint of animations or parallax scrolling – all of which you can add to your Wix site without a single line of code. Uploading a video to your website is also an easy, yet efficient way to catch your visitors’ attention and increase the time spent on your pages. These small, but essential additions can help link elements and add to the overall sensation that your site conveys.
10. Prioritize your content
In order for your visitors to feel comfortable and at home while browsing, it’s important to keep your site as organized as possible. Think about hierarchy here: you’ll want your most eye-catching and important content to be placed above the fold (in other words, the area that’s visible on your website without visitors having to scroll). Furthermore, take note that most of your readers are in fact only skimming your content. To make their lives easier, and to make your content stand out, consider how you can optimize your design for an audience with a decreasing attention span. To do so, consider which written information can be made more digestible and visual with the use of media features (videos, images and animations, for example). Make certain headers and other important bits of information stand out more than others by opting for a larger font or a bright color that contrasts with the background.
11. Embrace social media
Take advantage of social media marketing by encouraging your site visitors to share your content across social networks. It’s easy, free and an effective way to spread your name across the World Wide Web. To ensure this, add a social bar to your site that’s highly visible and correctly linked to all of your pages. We suggest displaying the bar either in the menu, the footer, or as an anchor on the side. You can pin the element to the screen so that it stays fixed and on-show as visitors scroll.
12. Optimize for SEO
Now before you shy away from this seemingly complicated topic – hear us out. SEO (or search engine optimization) is the practice of optimizing your site so that your pages can rank higher on search engine result pages. This means that the more exposure you get on search result pages, the more likely that prospective clients will see your work and book your services or buy your products. There are a few SEO tips that can help boost your site and improve your ranking: make sure to choose and register a domain name, create titles and descriptions for all of your pages, and write alt text for your images. In addition, Wix SEO offers you a personalized SEO plan for your website, walking you through each and every step. This free solution will help you get your website found on Google, by guiding you through how to find the right keywords, track your success and more.
13. Make sure you’re mobile friendly
It’s no secret that more and more people are using their mobile devices for browsing the web these days. To ensure your user experience is as smooth and intuitive on mobile as it is on desktop, make sure to invest time in perfecting your mobile website. In fact, this crucial detail is one of the top design tips for achieving a professional site. When building a website from scratch on the Wix Editor, a mobile-friendly version of your site is automatically created on the Mobile Editor. Focusing on readability and navigation, you can incorporate impressive mobile features like animation and an intuitive mobile menu. If you want to have full control over breakpoints when creating your website, you can build your website using Editor X - an advanced creation platform from Wix, made exclusively for designers and agencies. You’ll be able to see and design your site at any viewport size, resulting in a cutting-edge, responsive design.
14. Ask for a second opinion
Everybody needs a little help from their friends. Once all the elements are in place, ask people you trust for a second opinion on your website. This way, they can proof-read the copy, go over all buttons and links to check that they work in a logical and flowing way, and also tell you if the brand’s message is clear and consistent. Finally, ensure you’ve adapted the website for mobile viewing and that it performs well on different devices – and you’re good to hit that “Publish” button.
By Taira Sabo
Wix Blog Manager
By Dana Meir
Design Expert & Writer