How to Build A Website

Getting Started

You’ve decided to build your first website: Congratulations! A website is your identity and brand on the Internet, so it’s important to make it just the way you want it.

If you’re worried about where to begin or intimidated by the complexities of web building, don’t be. We’ll walk you through the process of building your website in the clear and easy steps outlined below. You’ll learn the basic elements of a unique and impactful site for business or personal use.

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Basics First

Building a Website

All websites begin with three basic elements: a domain name, hosting, and a platform.

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Domain name

Your address on the web. It's the part that comes between "http://www." and ".com".

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Where all the data and information about your site is kept. If the domain is your street address, hosting is your house.

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The tools with which you make your website and the space in which it's created.

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Domain Name

Domain Basics

Every website needs a domain name. Your domain is like the street address for your house. It will allow people to find your website and link to you.

But what should your domain name be? If you have a business, that should be an easy question to answer, since your website should match your business name. If you're creating a personal site or blog, though, you can get a little more creative with your name.

How to Choose a Domain Name

A domain name will look something like http://www.yoursite.com. It's common to use your organization or business name here. For example, if you own a bookstore, you might choose thebookstorename.com. The same format would work for pretty much any other business name.

If you don't already have a business name, it's good idea to choose one based on what might be available as a domain. This is a great opportunity to match up your business and online identities from the start.

Curious to see if your ideal domain is available? Go ahead and type it in here:

TIP: There's a huge selection of great domain extensions besides .com. Why not get creative with something like .club, .life, or even .pizza?

For more help on choosing a domain name, check out our articles on Why Your Domain Name is Your Business and the Right and Wrong Ways to Register your Domain.

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Hosting Explained

Now that your site has a name, you'll need a place to keep all the stuff that's going to go on it–some "real estate" upon which you can build that beautiful virtual house with all of your photos and stories and products. We call that real estate web hosting.

All web hosting happens on a server, which, in the simplest terms, is a remote hard drive connected to your computer by (you guessed it) the Internet. This server stores all of the documents, images, data, and files associated with your website.

Since the server holds all your important stuff, it's important to choose a reliable provider that ensures your content will stay live and protected. When you bought your domain name, the registrar (the company that sells domains) may have offered to include a web builder plan which included hosting. Alternately, you can install software, such as WordPress, to help you create your site.

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Site Builders and WordPress

If you're building your first website, you may not have the time or expertise to create it completely from scratch. That's okay—we all need a little guidance and inspiration to help us along.

That's where site building platforms come in. They provide the practical tools and resources used to build and design your site, from layout templates to text editors to design elements. This is a great option if you have limited or no experience with web building and design, or if you just want a quick, no-nonsense setup process.

However, if you want more control over the customization, functionality, and personalization of your site, and you've got a little more technical know-how (or even just the time and desire to learn!), we recommend installing WordPress. An entire ecosystem, complete with plugins and add-ons, WordPress offers an all-in-one site creation option. Learn more about why WordPress is a great option and how to get started.

Next: Connect

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How Do I Connect My Hosting With My Domain?

You’ve got your domain for a unique site name, and your hosting plan where all your site data lives. But how do you connect the two, especially if you’re dealing with two different providers?

Meet DNS (short for domain name system), the series of networks that keeps the people and computers that make up the Internet talking to each other. By attaching the right nameservers to your site, the connections between your domain and hosting provider are kept clear - allowing the data to run smoothly.

Click the hookup link below to see how to connect your nameservers and DNS, whether you’re a Namecheap customer or you use another company.

Get the Hookup

Further Reading

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How Do I Keep My Site Secure?

Like anything else you own or care about, your website data needs to be protected. Safer sites mean more confident customers and a more trustworthy brand for your organization or business. And since everything on the web is connected, your online security contributes to a safer Internet, like a link in a chain.

Here are three things you can do right now for a safer website:

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Protect your site with HTTPS, encrypt your data, and verify where it comes from and where it goes.

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Assign the right nameservers to your site to keep the connections between your domain and hosting provider clear, and your data running smoothly.

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Keep your connection encrypted and anonymous when on-the-go i.e. browsing non-secure and open networks like public WiFi.

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Verify & Encrypt

The useful security tool with a boring name, Secure Sockets Layer (or SSL) certificates are a security add-on for your domain. If you’ve ever visited a web address that starts with “HTTPS”, has a padlock icon, or turns green when it loads, it means that site is secured with SSL.

So what does an SSL do for you?

SSL certificates serve two main functions for your site’s security: they keep your data encrypted as it travels to and from your site, and they verify that the sites your data comes from and goes to actually are who they say they are. Pretty important when your site is talking to banks or government agencies, or handling e-commerce.

As a bonus for your business, SSLs can also help improve your search engine ranking. Without HTTPS, in fact, your site will be flagged as "not secure" on Google’s Chrome browser.

SSL certificates come in several levels of security, so it’s important to choose the one that best suits your site.

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The Phone Book of the Internet

Say you wanted to visit our website, Namecheap.com. It’s as easy as typing “namecheap.com” into your search bar and hitting Enter, right? This is thanks to the Internet’s domain name system (DNS, for short). DNS allows you to type familiar words and names into your browser or address bar when searching for websites and sending emails, instead of a long string of numbers.

Here’s how it works: When you search for a domain name in a browser, it sends a query over the Internet to match the domain name (words) with its corresponding IP address (numbers). Once located, it uses the IP to retrieve the website’s content and return it to you. Pretty cool, huh?

This essential process works behind-the-scenes in a matter of milliseconds, but it doesn’t mean there’s no risk involved. In fact, hackers can interrupt and hijack the process as quickly as it happens, spoofing your site data and committing fraud without you even knowing it until it’s too late.

Adding DNS protection ensures your site data is properly sent and received by the right parties. It also makes it more likely that searchers end up on your site, which can help your business.

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Safe, Anonymous, Global Browsing

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, allows you to connect to the Internet using a hidden and encrypted network. VPNs are commonly used by employees who want to safely access their work files from remote locations, but they can also mask your connection for browsing privacy or let you bypass regional network restrictions.

Using a VPN when you connect keeps your network details anonymous and hidden from third-party interference. This is a crucial thing to consider if you’re often away from your trusted home or office networks. VPN keeps your connection secure when you’re on open, public WiFi networks.

Safety shouldn’t slow you down, either. When choosing a VPN service, be sure it incorporates speed as well as security and protection online.

Learn more about online security for your site. →

Next: Design

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How Do I Make a Good-looking Site?

Eye-catching websites aren’t just about winning beauty contests. Your site navigation should be as easy on the brain as your design is easy on the eyes.

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Site Architecture

Start with a strong “skeleton” on which to build the “body” of your site. Putting in a little extra effort at the beginning will pay off in the long run.

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Visual Appearance

Form is function, and a visually appealing site is a site that just works–for you and your customers.

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Using Multimedia

Learn the right and wrong ways to use multimedia to enhance your site’s appeal and searchability.

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Site Architecture

Start with a Solid Foundation

You don’t need to be Frank Lloyd Wright to design a great website, but building one atop a solid information architecture is a must for any business. The two main questions all web builders need to address are, “who is my audience?” and “what do I want them to do when they first arrive on my site?” Structuring your site and all the products and services on it to appeal to these two issues will make the rest of the pieces of your architectural puzzle fall into place.

When you design your site for customer usability from the very beginning, you’re paving the way for happy, confident, and loyal customers down the road.

Step by Step Website Design

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Visual Appearance

There's Power in the Pretty

Good design, is useful design. When you put the effort into giving your site the most visual impact, you’re not just tidying up the Internet (although thanks for that too), you’re cultivating attention and trust in your brand. The result is that your customers feel better about staying on your site.

More than just aesthetic intuition, good design can be broken down into key elements that can be understood and repeated by just about anyone, regardless of artistic talent. Things like the “human connection” (why we as humans like photos of ourselves vs. pictures of objects), the mechanics of a good layout, and the science behind color palettes are all key elements in making your site stand out visually.

And let’s not forget that, in addition to appealing web design elements, some sites contain intellectual property that deserves to be protected. Don’t let someone else take credit for your hard work.

The truth is, you can create a visually engaging website for more engagement and conversions. No Fine Arts degree necessary.

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Using Multimedia

Minimize the Multimedia

We’re all anxious to make our sites stand out with eye-catching videos, gifs, and dynamic graphic effects. But it’s wise to first have a plan before you start uploading big files and embedding YouTube videos.

You see, not only can too many images and videos slow down your page load times considerably, but failing to properly caption, tag, and embed your multimedia can actually hurt your SEO ranking. By not understanding the unique characteristics of multimedia files on your site, you could be driving business away. Take a look at these tips for hosting multimedia the right way.

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Nice job! You’ve got your site up and running and securely protected, with content and design elements fully optimized. No matter what you do online, your visitors and customers can rely on your site as a safe, reliable, and eye-catching place to land. Good luck!