How to Make a Website: A Beginner’s Guide to Web Design
Every business needs a website, but not every business owner knows how to make a website. Here’s a beginner-friendly guide on website design you’ll want to bookmark!
Table of Contents
Want to learn how to make a website? We’ll teach you the basics of web design, and discuss different ways to create your site: from free website builders to professional web design services!
You might wonder if you truly need a professionally designed website. Here are some facts that might help you decide:
- 38% of visitors will stop engaging with a website if the design is unattractive, and 48% say the design of the website is the most important factor in determining a business’ credibility (Blue Corona)
- 98% of people who’ve had a bad website experience will shop with a competitor (Web FX)
- 61% of consumers plan to spend more time online post the covid-19 pandemic than before it (Salesforce)
So, you need a well-designed, optimized, easy to navigate and intuitive website that is packed with your branding colors, logos, elements and typography. That seems like a lot of requirements! But, we can walk you through it.
Let’s take it step by step, and show you all you need to know about web design.
What is web design?
Web design is a graphic design subcategory that covers the look and feel of a website. It includes two distinct disciplines: user interfaceand user experience design.
UI means creating the look of the website - we’ll talk more about the specific design elements in the next section. UX is a vast discipline that goes beyond websites, and means creating usable products and experiences, whether it's physical or digital products, or the layout of a store.
It is very important to understand that it is very different from web development, which covers the coding of the website and making it responsive and functional.
So, web design relates to the way a website or app looks. But getting it to actually work is the responsibility of web development teams.
Elements of website design
So how to make a business website? Start from the basics. Here are some of web design elements every website needs.
A CTA, or call to action, is a banner or headline that helps the viewer make a decision or take an action, as the name itself suggests.
Calls to action are everywhere on websites: whether it’s “Buy now”, “Preorder”, “Learn more” or “Schedule a call”. Make sure you use the right CTA words to turn visitors into prospects
A good web designer should help the target audience easily notice the CTA, and make it stand out from the rest of the visual elements. This can be achieved with colors, placement, visual hierarchy, typography, etc.
Backgrounds seem like a very simple and basic element, but they need to seamlessly fit in the overall design, and unnoticeably change during transitions and change of screens or web pages.
Often backgrounds include patterns or symbols that need to be used moderately, so as not to overwhelm the overall web design.
Infographics are a digital design product that shows a large amount of data in a visual way.
Although they’re also often used in blog posts, infographics can also be an integral part of your website and helps audiences understand complex processes, or the details about your product or service.
Icons are some of the most basic, but incredibly helpful small pieces of web design. Think of them as road signs on a street. They help visitors navigate the website easily, and provide quick and accessible information.
It is very important to use a singular style of icons throughout the whole website, otherwise, it will look sloppy.
Transitions are motion graphics designs that help the viewer unnoticeably go from one screen to another. They are, simply said, the animations between two screens, which help establish an easy connection between the user and the website and an intuitive movement between pages.
Transitions are an integral part of UI and UX design, as they significantly improve the user experience.
When a user is waiting for a web page to load because of poor internet or heavy elements that are slow to load, it is a good UI/UX design practice to add an animated or visually rich loading screen.
The small circles being filled in, animated three dots or turning cogs give information to the visitors that there is a process in progress and prevent visitors from bouncing away from the site.
Forms are small boxes where a visitor can opt in to leave an email address, and in turn, get an ebook, subscribe to a newsletter, answer a survey, etc.
They are interactive, and need to be designed in such a way that they catch the attention of the visitor, but aren’t too obnoxious or flashy. A best practice is to use branding colors, so they do not stand out too much.
White space is the negative space around the design elements. You may not think much of it, or even consider it an element of website design. However, it’s one of the most vital considerations when building a website.
Negative space is the crucial ingredient to a good user experience. It also helps visitors take in information and helps vital elements, such as CTA buttons to be visible and prompt action.
How to make a website in 7 steps
Now that you know the most important parts of a website, let’s teach you how to make your own website in just 7 steps.
1. Define your purpose and goals
Do you want to build a simple business website with just a home page and contact page? Or do you need a vast online store with different functionalities?
Before you even start thinking about website design, make sure you understand what type of website you need and who will use it. Here are some common types of websites you might want to consider:
- Landing page: Whereas a homepage informs people about a business or service, the landing page prompts visitors to take a certain action. If you don’t want to design a whole website, you might opt for a landing page (e.g. for a new product or sale campaign)
- Ecommerce websites: Ecommerce websites need more functionalities, such as payment integration, interactive photos for product shots, etc. Whereas most e-commerce websites can be designed directly on platforms like Shopify, Wix, Bigcommerce, Squarespace and others, if you want a website with e-commerce functionalities from scratch, you’ll need a great web designer that has all of the users' needs in mind when creating it.
- Blogs: A blog is a website that is usually regularly updated and needs to be easy to use for writers so that they can publish their own blogs. It doesn’t usually need too many flashy widgets and features, but a clean design for optimal legibility.
- Business websites: A business website consists of all the important information about a company, as well as education about buying, prices, locations, company mission and vision, etc. The most common pages a business website has are the homepage, about us page, products page and contact information page. It is extremely important for these websites to match the branding guidelines and help businesses build a strong online presence
- Portfolio website: Portfolio websites are usually constructed as a way for creative professionals to showcase their projects. They are most commonly a one-pager website with a simple and clean design, but sometimes can be closer to a business website if they include multiple categories that need to be showcased.
2. Choose a domain name & choose a hosting provider
It’s a good idea to select an available domain name before you even launch your brand. But, you can always find a solution by opting for a different extension. For example, go for .co if there is already a .com domain).
You can use different tools or indeed to check if the domain is available. Then you can use a domain registrar to purchase the domain (e.g., GoDaddy, Namecheap). Once you’ve registered your domain you’ll need to find a reliable web hosting provider (e.g., Bluehost, SiteGround, GoDaddy, etc).
Hosting generally costs between $25 and $50 per month, depending on your provider and needs.
3. Decide on a platform
If you’re making your own website, you’ll probably want to use a website building platform, like Wix, Squarespace, Webflow, etc. This makes the process a lot simpler for beginners, and you can also use their website templates.
It goes without saying that templates have their downsides (primarily the lack of originality). However, they are quite helpful for creating the basic layout of a website.
4. Website design
If you’ve opted to use a template (which is strongly recommended), you should still customize it and make it your own. Change the colors, fonts, images and layouts to suit your brand and the purpose of your site. You should first create a website mockup to get an idea of how the elements work together.
Another great thing about templates is that most of them are already optimized for mobile devices. Of course, you still need to be careful with things like fonts and images and make sure they look as they’re intended to on smaller screen sizes.
5. Website building (development)
Once the design is ready you can use your chosen platform to launch your website. Many website building platforms also have integrated marketing tools that you can use to help your website perform better (e.g. SEO tools, social media integrations, etc.)
Alternatively, you’ll need to hire a website developer who can write code to get your site to work.
6. Test and optimize
Before you launch your website out into the world (and even after that), you should make sure there are no bugs. There are many tools you can use to check for issues, such as…
There are many free tools that allow you to check your site’s loading time. Aim for no more than 3 seconds, as 57% of people will leave your site if it takes longer than that.
You can also use Google’s Page Speed Insights to get comprehensive data about your site’s performance.
7. Maintain and update
Modern websites are a constant work in progress. In order for a website to rank high in search engines and perform well, you’ll need to regularly update content and check for issues.
Despite the fact that it’s absolutely possible, there are few convincing reasons why you shouldn’t design your own website:
- Bad web design hurts your brand. Whether it’s the wrong choice of colors, or a poor mobile UX, a bad website can make your brand seem unprofessional and not trustworthy.
- DIY design is a waste of time and money. Before you google “how to make a free website”, consider how much time and resources you’re prepared to spend on this. Moreover, a poorly designed website will need to be redesigned pretty quickly, and may end up costing more in the long run.
- It’s difficult to adapt. A custom website, created with your brand’s needs in mind is much easier to adapt than a template.
So, if you want to learn how to make a professional website, the only thing you need to know are the different types of website design services that can make a good website for you. Here are the most popular ones.
The IT industry’s services are the most outsourced ones and for a good reason. If you are not a startup, chances are you will not have the need to tweak and update your website all the time or change the services as you grow.
That means that, for a small business, hiring an in-house web designer is a waste of resources, as you would only need them for one big project, and then they wouldn’t have much work on their hands.
You can hire freelancers on platforms like Upwork and Fiverr to take on the full website building process, or just the design portion of it, and discuss the details, time management and scope of work with them.
There is a slight risk of working with freelancers in the time of delivery, lack of quality assurance and the possibility of a lot of back-and-forth without effective communication.
Essentially, if you can handle managing an outsourced freelance worker, you can have a good web design project in your hands. However, if you don’t quite understand what you need, it’s better to go for an option that includes management of output and scope of work too.
Web design agencies
A web design agency will take care of your design needs, and can scale up and down based on the complexity of your design.
Web design agencies usually include way more services than just the design, such as SEO copywriting, responsive design, e-commerce features, custom themes and style, domain names, content management systems, etc.
The cost of hiring a web design agency can be anywhere between 3.000 to 100,000 dollars on average for the US market. For the smallest price, you can expect to get just the look and layout of the website.
It comes at a heftier price, but a higher level of professionalism and larger scope of services are to be expected.
Unlimited graphic design services
An unlimited graphic design platform instead of a web design agency or company? It might sound unusual, but it is an extremely effective and affordable option if you don’t necessarily want the same company to deal with the development and hosting of your website.
For example, ManyPixels most affordable monthly plan ($549 per month) covers UI design, as well as all the other graphic design needs.
That means that for a flat rate of $549 a month you can get both a website design and other graphic design projects like custom illustrations, social media posts, digital ads, print design, landing pages, etc.
Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.