How to build a simple website
without going crazy
So you need a simple website for your organization/portfolio/whatever. You don't want to learn to code and the idea of messing around with "html" or "css" almost gives you a panic attack. No worries, there are lots of ways to build your simple website without touching any code. In fact, most of the work that goes into a website isn't the nerdy technical stuff, it's work everyone can do. Just to be clear, the following isn't step-by-step instructions à la microwave dinner, rather, it's an overview to help you understand the process and keep you from going crazy.
The four main steps
1. Thinking and planning
2. Creating content
3. Picking a platform
4. Populating and styling
Thinking and Planning
You're going to spend time and money on your website so have clear goals in mind. Why is this site worth spending money on? Why do you want people to come your site? What's the one thing you want people to do?
Good examples of goals for your website
- Impress prospective clients and drive them to contact me in the interest of making a sale.
- Showcase my talents for my peers and other people in the industry in the interest of getting a job.
- Display my knowledge and insights in the interest of increasing my standing in my community.
Crappy reasons to build a site
- To have pictures.
- So people can read my bio.
- ....I just need one.
Pick the right team
Like I said, you don't need to know how to 'code' in order to make a website. However, there are a few steps in the process that might drive you crazy if you aren't familiar with computers and the internet in general. If the new Facebook layout leaves you totally lost, you'll likely be frustrated during the process of making a website; I recommend working with someone who's no stranger to computers. Look for someone with their face hidden behind their smartphone.
Think of this stuff early, and plan for it.
- What do you know about the people coming to your site?
- Are they familiar with you?
- Are they web savvy?
- How do people get to your site?
- Are you relying on word of mouth/organic sharing?
- How does this relate to your social media channels?
- What's your web address?
- Will you measure your goals with google analytics?
- Does your site need to work in multiple languages?
Dun dun dun! This is the big one. Your content is the hero of your site. If your content sucks, so does your site. I recommend setting aside 50% of your budget for making content. Think about it this way:
If your website content is the main course of a fancy dinner,
your site is just the table setting.
Phase it out
Instead of trying to build the perfect website from nothing, start small and build the simplest website you can. Separate your content and features into 'nice-to-have' and 'essential'. Ask yourself, 'what's the simplest version of my site I could launch?' Build that and launch it, then put everything else into a list of items for 'phase two' of your site.
Make a wireframe
Once you've figured out what content matters most, present it in a logical order. I find it best to do an exercise I call 'wire-framing' where you draw each page on a piece of paper. You don't have to be an artist, you just need to figure out which content goes on which page and how people get from page to page.
Here's an example of a wireframe
*Coffee stain optional, but recommended
Picking a Platform
There are a bunch of platforms for building your website on these days. Here are the major platforms to consider for building your simple website. Each has it's pros and cons so picking the right platform isn't straight-forward and deserves it's own conversation – check out my guide to picking the platform for your simple website.
Populating and Styling
Populating a site isn't nearly as sexy as it sounds. It means building your pages and adding content to your site. Get ready for a lot of copying and pasting. After your content is in your site, you might have to re-arrange it once you see it all together.
Adding your logo, changing the colours and text styles will allow you create the right look and feel. This is where your website will finally start to feel 'real' although you've already done most of the work by this point.
Okay... I lied, there's one last step. Point your web address to your site, double-check everything, and have a celebratory glass of champagne, wine or beer. If my guide has failed and building your website made you crazy, treat yourself to an addition 3–5 glasses of booze (your choice).
Give it some love
Don't forget about your site and let it end up like my dead, neglected house plants. Figure out how well it's performing its goals. Remember that list of stuff you wanted to do in phase two? Get to it :)