If you’re here, you already know how important it is for a small business to be online. According to research from Zippia, 81% of consumers research a business online before buying a product. You have a variety of options to help build a website: You can use a drag-and-drop website builder, hire a contractor to design and code one for you, or learn to code yourself.
No matter which path you choose, it’s helpful to know the basics of website construction. Knowing how your business’s website code works is a little like knowing where the circuit breakers and HVAC equipment are in a brick-and-mortar shop. You’ll probably need this information someday, but even if you don’t, you’ll rest easier knowing that you have it.
Ways to build a website
Building a website can be surprisingly straightforward. The first thing to do is decide how hands-on you want to be in the process. Any of the following options can be outsourced to professional developers, of course, but the difference lies in how much control and customization you want on each web page—both during and after the construction of your site.
Website builders like Squarespace, Wix, and Shopify are no-code solutions that allow users with limited technical skills to easily drag and drop design elements as they see fit. They offer professional design templates and huge libraries of streamlined plug-ins that give your website advanced functionality. Squarespace is known for its stylish array of web design templates, while Shopify caters directly to the needs of business owners by providing a secure and reliable shopping experience for customers.
Content management system
Content management systems (CMS) like WordPress predate most website builders and were designed to organize content databases. Using a CMS typically involves a little bit of simple coding, and most CMS platforms are compatible with an array of plug-ins that expand functionality. As of 2023, more than 43% of the internet’s websites are built on WordPress; however, WordPress is less intuitive than more recently developed website builders and requires technical literacy such as web hosting knowledge and some experience writing code.
- HTML. HTML is a markup language, it uses tags and codes to describe how the text or data should be formatted. Web developers use HTML to create the basic structure and content of web pages.
- CSS. CSS is a stylesheet language, it allows web developers to choose the colors, fonts, spacing, and layout for the HTML elements.
How to code a website with a website builder
- Pick a platform and plan
- Select a domain name
- Choose a template
- Figure out your sitemap
- Customize your website
- Set up ecommerce options
- Preview and test
- Go live
If you’re using a web builder, you don’t need to know a tag from a stylesheet. Most allow you to set up your website in a matter of hours—if not minutes.
1. Pick a platform and plan
Investigate the website builder platforms, including their various pricing options. Wix, Squarespace, and GoDaddy all allow for simple setup, and the Shopify website builder is perfect for setting up a fully customizable ecommerce store.
2. Select a domain name
Pick a URL (or website address) as close as possible to the name of your business. If you have a pre-existing domain registered, you can give your web builder access to it.
3. Choose a template
Part of the fun of using a website builder is browsing the many professionally designed pre-built templates with aesthetics ranging from minimal to floral to futuristic.
4. Figure out your sitemap
This is one place where looking at your competition isn’t a bad idea. Figuring out what sort of pages other brands have on their websites (and how they organize their information) can help you create an intuitive sitemap. Common pages include About, Contact, Blog, and a product catalog.
5. Customize your website
You’ll be able to drag and drop different elements, including splashy custom imagery, explainer text, carousels, and more. You can also tweak design elements to better incorporate your branding and messaging.
6. Set up ecommerce options
If applicable, add products to your store by providing product names, descriptions, prices, and images.
7. Preview and test
Click the preview button and spend some time navigating the site. Ask a few other people for feedback before launching. If your offerings are more complex, you could do a few rounds of customization and previews, making sure that your business’s value proposition is clear.
8. Go live
Let the world know you’re online through email, social channels, and word of mouth.
How to code a website from scratch
- Study up
- Plan and design the website
- Write the basic HTML
- Write your CSS rules to style your HTML elements
- Set up a server
- Purchase a domain name and choose a web hosting provider
Web development is typically split between front-end web development, which consists of the visual elements users interact with, and back-end web development, which includes server management and security features. Becoming a full-stack web developer (someone proficient in both front-end and back-end web development) can take years, but here’s an overview of the process to build a relatively straightforward business website for yourself:
1. Study up
2. Plan and design the website
It’s time to decide on the actual structure and layout of your website, including what pages you want to include and how they should be structured.
3. Write the basic HTML
HTML code is like a blueprint for a house: It provides the layout of the web pages, including the structure of different sections, the sequencing of pages, and the raw copy on each web page. You can create this in a simple HTML document and then view it as a minimal page using your preferred browser. Use technical SEO techniques to boost your site’s chances of ranking on search engines.
4. Write the CSS rules to style your HTML elements
CSS provides all the visual flair for your site: colors, font size, spacing, and layout. You’ll code this as a separate file and reference it in the HTML document so the browser knows how to render its information.
6. Set up a server
Now it’s time to put on your back-end web development hat. Building server-side functionality requires another programming language, like node.js or Python.
7. Purchase a domain name and choose a web hosting provider
Test the live version of your website to ensure every web page works as expected. Make your website public for visitors to access.
Website code FAQ
How long does it take to code a website?
The time to code a website varies based on factors like the website’s complexity, your familiarity with coding, and the features you want. Simple sites might take a few days, while more complex ones can take weeks or months.
Is it possible to code a website for free?
Where can I find resources to learn and improve my skills in website code development?
You can find resources on platforms like freeCodeCamp, Codecademy, and MDN Web Docs, as well as through tutorials and courses on websites like Udemy, Coursera, and YouTube.