OUR BLOG

27 Oct 2022
Creative Juice Vol. 9 - Beginner’s Guide To DIY Website Building

Beginner’s Guide To DIY Website Building

In 2022, building a new website has a lot in common with renovating your kitchen. You can do it yourself with kits, time and a ton of YouTube videos, or you can pay professionals to do it for you.

Let’s assume for now that you want to do it yourself and start at the beginning. 

This beginner’s guide, from Coal Creative’s Web Developer & Technology Specialist Travis Antoniello and Lead Web Developer & Lead Designer Matt Simoncavage, will simply help you understand what’s involved.

It’s by no means a textbook, but it is a great starting point. On that note, we won’t try to replace all the other great resources out there — and there are many. Mostly, we want to break down the differences between content management systems, offer our best advice on how to start the process and finally point you toward some of our favorite resources.

 

Set A Budget And Goals

Let’s get started. 

First, you must decide what kind of website you want and what it needs to do. You’ll have an easier time maintaining the site if you don’t need to sell things or maintain a member database (more on that later). Put your objectives down on paper and refer back to them as needed.

Some costs are unavoidable. You need to pay for hosting and domain registration, but other than that, building a website can be surprisingly inexpensive.

 

What can you reasonably expect to pay for your website? 

Domain registration: $10 to $20 annually to register a web domain. 

Hosting: For simple websites, the physical server where you store the information, can cost up to about $15 monthly. It gets more expensive for larger websites or dedicated servers.

Plugins and ecommerce This is where it gets wild. Depending on what your goals are, you could spend up to thousands of dollars per month for an ecommerce website.

 

Picking Your Content Management System

In the context of building a website, a content management system holds everything together. 

As a general rule, content management systems, or CMS platforms, that give you virtually unlimited customization options like WordPress and Joomla require more technical ability and time. On the other hand, CMS platforms that require less technical ability and time like WIX tend to have fewer customization options and also cost money. 

WIX has one advantage of offering everything in one bundle, including domain registration and hosting, which businesses large and small find convenient. 

At Coal Creative, we primarily build websites using WordPress and straight HTML, which means there is no CMS. HTML websites are very light and fast, but require some of the highest level of technical ability.

 

Here’s a quick comparison of the most popular CMS platforms: 

WordPress

Customizable and mostly user friendly, requires some technical ability

Price: free* plus hosting and domain registration

Joomla

Customizable, requires some technical ability

Price: free* plus hosting and domain registration

Drupal

Customizable, requires technical ability

Price: free* plus hosting and domain registration

Shopify

User friendly, but limited to ecommerce

Price: $9-$2,000**

WIX

User friendly and highly templated; customization will cost more.

Price: $16 – $59**

 

*add-ons and plugins may cost money, but the base platform is free

**as of October 2022

 

Pick Your Domain And Hosting

Time for your first big decisions. 

Domain registration Start by registering your domain. Travis explains it like your domain is the mailing address to your house, but not the actual house. 

You want something memorable that reflects your business, preferably your company name. For example, Coal Creative collaborator MMI Preparatory School has a domain that matches its nickname, MMIPrep.org. MMI has the luxury of a unique business name, which is not the case for everyone. 

If your company has a generic name, like Jack’s Construction, watch out. 

We checked and, while no company called Jack’s Construction currently uses the domain www.jacksconstruction.com, a company called Huge Domains scooped it up and will sell it to you for $2,095. Ouch! 

You’ll need to decide whether a highly memorable domain name is worth the investment. If not, go with an alternative spelling. Using our fake construction company example, www.jacks-construction.com is available for a penny. 

All you’re doing is adding that hyphen. Sold!  

Hosting Your hosting server is the physical location of your website. Per Travis’ analogy, if your domain is your address, the host is the building.

Somewhere on the planet, some company has a server farm, like in a spy movie, that keeps your website accessible to the public all the time.

For most websites, shared hosting works as the most cost-effective way to store your website. 

Bluehost has one of the top-rated hosting platforms for WordPress sites. After introductory rates expire, expect to pay about $10 per month. 

 

Super-Simple Web Term Glossary 

You might encounter these terms in your DIY web-building adventure. The internet lacks super-simple explanations, so we took it upon ourselves to fill the void. 

 

cPanel

Definition:

The company cPanel LLC designed its namesake platform, cPanel. Most hosting platforms will give you cPanel credentials when you sign up.

The cPanel is literally the control panel where you manage your website. Think of this as the back end to your back end where you can set up email addresses, connect domain names (because you can have more than one for a single website), manage security and add template files. 

Most importantly, this is where you install your CMS.

Do I need to know how to use it to build my own website?

WIX and Shopify probably don’t require you to know how to navigate a cPanel. You’ll need a basic understanding if you want to use WordPress, Drupal or Joomla.

 

CMS

Definition: 

It means Content Management System. This is the primary place where you publish new product listings or blog articles, optimize for search engines and maintain mailing lists. When you hear someone say WordPress or Shopify, they’re talking about a CMS.

Do I need to know how to use it to build my own website?

Yes, unless you build a straight HTML website.

 

CSS

Definition: 

It means cascading style sheets. CSS are computer codes that control the look and feel of your website. They tell the browser what the fonts and colors should look like, how much margin should go around images and what buttons do when you click them. By setting universal rules for the look and feel, CSS makes your website less text heavy so browsers have to read fewer lines of code to load your website.

Do I need to know how to use it to build my own website?

No. Most templates have built-in CSS. If you’re willing to accept the default style, you don’t need to mess around with CSS.

 

HTML

Definition: 

Every website uses HTML, or HyperText Markup Language. It’s the building blocks of the internet. Browsers read HTML to and put the information it contains on the screen in a way that the coder (you) design it to. 

Do I need to know how to use it to build my own website?

Yes. You could squeak by without it, but you’re not likely to get far without picking it up just a little.

 

JavaScript

Description: 

Coding language that lets you create dynamic and interactive web pages. If you see moving images, changing colors or interactive buttons, that’s likely JavaScript telling your screen to do that.

Do I need to know how to use it to build my own website?

No. Most ready-made templates have the JavaScript already intact.

 

SQL

Definition: 

Usually pronounced “sequel,” it’s a coding language used to manipulate databases. 

Do I need to know how to use it to build my own website?

No. Plugins that manage databases, for example retail orders or membership accounts, take care of that for you.

 

PHP

Definition: 

It means Hypertext Preprocessor. The “PHP” comes from its previous name, Personal Home Page Tools. From an end user’s perspective, PHP and JavaScript look similar. Developers use both to create dynamic and interactive websites. The difference is in where they are coded into your website.

Do I need to know how to use it to build my own website?

No. Like JavaScript, most ready-made templates have PHP components already coded.

 

Tools To Help You Learn On Your Own

At Coal Creative, we use a couple resources that are readily available. Here are the two big ones.

LinkedIn Learning is the former Lynda.com, which had been the ultimate poor-man’s university. It’s got thousands of hours of content and covers virtually every topic when it comes to web design.

W3Schools focuses on the building blocks of web development and coding. It has short lessons, straightforward exercises and virtual sandboxes for you to try the lessons on your own. Check it out! 

 

Does DIY Web Development Sound Like Too Much To Handle?

We have a solution. It’s GSETDI (get someone else to do it) web development. The Coal Creative crew develops visually stunning and award-winning websites all the time. 

We have the technical knowhow to define your objectives then build beautiful websites that: 

  1. Do what you want them to.
  2. Are easily maintained and managed.

Check out our portfolio and contact our team for information.

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