Website 101: How to Build a Site and Get It Online

For the technology-challenged person, the idea of creating your own website may seem overwhelming, perhaps even impossible. This is why a lot of people hire web designers. Unfortunately, not only do web designers cost a lot of money, but they often keep your website's files and maintain the site themselves, meaning that you have to wait for their availability and pay them more money every time you want to make another change to your website.

Building and putting a website online doesn't have to be difficult or complicated, though. If you are willing to do a little mental gymnastics and learn a few tricks, you can build a simple website on your own and publish it to your server yourself. Here are a few simple tips for do-it-yourselfers.

Get Your Domain Name and Hosting

While you may choose to wait to purchase hosting for your website until you are ready to publish it to the Internet, you should get your domain name as soon as possible. The reason for this is that anyone could take your idea for a domain name in the meantime. It doesn't cost very much to register a domain name for a year, usually about $10 or less depending on whether it ends in .com or something else, and it will keep someone else from taking your idea for a name while you are working on your website.

As for hosting, there are a lot of web hosts to choose from. While this article won't go into detail on the criteria for making that decision, you do need to be sure the service you choose allows you to upload files via FTP. Some web hosts also offer website-building software, but you will pay more for these, and as you will see in the next section, they are not really necessary.

Build Your Website

There are a number of ways to build your website. You could use the website builder or templates your web host offers, but you will probably need to pay more for that. You could also purchase a program that will help you to build your own website, such as Microsoft FrontPage. Or, with a little time and work on your part, you can do it for free.

If you search online for free website templates, you will actually find that there are many to choose from. (You can also buy templates at a minimal cost, but with all the free ones available, why bother?) A template sets up the website's design for you so that all you have to do is fill in the text on each page. To do this you will need to:

  • Copy the file for every page you need (e.g., Index/Home, About, Services, etc.) and name each file accordingly (one-word file names with no spaces work best).
  • Open each page in Notebook or another text editor so that you can see the code.
  • Locate the header information and change it to reflect your website's name and URL.
  • Find the location of the page's text and replace the placeholder text with your own.
  • Name all of the buttons in the sidebar or top nav bar, and replace each placeholder link with the link to the correct Web address (e.g., http:⁄⁄⁄about.html).
  • Search each page (control + F) for "meta title" and name the page — you can also provide a description and keywords in this section that will be picked up by search engines.

To do all of this, you will need to have a basic understanding of HTML, such as the code for text formatting (paragraphs, bold, italics, etc.) and the code for links and images. All of this is relatively easy, and you should be able to learn what you need by reading a few tutorials online. If you get stuck while working on your website, just do a quick Google search to find the code or explanation you need. You can check your page by saving your edits in your text editor, then opening the file in your web browser to see what the page will look like when someone views it on the Internet.

Some website templates have a separate file that acts as a style guide for every page on your website. In this file you'll find the code that controls the colors, images, and other details that are the same on every page, and you might find the sidebar or top nav bar menus in this file as well. If your knowledge of HTML is pretty good, or if you are an ambitious do-it-yourselfer, you might want to tinker with this file to customize your template a little.

Upload the Files

Once you have finished writing the text on your website and fixing all the links in the template, you are ready to upload. This is when FTP comes in handy. If your web host has a good user interface, you can sign into your account and upload the files from your dashboard. If you use Windows, you can also create a network connection (You can find this in My Network Places in XP or by clicking Map Network Drive in Windows 7 and Vista), which will allow you to drag and drop your files from your computer onto your website's server. Fancy programs to help you publish your website to your server are completely unnecessary!

Are You a Do-It-Yourselfer?

If you are reading this article, most likely you are the kind of person who takes an interest in doing things yourself, even if it means rolling up your sleeves and learning to do something new. Building your own website can seem like a big project, and you are likely to feel overwhelmed occasionally while working on it, but there is no reason you can't do it yourself! All you need is the time and dedication to learn what you need to know.

This is a guest post by Jason Kay. Jason has created dozens of websites in the last few years by using website builder software. He started to provide a single online resource for finding and comparing website builder services. For more resources:

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Guest's picture

Frontpage, really? This was painful to read. No discussion of figuring out what you want your website to be about or its purpose? No discussion of whether a blog or a content management system might be better than a plain static website (blogs and things like Drupal are free and pretty easy to learn--and might better suit the person's needs)? No mention of free classes on web technology you can take through most of the continuing ed programs or better programs like Dreamweaver (instead of the awful Frontpage which does a bunch of garbage html)? I won't even discuss your part about templates.

There is better info you can give people. They won't get much out of this article and what they do won't necessarily be a good start for them.

I have a bunch of websites (although I will only link to my anonymous blog here) and there are plenty of options for people who are just learning.

Guest's picture

An even easier alternative would be to use a hosted blogging service like Blogspot, or Wordpress.

Most hosting site offer 'One-click' installs of Wordpress which will get you up and blogging in very little time.

There are also lots of themes available for Wordpress, my favorite site to get templates is ThemeForest, they have a lot of templates at a very reasonable price.

Guest's picture

This is crazy if you have no background with HTML. It's also completely too much work in the year 2010. (Microsoft Frontpage was discontinued in 2003, by the way, which is about when this article would have been valid)

Use Wordpress. 'Nough said.

Guest's picture

I'm assuming this article is pretty old as it mentions purchasing MS Frontpage, which was discontinued back in 2006. Expression Web was the replacement, of which a version is available for free, from the MS website.

Guest's picture

I don't understand why people can't use free sites such as webs, yola, wordpress or blogger. They can always transfer a custom domain name, and then they'll have free hosting. Files can be uploaded, monetizing with PayPal and Google Checkout is a snap. Why buy the cow when the milk is free?

Guest's picture

I didn't really follow this article. Maybe a professional website builder would. I was looking for a way to build a website with a shopping cart and I came across a video tutorial course here: It was easy to follow even for a beginner like me. It was very helpful. I would recommend it for anyone wanting to build their own website at their own pace.

Guest's picture

Using a website builder is definitely the way to go these days. Builders allow anyone to create a good looking site by starting with a template and dragging and dropping elements into place. No programming is required. There's lots of great website builders listed at

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