How to Make a Website

A lot of people get overwhelmed with all the information out there on starting a website, so much so that they pay web designers to make a website for them. If you've never created a webpage before, perhaps paying a designer could be an option, but it's easier than ever to make your own website. In this article, we'll cover some of the most popular and easiest ways to make a website.

HostGator's Site Builder

The Weebly Website Builder that HostGator provides is free with all HostGator accounts and very simple to use. The whole process can be done in just minutes, and there's nothing to download or upload. Once you've set up your site, you can publish your changes directly to your website.

Pros: Quick & easy. No technical knowledge required. Good to get started with.
Cons: Limited design options, not able to customize, and advanced features are sparse.

Website Templates

HostGator provides 4,450+ free website templates and designs. You can also find tons of other free templates online. Once you find a template that you like, you can download the template and edit it (fully customizable). After you edit the template using an HTML or text editor you can then upload the template through FTP to your HostGator account to publish your web page(s).

Pros: Tons of templates in many different categories with the ability to customize.
Cons: May require 'tweaking' to get the template to look the way you want.

WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) Site Builders

A WYSIWYG Editor is a web authoring program that can create a website for you, similar to creating a document in Microsoft Word. While the de facto standard is Adobe's Dreamweaver, you don't need to pay hundreds of dollars to get started. There are free and open source alternatives, such as Mozilla's KompoZer.

You can make a website with KompoZer through by inserting elements, such as images, tables, paragraphs, headers, et cetera without having to mess with any HTML code. Should you feel inclined, however, you can easily edit the code as well. If you don't want to start from scratch, you can get templates online (see above: Website Templates) and open them with KompoZer to tweak the look and layout.

Pros: Free and easy to get started, no HTML needed.
Cons: May take time to learn the advanced features of the software (either Dreamweaver or KompoZer).

CMS (Content Management System)

Using a CMS for your website is a great option if you intend to constantly add content, or need advanced features. The major CMS's are WordPress (also a blogging platform), Joomla, and Drupal. The most popular option on HostGator is definitely WordPress, and it can be installed with just a click through HostGator's QuickInstall feature (See video on: How easy it is to install WordPress). WordPress is very simple to use, and there are TONS of free WordPress themes and plugins out there to build almost any type of website.

Pros: Highly customizable, easy to install and get started. Easy to add new content and update pages. Keeps things organized.
Cons: Since a CMS is pre-built, it may require editing PHP/HTML/CSS code if the out-of-the-box options don't work for your website. Should be fine though in most cases.

From Scratch (HTML/CSS/PHP)

Creating a website from scratch used to be the only way to do it. Now we have tons of tools and scripts to help us. But if you're a do-it-yourself kind of person, this option might appeal to you. To get started on this path, W3Schools has some good tutorials and more information covering: HTML, CSS, and PHP.

  • HTML stands for hyper text markup language, and it's the code behind most websites. Your web browser reads this code and renders it into a document which becomes a viewable web page.
  • CSS or cascading style sheets, is a way to define the way the look and design of different elements on your website. It gives your site it's own unique style.
  • PHP or other server side scripting languages can add advanced functionality to your site like creating contact forms, and interacting with a database to store and retrieve information.

Pros: Complete control over the look and feel of your web pages.
Cons: Learning curve for beginners to get up-to-speed.

Website images / Banners / Logos

Many professionals use Adobe's Creative Suite (Illustrator and Photoshop). Photoshop is good for touching up photos, and creating banners and logos. Illustrator is a vector-based image creator that's really good for creating logos). There are free and very good alternatives to easily make images for your web site, such as GIMP (Photoshop alternative) and Inkscape (Illustrator alternative).

Summary / Conclusion

Most of HostGator's clients use WordPress for their websites. Once you install WordPress, you'll probably want to install a theme that you like, and add any plugins that you'll need and you're good to go. It doesn't require any advanced knowledge, it's easy to install, and as you learn you can tweak it even further. With any method you choose for making a website, it's probably a good idea to learn a little HTML and CSS by reading tutorials online, although with WordPress it's not required. If you go this route with WordPress, then it's recommended to download the following software:

  • FTP Client like FileZilla for uploading any images (free)
  • Image editors like GIMP and Inkscape (both are free)

Note: This tutorial focuses on what you need to make a website, but to get more information on hosting, domain names, and everything else you'll need, see our tutorial on Starting a Website for Beginners.