Summary (TL;DR): In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about building a successful website in 2023. We’ll highlight how to choose the best platform for your purposes, which pages to include, and how to optimize your site for the highest traffic possible.
There are lots of reasons someone might want to create a website. Some do so to start selling products online, while others just want to share their personal stories with the world. But, if you don’t have any knowledge of coding or web development, creating your own website can seem daunting.
There are many website-building platforms out there that make creating your own website easier than ever. But sometimes, having so many options makes the process seem even more overwhelming. With all the possibilities, you may not even know where to begin.
This article will give you the full picture of how to build and run a successful website in 2023. Keep reading to learn exactly what steps you need to take to get started!
Table of Contents
Step 1: Define Your Website’s Purpose
Types of Websites
Step 2: Choose a Platform for Your Website
Step 3: Choose a Domain Name & a Hosting Plan (if Needed)
Step 4: Basic Website Requirements
Header & Footer
Step 5: Improve Your Website
Optimize for Mobile
Step 1: Define Your Website’s Purpose
Before signing up for a web-building service and creating your site, you must decide exactly what type of website you’ll be building. Different platforms work best for different types of websites, so defining your site’s purpose before you choose a platform to work with can make or break your experience.
Types of Websites
No two websites are exactly the same, but there are a few categories that most fall into. The most common types of websites include:
- E-commerce sites
- Landing pages
- Personal websites
- Business websites
Below, we’ll discuss the definitions of these six types of websites and some suggestions on the best web builders.
Blogs are regularly-updated websites that typically include a mix of articles, photos, or videos meant to inform, entertain, or educate the audience on a particular subject. Depending on the reason you’re creating the blog, it could be a standalone site or part of a larger site.
If a blog is a standalone website, it’s usually run by either one person or a small team of people. Company-affiliated blogs are usually added to a larger website to increase the business’s search engine rankings. Most website builders will allow you to create a blog, but a few of the best options include:
The key to running a successful blog is keeping things organized. Categorizing different posts according to their subject matter, adding a navigation menu, and implementing a search function will help visitors find things that interest them more easily.
E-commerce sites allow customers to shop online. They are most popular with small or local businesses looking to open their offerings to a wider range of customers. If you’re starting an e-commerce website, choose one of the following website builders for the best results:
On the customer’s end, there are two main components of an e-commerce website — adding items to a virtual shopping cart and using a card or payment platform to complete the transaction. On your end, you need to ensure your website is easy for customers to navigate so they can find what they want with the fewest clicks possible.
Your e-commerce site should separate product listings into different categories, and of course, a search function is essential. On each product listing page, be sure to include high-quality photos of your specific products to encourage more trust, as well as a short description.
Landing pages are single-page websites customers are directed to after clicking an ad or an offer in their email. Landing pages are entirely dedicated to a single offer, so it’s important that the site does not have too much information that could distract visitors from taking the next step in the buying journey.
Because landing pages are single-page websites, it’s often best to use a simple, single-page website builder. Carrd is great for this purpose.
The call to action, or the CTA, is the most important aspect of a landing page. This is the line you use to get people to move forward with the offer, so it’s essential to get it right and have it appear multiple times on the page.
Digital portfolios help you showcase your professional work. Some professionals who can benefit from a digital portfolio include:
- Graphic designers
- Photographers and artists
Most of the time, these people will add a link to their portfolio when applying for a new position. It’s an easy way for potential clients to see exactly what you can offer them.
Generally, the best website builders for portfolios include Carrd, Weebly, and Squarespace. Carrd is great for single-page portfolios, while the other two allow for more creative control over your site.
Your portfolio’s layout will depend on how you want to display your work. You can use slideshows, galleries, or even embed videos. Generally, you should select your best work, then tell the story of how you created it. Mention the tools you used, the skills that let you accomplish it, and how the work positively impacted the client.
Some people include “samples” in their portfolios or work created specifically for the portfolio. Others use real-life examples of work they’ve done for clients. If you choose to use work you’ve completed for clients in the past, make sure to get permission before sharing it.
There are several reasons someone may want to create a personal website. It could be to build their personal brand, or it might be similar to a virtual resume. Whatever the case may be, a personal website is usually the easiest type of website to build.
You’ll mostly be dealing with simple images and text, but the rest of the design elements will depend on your site’s specific purpose. For this reason, most website builders work well when creating a personal website.
While it’s generally advised that you steer clear of web builders intended primarily for e-commerce purposes, you may be selling products or services on your personal website when you’re trying to build your brand.
If so, you’ll need many of the same components an e-commerce site uses. But, if you’re using your site as a type of virtual resume, blog posts on your area of expertise are a nice touch. In that case, you’ll need to find a web builder that offers the best blogging experience.
Business websites generally give potential customers all the important information they need before working with your company. Your business website should include:
- Hours of operation
- An “About Us” page
- Product/service offerings
- Customer reviews or testimonials
For a business website to work, easy navigation is key. Your current or potential customers should be able to open the site and easily find what they’re looking for. If they can’t, they may get frustrated and move on to a competitor’s site.
Adding a blog to your business website is also a nice touch. These could be informative or educational, and should always include geo-locations and keywords to help with SEO. If you want to create a professional-looking business website that will allow for all these essential aspects, go with Wix, Weebly, or WordPress. However, if you’ll be selling products or services online, choose something with e-commerce capabilities.
Step 2: Choose a Platform for Your Website
Now that you’ve narrowed in on your website’s purpose, it’s time to choose the best website builder for your needs. There are hundreds of website builders online, all of which come at different price points and with different features. Some website builders are perfect for e-commerce, while others are geared more toward bloggers.
The main advantage of using a website builder is that the site takes care of all the technical aspects. You don’t need to learn any complicated coding language — all you have to do is choose a template or build your website from scratch through a drag-and-drop editor, and you’re ready to go!
Aside from your website’s purpose, it’s also important to decide how advanced of a platform you want. Some builders make creating websites as simple as possible, while others give you more features and customization options at the expense of a more complicated building process.
While looking for website builders online, you may be overwhelmed by the options. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of our top 10 picks for the best website builders:
For more information regarding prices, best uses, and pros and cons for each website builder listed above, check out our comprehensive list of the best website builders in 2023.
Step 3: Choose a Domain Name & A Hosting Plan (If Needed)
You’ve decided on a website builder and signed up for an account. Some website builders offer built-in domain names and hosting, but others require you to purchase them separately. If you’ve never created a website before, or if you’re a little fuzzy about either of those things, continue reading below to get a better idea of what’s required.
Your website’s “host” is the company that actually connects your website to the internet. Many web builders offer this as part of their services, but a few still require you to purchase hosting separately.
In general, there are three types of hosting services — a shared server, a dedicated server, and a virtual private server (VPS). Dedicated servers are the most expensive, costing up to $100 per month, but offer the highest performance and security level. Shared servers are the least expensive option, but performance and security can suffer.
A VPS is the next best option if you don’t have the resources to host your website on a dedicated server. It’s similar to a shared server, where you share one machine with multiple websites, but the server is partitioned to act as multiple servers in one. Because of this, it’s more affordable than a dedicated server but offers the same performance and level of security.
If your website builder requires you to host your site on your own, consider a plan from one of the following sites:
Before choosing a hosting platform, check to be sure their plans align with what you can afford to pay. You should also ensure the interface is easy to use and the company offers reliable support in case of an issue.
If you choose a free plan for your website, you’ll probably be given what’s known as a “co-domain.” For example, if you build your site using Wix’s free plan, your website URL will be “YourSite.wix.com.” Paid plans, on the other hand, sometimes include your own domain with the “.com” suffix.
It’s typically better to have your own domain than a subdomain, especially if you’re building a business or e-commerce site. Having your own domain looks cleaner, and more professional, and increases your credibility in the industry.
Many website builders will give you a free domain for a year when you sign-up for a paid plan. But, there are a few that require you to register your domain separately. If you do need to register your own domain, work with one of the following sites for the best results:
When choosing your domain name, there are a few rules you’ll want to follow. When possible, always go with a “.com” domain over other options, such as “.net” or “.co.” Don’t add any numbers or hyphens, as these can make your website look messy and unprofessional, and make it as short and memorable as possible.
Step 4: Basic Website Requirements
You’ve finished all the initial steps in setting up your website. Now, it’s time to actually begin creating it! There are a few basic elements that all websites should have. These include:
- Header & footer
- Essential pages
Below, we’ll discuss what each of these should look like and what they should include.
Header & Footer
Your header and footer should appear on all pages of your website, and their design should align with your brand and overall website design. You don’t want to clutter either component, but they do need all the essential elements.
Your header will be at the top of every page and should include your site title or logo. It’s also a good idea to put your navigation menu here, ensuring it’s accessible on every page of your site.
Your footer will also appear on every page of your site. It should include your logo if you have one, and all your contact information. This usually includes:
- Email address
- Phone number
- Physical address (if you have one)
The website builder you use will also usually put your copyright information here. If not, it’s a good idea to add it yourself. If you have social media accounts for your business or personal use (if creating a personal website), you should link them here, too.
The navigation menu is possibly the most important component of your website. If people don’t know how to get around to different pages, or if they have to search for the page they’re looking for, they won’t stay on your site long. This is why it’s usually a good idea to put your navigation menu in the header. If your header is on every page, so is your navigation menu.
The most important thing to remember while creating your navigation menu is that it has to be functional. While you should link all the important pages, too many options can overwhelm the user. If you have many pages to link, add submenus to keep it looking clean.
In addition to the navigation menu itself, there are two other things to consider while considering navigation — URLs and breadcrumbs. The URLs on your website should always be named after the content on the page instead of a bunch of random numbers and letters. For example, the URL for your “About Us” page should be something like “YourSite.com/About-Us.”
“Breadcrumbs” help users understand how they got to a certain page on your website and allow them to return to previous pages easily. For example, let’s say you have an e-commerce website that sells clothing. If a user is browsing women’s t-shirts, the breadcrumbs at the top of the page may say something like “Women’s Clothing > Tops > T-Shirts,” with each previous page linked accordingly.
After creating your header, footer, and navigation options, the next thing to focus on is those essential pages that all websites should have. These may vary based on the type of site you’re running, but generally, they’ll include:
- About Us
- Contact page
- 404 page
- Checkout page (for e-commerce sites)
Read below to learn what each essential page should include.
Your homepage is the first thing your users will see when they connect to your website, so it’s important to get it right. At a minimum, your homepage should include the following components:
- Call to action
- High-quality photos
Your headline will let viewers know what to expect on your website. Underneath, you can include a subheadline or a small paragraph of text, no more than 2-3 sentences, that gives visitors a clear description of your site.
The call to action, or CTA, is what you’ll use to keep users on your website past the homepage. Depending on your website’s purpose, your CTA should entice viewers to click on interior pages, take the first steps in the buying journey, or initiate contact with your company. The better your CTAs, the more likely people will continue interacting with your site.
Adding high-quality photos of yourself, your team, or your offerings will make your homepage more enticing and inspire trust among your target audience. Any pictures you add should look professional and match your overall branding and message, no matter your website’s purpose.
The About Us page will allow users to learn more about you or your company. If you’re creating a website for your company, you may want to tell the story of how the business started. If it’s a personal website, discussing your previous experiences, hobbies, interests, or expertise is your best bet. Adding pictures of yourself or your team can help users put a face to a name.
About Us pages will also typically include a short description of the products or services you offer and testimonials on how the thing you’re advertising has helped others in the past. Overall, your About Us page will include anything you feel users should know about you or your business.
Your Contact page is where your users can go to find out how to get in direct contact with you or a member of your team. It should list all the ways users can contact you, such as:
- Live chat
- Phone number
- Email address
If you have a physical address for your business, you should also list it on your Contact page, along with your hours of operation.
Some site owners choose to add a contact submission form instead of listing the options above. If you do choose this method, make sure to add a blurb of text letting users know when and how they should expect a response. If possible, reply to all contact requests within 24-48 hours.
If you’ve ever entered the wrong URL path, you may have previously encountered a branded “Error 404: Page Not Found” page. Some websites don’t have a dedicated 404 page, and when they don’t, a user is typically bounced off the site and sees a general error page.
Adding a custom 404 page to your website is important because it lets the user know that they have reached your site; the page they’re looking for just isn’t available. Many people add an option to “return to the previous page” on their 404 pages, allowing users to easily get back to what they were doing before.
404 pages should be simple, but always in line with your brand. Many people include a photo and a short description after the “404: Page Not Found” headline.
Checkout pages aren’t required on all websites, but if you’ll be selling anything online, it’s absolutely necessary. After your customer fills up their cart and presses the “Checkout” button, the page they’re brought to should make the transaction simple.
Customers should be able to easily see what’s in their cart and remove things if they want. All your payment and shipping options should be clearly listed, and if the total changes after selecting a particular option, the changes should be reflected in real-time.
Although you will need quite a bit of information from your customers during the checkout process, never ask for more details than necessary. For example, unless you’re selling age-restricted items, there’s no need to ask your customers for their dates of birth.
Step 5: Improve Your Website
The final step in building your new website is not as much of a step as it is an ongoing process. Part of owning a website is constantly making improvements, including those initial tweaks. Some of the ways you can improve your website include:
- Speed optimization
- Optimize for mobile
Below, we’ll discuss improving your website using the five techniques listed above.
One of the best things about using a dedicated website builder is that most offer a wide variety of premade templates. While you can use the drag-and-drop builder to create a unique website from scratch, selecting a premade template is much easier for first-timers. Keep in mind that not all website builders will allow you to change your template once you select one, so getting it right the first time is essential.
Ideally, you’ll choose a template with a layout that makes sense for your website and is easy for users to navigate. After selecting your template, customize it to make it your own and align it with your website’s overall brand. Adjust the colors, fonts, and images, but ensure it’s easy to read when all is said and done.
In addition to a template store, many website builders will also feature a widget store. Some site builders offer more widgets than others, so it’s important to check if the builder you’re using supports third-party widgets.
Widgets, apps, and plugins add more functionality to your website. They can do anything from showcasing reviews from popular sites like Yelp and Google Reviews to displaying your Instagram feed.
Common Ninja has an extensive, ever-growing collection of widgets, fit for any purpose, that work on any website — and on any platform. Make sure to take advantage of our powerful widgets to make whatever website you want, better!
Not all websites need to be optimized for search engines, but it’s a very important feature if you’re running an e-commerce or business website. SEO, or search engine optimization, ensures that your site shows up in search engine results when people are looking for products or services like yours.
The easiest way to incorporate SEO into your website is to add lots of keywords and geo-locations to your content. However, you want to be sure it looks natural. Always avoid “keyword stuffing,” or adding keywords where they don’t really belong in hopes of ranking higher, as this can actually decrease your site’s credibility rather than increase it.
Although server speed plays a big role in how fast your website loads, there are a few things you can do on your end to ensure the fastest loading time possible. These days, people expect the websites they visit to load almost instantly. Even a couple of seconds of lag time could have a huge impact on your site traffic.
To ensure your website loads as quickly as possible, always compress larger images before uploading them and limit the amount of slow-loading elements you include, such as embedded videos. A lot of anything, whether it’s text, images, or videos, will slow down your website. Make sure your site looks professional and lines up with your brand, but keep it simple when possible.
Optimize for Mobile
Because so many people access the internet primarily from their phones and tablets, optimizing your website for mobile platforms is essential in this day and age. Since Google has moved to a mobile-first indexing algorithm, meaning sites that are optimized for mobile appear higher in search results, this is more important than ever.
Luckily, most website builders will automatically optimize your site for all platforms. Check to see if your website builder offers this service when you sign up, and if not, make all the necessary changes and visit your website on as many devices as possible to see how it looks.
A lot goes into building a complete, professional-looking, and successful website, and the process can sometimes seem daunting. Luckily, when you know exactly what to consider and how to optimize your site, using a web builder to create the best website you can is easy.