How To Create A Website In 2021: Free vs Paid {Guide For Beginners}

You can create a personal or professional business website for free, or for less than $100. Website builders make it easy to create a website from scratch even if you have no experience.

Website with blue mouse

Maybe you’re one of the many people who want to start an online business but have little to no cash to do so; if that’s the case, you’re in the right place.

I will tell you how you can build your own website for free, as well as, how to create your own self-hosted website.

The steps to build a website are:

  1. Choose a domain name
  2. Choose a hosting provider
  3. Pick a platform to set up your website
  4. Design your website

Those are the four things you need to make a website, however, each step has different sections which I will discuss in detail. But, before I get to the details of each step, I’ll explain:

  1. What a website is
  2. Why it is important to have a website
  3. How you can create a website for free
  4. The difference between free and paid website
  5. How to create a website

Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. If you click on any such links within this post and purchase or sign up for something, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you, this helps me to maintain this site. Please know that I will only promote products and services I know greatly benefit you.

What Is A Website?

When I first heard the term website, I honestly didn’t know what it was. So, in case, you’re not sure what it is, here’s a definition.

A website is made up of web pages containing information that you can access online via web servers such as your hosting providers. 

It is different from a web page because it consists of different pages.

Creating a website from scratch is easy and anyone can do it. You don’t have to be a technical genius to be able to quickly build a simple website.

Why Is A Website Important?

If you want to run a successful online business, you need a website. Having a website can have a huge impact on the success of your business.

Websites are easy to set up and customize.

Some of the top reasons why setting up a business website are important are:

  1. You’ll have established an online presence: this will allow potential customers to know about your business products and services.
  2. Global reach: with a website you are able to access the global population, not just those in your country or area. The broader the reach, the more the chances of increasing your profits.
  3. Brand awareness: it is the perfect way to build your brand online. You will have the opportunity to showcase who you are, your business products and services; this will in turn increase the chances of more customers buying from you.
  4. Credibility: When you build a professional website it’s easier to promote and manage your business. Having a website that clearly explains what your business is all about can build trust and establish your credibility.
  5. Great way to acquire leads: it’s the goal of businesses to gain more leads/customers; having a website increases that chance.

How To Create A Free Website

You may decide to start a small business online and need a website, but you have no start-up cash, there’s good news! you can still build a website for your business without money.

There are many website builders that can help you create a website free of cost, although starting a business with a free website is not recommended.

These third-party platforms can help you design and build high-quality websites with no coding experience.

Top Free Website Building Platforms

Some of the top free site builders are:

  • Wix: This platform is beginner friendly and easy to use. You can rearrange the elements on a page with its built-in drag and drop features. There is no limit to the number of pages you can create and design.
wix home page

#websitebuilder
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  • Squarespace: This is another easy to use site builder. You can choose from their library of pre-designed templates and then customize it to suit your personal or business needs.
squarespace home page

#websitebuilder
#websitebuilders
  • Weebly: Is a powerful beginner friendly website builder. It has customizable website templates, and tools to help you build your site.
weebly home page

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#websitebuilders
  • WordPress: Is another powerful beginner friendly website builder. WordPress is also the most popular.
Wordpress homepage

These free website-building platforms are great options for launching a website free of charge.

Downsides Of Building A Free Website

While creating beautiful websites for free with the aid of website builders is possible and valuable, there are a few downsides. Some of which are:

  • They will leave their brand on your site.
  • You’ll get a domain name like petsupplies.wixsite.com, and that doesn’t look very professional at all. This can cause potential clients to think that your business is not really a business.
  • Their service can be slow at times, after all they are hosting many different sites on the same server, so it’s gonna slow the system down. For your business you need speed, slow websites drive away customers.
  • Support takes a long time to respond to your queries.
  • You have no control over the advertisements that are placed on your site, and ads sometimes can be very annoying and have the tendency to drive visitors away.
  • They can shut your site down anytime without warning and there’s nothing that you can do about it. And just like that the customers that you have generated will be gone unless you have an email list.
  • You’ll get limited data storage space and bandwidth (the amount of information that is transferred from the server to the user’s browser).

Website builders build beautiful websites but you will have limited control over certain aspects of your site and that will have a negative impact on your business.

Although it sounds sweet and catchy, FREE is never really free, there is always a catch, as you can see, there are limitations.

Why You Should Create A Website With Paid Hosting Services

If you’re trying to build a business as opposed to a hobby, it is important for your business to have a website that has no limitations. You want freedom and flexibility.

Creating a self-hosted website is really not expensive. You can build a website for $50-100 that will have no restrictions or limitations.

While the idea of building a free website is intriguing and true, it’s best to create a site that is not free, if you want to build a successful online business.

However, before you begin building your website, you should pick a niche.

What Is A Niche And How To Choose One

A niche is a specific industry that your site will be about. For example the fashion industry, you can get more specific and say men’s fashion. You can get even more specific and say men’s polo shirts.

You may be wondering what a niche has to do with website building, or why it’s even important.

Choosing a niche before creating a website is important for a few reasons:

  • Researching your niche will help you to understand the market, and its profitability, that way you don’t go blindly into that niche, only to later find out that it’s not profitable.
  • You’d get to know the size of the market as well as the competition.
  • You will be able to pick a domain name that is related to your niche. Having a domain name that is niche-focused or as close to it as can get will make it easier for potential customers to find you.

Now that you know a little about websites, let’s dive into the actual steps for creating a website.

How To Create A Website From Scratch

Back in the day, in order to create a site from scratch, you’d have to learn coding languages such as HTML, PHP, Javascript, etc. Luckily, these days you don’t have to know any coding to create your own personal or professional website, thanks to site builders.

Once you’ve got your niche figured out, it’s time to pick and register a domain name.

As listed at the beginning of this post, there are four steps to create a website.

1. Choose A Domain Name

A domain name is the web address of a particular website, for example, marjorieduncan.com is the domain name of this site.

Think of your passport, it contains information about you that makes you uniquely identifiable. A domain name is like your passport. 

You can consider your domain name as your online passport. It is how visitors and search engines will be able to identify and find you on the internet. 

It gives you ownership of the website.

Here are some tips to help you choose a domain name for your business:

  • Pick something that is easy to pronounce, remember, and type.
  • If you’re setting up a business site then a domain name that reflects your business will probably be best. This will help readers easily find your site.
  • People have been using their names as a domain name when making their personal websites. So feel free to use your name.
  • You can also use powerful adjectives to spice up your domain name.
  • Try to avoid using hyphens, intentional misspelled words, abbreviations, and numbers.
  • Don’t make it too long; people tend to find short domains easier to remember (2-3 words).
  • Try to use .com extensions when choosing a domain name.

You don’t have to choose a .com extension as there are many other extensions you can pick, however, .com is the most popular.

Extensions are the ending part of a domain name, examples, .com, .org, .gov, etc.

Register Your Domain Name

There are many different domain registrars you can choose from and all pretty much work the same. The difference I find however is that some are cheaper than others.

When I was registering one of my old domain names, I started on Godaddy, at the time they were having a $1.99 special for a domain name.

However, that was only for the first year, then every year after that would be $14.99, so having seen that I decided to switch. Personally, I use Namecheap as theirs cost $8.99 per year.

Luckily, for you, there are Hostgator and Bluehost which give a free domain for the first year once you’re using their hosting services.

Next, time to get a home for your domain name.

2. Choose A Web Host

Remember in the beginning I explained that a website is a collection of pages, well the website needs a place to keep those pages so that they can be easily retrievable. That’s where hosting comes in.

Web hosting service providers offer storage space and bandwidth on a server that is secure and reliable.

Three of the top web hosting companies are:

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When choosing a web hosting company make sure they provide:

  • Good storage space or bandwidth
  • Linux web hosting
  • Cpanel server
  • Site builder
  • Instant backup
  • Unlimited MYSQL database
  • Free SSL security
  • Exceptional 24/7 support

There are many other hosting providers to choose from, you are not limited to the ones on this list; they are the top hosting providers right now.

Which Hosting Plan Should You Use To Create A Website

Personally, I use Hostgator baby plan and I have no problems, plus their customer support is pretty good.

So my personal recommendation is Hostgator. Their baby plan is a great option for $3.50 per month especially if you plan to create multiple websites.

hostgator-plans

Hostgator Plans: I recommend the baby plan because you can add unlimited websites. If you’re paying monthly, note that it will be $11.95.

You can also upgrade to a reseller account and sell hosting if you’d like. Additionally, you can upgrade to a dedicated server account later on, with this, a server deals with just your websites.

I have never used Bluehost but I know they are extremely popular and I hear that their hosting services and support are very good.

bluehost hosting plans

Bluehost Plans: I recommend the plus plan because you can add unlimited websites. If you’re paying monthly, note that it will be $11.99 instead of choice plus $16.99.

I have used A2 Hosting in the past and was quite pleased with it. They have excellent customer support, and they address issues quickly. I’ve also never experienced any offline issues with them.

a2hosting-plans

A2Hosting Plans: I recommend drive because you are able to add unlimited websites. Note that if you’re paying monthly it will be $12.99 per month.

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Now, if you purchased your domain name from a different company other than the one you will be hosting with, then you need to change nameservers so that your domain points to your new web host.

Changing Nameservers

It is always a good idea to register your domain separately from your hosting as this gives you greater control over your domain. 

Pointing your nameservers to a new hosting provider is really simple to do and does not require any technical skills.

This is done by using a DNS system (domain name server). You can get the nameservers from your hosting provider. 

Web hosts normally give a welcome email with some nameservers. Some give four nameservers, but you only really need 2. You can also find these in your Cpanel area. 

You would put the nameservers into your domain registrar custom nameserver fields 1 & 2. 

Once that’s done you’re all set. However, it normally takes anywhere between a couple of hours to a day to take effect.

Next, it’s time to choose and install a CMS system.

3. Choose Your Website Building Platform

A website builder is a content management system (CMS) platform that creates and manages data online. They allow you to quickly and easily create your own website and get it online fast.

Setting up a website from scratch used to be complicated and required a lot of coding skills, but site builders have made it super easy by taking care of the coding part for you.

Popular site-building platforms for 2021 are:

Drupal

After setting up your hosting, you’ll need to choose a platform for building your website.

I use WordPress and so for the remainder of this guide, demonstrations will be focused on WordPress. 

WordPress Platform

WordPress is the most popular and recommended platform for setting up a website. Here’s why:

  • It’s free to download
  • Easy to install
  • It’s open source, which means developers are constantly improving its functionality.
  • It is simple and easy for beginners to use.
  • User friendly and customizable. You can use add-ons to create your own professional website with an online store.
  • You’re able to create responsive sites. Even if you decide to build small business websites or e-commerce sites.

Remember that there are two WordPress, one is wordpress.com which is the free blogging platform, and the other is wordpress.org, where you download the software and use it on your self-hosted website.

We’ll be working with self-hosted WordPress.

Installing WordPress

Installing WordPress is easy and can be done with just one click.

Most web hosting companies have the built-in functionality of allowing you to install WordPress with just the click of a button from within your Cpanel area. 

Click the portal, to go to your Cpanel dashboard. install wordpress

Log in to your hosting Cpanel. In the dashboard select install WordPress. wordpress quick install

Click the install drop-down button and select quick install. wordpress admin account setup

Click the drop-down menu and choose the domain name that you want to install WordPress on. Next set up your admin account details.

Once the installation of WordPress is complete, your next task would be to design your site.

4. Design Your Site

There are a number of steps involved in designing your website.

  1. Pick a theme
  2. Add plugins
  3. Create your brand
  4. Add pages to your site

Picking A Theme

By default, when you install WordPress there will be about two themes already installed. 

However, you will be able to access many free themes from the dashboard area, just select the one you like and install it.

how to add wordpress theme

Click appearance, themes, then add new to search WordPress theme library. different wordpress themes to choose from

You can scroll down to find many more themes.

Remember a couple of paragraphs up when I mentioned that free isn’t really free because there is always a catch, so too with the free themes.

With free themes, you will have the designer or company of the theme name at the bottom of your site and the only way to remove it is by purchasing their premium version. 

Now, you may decide to use premium themes because of course, it looks much more professional. You can purchase premium themes from these markets:

  • WordPress
  • Envato Market
  • StudioPress
  • Elegant Themes

Once you purchase your theme, installation is super easy. 

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    How To Upload A Theme

    Once you have purchased or chosen your theme, you should receive a zip file, there are two ways you can upload it:

    1. The first way is from your dashboard area: Login to wordpress, go to dashboard and navigate to appearance click on themes then add new. 
    upload theme button

    Click on the upload theme button, then browse and find the zipped theme on your pc and install it in zip format. Once installation is complete you can activate it. 

    2. The second way is through FTP (file transfer protocol): Locate the downloaded theme on your pc and unzip it and extract the theme. 

    Using Filezilla, locate the wp-content/ themes folder, and upload the theme to it. Navigate to your dashboard- appearance-themes, find your theme and activate it.

    Themes generally come with recommended plugins, so once you install your theme be sure to install the plugins they recommend.

    Installing Plugins

    A plugin is an add-on that enables you to add advanced features and functions to your site. 

    Some themes require certain plugins for them to work. Below are some recommended plugins that every website should have, regardless of the theme being used. 

    • Search engine optimization: Yoast SEO or Rank Math
    • Spam control: Askimet or Antispam Bee
    • Analytics and tracking: Google Site Kit or MonsterInsights
    • Image compressor: Shortpixel or Smush
    • Cache: WP Cache
    • Woocommerce: If you plan to have an online store

    It’s hard to say which plugin would be best for your site, as that would depend on the theme being used and the purpose of your site.

    When installing a plugin, make sure it is compatible with your version of WordPress. 

    The easiest way to upload a plugin is to login into your WordPress dashboard and navigate to the plugins tab. Click on add new, from there you can either search for the name and install then activate or upload and install, then activate. 

    install wordpress plugins

    Go to your WordPress dashboard and click the plugins tab, then select add new.

    You can also upload it through FTP as well; just locate the wp-content/plugins and upload the plugin to it. Then head to the dashboard, plugin, and activate it.

    Create Your Brand

    Once your theme is installed you can begin to style your theme. You can access your theme’s customizer at the top of your WordPress dashboard.

    theme customizer settings

    All theme customization can be done in this section, and you can see the changes live as you make them.

    It is important to create a brand for yourself; you do this by

    • Picking a color palette
    • Adding a logo and favicon.
    • Deciding on a header, footer, and background image or style.
    • Choosing a layout style and typography.

    Logo And Favicon

    By adding a logo and favicon to your site, people will be able to easily identify you. I’m assuming you are able to identify Amazon’s logo no matter where on the planet you are.

    It can be time-consuming and a bit frustrating trying to come up with ideas for the perfect logo, it’s worse if you have no designing skills at all (that’s me).

    Not to worry though, there is good news! There are places where you can design a logo for free or get one designed for a few dollars if you’re low on cash.

    Some good places to get a logo created or create one yourself are:

    That’s just a handful of places where you get a logo designed. There are many more options around, so find the one that is affordable to you and best suits your needs.

    Pick Color Scheme & Font

    The first thing I like to do is set the color scheme and fonts of my site. You can play around with them until you find the ones you like and are most comfortable with.

    I like to pick my color before doing my logo, that way I can get the logo color to blend with my site.

    Background Image, Header & Footer

    Here you have the option of deciding whether you want to add an image to your header, footer, and background or you prefer to just leave them with the background color.

    Just play around with these options. Add them and see how they look and if you’re not feeling them, then just ditch them. 

    Choose A Layout Style For Your Site

    At this point, you want to decide exactly what you want the layout of your site to look like.

    Decide if you want a sidebar on all posts and pages or only some. You should also decide which widgets you want to be displayed on your site.

    Don’t skip the contact form widget, this is very important if you want to collect emails to build a list.

    Create Your Pages

    By now you should be feeling real good looking at the awesome job you’ve done creating your website. But you’re not quite done yet. 

    You need to create the pages that you want to be displayed on your site. All pages, posts, and menus can be accessed from the dashboard.

    wordpress dashboard menu

    There are a few basic pages that every website must have. To create a page, click on the pages tab shown above and then select add new to create your page. Repeat the process for each page or post you need to create.

    • Home
    • About 
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms & Condition
    • Blog (optional)
    • Service (optional)
    • Shop (optional)

    You can put any other page you want on your site based on the business that you are doing. 

    Add Your Menu & Social Icons

    It’s time to add those pages that you just created to your website’s menu. Most themes come with 3-5 menu areas.

    You decide which pages or buttons you want to be displayed on the menu locations of your site.

    As always, play around with the different locations until you find the spots that are right for you.

    Don’t skip the social icon parts because you want your readers or customers to be able to follow and share your content.

    Create Content

    You’re finally done with creating your website, now you just need to go live. I’m kidding, it’s not time to go live yet. You need to add some content to your site first.

    You should have some idea as to what you want to write about or place on your site, so go ahead and start writing. Try to have at least 10 long-form posts on your site before going live.

    Don’t know how to write? Check out the article ‘How To Write A Blog Post’.

    The Wrap On How To Create A Website

    Creating a website and starting an online business allows you the freedom and flexibility of working from home at your own pace and time.

    Anyone can learn how to make a website even if they don’t know how to code. You can build a website yourself from scratch for free with the help of website builders.

    You can create either a personal or professional small business website. It is very easy to set up an online store or create an e-commerce website if that’s the business you want.

    Years ago when I first explored the idea of an online business, I started and quitted after a couple of months. I was doing everything wrong. Now, I’m doing what I should have done then.

    You’ll have days when you want to quit, but don’t give up. Everyone who has an online business has had those days. When those days come, remember your vision and your goals and use them to motivate you.

    I know this guide is a bit lengthy, but I’m certain, if you follow all the steps, you will create a beautiful website.

    You’re just about ready to launch your website, but before you launch grab this ‘Website Pre-Launch Checklist’ to make sure you have everything in place before going live.

    After going through the checklist, if all is in place then launch.

    Now that your website is live, your next task is to promote your business.

    If you need some help getting started quickly, allow me to do a basic website setup for you.

    Thanks for visiting my site, I hope you found value here and I do look forward to having you visit again.

    I’d love to hear from you, drop your thoughts in the comment, or just say hi.

    Also, before you go, if you got value from this post, can you help a girl out and share it, please. Thanks a mil.

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