Of all the factors that go into making a website, the cost associated with building can be prohibitive for many businesses. Luckily, website builders provide an easy, and oftentimes free, way for people with little technical experience to make a website without hiring an expensive web developer. If you’ve been thinking of starting a website for your business, follow this guide on how to make a website for free.
What to Know About Free Website Builders
Free website builders are a great way to get started with your website, but there are some drawbacks to consider. For instance, most free web builders offer limited features compared to their paid counterparts. A free website builder may limit your storage space, lack support for e-commerce sites, or display ads on your site. These limitations vary between different free website builders, so you’ll need to find one that supports the features you need.
Website builders also limit the customizations you can select for your site’s design. If you have a very precise idea of the site you want to build, you may not be able to create it with a website builder. Rest assured — you can still make a beautiful site with a website builder, but you will need to be flexible about its design.
Additionally, if you want to move your website to a different platform, it can be difficult to transfer your website away from the website builder you used originally. You may need to redesign your website entirely when moving it to another platform.
How to Build a Website for Free
Step 1: Choose a Website Builder
The first step is choosing a website builder that has a free version. There are numerous website builders to choose from, but not all of them have a free plan. When choosing your website builder, you should consider the following factors:
- Supported features. Website builders offer different features in their free and paid tiers, so it’s important to consider what features you need to include in your website. Do you need your web builder to support e-commerce capabilities or a booking system? Does it provide a drag-and-drop editor for adding and removing sections from your site? Do you want your website to provide a newsletter service or to support any external plug-ins? Answering questions about your website’s desired functionality at the start of your search will help you settle on the right free website builder.
- Ease of use. When looking for a free web builder, it’s important to consider its usability. Reading user reviews is the best way to get information about ease of use. It can also be helpful to look at the availability of help text online. Is there helpful documentation for setting up a site or a page of FAQs? How responsive is their customer service?
- Potential to upgrade plans. It’s important to know how easy it is to upgrade to a paid plan in case your website builder’s free version no longer meets your needs. Most website builders provide additional features within paid tiers, so it’s wise to look for a website builder that can expand with your business.
- Mobile Optimized. Now that 96% of Americans own a cellphone, and over 50% of web traffic comes from mobile devices, it is vital that your website is mobile-friendly. Most website builders support mobile optimization across all layouts, but sometimes this can be specific to individual templates.
Step 2: Pick a Domain Name
After choosing your web builder, you should select and register your domain name. In simple terms, your domain is the name of your website.
You should strive to choose a domain name that’s short, memorable, and relevant to your business, and avoid stuffing it with keywords. It’s likely that the first few domain names you come up with will be taken, so you may need to brainstorm a list of ideas.
Also, if you plan to use social media to market your website, it’s a good idea to check if your domain name is available on those various platforms. Using consistent naming across digital platforms contributes to a well-known, unified brand.
Step 3: Find a Free Web Host
A free host plan works similar to most paid host packages. You’ll create an account, and start by selecting a domain name.
All free web hosts let you pick a custom free sub-domain name (e.g. “yourdomainname.freewebhostname.com”). You don’t typically want to use a subdomain for any type of professional website as it looks unprofessional and is hard to remember.
Most hosts give you the option of purchasing a domain name, either through them or through a third party domain name registrar.
Step 4: Select a Design Template
Once you’re ready to start designing your website, you’ll need to select a free website template. A website template provides a set of initial pages for your website that you can customize with your own content.
Templates are often designed with a specific type of website in mind and may accommodate features based on the targeted website type. For example, an e-commerce storefront, a personal portfolio, and a blog template will generally include different page layouts and built-in features.
After you choose a template, most free website builders allow you to customize it. An ideal template will provide a range of customization options to fit your website. You should check if you can easily adjust fonts and colors, and if you can add or remove page sections. Additionally, most templates will provide layouts for multiple types of content so that it’s easy to add new pages to your website.
Step 5: Plan Your Site Architecture
When designing your free site, you should plan your site architecture around creating an intuitive user experience. Most users will arrive at your website through either the homepage or a search result, and once they reach your site, it’s important that your visitors can easily find the information they’re looking for.
Most sites should include an about us page and a contact us page, but the additional pages you include will depend on your business. To make your website easier to navigate, you should consider where additional pages should fall within your sitemap. Most sitemaps follow a hierarchical structure where the site has a few main pages in the navigation with subpages beneath them. For example, your site might have a shop page with subpages for individual product types.
To create an intuitive and well organized website, you can start by listing the primary pages you need to include in your sitemap, and how users should be able to navigate between the pages on your site.
Step 6: Optimize for Search
By optimizing your website for organic search, you can make it easier for new customers to find your business. SEO, or search engine optimization, involves designing your site so that it ranks higher in search results. Since 53% of web traffic comes from organic search, ranking higher in search results can increase traffic to your website.
To improve your website’s SEO, you should include relevant keywords naturally within page titles, headers, and the content of your webpages. You can use free keyword research tools like Keyword Explorer, Google Trends, and Answer the Public to find content that people are searching for. While a strategic use of keywords is smart, you shouldn’t stuff them into content where they don’t fit as this can actually result in penalization from search engines like Google and Bing.
And because sites with regular updates typically rank higher in searches, you can also optimize your website for search by regularly updating it. Creating new website content also introduces new opportunities for customers to find your site.
When to Upgrade to a Paid Site
There may come a day when the features that your free website builder offers doesn’t meet your site’s needs. You might find that your free site doesn’t have as many customization options as you’d like, or that you need more storage space. Or it may even be that upgrading to a paid site simply offers a better user experience.
In general, most paid tiers give you more control of ads on your site, have better customer support, and can provide professional email hosting services. So while you can absolutely make a free website for your business, it’s important to choose a website builder that grows with your business.