No matter how large or small your business is, having an engaging, eye-catching and professional-looking website is a key part of your success. Your customers will expect an online presence they can interact with and potentially buy from, so getting this right from the get-go is key.

Plus, a well-made website can do wonders for your business’s credibility, trustworthiness and reputation in your industry. On the other hand, a rushed and disjointed website can damage your reputation and drive customers away within just a few seconds.

But how can you ensure that your website meets these standards without web development experience? Or how can you avoid paying for a web developer when you’re on a tight budget? In this in-depth guide, you’ll learn how to build a website from scratch in just 12 steps.

Building a website step-by-step

1. Define your vision

You can’t just decide to build a website and get going straight away. First, ask yourself what type of website you need. This will align with the overall goal of your website, so make sure you define this at the very beginning of the planning process.

Are you hoping to build an online store to sell products or services directly? Or, do you want to share your thoughts on your favourite topics? A blog is the best choice for you. Just hoping for a site that establishes and expands your business’s online presence? You need to create a general business website, including an array of features like a homepage, product pages, ‘About Us’ section, online storefront and social media integration.

Once you’ve decided on the overall purpose of your website, this will make it easier for you to iron out the details. For example, the goal of your website will affect your web pages, your sitemap, your content, your brand voice, your images and even the overall design, including fonts, colours and logos (we’ll dive into more on this later).

2. Assess your skills

In this planning stage, you’ll also need to be honest about your current skill level when it comes to building websites. This will affect how you choose to create your new site.

Although it isn’t necessary for you to know how to code, especially if you’re using a website builder, some knowledge of HTML and JavaScript can be very useful when you need to test and debug your website. Any web development experience (frontend or backend) will be beneficial, and it’s also worthwhile to brush up on relevant topics like search engine optimisation (SEO) before you get started, as SEO principles will inform how you build your website and write your on-page content. To learn more about SEO basics and best practices, make sure you read our beginner’s guide to SEO.

Website builders tend to feature very user-friendly interfaces and intuitive tools, meaning that anyone can build their own website. However, if you’d like to improve your understanding of web development before you start, there are many ways you can hone your skills. For a more comprehensive guide to website creation, you can find many online bootcamps that teach you everything you need to know over the course of several weeks. Alternatively, if the cost of these bootcamps is off-putting, you can find free resources and tutorials online (although they may not be as extensive and in-depth).

3. Conduct competitor research

Once you have a better understanding of what type of website you’re building, you can start comparing your vision to real-life examples from your competitors. To do this, you also need to identify your target audience and niche.

When creating a website or business, you should always ask ‘Who is this for’? Conduct market research to analyse trends and customer behaviour in your industry, and create ‘personas’ to help you visualise who your target audience is and what they’re looking for.

You should also ask yourself why your target audience would come to your website rather than your competitor’s sites. What do you offer that they don’t? What makes your brand stand out – is it your products, reputation, social media presence, or something else?

Finally, once you’ve identified your target audience, niche and the type of website you’re building, you can search for similar types of websites in the same industry. Look at your competitors’ website design, tone of voice, visual features (e.g. logos, images, videos, fonts), content and blogs to see what the top-ranking websites do – this is what customers like to see. You can also check the ‘People Also Ask’ section of Google to see what people tend to search for, and then include this in your website design.

4. Pick a domain name

None of this is worthwhile if customers won’t be able to find your website in the first place. This where picking the right domain name can make all the difference.

What is a domain name?

Your domain name is essentially the address of your website – as long as your customers have this address, they can easily find your website again and again. A domain name is made up of the name of the website plus a domain extension or top-level domain (TLD), such as .com, or .org. You can find a website’s domain name in the search bar at the top (e.g. on Fasthosts we have

Underneath the surface, domain names are actually a bit more complicated. Your website’s address is actually a string of numbers called an IP address, but this would be too difficult for visitors to memorise. Therefore, this IP address maps onto a domain name, which is easy to remember and can be typed into the search bar. When you type in a domain name, the web server connects this to the correct IP address, and then the browser can load the website. This process is called the Domain Name System (DNS).

How to choose the right domain name

One of the most important elements of picking a good domain name is memorability. You need a short, recognisable and easy-to-remember domain name that will stick in your customers’ minds, ensuring that they keep returning to you again and again in the future. Elements like hyphens can make your domain name harder to remember, so always keep it simple.

Your domain name should also be the same as or intrinsically linked to the name of your business. This is why it’s important to plan out your online presence from the very beginning when you’re creating your company. In addition, it’s a good idea to create a keyword-rich domain name that can bring extra traffic to your site and boost search engine rankings. Keep these factors in mind when creating a business name and domain name.

Stuck for ideas when it comes to naming your website? Why not try our Domain Name Generator? It's powered by AI, and will generate options based on your prompt, as well as ranking them for things like SEO, future saleability, and how easy they are for users to type or remember.

5. Choose a web hosting provider

In addition to purchasing a domain name, you’ll also need to choose a web hosting provider before you can get your site up and running. Web hosting services give you the technology and resources you need to make your website’s content accessible on the internet, as your web hosting provider will house and maintain your website’s server in their data centre.

When choosing a web hosting provider, there are some key things you need to look for. These include:

  • Costs (including subscription fees and renewal fees)
  • Security features like firewalls and data encryption
  • The amount of resources you get (e.g. RAM, CPU, disk space)
  • Data backups
  • Page speed, uptime and bandwidth guarantees
  • Types of web hosting on offer
  • Extra features like free SSL certificates and free domains

Some web hosting providers, like Fasthosts, are also official domain registrars. This means you can get your web hosting and domain name from the same place, which makes it much easier to link your domain name to your new website.

When choosing a web hosting provider, make sure you also research what type of web hosting is right for you. The main types of web hosting include:

1. Shared hosting

With shared web hosting, multiple customers host their websites on the same server. This is the most affordable option because you’ll end up sharing resources like RAM and CPU, but the downside is that this can cause performance issues for your site when another website on your server uses more than their fair share of resources.

2. Dedicated hosting

Dedicated server hosting is the most expensive type of web hosting because you get a whole server and its resources to yourself. This is fantastic if you have a high-traffic website that needs a lot of power, but it’s a bit overkill for most new websites.

3. VPS hosting

Think of a VPS as great middle-of-the-road option between shared hosting and dedicated hosting. To create a virtual private server, a physical server is split into separate virtual machines using virtualisation software. Each VPS has its own dedicated resources rather than having to share, making VPS hosting more powerful and reliable than shared hosting while still cheaper than dedicated hosting.

4. Cloud hosting

Cloud hosting is a service that makes websites and applications accessible using cloud resources. This is made possible by a network of physical and virtual servers, which offer more scalability and flexibility than traditional web hosting options. You can also opt for a pay-as-you-go model with cloud servers.

6. Website builder vs coding

In addition to offering free domain registration with their hosting packages, some web hosting providers also offer website building services on their websites. With a website builder, you won’t need to worry about learning how to code, as you’ll be able to choose from a wide selection of handy templates. These will provide you with the foundations of your website, which you can then customise to align with your unique brand vision.

The Fasthosts Website Builder makes website creation a breeze. Simply choose your favourite template, drag and drop the features you want, add your own content and images, and customise details like the colours, font and logos. You’ll also have the option to create both static websites and dynamic websites, so you can build the perfect site no matter what your needs are. 

If you’re hoping to create an ecommerce website, you can use our specialist Ecommerce Website Builder to set up your secure online store. Your customers will benefit from a single-page checkout experience and social media integration, helping them find their favourite products online and enjoy hassle-free shopping.

If you’re confident with coding, you may decide to build your website totally from scratch with a plain text editor. This can give you a greater level of control and customisation, but it’s also much more time-consuming to build a website this way. If you want to spend your time wisely, you may prefer a website builder even if you have coding and web development experience.

7. Create a website layout and sitemap

To make the website building process more straightforward, we would recommend finalising your website layout and sitemap before using your chosen website builder software. A sitemap is essentially the blueprint of your website – it provides information on all of the pages and files on your website and the relationships between them. By detailing the entire structure of your website, your sitemap helps search engines find, crawl and index your site, which is crucial for ranking highly in search results for your main keywords.

When creating your sitemap, you’ll have the opportunity to brainstorm the final layout of your website. According to the aim of your website and your competitor research, you can choose to include elements such as a homepage, an online payment system, a photo gallery, an ‘About Us’ section, an FAQs page, and/or a blog. Remember to always consider the practicality of navigating your site when devising your layout, as users can easily become frustrated and leave your site if they can’t find what they’re looking for. Ideally, it should be simple to reach any page on your website with just a couple of clicks – a clear and easy-to-use navigation panel at the top of each page will help with this. Plus, you should ensure that your logo features prominently at the top of each page, with the option to click it and be taken straight to the homepage.

8. Build your web pages

Once your plan and sitemap are in place, it’s time to start building your web pages and putting your final site together. The pages you decide to create will depend entirely on the aim of your website, as different types of pages can help you achieve different goals. For example, product pages with plenty of photos and intuitive checkout pages are essential for an ecommerce website, but for a personal blog, you’d need to focus on your blog pages, ‘About’ section and contact details instead.

In general, these are the types of pages you should think about building for your website:

  • A homepage. This is vital for every website because it will act as the central hub and the face of your brand. Your homepage should include only the most essential written information and feature lots of engaging visual elements.
  • A checkout page with an easy-to-use payments system. This will help customers enjoy a stress-free shopping experience.
  • An ‘About Us’ or ‘Meet the Team’ page. Showing the human side of your brand will build trust with your customers.
  • An FAQs page. Answer all of your audience’s burning questions here – use competitor websites and Google’s ‘People Also Ask’ feature for inspiration.
  • A photo gallery. Show off your products and write informative product descriptions to help your visitors make the best purchasing decisions.
  • A ‘Contact Us’ section. Don’t leave your visitors in the dark – tell them exactly how they can reach you for further support or inquiries. 
  • A blog. Boost the authoritativeness of your brand by creating an informative and engaging blog, or share your opinions on your personal website.
  • A case studies or testimonials page. Improve the reputation of your brand by showing off the amazing service you’ve provided for your previous customers.
  • Privacy policy. Comply with GDPR rules by creating a page to inform users about how their data is used.

9. Focus on the visuals

Although it’s important to convey your brand message and essential information through the written word, it’s the visual appeal of your website that can make or break your business. Web users want to visit websites that are fun, eye-catching, engaging and interactive, so you need to keep this at the forefront of your mind when building your site.


The first design decision you need to make is choosing your brand colours. Having a consistent colour scheme across your website will create a much stronger brand identity, helping users recognise you across multiple web pages and platforms. Additionally, different colours can evoke very different feelings and reactions according to colour psychology.

For example, yellow often suggests happiness, energy and warmth, whereas blue suggests stability and calmness (but also sadness in certain contexts). Research colour psychology to pick colours that align with the message and feel of your business – remember that different colour combinations can greatly affect the overall impression you make on customers.


Not only will your content impart knowledge to your customers, but the actual appearance of the words on the screen will also have a lasting effect. In addition to researching colour psychology, you should look into typography to help you pick a font that suits the vibe of your business. Sans serif fonts tend to convey clarity, minimalism and modernity due to the simplicity of their design, whereas script-style fonts often evoke a sense of elegance. Above all, your chosen font should be clear and easy to read.

Content hierarchy

We’re not done with content yet. As well as choosing a suitable font, you’ll also need to choose where your content goes on each page when planning and building your website. Content hierarchy refers to the arrangement of information on a web page according to its importance. Ideally, the most important content should appear above the fold, which means the user doesn’t need to scroll down to see it. You can also think of content hierarchy as an inverted pyramid – the most essential information should appear at the top of your web page, and the content should become less and less vital as you scroll down to the bottom.

Images and videos

To enhance your written content, you should always think of opportunities to place images and videos to break up the text. Featuring original photos and creating your own graphics is usually the best way to grab people’s attention, whereas obvious stock photos can cheapen the overall look of your website.

10. Write SEO-optimised content

SEO is all about optimising your website so that it can rank highly in search engine results for relevant keywords. On-page SEO has a huge impact on your final position in the SERPs (search engine results pages), with content being a huge part of this.

Using SEO tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs will help you identify promising keywords, which you can then integrate into your SEO titles, headers and main content. You can also use this keyword analysis to structure your content and form content plans, enabling you to create a content calendar for your website’s blog. Regularly uploading new, SEO-optimised content to your blog will boost your website’s authoritativeness in your niche, whilst also giving you more opportunities to improve your search rankings by prompting Google to crawl, index and rank your site more often.

11. Make your website mobile-friendly

With more and more internet browsing taking place on mobile devices instead of desktops, the compatibility of your website with mobiles is more important than ever. In fact, Google made ‘mobile-friendliness’ another ranking factor in 2015, so you need to consider how your website functions on mobiles if you want to rank highly for relevant search terms.

But what is mobile-friendliness? This metric considers whether a website has been optimised for smartphone use or not. This can be achieved through measures such as responsive design, which is where a web page automatically adapts to the size of your device’s screen. Page speed is also absolutely key since mobile devices have the highest bounce rate across all devices at 51%, which shows that mobile users are less likely to wait around for a slow, buggy site. You can use tools like PageSpeed Insights to measure your website’s page speed, and if you identify an issue, methods like caching and image compression can help you quickly speed up your site.

For more tips on how to speed up your websites on smartphones and desktops, read our helpful guides on mobile optimisation and how to improve page load time.

12. Test your website

After meticulously planning your website, building your web pages and finalising your design choices, you’re finally ready to launch. If you’ve used a website builder, launching your website should be as simple as clicking a button.

But the work doesn’t stop here! To ensure that customers can access your website and have the best browsing experience possible, you need to continually test your website, such as by performing technical audits and content audits. In these audits, you’ll evaluate metrics such as page speed, traffic and bounce rate, and you’ll also be able to identify issues like broken links that will affect the functionality and performance of your website.

You should also simply take the time to visit your website yourself and examine how customers will interact with your brand. Is it easy to navigate through your website? Does each page feature enough visual interest? Is your branding consistent throughout each page? Keep these kinds of questions in mind when visiting and testing your website.

Next steps

In addition to testing, there are many other ways you can continue to improve your website over time. Once your website is launched and established, you can start to consider the next steps to further enhance your website, which can include:

  • Creating a content calendar. To ensure that Google continues to crawl, index and rank your website, you should regularly upload new content to your blog – this will also allow you to keep up to date with industry trends.
  • Promoting your website on social media. To increase your traffic, you need to ensure that your audience knows where to find you.
  • Creating a mobile app. Since mobile users spend most of their browsing time on apps, you can capture more of this audience by creating a mobile app for your website.
  • Repurposing old content. As well as writing new content, you can keep your website fresh by updating and repurposing old content.
  • Performing site audits. Stay on top of key metrics so you can deal with performance issues as soon as they arise.
  • Backing up your data. By creating backups of your website, you’ll be able to restore it if anything happened to it.

Common questions about building a website 

How much does it cost to build a website?

On a budget? Don’t worry – you can still create a fantastic website for your online business. Hiring a web developer can be pretty expensive, but using online website builder software is much more affordable. Although more advanced subscriptions will cost more money, you can easily find basic website builder packages that are either free or very inexpensive for the first few months. Here at Fasthosts, all of our website builder packages cost just £1 per month for the first three months.

How long does it take to build a website?

This depends on how you choose to build your website. Building your website from scratch using your coding knowledge will naturally be more time-consuming, but if you choose a template from a website builder, you can greatly speed up this process. Overall, if you factor in the time you spend on planning, research, layouts, building your web pages, writing the content and testing your site, you can spend a few months on creating your website.

Can I create a website for free?

Some website builders are free to use, which is a great option if you’re on a very tight budget. However, these free packages won’t offer as many features as other website building packages, such as SEO tools, free SSL certificates, site analytics and advanced ecommerce features.

Do you need to know how to code to build a website?

Although it’s very helpful to have some coding and web development experience, you don’t need to know how to code if you build your website using website builder templates. To create your website with these templates, all you need to do is drag and drop your desired features, add your own text and images, and customise the visual design to match your brand aesthetic.

How can I keep my website up to date?

Keeping your website up to date is very important for maintaining the attention of your target audience and also increasing your opportunities to rank more highly in search results. We would recommend creating a content calendar that sets out how often you’re going to upload new pieces of blog content, which you can plan using your keyword research. Your content calendar should also set out when you’re going to refresh older articles to keep everything current. Finally, make sure you always promote new content and website updates on social media.

Never built a website before? No problem! With the Fasthosts Website Builder, you can choose from a wide range of stylish pre-made templates and customise them with your unique content. We also offer our specialised Ecommerce Website Builder for online stores, which includes advanced online shopping features, abandoned cart recovery and stock control tools. Get in touch today to find your perfect Website Builder package for just £1/month for the first three months.