A lot of businesses realize that they absolutely must have proper online presence these days. While a few years ago you could get away with a simple site which only shows off your company details and contact info, now you need to have a lot more.
Companies know that a good website can lead to more clients, increased sales, better reputation. So many of them are willing to invest in a proper website. As a result, website development costs rise quite a bit, simply because of the big demand. Plus, the technologies have advanced a lot, so it’s definitely not as easy as it was 10 years ago.
Still, when companies discover the costs of building a website, they start wondering whether they should build the site in-house. Or maybe you are a small business and can’t afford such an expense. Or maybe you simply want to show off your company’s technical capabilities. Whatever the reason, it’s certainly possible to create a website from scratch. But it’s not going to be easy.
Should you build a website yourself?
If you have the technical knowledge and the time, then go for it. The same goes if you don’t have the knowledge, but are willing to learn and add this as a skill to your resume. Should you actually invest in such an effort? Especially since there are already so many ready-made platforms for free. Also, there are plenty of services and website developers you can hire to complete the project or sort out a roadblock.
There are a few reasons why you might want to consider building a website from scratch. For example, you have very specific needs or you want to use a mixture of technologies and platforms and tie them to your existing infrastructure. In such a case you might indeed be better off starting from scratch than reworking someone else’s platform.
Another reason is if you don’t want to be tied to a specific vendor or provider. Or maybe you simply don’t want your clients to think “well, they’ve used a free platform for their site”. So, for better reputation, you might also be better off with putting in the extra effort and making your own site.
If you plan on maintaining and developing your site yourself in the future, making it from scratch is also a good idea. This way it will be your own work from the start and you will know what is what and which is which. It could make life easier for you since you won’t have to figure out what someone else has done and why.
So, you’ve decided to make your own website. That’s great. Now comes the tricky part – actually doing it.
Let’s build a website from scratch
Easy, but important stuff first
You have to sort out some things before you set off with the hard work. This would be writing up a plan and steps to take during the development process. Maybe even a schedule, so you stay on track.
Then, you have to sort out things like the website name, domain and hosting. It may seem too early for that since you don’t really have a site, but actually, now’s the time. Having these things set up will help you out a lot with building the site, uploading and testing features. Plus, having the name and domain will be helpful for the website design process.
Time for hard work
Right, we’re finally here. The moment where building the site begins. Well, not quite. Before we get our hands dirty with the code, we still have some more foundation work.
First, you have to decide whether you will use a site builder or not. Using a site building tool is not quite like getting a ready-made platform, but it’s also not exactly like making a site completely from scratch. While you will for sure have more options and freedom to set things up as you wish, you will still have some limitations. And the code will be again generated from the tool, which may result in issues down the line if you plan to maintain it yourself or if you need to implement major changes.
Decide on the features
Here’s where the planning gets serious. You have to decide what features you will have on your site. For example, a contact form, a shopping module, registration form and so on. This will vary greatly depending on the type of site you are making and the goals you have.
But you have to have a pretty decent idea what you will need as it will play a vital role in the next steps. Of course, you will most probably change, remove and add things from the feature list as development goes on, but you still need to have at least the basics covered.
Write a Sitemap
Sitemaps are great not only for search engine bots. They can be of big help to you, too. With a sitemap you will know what pages you need to create, what you’ve completed and how to sort out the in-site navigation. Thanks to the sitemap you will also be able to figure out if you need to add, change or remove pages and features. And you will be able to track your progress more easily.
The next step would be to draw (yes, draw) the layout you plan to have. This means where each page element will go, how many columns you will have and where. Also, take into account the header, footer and any additional menus, toolbars and so on.
Basically, this is when you will get to see your site for the first time. It will give you a good idea of whether or not you’re on the right track and what needs to be coded. It’s also the moment when you can decide on the color palette for the site, the font and the overall look and feel.
Code or design first?
It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? What to code for if you don’t have any ready-made elements to then use for the code? Why have any ready elements when you don’t know how the coding will go and what will have to be changed as work progresses?
Well, part of the site building process is that you will for sure make, change, replace and scrap a lot of code and visual items. There will be a fair amount of trial and error involved. So, you will have to accept that and basically do both the visual element design and the coding side by side.
Time to code
As you can see, things can quickly start to get quite complex. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially if you’re time restricted. But if you can afford the extra time needed to acquire the knowledge about the programming languages you need, it will pay off in the long run. It will make website maintenance, upgrading and redevelopment much easier for you.
For simpler sites, you can get away with using only HTML and some CSS files. Today HTML5 is quite capable and is used widely for all types of sites. Together with CSS they make a power couple worthy of any project.
For more complex sites that can expect more visitors, you may need to use a database, too. Then you will have to use SQL, MongoDB or something similar. More learning will be involved and more time will be needed. It will be worth it in the end as you will have a much more capable website.
Don’t forget about the content
Review all the time
As you code, build and add visual elements, the site will slowly start to come together. It’s easy to get overly excited and want to speed through the process. This way you risk missing out on a small issue which in turn could cascade into multiple problems.
To avoid that, you have to do regular reviews of your work. This is where having the hosting up in place will be of help. You can password-lock the site so only you can access it and upload and test it all the time. This way you will be able to “catch” as many issues as possible in a timely manner.
A quick warning, though. There will always be some issue. Sites “love” developing all kinds of strange faults, sometime without any logical reason why. It’s just a part of the “life with a website”. So, you will never be truly “done” with the site and you will always have to keep on improving to be on par with the latest trends. This is also important for good SEO as search engines do value well coded and properly maintained sites.
So there you have it. Those are the basics on how to build a website from scratch. The main thing is to set aside enough time for coding and you will be able to make it happen.
If you want to find out how your site can become successful, then the following article is for you: