To succeed in today’s business world, you need to know how to make a professional website. That’s the case whether you’re building a small brick-and-mortar store, an online business or e-commerce company. Even when you’re selling yourself as a brand, either to employers or as a freelancer, you need to have an online presence where people can find you and from where you can grow your business.
Having a well-designed website instantly makes you and your business look more professional. A business website allows you to communicate with your customers and keep them up to date on what you’re doing while also helping to attract new leads. Plus, if you do it right, your website can be an important tool for building your brand’s character and voice.
Ready to learn how to make a website yourself and take your online business to the next level? This step-by-step guide for beginners will lead you through the process and help you make the right choices so that your website stands out from the crowd.
Step 1: Decide on the purpose of your website
Before you start designing your website, you need to define exactly what you need that site to do. Are you looking for how to sell goods and services directly to customers, or do you primarily need a convenient information source where people can learn about your business? Or both?
Get as specific as possible about what your goals are. For example, you might be hoping to:
- Sell physical or digital products or services
- Have a place where local customers can find your hours, prices, or other information about your company
- Communicate your brand’s identity and message
- Post announcements and updates
- Showcase customer reviews and testimonials
- Move leads through your sales funnel
- It’s fine to have more than one goal for your website—as long as you have a strategy for achieving each one.
For example, if one of your primary goals is to progress leads to purchase, how will your website accomplish that? Will you be posting explainer videos and product or service details so people can learn more before they speak with a sales rep? Are you planning to target top-of-funnel leads and generate the first spark of interest? Or will you have sections for both of these lead types?
The more specific you can be, the easier you’ll be able to make decisions about how to build your website.
Step 2: Choose a custom domain
The first thing your website needs is a domain. Your domain is your home base on the internet and your signpost so that the world can find you. Think of it as the virtual version of your store window.
Selecting your domain name
Your domain name is what people will type into their web browsers to find you. You want it to be memorable and unique while also being a logical match for your business. Don’t worry—coming up with one is easier than it sounds!
If you have a business name, start by finding out if that custom domain name is available as a domain. If not, check if adding location information would help. For example, if “carolsdogwash” is taken, try “carolsdogwashmilwaukee.”
It’s okay to use an alternative if your business name is long or complex. In that case, shortening can work well—“dchlaw” for “The Law Firm of Dewey, Cheetem, and Howe,” for example. Notice that this name has the type of business—law—in the domain. That makes it both easy to remember and easy for search engines to tell what type of content users can expect to see.
Picking a domain extension
When you pick your domain, you’ll also need to select an extension. The classic .com should be your first choice unless you’re a nonprofit, because people tend to type .com at the end of websites by default. Other options include:
- .net for tech companies
- .org for nonprofits
- .info for information-only sites
- .club for interest groups
Buying or connecting your domain
Mailchimp makes it easy to search for and buy a domain. You can register and pay directly through the website, then start building your personalized website using the drag-and-drop website builder. (More on that later.)
If you've already bought a domain, you can connect it to Mailchimp for free. Just follow the illustrated instructions for linking to the company that sold you the domain in the first place.
Learn more about how to get a free domain name from Mailchimp and how our offer compares to the competition.
Step 3: Decide on a host
Every website needs a web host. A host is a company that sells or leases data space on its servers. That space becomes your website’s home, holding all of the information for every page you build. If it helps, you can think of your hosting company like a property manager for the internet.
There are two types of hosting that are offered by hosting providers. They are:
- Shared hosting, in which multiple websites have storage space on a single server. Each site has its own section of the server, so everyone’s information stays secure.
- Dedicated hosting, in which one website has an entire server. This hosting type is mostly used by extremely large sites like Google and Amazon that have thousands of pages and massive amounts of data traffic.
New businesses do fine with shared hosting, and Mailchimp provides it for free. If you’ve already gone through the step of buying a domain name from Mailchimp or connecting a domain that you purchased elsewhere, Mailchimp is already your host for that site.
Step 4: Choose a website builder
To stick with the real estate metaphor, by now you’ve chosen an address (your domain) and bought the land (gotten a host). Your next step is to build your site.
Just like if you were building a physical structure, a solid framework will make your site look and perform at its best. One option is to pay a professional to build and design your site. The average cost for that service in 2021 is between $4,000 and $10,000, but you could end up paying more if you need multiple pages or more complex functionality.
Part of what you pay for in this case is the design and coding skills necessary to structure a site. Think of that hypothetical building again. It takes Web professional-level expertise to create the framework for a website design from scratch, just like it takes expertise to create the framework for a house.
The difference is that when you’re building a website, you don’t have to create it from scratch. Mailchimp offers free website building and publishing services, complete with a drag-and-drop website builder that you don’t need any technical skills to use. Mailchimp becomes your website platform and does all the coding for you. You just have to make the web design choices—and Mailchimp can help you with that, too.
See how the best free website builders compare to Mailchimp.
Step 5: Map out your site
With Mailchimp, you can publish an unlimited number of webpages for free, so the sky’s the limit in terms of your site structure choices. You have free rein to decide what kinds of pages you want and how you want people to be able to navigate from one page to the next through personalized website navigation.
It’s important to have a home page and a “contact us” page. Beyond that, your site map will depend on the goals that you identified earlier in the process.
Here are some ideas to get you started in your website creation process:
- A “squeeze page,” which encourages the visitor to enter their email address, possibly to access downloadable content or receive a discount code
- A lead capture page, where people enter their name and contact data so you can contact them with more information
- Product or service information pages can be added to your website with Mailchimp stores and appointments
- An “about us” page with information about your company
- A page for customer testimonials and reviews
- A pricing page, important for businesses that have subscription or service levels
You can also create landing pages that coordinate with specific marketing campaigns. For example, if you run a campaign to promote a particular product category, you can create a landing page for that category and feature the items you’re promoting. You can even add promotional pricing.
If you want to sell goods or services directly from your website, Mailchimp stores and appointments offer all of the marketing and commerce tools you need to effectively market and sell your products—all in one place. Get started for free today. You only pay when you make a sale. Here's more on how to start an online store to help you get going.
Step 6: Choose a web design that fits your brand
Your website is one of the best tools you have for establishing your brand. It highlights all of the major elements of brand identity:
- Written content
Your website look blends each of these elements—yes, including packaging, as long as you have some kind of products or services page with images. Together, they showcase the personality of your brand.
Your identity has to be consistent, especially when your business is new and you're building your brand. Your customers get to know you like they get to know a new acquaintance, learning what to expect and coming to recognize things like your logo, font, and graphics.
A consistent Web look and feel builds these relationships and at the same time, it helps to attract new customers to your brand. People feel drawn to different brand aesthetics, from the style of graphics to the color scheme. You’ll even connect with different people depending on whether your brand is formal or informal, contemporary or classic, and so on.
When you build your website through Mailchimp, you can select from a broad range of template designs, designer-approved fonts and color palettes. Not finding your perfect match? No problem! You can customize both the font and color scheme to match your brand aesthetic.
Pro tip: Keep the color, font, and graphic style the same across all of your landing pages. You can still vary the layout and image choices, but this way, your brand identity will stay consistent.
Step 7: Build your pages
Once you have your aesthetic set, you can start to construct your various landing pages. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of creating a website—even more so when you use a drag-and-drop website builder like Mailchimp’s.
Mailchimp’s editor is easy for anyone to use, even if you have no coding or design experience. Just navigate to the page you want to build and start experimenting with the drag-and-drop site builder.
Inside the site builder, you can work on individual sections such as the Website navigation bar, header, featured content, and product information. Within each of those sections, you can edit, add, move, and delete content blocks until you’re happy with the results.
Your main goal is to make the site intuitive, easy to navigate, and descriptive of your business. Build your navigation menu so that visitors can find the pages you’re looking for quickly. Use dropdowns so that the bar doesn’t get too crowded. For example, if you have multiple services, nest them under a “services” dropdown heading.
Always have a descriptive heading at the top of every page so that visitors know what they’re looking at. Creative phrasing is fine, but make sure the message comes across. That’s important for all content that appears above the “fold,” that invisible line on a page that divides what you see first to what you have to scroll to see.
Do your best to keep the most important information and key messaging above the fold. More details can go below the fold, but keep the design clean and uncluttered.
If you have a call-to-action (CTA), find an obvious place for it. A lot of people will scroll to the bottom to find the CTA, but sometimes it’ll be better at the top of the page. With Mailchimp’s drag-and-drop site builder, it’s simple and fun to experiment, so don’t be shy—try things out and see what works.
Step 8: Connect your payment processor
Mailchimp makes it easy to sell products or services through your website. If you already have a supported e-commerce store or API 3.0 store, you can connect it to your Mailchimp account by following the step-by-step instructions.
Looking to create your online store for the first time? We have you covered! Build it with Mailchimp stores and start selling directly from your website. We make it easy to accept payments for products sold through your online store with Stripe.
Step 9: Optimize for search engines
SEO, or search engine optimization, is something that every business website owner has to think about. It’s the practice of creating and optimizing your content to connect with the way that your potential customers look for your products or services in search engines.
Every search engine has a different algorithm, but Google handles approximately 92% of all searches, so it’s smartest to optimize for Google. Whenever someone conducts a search, Google will show them the web pages that it believes to be most authoritative and relevant to that search. Making your content search friendly means creating content that Google wants to show everyone.
The rules of SEO are always changing, but two things are consistently important: keywords and quality content. Take some time to research the keywords that people use to find products or services like yours in search engines to customize your content accordingly. Your content should be unique and descriptive.
Backlinks—links to your site from other sites—are important too, but they take time to build. As soon as you have a website, start linking to it from your social media, and encourage your followers to do the same. You can also invite your audience to review your products and services on consumer review sites to get more backlinks.
Pro tip: Today’s search engines know that 59% of US search engine visits happen on mobile devices, so they prioritize sites that are mobile friendly. Make sure that your pages are easy to view and navigate from smartphones and tablets.
Step 10: Check your links and publish your website
Test your website. Your internal links should be a priority. These links are how your users, as well as Google’s site crawlers find the different parts of your site, and if they don’t work, your users and Google might not realize that those other pages exist.
Next, check any backlinks that come from sites you control, such as your Facebook page or Instagram bio. Also, make sure that if any links to third-party sites go to active pages. Non-working links can make your site look less professional and hurt your users' experience.
If you’ve followed the steps above, then your new website is now ready for the world! Give it another once-over just to make sure that everything looks the way you want it to look. If you can, let someone else look at it and click around a bit, so you get a second opinion on how well it works. Remember, if you’re using Mailchimp’s website builder, it’s easy to make changes, so don’t be afraid to perform some final tweaks.
If everything looks good, go ahead—click publish!