Whether you're running a small business, promoting your professional work or showcasing a hobby, your online presence can be crucial to reaching an audience. But building that presence can be daunting. Social media accounts, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, are a good place to start, but a dedicated website that gives you more control over design, content and features can be a powerful tool.
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Hiring a professional to design and build a site for you generally costs from a few hundred dollars for a simple personal page to several thousand dollars for a customized small-business site. But building a website no longer requires specialized skills such as coding or graphic design, says Joe Pollaro, a vice president at website builder Wix.com.
Do-it-yourself services, such as Duda, Shopify, Squarespace, Weebly, Wix and WordPress, make it easy to build a website. The services generally allow you to focus on the content--pages, text and images--while they oversee the technical aspects, such as your domain and web hosting, which connects your site to the internet.
The service that will be best for you depends on what you want to do with your site. Most, including Squarespace, Wix and WordPress, have broad appeal, while Shopify specializes in e-commerce, packing in features to help you manage sales. Most companies offer a free version, but you'll generally need to pay $10 to $40 a month for a service plan (websites with a shop tend to pay on the higher end) that gives you access to additional storage and features and allows you to remove ads that the site builder places on your pages to promote itself.
Create a domain name. To get started, you'll need to stake a claim to a domain, the URL for your website. Registering a domain name is simple and often costs $10 to $20 a year. Most website-building services will register a domain name for you (and may include a free year of domain registration).
Some services add their name to your web address (yoursite.sitebuildingservice.com). In that case, for a more polished look, cut the middleman from your URL by using a domain registrar, such as GoDaddy.com or Namecheap.com. You'll still pay roughly $10 to $20 to register your domain for a year. But you may need to jump through some hoops, such as extending the registration by a year or paying a fee to use the domain name with your website builder.
And if you can't come up with a catchy name for your website that hasn't already been taken, many sites have a search feature to scope out an available name.
Decide on a design. Before you start adding content to your site, choose a template offered by the website-building service to use as a framework. As you consider your options, get ideas by visiting sites similar to the one you're creating. Or use filters on the website-building service's site to find a template that fits your needs. Once you've chosen a template, you can customize its look by adding images, changing the color scheme or moving blocks of text.
You'll usually have the option of editing the template heavily. But for the cleanest look that makes it easy for visitors to navigate your site, you'll generally want to avoid making big changes. After you've set up the basics for your site, you can expand what you've built, adding pages and features, such as animations and videos, an online store, or a gallery of your work.
Copyright 2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors