I want to tell you about my personal experience building a website from scratch, using free plugins and resources. I am not a web designer or developer, so this was quite a challenge for me! It took many hours of research to find all the plugins and resources that were needed for my site. In addition to time wasted looking for those plugins, there was also worry about potential plugin conflicts. However, in retrospect, I’m glad that I did it as it has given me an enormous amount of knowledge on how websites work and what tools are available out there.
Building a website for free can be quite easy and certainly, I found that there are many great resources out there which one can use but it does take time and effort! When someone tells you, you can build a website from scratch in under an hour – trust me – they are wrong, I’m not necessarily saying you can’t, but I very much doubt it will be fully optimised!
Step One: Gain some understanding of UI/UX design
One piece of advice I would give anyone is to have some understanding of the basics of design before even attempting to start building your own website, otherwise, it may just end up another unoptimised poorly designed site! That’s my experience anyway – I’ve spent weeks trying to learn about UI/UX design and still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing so if you really don’t have time to invest in doing it yourself then leave it with the professionals.
Step Two: Planning
I can’t count how many times I messed up when building this website. For starters, my colour scheme was all wrong and I build the website mainly around a lottie image – it drove everything and so now I’m mad at myself for not putting more time into planning ahead! Have your thoughts down on paper about who you are targeting, why they will want to buy from you (especially if the product isn’t immediately obvious!) and what makes them stand out from their competition.
The other thing that really threw me, I had originally called my website elementorfree.com because there seemed to be an opening in the market for information and plugins which can be used with the Elementor Free version; but then I found out you can’t use “elementor free” without infringing on Elementor’s copyright… What? Yet another challenge- if only I could’ve done some research before getting started I may have found this out. It basically meant starting over again and renaming everything in my media files. I’ve renamed the website (as you can see – lol!) – but it’s too long, I’m not happy with its name. I literally changed it within minutes of being told that elementorfree.com was infringing trademark because my old one had a typo in it! What’s really funny is how difficult and time-consuming this process has been for me as an amateur! Not only did I have to change all our social media links, but domain names are also limited so finding another domain wasn’t easy even if there were no trademarks involved 🤷🏻 If only I had planned better and done my research at the start!
I really do wish I’d spent more time planning this website – I’ve changed my mind so many times about design, fonts, colours – I’m sure that it’s causing extra bloat to my site!
Step Three: SEO
Ah, SEO. The most important part of building any website! It’s definitely worth doing your research from the start to know what kind of keywords you’ll want and be able to rank for in Google search results pages (SERPS). You should also find out who all your competitors are so that you can have better content than them on a more professional looking site too. So do some competitive analysis now before anything else – it will help drive everything down the line once things get moving with design or other work like copywriting etcetera.
Step Four: Domain Name
Choose a great domain name, something short and catchy and easy to type! Apparently, it does make a difference. Choose one that’s also available on social media so people can find you easily online too.
Step Five – Plugins
It’s time to look for the free plugins which will get your site up and running. Having gone through the planning phase, you should have some idea of what your website will entail. These are easy enough to find. For design aspects – have a plan in place or else you may end up downloading way too many plugins that may cause conflicts and take more effort trying figure out what was used where on content! Time consuming I know but worth it in long run 🙂
Step Six – Design
Whoo Hoo! You’ve now done all your homework and you’re ready to start designing!! As a newbie, I really would suggest using one of the templates available. Even if you can’t find anything that grabs your attention right away, it will give some help with design fundamentals so at least there is something to work from as an idea before doing everything on scratch. Sometimes after adding my info into what started as a template, I end up making something entirely different than the original because there’s not enough space for all my content or images don’t fit correctly in their given window size – this is why going back over things time-to-time is necessary to ensure quality work 🙂
Step Seven: Test
It’s a good idea to do as many tests as possible before launching your website so you can make sure that it is up-to-date with the latest best practices. Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights, GT Metrix, seobility.net for SEO accessibility and other factors but also get some feedback from designers on what they think! There are many places you can find designers willing to give feedback. Take a look at my tab in resources to find out them! Don’t be shy – everyone was starting out at some stage and there’s always someone willing to lend an ear!
I had a lot of fun building this website and I’m excited to share my process with you. Just make sure not to take any advice from me too seriously – like anything else in life it’s best if you learn as much about web design for yourself before making big decisions that could end up costing both time and money. But still, feel free contact me if there’s something on your mind or when you need some help getting started designing your own site because let’s be honest everyone needs someone who will listen sometimes right?
Take a look at my other blog posts to find out what else I’ve been learning along the way 🙂
All the best of luck!