How to Build a Website (When You Don't Know HTML)

Last Updated Jul 1, 2010 10:30 AM EDT

Your Website is just another door into your business with unlimited potential for marketing and sales opportunities. If you load it with solid content and give it a great look the first time, it will save you a lot of pain and frustration later. So how do you do that if HTML coding isn't in your skill set? Fortunately, there are tools that do a lot of the work for you. All of the options below are hosted solutions, also called SaaS (Software as a Service). They are online Website builders that also host your site. They are the easiest way to get a Website online and include some very nice templates. The only drawback is the amount of customization you can do and the amount of storage or speed your Website might have. The great part is you don't have to know HTML code and many have all the features you will ever need for your small business.

1. Squarespace -- A fully hosted solution for creating and maintaining a small business Website. Squarespace comes with professionally designed style variants from brand-name designers. Every style has point-and-click control over all the page elements of the design to make it look like you and no one else. For $14 a month, Squarespace is a must see.

2. SnapPages -- SnapPages gives you all the tools you need to create your very own Website. Everything on SnapPages has been developed from the ground up to be powerful enough for your business but simple enough for your grandma. Contact forms, videos, photo albums, blog, and nice customizable themes. Seriously? $8 a month.

3. Yola -- Great templates and good support are the hallmarks of Yola. My favorite feature is Yola Premier by HP where you can get site design, a domain name, and hosting for only $349 for the first year and then $49.95 each year after that.

4. Weebly -- Dozens of professional designs to choose from or build your own with HTML & CSS. Videos, pictures, maps, and text are added by simply dragging them to your Website. The price of Weebly Pro is $4.58/mo for 6 months, $3.99/mo. 1yr, and $2.99/mo. for two years.

5. Moonfruit -- Comes with a free domain for your $14 a month. Moonfruit is not just a Website editor; it behaves more like a graphic design package giving you control over the detailed design of your site.

(Of course, you can also create Websites using content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla, but those deserve their own post. Stay tuned.)

Web Design Software for Windows or Mac All of the tools I have listed above create your Website online. This is the future of Web Design, but there are still a few software applications that are available for download to try. I think everyone should have an editor to work on Web pages, just in case they need one in a pinch or they want to learn how to code HTML, CSS, PHP or Javascript. Knowledge is power, right? Most have built-in FTP (File Transfer Protocol) so you can upload your pages to your Web hosting account. (If not try FileZilla or CoreFTP for Windows and Cyberduck for Mac.) It's always good to start with some Website templates. Just download them and open in one of the editors below and start playing. Here is a nice collection of about 4,000 free HTML templates to get you started.

All Web hosting providers differ in the amount of space and traffic they can handle for your Website. The online Website builders I listed above include Web hosting but are limited by storage space for your pages, images, video, etc., and by speed. Small businesses are not alike. Some may require just a standard hosting account while others that do more ecommerce or have many visitors may need scalable hosting.

Some good options for Windows or Mac software that have trial versions to download or are free: Adobe Dreamweaver -- Perfect for pros. (Windows/Mac) Cost: $399 Microsoft Expression Web -- Perfect for all. (Windows) Cost: $149 KompoZer -- For beginners and intermediates. - (Windows/Mac) Cost: FREE Aptana Studio -- For intermediates and pros. (Windows/Mac) Cost: FREE BBEdit -- For pros. (Mac) Cost: $125 TopStyle -- For intermediates and pros. (Windows) Cost: $79.95 Notepad++ -- Code only for pros. (Windows) Cost: FREE

Last but definitely not least... you can hire a professional Web designer ... if you have the budget: $500 -$10,000+

At Sortfolio, DesignCrowd, Elance, and Guru, you can get bids on your project and hire Web designers directly. Look at their past work before hiring a Web designer. Hiring a pro, either online or through a local firm is a nice option for people who don't have the time to build a Website or want to have high-end features and don't have the computer skills to do it. I believe most people have the ability -- but finding the time to do it is always the biggest problem for small businesses. In this case, hire a designer or try a hosted SaaS option above.

Does your business's Website suck? In future posts, I'll critique Website designs and offer tips on how to make them better. Submit the url for your company's Website here.

  • Nick Longo

    Nicholas Longo is the director of Web strategy at Rackspace Hosting. He's a successful serial entrepreneur and founder and former CEO of CoffeeCup Software, which develops software tools that let nontechnical people build websites. For 15 years, he has been equal parts product developer, word-of-mouth marketer, business development executive, and a guy who built a multi-million-dollar company from the ground up.