If you’re about to build your first web site, you may not know what to use. With so many ways to build a site, the possibilities may seem endless. This can be very overwhelming for some. Fortunately, there are several tools available for free to use.
Let’s assume you’ve already found a web host. If you are not sure what that is, take a look at this article first. It explains what a web host is and why you need one. We also cover the pros and cons of Free vs Paid web hosting.
We will also assume that you know what you want on your site, or at least have a good idea of what it will have. If not, start planning out what you’d like on your site. You don’t need to have the complete blueprints for the site, but a rough idea will help.
To start with, get a code editor. There are plenty of free code editors around to provide an environment for you to write code in. Most of them offer many of the the same features, so you’ll want to find one that works best for you. Below is a short list of many free code editors available.
Though your code editor may have an FTP client built into it, it’s a good idea to have a stand alone FTP client as well. An FTP client allows you to upload, download, rename, and delete files and directories. It also allows you to change file and directory permissions, something not commonly found in the built in FTP feature of code editors. Below is a short list of free FTP clients:
Using a stand alone FTP client makes it easy to upload, download and delete files in bulk. It’s a great tool to have.
For those who are less code savvy or do not want to spend the time it takes to learn to write web code, using a content management system is the way to go. A content management system (CMS) provides a lightning fast method to have a website up and running in a matter of minutes. Typical features of a CMS include:
- User Registration and Management
- Pages and blog posts created in an administration dashboard
- Plugins and modules to extend your website functions and features
- High availability of Themes and Templates to change the look of your website immediately
- Developer friendly with a large community of users
There are several content management systems to choose from. Below is a short list of some of the most popular free systems available today:
The choice is yours, depending on your website needs. The biggest three in the list are WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. Each one has a massive community behind them, but the others in the list are certainly worth the time it takes to look into them.
If your aim is to sell items or services online, there are several tools available to do so. If you are using a content management system, you may be able to find an ecommerce tool for your particular system. WooCommerce and MarketPress dominate in WordPress, while Virtuemart is often the tool of choice for Joomla webmasters who want to add ecommerce to their website.
In many cases, a stand alone ecommerce tool is best. Below is a list of very popular free ways to sell online:
Each shopping cart system offers many of the same key features, but what I’ve found most useful is how well the cart operates. Prestashop and Magento can quickly grow heavy for shared hosting, but both are highly useful and powerful systems. They also have large communities to back you up when you need help, so it’s easy to see why they come out on top for most online sellers.
If you would like to get a website online in less time than it took to read this article, Softaculous is the tool for you. It doesn’t let you build websites, but it contains a massive library of tools that make it possible. Many of the content management and ecommerce systems I mentioned above are found in Softaculous. Each one can be installed in less than a minute (two minutes if the network or server is slow). That means that with very little effort, you can rapidly get a website up and running.
Most web hosts that use CPanel will offer Softaculous for free (or very cheap if using a Managed VPS or Managed Dedicated Server). It is a tool that makes it easy to get your site up so you can focus on the content, management of the site and your business.
If you’ve had success with any of the tools listed above, or any that aren’t listed, let us know in the comments section below.