Creating a website used to be a pretty scary task, only to be approached by those with an in-depth knowledge of HTML and a creative mind. These days, a number of companies offer online services that help you to easily design and produce your own website, and many will even host it for you, too. Here, we demonstrate the process using Moonfruit.
Open your doors online with Moonfruit
Before you sign up to a package, consider how you intend to use your website. For a personal website you'll probably need only a basic service that lets you upload text and images. Business websites may have more complicated requirements, however; you might want to offer an online shop, a portfolio of your work or simply a portal for information.
Moonfruit and 1&1 offer templates that make setting up your first site a cinch, alongside hosting packages for businesses. With Moonfruit you can use PayPal to accept payments securely; the same functionality will be added to 1&1's MyBusiness Site later this year. For now, 1&1 offers bolt-on eShops from £4.99 per month.
Here, we'll demonstrate how to set up a website using Moonfruit.
You'll also need to think about ways to attract new visitors and, if you're setting up an e-commerce site, make sure you're able to relay stock levels, product description and delivery times to your customers.
Build a website with Moonfruit
Moonfruit.com is an easy-to-use website builder that's been running for 10 years. Over that time, it's helped users to create and host more than two million sites. As well as hosting your website, Moonfruit provides access to the browser-based web page designer SiteMaker, which is what you'll use to create your site.
Visit moonfruit.com and choose a style and colour for your website. More than 50 designs are available, helpfully split into those suitable for personal or business use. You can also choose a design that has been submitted by another user. Designs can be previewed to the right of the window.
Next, you need to choose a template for your site or opt to start from scratch with a blank canvas. Templates include a selection of pages and ideas about what information should appear on them. As before, these are defined as being aimed at businesses or personal websites; there's also a section for clubs and groups. The templates are flexible and you can add or remove pages as you please. Once you've selected your template, click Next.
You'll now need to choose a sub-domain for your website if you don't have a domain already. This will take the form of companyname.moonfruit.com. If you decide to purchase a domain, visit yoursite.com. Alternatively, Mr Site offers a £9.99 ‘Dotcom in a Matchbox' that allows you to choose your own website name and own the domain for a year.
You can also add a logo and an informative description of what your site is trying to achieve. Search-engine optimisation (SEO) is important here: try to include keywords that will be picked up when a potential customer performs a search for the products or information you provide. Now click Next.
You'll be asked to create a user name and password before you can access SiteMaker, Moonfruit's browser-based web-design software. You'll also need to agree to the site's terms and conditions before you can proceed.
If you simply want to showcase your products or promote your brand, for example, the free version of Moonfruit will suit your needs. But if you want to add the ability to receive secure payments via PayPal or create a large number of pages then you'll need the paid-for service.
Moonfruit provides a 14-day trial of SiteMaker Lite, after which it costs £2.69 per month for 20MB of webspace - choosing an annual subscription reduces this slightly. You can subscribe to this package or opt for even more storage by clicking Pay for my Site Now at the top of the dashboard.
To continue using the free service, click Keep My Site for Free. Note that you will need to update it at least once in every six-month period. If you decide to switch to a subscription model later you can continue using the same design.
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