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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Build a website with Moonfruit 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 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.

Choose a style and colour scheme

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 If you decide to purchase a domain, visit 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.

Which version?

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.

>> NEXT PAGE: Getting creative

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.

Getting creative

Next, you'll want to customise your site's design and add in some text and images. Your site will go live on the web as soon as you launch it, so you ideally need to upload the text and images as quickly as possible.

Double-click in a text box and you'll be presented with a cursor. If you're using a pre-designed template you'll need to highlight the placeholder text and press delete, then paste or type in your own copy.

Double-click a box to add text

The Editor dialog box will pop up every time you add an element to your page. Here, you can adjust the size of the text box and the style of copy within. You'll probably want to use different formats for your main bodycopy and your titles, for instance. Use the Editor's Font tab to change the font style and size; the Style tab, meanwhile, lets you add backgrounds and borders.

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To create a link in your text, simply highlight it and select the Links tab in the Editor. Choose which type of link you need - to an email address, web page or an image or video file - and enter the address or browse to the file. Click Apply.

Adding images

Before you can add images to your page, you'll need to upload them to your webspace. Check the resolution of all images that you add to your site - 72 dots per inch (dpi) is ideal; anything larger than 96dpi will take an age to load and deter visitors from returning. Use a photo editor to check the resolution and file size of your images and adjust them if necessary.

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Once your images are the correct size, and only if you are sure that you either own the copyright for them or have permission to use them (see Illustration notes, below), click the Upload menu in SiteMaker's top bar. This will open a window displaying the content of your My Files folder, located on your Moonfruit webspace. Click Add Files at the bottom of this window to browse to and select the images to be uploaded from your hard drive. Press the Upload button.

Insert an image

To insert an image, double-click in an image box to open the Editor. Select the Style tab and click Choose image. This will open your My Files folder. Navigate to and select the image you want to insert, then click Use This to add the picture to your website.

Making adjustments

Use the Reposition button on the Editor's Style tab to move the image into place and resize it within the box. The Info tab lets you alter the size of the picture box itself. You can also adjust the border size and image transparency from this tab.

SiteMaker's top menu allows access to a range of customisation options for your website. The Insert menu lets you add or remove pages, text boxes and images, while the Edit menu offers undo, redo, copy, paste and delete functions.

The Design menu lets you change the design of the whole site, from adjusting and adding new colours to your scheme to changing the font of the website.

Use the Design button to change background colours and fonts

The People menu lets you invite others to join your site - particularly handy if you're running a forum with members and admins.

Finishing up

Of course, the home page is only the first step. Once you've finished customising this, you'll need to go back and repeat the steps above for all the pages on your site.

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An easy way to navigate between pages is to click the page names from the home page (in our design template they were displayed as tabs towards the top of the home page). Alternatively, you can use the Pages menu on the top bar.

When you've personalised each page on your website, click Save in the top menu to preserve your changes. Moonfruit also offers a View my Site option that allows you to see your website as other web users would, so you can identify - and then correct - any errors. From the View my Site option, simply press the Edit My Site button to return to the SiteMaker page editor.

Once your site is complete, you'll need to think about how you can start attracting visitors. An obvious first step is to start telling your friends, family or customers to spread the word.