When learning how to design a website, you’ll likely keep hearing about all the different elements your site needs. Website basics are the foundational, or required, components of a website. From a content management system to a sitemap and lead magnets, there’s a lot involved. So to help, we’re here to make it easy by laying out all the basics you need when building a site.
1. Content Management System (CMS)
A content management system (CMS) is the platform on which you will build your website. There are a number of different CMS to choose from, each with their own unique customization capabilities and degrees of user-friendliness. For example, while WordPress is the most versatile, many opt for an all-in-one site builder, such as Squarespace or Wix, as they are very user-friendly and require zero web design experience.
Here are the top CMS for business websites with links on how to build a site with them:
Keep in mind that if you choose a site builder, you pretty much don’t need most of the other elements, as everything will be included and housed within the site builder’s platform. For help deciding which CMS to use, check out our article on building your small business website.
2. Domain Name
Professional websites use their own domain name (e.g., www.yourbusiness.com). You can get a domain name from a domain name registrar, such as Hover or Namecheap, for around $12 per year. However, you can also get a free domain name with most web hosting plans, so it’s worth getting web hosting first. On top of being free, it will also eliminate the headache of having to manually connect your domain to your web hosting provider because it will connect automatically.
Here are a few of the most popular domain name registrars:
If you’re not sure where to register your domain, learn more about the best domain name registrars.
3. Professional Email Address
Sure, you know your business and staff will need email, but you might be wondering why you need a professional email address for your website. The answer is simple: to display in your site’s contact information. Beyond having employee email addresses, you should also create a generic email address to display on your site, such as firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Want more insights into how to register a professional email address? Get the complete guide on business email.
4. Web Hosting for WordPress Websites
Every site built with WordPress requires web hosting in order for the site to be available live on the internet. As technical as web hosting may initially sound, it’s actually pretty easy to set up—especially if you get web hosting before creating your WordPress account. This is because most web hosting providers include a free domain name and one-click WordPress installation, which automatically connects your web hosting service and domain to WordPress.
Here are the three of the top web hosting providers:
For more help deciding which is right for you, get the complete comparison on the best web hosting companies.
5. High-quality WordPress Theme
Yes, WordPress offers dozens of free themes, though it’s a common rookie mistake to use a free theme. Instead, by choosing a high-quality premium theme, you’ll get a much better starting point for your website. In return, you’ll be able to more quickly and easily build your WordPress because it will require far fewer customizations.
Here are the best places to find quality WordPress themes:
Need helping deciding? Check out the best WordPress themes.
6. WordPress Page Builder Plugin
Forget editing your WordPress pages in the traditional editor, and instead, use a page builder plugin to transform your WordPress editor into a drag-and-drop interface. Page builder plugins are one of the most helpful tools for WordPress beginners as they make building a site easy and code-free. What’s more, most of these are available for free.
Here are the top page builder plugins for WordPress:
For more insight into which one is the best for you, learn more about the best drag-and-drop website builder plugins.
7. Brand Assets: Logo, Site Icon, Color Scheme
No site (or business) is quite complete without its own brand assets. You need things such as your own business logo, favicon, color scheme, and slogan, which will be used on your site. With the help of some online platforms, you can get your own logo and brand identity assets at a very affordable price—if not free.
Here are the best sites to get custom branding such as a business logo:
Need a logo but not sure where to start? Get all the information you need to get a great business logo design.
8. Website Graphics & Photography
Quality images and videos make a difference. So much so that poor quality graphics are one of the fastest ways to make your site look unprofessional. Of course, professional photography can be expensive and so many businesses try to get away with homemade photos. Skip that temptation and use stock photos and graphics instead. Sites like Pixabay, Pexels, and Canva give you a free way of getting professional photos and graphics.
Here are the best sites to get professionals images, videos, and graphics:
9. UX Design Basics
It’s one thing to build a website, and it’s another to build a well-designed website. One way to ensure your site not only looks good but functions well and serves as a marketing tool for your business is to employ user experience (UX) design principles to it. For example, by getting a good understanding of your audience, you can then strategically design your site so that pages lead with key information. In return, readers will be drawn in and web pages will help funnel readers to convert.
Learn how to build your site using these UX design principles.
10. SSL Certificate
It used to be that only sites that accepted online payments and personal information needed to have an SSL certificate. However, this is no longer true. Now all sites should have an SSL certificate in order to better secure the site, appear professional and legitimate, and rank higher on Google. The good news is that most web hosting plans come with a free SSL certificate, which you can easily install through your web hosting cPanel.
11. User Insights & Analytics
To make informed decisions on your website, you need to have access to user insights and analytics. Tools such as Google Analytics give you insight into how many people visit your site, which pages they visit, how long they spend on your site, how they found your site, and more. By having this level of information, you can understand how effective your digital marketing campaigns are, as well as more strategically optimize your site.
Here are the top user insights and analytics plugins for WordPress:
12. SEO Plugins & Tools
It’s no easy feat to get found in search engines, such as Google. One way to help you improve your site so it has a better chance at ranking highly in search is by using a search engine optimization (SEO) plugin. With the help of an SEO plugin, such as Yoast SEO, you can edit your page and post snippets, add meta tags, get SEO suggestions for improvements (e.g., using your keywords in your permalinks), and see your page’s SEO rating.
Here are a few of the top SEO plugins:
Looking to improve your site’s rank? Learn more about how to rank higher on Google.
13. Performance & Security Plugins
Hackers are everywhere, and they pose a serious risk to all websites—especially business websites that accept and process sensitive information, such as customers’ personal details and payment information. To help safeguard your website, use a performance and security plugin, such as Jetpack, Sucuri, or Wordfence.
Here are a few of the top performance and security plugins for WordPress:
If you have an online store or any website that accepts online payments, maintaining your site’s security is crucial. Learn more about how to secure an ecommerce website.
14. Contact Information
As much as we all want to protect our information, every business website should display its contact information. Why? Because nearly half of all site visitors will exit a website if it doesn’t display the company’s contact information. In other words, failing to display your information is a fast way to make your business appear untrustworthy. At the minimum, display your business’ name and address and give site visitors a way to contact you, such as via email or phone.
Information to include on your website:
- Business name and address
- Phone number
- Generic email address (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org)
A sitemap is the collection of web pages a website consists of. Since search engines can’t actually look at your site, they scan sitemaps to determine whether a site is a good search result for a specific search query. There are a number of sitemap plugins that generate a sitemap for you. Once you have a sitemap, you need to submit it to the Google Search Console so your site can more quickly get found online.
Here are the top sitemap plugins for WordPress:
- Yoast SEO
- Google XML Sitemaps
- All in One SEO Pack
Want help creating and submitting your sitemap to the Google Search Console? Check out this article on how to create an XML sitemap to boost SEO.
16. Lead Generation Magnet
Lead magnets are simply an offer, or incentive, for your site visitors to convert and become leads or customers. It’s a website basic for any business website that wants its site to serve as a marketing tool. To create a lead magnet, think about your target audience and your unique selling point (USP). Consider creating an offer that is valuable to them, such as one that solves a problem they have or one that gives them something your competition can’t.
Here are a few examples of lead magnets:
- Downloadables (e.g., an e-book or checklist)
- Free trial or instant demo
- Instant discounts (e.g., sign up for our newsletter and get 30% off your order)
While you can create lead magnets on your own, there are a number of great tools that will help you create a better, more effective lead magnet.
17. Email Marketing Automation
Ideally, your site will be collecting leads, but it’s what you do with those leads that really matters. One of the most common lead magnets is the newsletter sign-up, though getting users’ contact information is only the first step. Instead of having to collect leads from your site and then import them to an email marketing platform, skip that step and connect the email platform to your website. This way, your leads will automatically be imported and emails will automatically be sent.
Here are a few of the top automated email marketing platforms that connect to WordPress:
It’s a worthwhile investment to take the time to set up email marketing automation.
18. Live Chat
Give your site visitors direct access and immediate answers by using live chat on your website. People are coming to your site to learn more about your business. Since your site can’t possibly answer every potential question a visitor might have, live chat is a quick way to give visitors the information they want without writing an email or picking up a phone. Thanks to live chat plugins, it’s easier than ever to install and use live chat on your website.
Here are a few of the top live chat plugins and services for WordPress:
Not sure where to begin? Get the step-by-step instructions on how to add live chat to a website.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do you need to be a web designer to create a website?
No, these days anyone can build a professional-quality website. Whether you want to use an ultra-easy, all-in-one site builder, such as Squarespace or Wix, or are looking to build a highly customizable site with WordPress, it’s possible to build a site with no prior experience. Thanks to site builder plugins, you can even build a WordPress site with a drag-and-drop site editor. Learn how to design a website.
What’s the quickest way to get a new site found in Google?
It generally takes around three to six months for a new website to rank in Google. That is, of course, if the site is well-built for SEO. If you want your new website to get found in Google search immediately, then use pay-per-click (PPC) ads. This will help your site land at the top of search results for your chosen keywords, in your chosen locations. To get started, learn how to advertise on Google.
How do you get your business into Google’s local rankings?
In order for your business to land in Google’s local search, you need to have a Google My Business (GMB) account. It’s free to create and requires you to have a physical address, which you will need to confirm in order to be approved. Once you have a GMB account, you should then work on getting positive reviews to help push your business higher in the local rankings. Get the step-by-step instructions on how to create your Google My Business account.