Don't let anyone fool you into believing you can build a website in ten minutes. Even drag and drop website builders like Weebly need time to set up correctly and be made to look good. In this guide I'm going to show you how to set up a Weebly website and get the job done right first time, avoiding all those annoying rookie mistakes that usually have to be redone later on.
If you have the funds it is always preferable to get a website designer to build a website for you. It's what they do for a living and an eye for design, white space and detail is something that the layman often fails to grasp. A bit like the desktop publishing revolution of the late nineties, just because you could print it out didn't automatically mean it was going to look good.
There are many common preparation elements that go into website construction no matter what platform you use to construct it. Deciding on the parameters for these elements will make your job a lot easier and get the site built more quickly. It's a bit like home decorating, the final result all depends on the amount of preparation work you put into it.
First of all, decide on the scope of your project. You may want to read my eCommerce project management guide which gives a high-level overview of the website construction process. I know, I know, you just want to plough in and get started drag and dropping but if you do, you'll create porridge, so slow down and put some proper thought into it.
Choosing Your Domain Name
You don't have to have a domain name to get started with Weebly, but these days they are so cheap, it doesn't make any sense not to have one. If you don't have a domain name already, then you should register it with Weebly so that you don't have to wait to be able to use it. The process of changing the nameservers if you register your name elsewhere can take up to 24 hours.
On the other hand, if you just want to take Weebly for a Sunday drive then you should choose the option to “Use a subdomain of Weebly.com.” You can always change the domain address in the main control panel later on.
See my guide to choosing a domain name for hints and tips on finding the best possible name for your business.
Choosing A Theme
This move drives all the others and is an important step. If you select a template that is ultimately unsuitable, you'll have to redo lots of work to make everything fit your new choice. It is much better to choose a plainer and simpler template than it is to pick something that looks more complicated. When you switch templates, all of your data is imported into the new template, but you'll probably have to resize graphics at a bare minimum.
Generally speaking, very simple themes are geared towards obtaining leads and have little in the way of navigational menus. Information-rich sites are the opposite because you'll need to give users plenty of opportunities to find their way around.
Here's an example of a theme you'd use as a lead generation platform:
The great thing with Weebly is that you can switch themes with ease by simply clicking on the theme image so it's a good idea to paste some real-life text into your page so that you can see what it is going to look like.
The Weebly Website Builder Explained
Over the years the Weebly interface has been redesigned and improved many times. Developing any software is a minefield of trying to add more useful features while keeping the user interface easy to use.
The Weebly interface is intuitive, but it still takes some learning to understand exactly what is going on. For example, when you change the header background image you can also apply this change to selected other pages. There are also many things you can do that you shouldn't be able to do and that is perhaps the most significant drawback for complete beginners.
The main website construction elements (pages, theme, store, apps, settings) run in a horizontal menu across the top of the page, and the individual page builder elements sit vertically to the left:
Adding Photos And Images
Once you've selected your theme, then the first step is to make a note of all the image placements that are used on each page and then methodically work your way through and replace each of them with a new one that relates to your text. This is perhaps the most time-consuming part of building your site.
It's easy to underestimate how much time goes into sourcing images and getting the right "feel" for your site. All your pictures need to be of consistent quality, and so it's important to get this part right.
If you already have a series of images you are going to use, then you'll need to crop and scale them to the exact dimensions as the theme you are using. Doing it this way means there will be no surprises when you start viewing your website on mobile responsive devices.
Tip: You can use Quirktools Screenfly to see how a website is going to look on different devices and resolutions.
If you don't know where to start with images then see my guide to finding professional images for your website:
Adding A Logo
The simplest way of adding a logo to your Weebly site is to keep it text-based! That's not going to be very expressive though so you'll probably want to add a jpg image.
The best way to do this is to keep the logo to 300px x 50-75px. This size will display properly on a mobile device without scaling. It doesn't give you a lot of room for fancy logo design, but it's the most functional size.
Never lift text directly from Microsoft Word and paste it directly into your web pages because the likelihood is that you will also copy a lot of redundant formatting with it. If you are unsure, my advice is always to paste your text into TextPad or notepad to ensure that it is free of unnecessary formatting that can plague your layout.
Adding & Editing Pages
It's preferable to try and keep your site pages down to the bare minimum. If you think that you should add many pages for SEO purposes, then you are using the wrong tool for the job, and you should probably be using a CMS. Weebly is not designed to manage large-scale pages although sites of around twenty pages will be entirely manageable. The more pages you introduce, the more management your site will need. Always try and place more elements on a page rather than dividing them up into many pages.
To change the page order simply drag and drop the page you want to move into the correct order. When making new pages always unpublish the page until it is finished and ready for public display.
Changing Your Theme
You can change your theme at any time but be aware that your image sizes will probably change with it and as that is the most labour intensive part of building a website then you'll be making a lot of work for yourself by chopping and changing.
Publishing Your Website
Once you are ready to go live with your Weebly website, simply click the orange "publish" button on the top right.
Pay attention to image sizes to make sure your site displays properly and make a simple logo 300px x 75px for it to display nicely on mobile devices.
Put aside a few hours to learn how the Weebly interface works and work your way through the elements so that you know what each is capable of. Keep the number of pages down to the bare minimum you need because with each page you add so does the administration overhead.
Weebly is an excellent choice for small sites as it offers lots of features and is easy to use. You'll need to keep an eye on your App expenditure though because adding functionality through these third-party add-ons can add significantly to your overall monthly cost.