How to create a website

wireframe of a website homepage written in black marker on glassContents

  1. What do I need to consider when building a website?
  2. Creating your website
  3. Managing your website: Content Management Systems (CMS) and hosting
  4. Taking bookings on your website
  5. Google Analytics


What do I need to consider when building a website?

Your website is your main point of connection with your customers online. In the past, hiring a designer was the only practical way for most businesses to create a website. This may still be the case if you have more complex requirements, such as an online availability calendar or stock management. However, it’s also possible to make your own website using online tools and platforms, many of which are low cost or even free. To help you create an effective one, consider:

  • What does your business do?
  • What (or who) is your core market?
  • Do you want customers to be able to book online or buy products?
  • How often will you have time to update information on your site?
  • How much photography or imagery will you include?
  • Do you need the ability for customers to create accounts?
  • An effective website for digital tourism marketing can be created quickly, cheaply and efficiently – and once it’s built, it can act as a permanent digital shop-front for your business.

Creating your website

Choosing a domain name

Your website’s domain name is the address that people will type into their browser to find your site, such as

To find out whether your chosen domain name is available, you need to visit a domain registrar such as, or Once purchased, the domain will remain yours as long as you renew it (usually on a yearly basis).

If your first choice has gone, it’s worth trying different versions. For example, if has been taken, perhaps try – or a variation such as,, or

Choose your domain name carefully. Once you’ve started using it in your digital marketing, it can be inconvenient to change it later on. Domain names can also be a factor in how search engines ‘index’ your site.

Find out more about search engine optimisation.

Best website structure

It’s important to think about how customers will move around your website. The structure is laid out in a site map, which is a directory of all the pages on your website. It’s mainly used by search engines to catalogue or ‘index’ your site’s content.

The easier it is for people to use your website, and navigate around it, the more likely they are to book with you or buy your products and services. A clear site map will also help your website to rank higher in the list of search engine results. Read the SEO section for more detail.


Website design

Optimising a website for mobile phones and tablets

More than 50% of global internet searches are made on mobile devices and the world’s most popular search engine, Google, now uses the mobile version of website content for indexing and ranking search results. That makes the mobile version of your website more important for SEO than the desktop version.

Since these devices have smaller screens and can be used vertically as well as horizontally, you need to think about how your site will appear on them – a process known as ‘mobile optimisation’ or ‘responsive design’.

This means your website can ‘respond’ to the device on which it is accessed, rearranging the content to provide a more attractive and easy-to-use experience. Responsive designs are built in to most modern website platforms.

Accessible website design

Accessibility is about making it easy for disabled people to use your website, such as somebody with a visual impairment who may be using a screen reader. All users should have equal access to information and functionality. There is comprehensive guidance on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), but for a quick guide read VisitEngland’s Communication Toolkit: Electronic communications.


Website structure and design checklist

  1. Decide how many pages your website will need and what each one is for.
  2. Plan how much imagery and video you will include. Make sure any images or photography are of good quality, optimised for online and do not breach any permissions or copyright laws. Find more details in the Content Marketing section.
  3. Consider how much text you will need for your site and the tone of voice you want to use to communicate with customers.
  4. Don’t duplicate content – having pages that are all very similar will confuse search engines.
  5. Follow a step-by-step guide to structuring, if you are new to setting up a website.
  6. Ensure your site is accessible and optimised for mobile.

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Managing your website: Content Management Systems (CMS) and hosting

Managing your websitea brown-haired woman looking down at a laptop, sitting outside on a wooden picnic table

Most websites are built around a Content Management System, known as a CMS.

A CMS is usually accessed via your web browser, and provides the platform that creates all the different pages of your website, allowing you to fill them with words, images, video and other content.

In most cases, you don’t need any technical training or the ability to code to use a CMS. There are many different systems available, so you should easily be able to find one that you feel comfortable using and provides all the features you need.

Types of CMS

The most commonly used CMS is Wordpress, which is completely free to download and use. There are many others, including Drupal, Joomla, Ghost and Magento, as well as basic ones like Weebly and Wix. Some CMS platforms are geared specifically around ecommerce: the biggest of these are Shopify and WooCommerce

Like many CMS platforms, Wordpress uses ‘templates’ to create the look, feel and layout of your site. You can design your own, or even easier, buy a pre-designed one – either from Wordpress, or a third-party provider such as Theme Forest or Elegant Themes. Once installed, you can fill these templates with your own content. They also usually allow a degree of customisation, so you can tailor the look of your site to your own preference.

If you are looking for extra features, such as galleries, online booking or social media feeds, it is possible to add on these functions using ‘plug-ins’ – small bits of extra software that integrate with the CMS. Sometimes these are free, but sometimes you may have to purchase them.

Another alternative is Squarespace, which has been specifically designed to be easy to use for people with no prior experience of web design. Like Wordpress, Squarespace uses templates, but the ‘drag and drop’ interface allows you to pick up, reorder and move around the elements of the page to make it look just the way you want. Conveniently, Squarespace can help you register a domain and also provides you with somewhere to host your site.

Choosing the CMS

When it comes to choosing a CMS, consider the following:

  • Who will be maintaining it – will it be just one person or a team?
  • What will it cost? Some CMS platforms are free to download, but you may need to pay extra to add more features. Others provide an ‘all-in’ package including hosting and email services. Is there a one-off fee, or a monthly or annual subscription?
  • What do you want it to do? Some platforms give more options and control than others.
  • What’s your budget? Decide how much you are willing to spend on a CMS. Make sure it has all the features your business will need – such as online booking, calendars or shopping carts.
  • How much time can you dedicate to learning the CMS? Some take more time than others.
  • Security. Some CMS platforms are owned by a software developer who controls and creates all the features. Others are open source, which means that anyone can add features – great for functionality, but potentially raising security issues.
  • It is complex (and in some cases not possible) to move from one CMS to another, so if you decide to move to a different one later, it may mean starting again from scratch.

Web hosting

Your website is ‘hosted’ on a computer called a server.

Some Content Management Systems provide hosting. Others allow you to choose a third-party company for hosting, usually for a separate monthly or annual fee.

Costs vary depending on the web host you choose, as well as the storage space and functions you need. Generally the cheapest type is ‘shared hosting’ (sometimes called cloud hosting), which involves multiple sites hosted on one server.

You can usually upgrade to have your own ‘dedicated’ or ‘virtual’ server (although this is likely to cost considerably more). For larger businesses, it may even be preferable to purchase your own physical server.

If you are a small business, the best value option is likely to be a free-to-use CMS, such as Wordpress, with some form of shared hosting. As your business grows, you can upgrade your hosting service later. Squarespace provides the CMS and hosting all in one monthly or annual package.


Website content management checklist

  1. Choose a CMS that you understand and feel comfortable using. This is especially important if you are going to be the only person keeping the website up to date.
  2. Ask some other businesses which CMS they have chosen and why.
  3. Learn about the features of the CMS, making sure it has the functionality you need (or the ability to add more things on later).
  4. Keep a budget in mind to make sure your website is affordable. Remember to factor in the cost of both the CMS itself and the web hosting.
  5. To keep things simple, consider an all-in-one provider.
  6. Keep your website maintained: if it’s out of date, or has incorrect details, it can deter potential customers.

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Case study: Cornish Rock Tors

"Whatever channels you choose to use and pursue, build everything on solid foundations – your own content and in places owned by you, such as your website or a database of customer emails. If Instagram was shut down tomorrow and you’d only focused on that one platform, you’d be back to square one. But your website, your blog, your email list, is safe with you, so start from there.

We use Google analytics, just like everybody else, to understand more about our audience and how they use our website, as well as assess what content is working. We also use Seo Site Checkup at intervals through the year to measure key metrics, such as site speed, which is really important for us in terms of mobile-first local search."

Taking bookings on your websitelaptop screen showing a hotel booking webpage

Online booking is an important feature to consider for accommodation and hospitality providers, but increasingly attractions and experiences too.

Tourists often expect online booking. Handling your own online bookings can also help you retain revenue, as you won’t have to pay commission to an Online Travel Agent.

There are three ways to take online bookings:

  1. Booking software embedded within your website
  2. Online Travel Agents
  3. Internet Booking Engines (IBEs), which provide booking functionality and update availability across multiple platforms.


What is a booking engine?

Internet Booking Engines (IBEs) manage your bookings across many different platforms, e.g. TripAdvisor. Booking Engines reduce the chance of double-bookings by automatically updating your availability across all of your online listings when a booking is made.

Popular IBEs for hotel bookings include eviivo, Synxis, SiteMinder, MEWs, Guest Link, CloudBeds and Little Hotelier.

Booking systems or engines, such as OpenTable, Resurva, Bookeo or Resurvio, are frequently used by hospitality businesses, services and attractions.

Some IBEs offer a free booking engine and charge a commission for each booking. Other IBEs charge a flat monthly fee, regardless of how many bookings are taken.

If the booking comes via an Online Travel Agent website (such as, you will have to pay commission to them as well.

Another option is VisitBritain/VisitEngland’s ‘TxLoad’, which is designed for businesses who do not have their own booking system. It allows you to enter content, prices and availability manually into the TXGB platform, where customers can book online. Read more about TXGB in the Other digital marketing channels section.

It is advisable to compare payment terms carefully, as some providers will only transfer the guest’s payment once their stay is completed.


Booking Engine Checklist

  1. Compare different IBEs and their costs.
  2. If you only receive a few bookings a month, you may be better off with an IBE that charges per booking. For more bookings, a monthly fee may be more cost effective.
  3. Check your chosen IBE provider integrates with major online booking platforms, such as TripAdvisor and
  4. Ensure visitors to your website can book from every page, ideally in three clicks or less.

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Google Analyticsscreenshot of an analytics programme showing number of visitors to a website

Google Analytics (GA) is a powerful, free application for tracking the performance of your website.

Google Analytics can tell you:

  • the search terms (‘keywords’) people are using to find your site
  • the websites they are coming from
  • which pages on your site they land on most frequently, and how long they stay there
  • the city and country your visitors are from
  • the devices and browsers they use

GA can also track traffic from where you have placed adverts, helping you to track the success of any digital marketing strategy.

Because GA is run by Google, it integrates well with other platforms such as Google Ads. It’s also possible to set up dashboards: customisable panels that enable you to quickly access key information.

There is also a feature that allows you to set up custom alerts, so if traffic to your website changes and you don’t have time to check your reports, you can receive automatic notifications.

Many CMS systems are automatically integrated with GA.


Google Analytics Checklist

  1. Learn how to setup and use Google Analytics.
  2. Decide which GA metrics are most relevant to your business and focus your attention there.
  3. Use customisable reports to make decisions on how to improve your website.


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