Making websites – what actually happens?

The process of making a website can feel like magic – one moment there’s nothing – then it’s there. Actually there is a lot of time and thought that goes into it. Part 3 of our guide to making a website is a detailed explanation of the process of making a website.

Choosing a CMS

The CMS (Content Management System) is the engine of the website. The websites we make use a database (not unlike an excel spreadsheet) and combine it with a CMS to make the site. Which CMS we use will depend on your requirements. What CMS will we use?  Our frequently used CMS are:

  • WordPress – makes great, easy to use, simple sites.
  • Joomla – a powerful CMS with a large community of support.
  • Mediawiki – like wikipedia, and perfect for large collaborative projects.
  • Magento – an extensive shop facility.

We can also make customised CMS for specific needs. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what you will need – we will advise on what the best solution is for you.

Once a CMS has been chosen, we upload it and set up a database to link into it.

Making the template

If the CMS is the engine of a website, then the template is the chassis. A template is basically a very long list of instructions for the CMS, telling it what the website should look like.  For instance, the line:

p {color:#ffffff;}

makes the colour of the text in the text paragraphs white.  A template will also have images, instructions on where to put the images, instructions on where to put each element of the website, (the side bar, header etc. etc.), the size of each element of the website.  Nearly everything that you can see on a website is specified by the template.  You could say that the CMS acts as the intermediary (or the interpreter) between the database and the template – rather like the engine is the intermediary between the chassis/wheels and the driver.

So the more complicated and customised the template is, the more time it will take to write all those lines of code to tell the template how to look.

Setting up the menus

After writing the template, we will usually set up the menus in the CMS.  So we’ll add dummy content (text) and make sure that all the items needed on the site will fit in the menu bar and look right.

Adding extra features

If your site has features like social media links, an events calendar, a photo gallery etc, this is the point that we’ll put them in. Sometimes they will be ‘plugins’ – little addons to the CMS.  They might also be custom made features that go straight into the template.

Client’s first look

Usually at this point, we’ll give the client the first look at their new site.  We often will develop the site on a testing server (frequently one of our sub-domains) and this allows the client to view their new site while it’s being made. The client can see what the site is going to look like, suggest changes and see how the website feels and works.

Putting in the content

When the website is up on the testing server, the content can start to go in.  Because all the systems we use have a facility that gives the owner of the website access to an easy ‘user interface’ that allows creation of new pages and editing of text and photos, this is often done by the client.  We can put in the content for you but unless putting in content is specifically mentioned in the basic quote, it is extra and charged at our hourly rate).


Once most of the content is in the site and the client has looked at the design there is usually one set of revisions, where we look at the template, features and menu again. These will be minor edits – usually little things like making some text a little larger or smaller, or changing a colour.


Once the revisions are done, it’s time to complete the site.  Remember, nearly all the website text and photos can be edited at a later date, so this is the completion of the development of the car (following the car analogy) but is actually the beginning of the journey for the website in term of it’s content, which can keep growing indefinitely.

When everyone is happy with the CMS and template, the bill is settled and the website put onto it’s final domain name (up until payment it has been on the testing server).  The website will usually take up to 48 hours to appear on it’s new domain.


Very often the client will already have been involved with putting in content to the site, but if they haven’t this is when we do some training so that they feel confident with the CMS and how to change things on their website.  We go through all the basic things that you might want to do with your website and then provide telephone and email support for those ‘???’ moments.


So the website has been made. Now it’s time for its real journey. Read about it in Part 4, I have a website – what now? SEO and marketing.

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