How to Build a Website
So you want to build your own website but have no budget to hire a professional or a clue where to begin. Then you have landed in the right place…
This guide is for any individual, small business owner, blogger, freelancer and anyone else who is daunted by the prospect of building their own website. It will show you the process of getting a website up and running from scratch broken down in small and clear steps.
Step 1. Choose what platform your site is going to be built on
Before you start to build your website you need to choose which platform you are going to use. There are many different CMS (content management systems) to choose from and choosing the right one for you is top priority. You don’t want to start building your site on a CMS platform and find out later that it doesn’t fit your needs.
Some platforms require you to know a little bit of HTML/CSS or other coding languages, so you really need to decide where you are at in terms of website building ability. The most popular are
- WordPress – the king of CMSs. It is by far the most popular option for this with it’s user-friendly business website templates and ease of social media sharing. (Just to save you from some confusion: WordPress.com is the third party site where you can create free blogs, but WordPress.org is where you can download the WordPress software to install on a website.)
- Joomla – right behind WordPress is Joomla. It’s not quite as intuitive, but is still relatively simple.
- Drupal – of these first 3 options, Drupal is the most advanced. It will be the hardest to learn, but it also allows you to customize more. It’s a lot like Lego blocks, where you put together the pieces that you want (not easy for beginners).
If you are a beginner then your best choice is WordPress. At the moment about 27.8% of the websites that use CMS are using WordPress.
Step 2. Your website needs a place to live (web hosting)
If you’re setting up a blog, personal website or business website, you will need both a domain name and a hosting package. With the hosting package you also get unlimited email addresses that are assigned to your domain name!
This is super useful as everything is under one roof! No hassle with having to arrange email accounts elsewhere!
There are a few things that you want to look for in web hosting.
#1 – Uptime reliability – if your hosting isn’t operating as it should be, no one can access your website from any web server. This is just as bad as not having a website in the first place. For most small to medium sites, this isn’t a big problem. However, you should still keep it in mind. If you suspect you’re having issues, sign up for an uptime tracking tool, like uptime robot. It will tell you if you need to find a new web server to host.
#2 – Customer service – things are going to go wrong. It’s a fact. If you’re a beginner with websites, you’re going to mess things up, once in a while. Most good support teams will even have full backups of your site that they can restore, if worse comes to worst.
#3 – Speed is crucial – site speed is extremely important to SEO. Fast sites not only rank better, but a fast site will also help you to maximize your conversions. Consider this in seeking hosting for your business website.
Hosting is only one part of the equation, but an important one. The difference between poor and good hosting can be a 50%+ difference in loading time, which is huge.
Step 3. The perfect domain name
Thinking of a decent name for your website can be the toughest thing about building your own website.
In short your domain should be catchy, unique and easy to remember. Although people tend to find your site through a branded search in Google, it’s still important to make your domain easy to spell/type out. If it requires a lot of effort to type correctly, due to trying to spell it, the length or the use of un-memorable words or sounds, you’ve probably kissed goodbye to a good portion of your branding and marketing value.
Some of the most highly rated domain registrars are:
It doesn’t really matter which registrar you pick, they generally work the same. Once you’ve picked a domain name, you need to register it and then point your domain name to your hosting account. This is fairly simple. Your hosting company will send you an email after registering that will contain DNS servers (which look like web server addresses).
If you Google “[name of domain registrar] + DNS servers”, you can typically find a help document that will show you where to input your domain name within your hosting account.
Step 4. Installing WordPress
So you have purchased your domain name and hosting and now it’s time to make your website function. In just a few minutes your site will come alive. The first thing you need to do is install WordPress. Sounds hard, but it’s not! Easy as pie!
You have two choices. Install with 1-click installation or manual installation.
One click install is very very easy, so would recommend going down this route.
One click installation is just that. One click and you’ve installed WordPress. Most web hosts will have the 1-click-installation integrated as standard within their dashboard. This service will have you up and running in a blink of an eye and help you to make your own website with ease! In your hosting account you’ll find the “1-click-installation” in your account control panel.
These are the steps you need to follow with the “1-click-installation” process. This will be the same or very similar on all of the other major web hosting companies websites.
- Log in to your own hosting account/control panel.
- Go to your control panel within your hosting account.
- Click on “1 Click Installs”
- Find the “WordPress” icon and click.
- Choose the domain where you want to install your website.
- Click the “Install Now” button and that’s basically it! You’ll get details of how to access your new WordPress website.
If you need any more help with this stay tuned, a tutorial is on it’s way.
Step 5. Choosing a design
So you’ve purchased your very own domain name and hosting. You’ve installed WordPress on your server, set it up and now you’re ready to venture into the on-line world with your new website. It’s time to make your site look professional/awesome/cool, whatever you want it to be.
WordPress automatically installs a very basic theme to get you started. It looks like this…
The theme is called Twenty Seventeen and is really simple and clean in design, but you’d probably want to find your website’s own identity and go with something that not many people have.
With WordPress you have access to literally thousands of themes designed by WordPress developers to help you make your site look great.
How to find a theme
Login to your WordPress Dashboard. You can do this by typing your web address along with /wp-login
Type in your username and password and then you’re in.
Once you’re logged in, this is the view of your WordPress dashboard.
There’s a lot of buttons, options and functions here, which might look a bit complex, but trust me it isn’t. Once you spend just a few minutes exploring the WordPress dashboard, you’ll understand how everything works and become a completely fluent with this platform.
Getting Started With Free Themes
A “Theme” in simple terms is a collection of files that you can download from WordPress that work together to produce the front end styling of your website.
WordPress themes mainly contain the following:
- The complete design or style of your site
- font design
- color themes
- widget locations
- page layouts (or templates)
- styles for blog posts and blog archives
- additional stylistic details
- menu styles/structure
- In most cases – Responsive design
WordPress has thousands of FREE themes that you can access via the “Appearance” section on the left of the dashboard.
Click “Appearance” then “Themes”. This will take you to the main page for WordPress’ free themes section.
Then click on the “Add New” button which will take you through to where all the free WordPress themes are.
Here you’ll be able to search for themes via a range of really handy filters like: Most popular (Most downloaded + used themes) Featured (Themes chosen by WordPress and featured) Latest Theme (Latest themes to be released on the platform)
Then if you click on “Feature Filter” you then have even more options to help you find the best theme for your site.
If you’re looking for something a bit more professional, more design led and more robust then premium themes might be what you’re looking for. Premium themes have many advantages over Free Themes such as reliable code base and superior support if something goes wrong with your site. Also they just look and function better than the free themes you can pick up on WordPress Theme Directory.
Some premium themes are more like web design software, where you can actually design and build your own theme designs and page layouts/templates. This gives you more flexibility in the type of site you want to build.
Install Your New WordPress Theme
So you have the theme you want for your website and you’re ready to install it. This is really simple. Click on the option “Install” then click “Activate”. Feel free to change themes as many times as you wish, as it has no effect on the content you already have on there (blog posts, pages, images). Rest assured they are all safe and won’t be deleted or anything nasty like that.
Step 6. What’s next?
At this point, you should have a website that works and looks decent. You can finally finish with most of the technical stuff and move on to the things you originally wanted to do. While it will vary, depending on your project or business, try to do the following 4 things next.
#1 – Get a logo:Branding yourself is important. A logo is one of the main ways that customers will recognize your business. If you have a business already, you may have a logo, which makes this easy. If not, you’ll need to get one created. Here are a few different options to find designers:
- Fiverr – You’ll pay $5-20 to get a logo. You won’t get an amazing logo for that price, but it may be okay to get you started.
- Upwork – Post a job here and designers will apply to create your logo. Foreign workers are typically very cheap, while experienced Western designers could cost a few hundred bucks. Again, you get what you pay for.
- Dribbble – If you want a top-notch logo, search for “logo” on Dribbble. Browse the designs that come up, until you find a designer that you love. Contact them and hire them. This is the priciest of all options.
#2 – Write basic copy: Right now, you have a pretty empty website. Start by getting familiar with your CMS. Then, create basic pages, like the “About” page. Next, start filling in your home page with the first message(s) that you want new visitors to see.
#3 – Install analytics: While analytics don’t matter right away, you’ll want them soon.
Install Google analytics code into your website, so that you can track any visitors.
#4 – Plan your marketing strategy: Now that you have a website and know how to use it, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to get visitors to the site.
And that’s it! Well done on creating your first website!
Creating a website can be quite complicated and daunting for someone who have never learnt how to code or had any experience with websites. If you have followed all these steps in this guide, then chances are you now have a website!This is your first step up the mountain. Keep learning, keep testing and you will slowly but surely see real progress.