How to Make a WebsiteAn easy, step by step guide from a web developer
This is why you’ll love this FREE website setup guide:
The guide is made for beginners
The guide has all the detail you need, yet is very easy to follow – even if you don’t have a technical background.
It’s always current and up to date
Other guides can be misleading or outdated. My guides are updated every month.
It’s Platform Specific (WordPress)
Your website will be set up the right way on the right platform for what you need.
You Can Ask For Help
I offer free help and consultation through email. I’m more than happy to get you the answers you need and clear up any questions you may have.
3 Simple Steps to Make Your Own Website:
You’ll learn how to…
STEP 1: Choose Your Website Platform
Before you start worrying about the best color schemes and a pithy domain name, you’ve got to decide what website platform you’re going to build your website with.
What do I mean by “website platform”?
Well, back in 1998 when I got started with website design, most sites were built using HTML (code), CSS (code) and even Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash. These took a lot of time to learn and were even trickier to master. This continued up until about 2004, when most adults discovered or read about what it took to build a website.
That’s why most people still think creating a website from scratch is difficult or requires a lot of coding or design skills. However, that’s no longer true!
Around 2004 the first content management systems (CMS) were produced. In the succeeding 13 years, CMS platforms have become more advanced, and yet easier to use.
In 2017, CMS platforms like WordPress have made sure that anyone can create a website for themselves.
To put simply, a content management system (or website building platform) is a user-friendly platform for building websites and managing your own webpages. You focus on the content, and the CMS will stitch the content and the design together for you. You no longer have code a bunch of separate HTML pages.
The Three Most Popular Website Building Platforms in 2017
As you can see, nearly half of websites on the Internet that use a CMS are running on the WordPress website platform.
Overall, 27.8% of all websites on the Internet are running on the WordPress platform.
Why use WordPress and not a website builder?
Because at this point there are no better or easier ways to build a website… More importantly:
- It’s FREE, with many layouts/templates (called themes) to choose from.
WordPress doesn’t cost anything to download or install, plus there’s a huge community who have designed beautiful themes and templates making it easy to get going very fast.
- It’s VERY beginner friendly.
If you know how to use Microsoft Word then you already know how edit your own website content. WordPress can be expanded with free plugins to handle just about any website situation you can imagine – from beautiful business pages to social networking sites. “Plugins” enable you to add contact forms, subscription forms, image galleries etc. for your website. Quite simple right?
- Need a small or large site? It’s great for both.
From basic blogs to beautiful business sites and online stores, WordPress can handle just about any kind of website. WordPress is used by eBay, Mozilla, Reuters, CNN, Google Ventures and even NASA. See 40 companies and 40 universities that use WordPress to build their website.
- Your site can quite easily be made ‘responsive’ / mobile-friendly, meaning it’ll work on desktops, tablets, and mobiles.
If you select a responsive theme, the website you build will instantly be responsive, looking great on every mobile device, smartphone and tablet. There’ll be no need to hire a web developer to do that for you.
- HUGE support community available to help.
With so many people using the platform (fellow webmasters, bloggers, theme & plugin developers), it’s easy to find help when you need it. In addition, WordPress has lots of free resources available on YouTube and their support forum.
In fact, I built this website on WordPress, too
Of course, there are other website building / CMS platforms, too.
But, I would still recommend and use WordPress.
Drupal is a very powerful platform that is popular with web developers and experienced coders to build larger and more complex websites, but it comes with a very steep learning curve that makes it a bad choice for beginners.
Joomla is similar to WordPress and works great for most websites too, but you’ll need at least a little bit of technical coding to make it work the way you want.
For beginners, I suggest sticking to WordPress.
It’s the easiest platform I’ve ever worked with, but it’s flexible enough to suit everyone from small business owners, freelancers to creative artists and bloggers.
In Step 2, I’ll walk you through the process of choosing a domain name and finding a website hosting company to host your site.
In Step 3, I’ll show you how to install and customize your WordPress website. Don’t worry – I’ll walk you through the process, with lots of images as a reference.
If you have any questions or suggestions for this guide please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m here to help!
STEP 2: Register a Domain Name and find a Website Host
- A domain name (e.g. yoursitename.com)
- Web hosting (a service that connects your site to the internet)
The WordPress platform is free, but a domain name will cost you around $12/year and website hosting will cost you around $3 – $5 a month.
Owning your own domain name looks much more professional than having your site hosted on someone else’s domain
(e.g. yourbusiness.my-free-website.com), and it’s very affordable.
Plus, having your own quality website hosting will also make sure your website loads fast, and won’t go down for hours at a time like they do when hosted on free website hosting.
Where do I get a domain name and hosting?
Already have a domain name and hosting? Go ahead and skip to step 3, where I’ll explain how you can set up your website.
I’ve mostly used www.crazydomains.com.au as a web hosting and domain registrar for myself and for my web development projects.
Disclosure: Because I’ve used Crazy Domains and found their hosting great, all links to Crazy Domains are referral links. I’ll earn a commission if you make a purchase and you’ll get a discounted price. This is how I keep Website-Guide.org up and running.
Their basic website hosting costs less than a coffee ($3.50/mo).
Of course you can try other web hosting providers or even try to host your site by yourself, but it’s a very complicated process and often wouldn’t be capable of serving your website visitors. So save yourself some money and get a proper host that meets WordPress requirements.
When you get a domain name (and hosting), you’ll also get a personal email account(s): You@YourOwnSite.com, which is way more professional than a generic Gmail or Yahoo address.
What kind of domain name should I register?
As an easy starting point:
- If you’re making a website for your business your domain name should match your company name. e.g: YourCompanyName.com (for USA or global businesses)
e.g: YourCompanyName.com.au (for Australian businesses)
- If you’re planning to set up a website for yourself, then YourName.com or YourName.com.au can be a great option.
For this site (Website Guide), I chose Website-Guide.org
Domain names usually end with .com, .org .net, .com.au, .org.au, or .net.au, but in recent months, a huge amount of domain extensions (the last section of the web address such as .com) have been released, ranging from .design to .pizza.
My best advice? Avoid the new extensions and go with .com, .net or .org unless they perfectly describe what you have to offer – and even then, see if you can find a more common name.
While .com, .org and .net are commonly used and easily remembered, the domain extension craze hasn’t really gone mainstream yet – so people may not find you if you use a really different domain extension.
Any additional tips for choosing my domain name?
There are a few things that can help you choose your domain name:
- Is it brandable? For example, if you build a site about knitting then best-knitting-website.net is not a good choice: knittingacademy.com or knittingnest.com are much better.
- Is it memorable? Short, punchy and clear domain names are much easier to remember. If your domain name is too fuzzy, too long or spelled in a strange way, visitors may forget it.
- Is it catchy? You want a domain name that rolls off the tongue, describes what you (or your business) does and sticks in the head. Coming up with a cool name can be a bit tough since there are approximately 150 million active domain names in the world right now – but don’t give up.
Things To Do Before The Next Step:
- Do some brainstorming to come up with a unique, memorable domain name that reflects your future website, business or blog.
- Register your domain name and web hosting. For this I recommend Crazy Domains, but you can pick any other web host as long as it’s reliable and simple.
- Pro tip: if you want your website to load extra fast, make sure your website hosting company uses solid state drives (SSDs).
STEP 3: Let’s Set Up Your Website
Once you’ve registered your domain name and paid for your hosting, you’re well on your way.
Now it’s time to get your website up and running. The first thing you’ll need to do is install WordPress on your domain.
There are two possible ways to install WordPress, one MUCH easier than the other.
1. To Create A Website With WordPress (Or Joomla & Drupal), Use One Click Installation:
Almost every reliable and well-established website hosting company has integrated a 1-click-installation for WordPress, which makes getting going a snap.
If you signed up with Crazy Domains or any other similar hosting company, you should find your “1-click-installation” in your hosting control panel.
Here are the steps you should follow (should be similar/same on all the major web hosting companies):
- Log in to your hosting account.
- Go to your control panel.
- Look for and click the Installatron Applications Installer (on Crazy Domains) or Softaculous on most other hosting control panels.
- Look for the “WordPress” icon.
- Choose the domain where you want to install your website.
- Select whether you wish to install WordPress on www.yourwebsite.com or yourwebsite.com (with or without the www.)
- Click the “Install Now” button and you will get access to your new WordPress website.
2. … Or Manual Install (if needed)
If for some odd reason you don’t have the option to install WordPress automatically (some hosting companies don’t provide one-click-install for WordPress), have a look at this manual guide below:
1) Go to your website hosting control panel, and click on MySQL Databases.
2) Create a new database. Give it a simple name. e.g. yourhostingusername_db
3) Create a new database user account. e.g. yourhostingusername_usr, and click Generate Password to generate a complex password. Copy this password and paste it in a Word document, or Notepad.
4) Scroll to the section called “Add User To Database”, and select your username and database name, and click Add
5) Select All Privileges, and click Make Changes
6) Download WordPress from here: http://wordpress.org/download
7) Create a new folder on your desktop and unzip WordPress in it
8) Look for a file named wp-config-sample.php and rename it to: wp-config.php
9) Now open the wp-config.php (with notepad for example) and fill the following lines:
define(‘DB_PASSWORD’, ‘password_here’); — paste your password here
After you have filled the gaps, save the file.
10) Now log into your hosting ftp (download FileZilla for that). The FTP address is usually ftp.yourdomain.com, username and password are the same that you used to register to your host.
11) Open the public_html folder
12) If there is any file named “index” – delete it. After that upload all the files from your WordPress folder to your FTP server (in the left pane of FileZilla browse to the WordPress folder you unzipped onto the Desktop)
13) Once you have completed the previous steps, go the URL: www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin/install.php
Choosing a Theme/Template for your site
Once you have successfully installed WordPress on your domain, you’ll see a very basic yet clean site:
But you don’t want to look like everyone else, do you? That’s why you need a theme – a design template that tells WordPress how your website should look. See a sample version below:
Here’s where it gets fun and interesting – there are thousands of beautiful, professionally designed themes you can choose from and customize for a site that’s all your own.
Here’s how to find a theme you like:
1. Log into your WordPress dashboard
If you’re not sure how, type in: http://yoursite.com/wp-admin (replace “yoursite” with your domain).
This is what the WordPress dashboard looks like:
Everything is easily labelled. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, don’t sweat it – I’m going to show you where to go next.
2. Access FREE themes
Once you’re in the dashboard, you’ve got access to over 1500 free themes! Just look at the side bar for “Appearance” and hover over it, then click “Themes”.
I’ve even compiled a list of 15 most popular free WordPress themes.
If you want something more professional or elegant than what you find here, you can head over to ThemeForest.net where there’s a MASSIVE library of themes to pick from costs ranging from around $20 to $90.
But before you do that, I really suggest you at least try spending some time browsing the free themes. Many of them are actually really professional and well made; so don’t write them off.
As you can see above, installing a new theme for your website is very easy.
You can search for specific keywords and/or use filters to find themes that suit your style.
Finding the perfect theme can take a while, but it’s worth it.
You should also look for themes that are “responsive”, as this means they will look good on any mobile device.
Just punch it in as one of your keywords, and you’ll be all set!
3. Install your new theme
Once you have found a theme you like, installing it is as simple as clicking “Install” followed by “Activate”.
IMPORTANT: Changing themes won’t delete your previous posts, pages and content. You can change themes as often as you want without having to worry about losing what you’ve created.
How do I add content and create new pages?
With your theme installed, you’re ready to start creating content. Let’s quickly run through some of the basics:
Adding and editing pages
Want a “Services” page, or an “About Me” page (like I have on my menu at the top of the site)?
1. Look along the sidebar in the WordPress Dashboard for “Pages” -> “Add New”.
2. Alternatively, at the top of the screen in the horizontal black admin bar, hover over “+ New” and then select Page.
2. Once you’ve clicked, you’ll find a screen that looks a lot like what you’ve maybe seen in Microsoft Word. Add text, images and more to build the page you want, then save it when you’re done.
Adding pages to the menu
If you want your new page to be linked to in your navigation bar,
1. Save any changes you’ve made to the page by clicking “Update” (or Publish if you have not yet saved any changes)
2. Click “Appearance” -> “Menus” in the sidebar of the WordPress Dashboard
3. Find the page you created and add it to the list by clicking the checkbox next to it and then “Add to Menu”.
Make sure you select a suitable “Theme location” for the menu to be located in under Menu Settings.
Adding and editing posts
If you want to have a blog on your website, “Posts” will be where you turn to next. You can use different categories to group similar posts together.
If you want to add a blog to your website, you can use different categories and posts. Let’s say you want to create a category named “Blog”. To do so, simply add it to your menu and start making posts.
Here’s what you need to do:
a. Create a new category by going to “Posts -> Categories”
b. Create a blog post by going to “Posts -> Add New” (or +New -> Post). Once you’ve finished writing your blog post, you need to add the right category for it.
Once you’ve created your category, simply add it to the menu, and you’re in business!
You can create hierarchies of post categories, e.g:
- Company News
- Investor News
- Staff News
To add your blog posts (or category posts to your navigation menu, select Appearance -> Menus, then on the left of the edit menu section, select Categories, then check the desired category, and click Add to Menu.
Customization & Endless Tweaks…
In this section I’ll cover some of the basic changes or tweaks to be made that I’m asked about all the time.
Changing Your Title and Tagline
Page titles explain to searchers what your website is about, and they’re also a big part of how search engines determine your rankings, so you want to be sure they’ve got the keywords you want to target in them (but in a natural way, written for real people).
You should use a unique title on every page of your site. For example, my site’s title is “How to Make a Website”.
(Can’t find it? Just hold your mouse over the tab at the top of your web browser).
Taglines are generally added at the end of titles across every page. My site’s tagline is “Step by Step Guide”
In order to change the title and tagline on your website, go to “Settings -> General” and fill in the form below:
Disabling Comments for Posts & Pages
Some websites (business/organisation sites mostly) don’t want their visitors to be able to comment on their pages.
Here’s how to shut comments off on WordPress pages:
1. While you are writing a new page, click “Screen Options” in the top right corner.
2. Click the “Discussion” box. The “Allow Comments” box will appear at the bottom.
3. Untick “Allow Comments”.
Want to disable comments on every new page by default?
1. Go to “Settings -> Discussion” and untick “Allow people to post comments on new articles”
You’ll still need to disable comments for the rest of your posts and pages you have created.
To do this,
- go to Admin Dashboard -> Pages -> All Pages
- select the checkbox @ top left of the page titles, to select all Pages
- under Bulk Actions, select Edit
- click Apply
- under Comments, select Do not allow.
Repeat this for your Posts too, under Admin Dashboard -> Posts -> All Posts.
Make sure you apply this same edit procedure for any Posts or Pages that are on page 2 of your Post or Page admin page. e.g: you may have 40 Posts, but only the first 20 will be displayed by default. To display all 40 Posts, select Screen Options @ top right, and change the Number of items per page:.
Setting Up a Static Front Page
Some people contact me saying they’re frustrated that their home page looks like a blog post. You can fix that by making your home page “static”.
A static page is a page that doesn’t change. Unlike a blog, where the first new article will show up at the top every time, a “static” page will show the same content every time someone comes to the site – like a home page you’ve designed.
To set up a static front page:
1. Go to “Settings -> Reading”
2. Choose a static page that you have created. “Front Page” denotes your home page, “Posts page” is the front page of your blog (if your entire site isn’t a blog).
If you don’t choose a static page on your own, WordPress will take your latest posts and start showing them on your homepage.
Editing the sidebar
Most WordPress themes have a sidebar on the right side. Sometimes it’s on the left.
If you want to get rid of the sidebar or edit out items you do not need like “Categories”, “Meta” and “Archives”, which are usually unnecessary, here’s how:
1. Go to WordPress Dashboard -> Appearance -> Widgets.
2. From here, you can use drag and drop to add different “boxes” to your sidebar, or remove the items you don’t want.
There’s also a “HTML box” – a text box where you can use HTML code. For beginners, don’t worry about this bit – just drag and drop the elements you’d like in your sidebar.
Installing Plugins to Get More out of WordPress
What is a plugin?
“Plugins” are extensions that are built to expand the capabilities of WordPress, adding features and functions to your site that don’t come prepackaged or built in.
They’re shortcuts to getting your site to do what you want it to, without having to build the feature from scratch.
You can use plugins to do everything from adding photo galleries and submission forms to optimizing your website and creating an online store.
How do I install a new Plugin?
To start installing plugins, go to WordPress Dashboard -> Plugins -> Add New and simply start searching.
Keep in mind that there are over 25,000 different FREE plugins, so you’ve got a LOT to choose from!
Installation is easy – once you find a plugin you like, just click “Install”.
BUT – before you go and install every single one, I suggest you read this article: Things you need to know about using WP plugins.
To save you some time, I’ve put together a list of the most popular plugins that webmasters find useful:
- Contact form 7: My website has a contact form on my About Me page. It’s an awesome feature to have, as people (like you!) can fill in the form and send me an email without logging into their own email provider. If you want to do something similar, definitely get this plugin. P.S. Here’s a step-by-step guide for setting it up.
- Yoast SEO: If you want to make your WordPress site even more search engine optimized, this plugin is a must-have. It’s free, and it’s awesome. You’ll be able to edit your title tags, meta descriptions and more, all from within the page itself – no more fussing with WordPress settings.
- Google Analytics: Interested in tracking your visitors/traffic and their behaviour? Just install the plugin, connect it with your Google account and you’re ready to go.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg! Here’s a list of recommended plugins by me.
Congratulations – you’re ready to launch!
If you’ve followed the steps in this guide, you should now have a fully-functional WordPress website! That wasn’t so bad, was it?
Last but not least, keep improving your website.