As a website developer, lots of people have asked me to help them make websites over the years. Most people don’t realize how easy it is to make your own website and that it doesn’t need any technical skills or knowledge.
If you need a website for your business, school, club, or you just want to make a personal website you could hire someone to do it for you, but that can be expensive. Another issue is that every time you want to make a change to your site, you’ll have to pay your developer again and wait for them to make the changes.
It’s much cheaper and more convenient to create your own site. It’s not as hard as you think and you’ll be able to add content and make changes quickly and easily on your own.
Are you ready? Grab a coffee and let’s go!
Step 1. Choose a Platform for Your Website
When you build a website you have the option of either coding it from scratch or building it on a “platform”. A platform is basically some software that provides the basic code or skeleton for a site and makes it easy to design and build on top of.
As you’re reading this guide, you probably don’t have the skills to code a website from scratch, so you’ll need to choose a platform to build it on. Even skilled web developers usually start with a platform so they don’t have to start from scratch every time.
When it comes to platforms, you have a further two options:
Note: there are alternative platforms to WordPress such as Drupal and Joomla, but WordPress is by far the most popular option for reasons we’ll go into in a minute.
Hosted website builders can seem appealing as they’re designed to be easy for beginners but for most websites, using a fully-fledged content management system or CMS like WordPress is a better option.
A lot of people think that WordPress is only for proper web developers and techies who know how to code but this is simply not true. Many people build and run their own WordPress websites without ever writing a line of code, and once you’ve set up your first site you’ll really just how easy it is.
When we’re talking about WordPress, I mean the software that’s downloadable from wordpress.org that you’ll run on your own hosting space, not wordpress.com. wordpress.com is a fully hosted website builder similar to Wix etc. and doesn’t have the same advantages of running WordPress yourself.
So why should you bother with WordPress when all these other services can help you build a perfectly nice-looking site quickly and easily?
When you buy web hosting and a domain (we’ll go through that in a minute) and install WordPress, you’ll have full control and ownership of your website. This is important for a couple of reasons:
- You get a proper domain name such as mycompany.com instead of mycompany.weebly.com. This not only looks more professional, but is also easier to remember and helps your site to rank better in search engines
- You have ownership of all your content. If you’re using a platform that goes out of business, you’ll have to try and export all your content and move it to another platform, which can be a real pain. Some sites like Blogger have even been known to close accounts and take sites offline without warning.
- You choose your web host. This means you can choose a service that is fast and has minimal downtime. If you choose a fully hosted service and your site is buggy and doesn’t load half the time, there’s not much you can do.
- You can move your site whenever you want. WordPress sites can easily be moved to new hosting if you’re having speed or security issues. You can also change your domain name easily.
WordPress itself is completely free. While there are premium themes and plugins available (these are add-ons that change the look of your site and what it can do – more on this later) there are also lots of free ones, so there’s no need to spend any money if you don’t want to.
Where you will have to spend a bit of money is on buying a domain name and hosting, but this is very inexpensive. Bluehost offers web hosting packages for as little as $2.95 a month, including a free domain name for the first year.
How does this compare to hosted website builders?
- Weebly: $8 – $25 a month
- Wix: $8.50 – $24.50 a month
- Squarespace: $12 – $18 a month
- Jimdo: $7.50 – $20 a month
As you can see, buying your own hosting is less than half the price of using a fully hosted website builder.
Yes, there are free website builder packages available but they’re very limited and make money by putting ads on your website. Do you really want your website plastered with adverts for someone else? No, I thought not.
Easy to Use
WordPress is really simple to set up and use, even for complete beginners, and most web hosts have it fully integrated into their dashboards so you can install with a single click (no messing around uploading files over ftp!)
There are also loads of tutorials, videos, user guides, and forums available for WordPress users, and the community is super friendly and helpful so you’re never left alone if you need help.
Powerful and Flexible
Despite its simplicity for newbies, WordPress is a fully-fledged CMS that offers incredible flexibility for everyone from 80-year-old grandmas creating their first website, to serious website developers.
WordPress started out as a blogging platform but it’s now used to create all kinds of site – from one-page brochure sites to large ecommerce sites, and everything in between.
Are you convinced yet that WordPress is the best choice? Ok great! Let’s move onto step 2 and start making your site!
Step 2: Get a Domain and Hosting
Before you start building your website, you’ll need to buy a domain and hosting.
Choosing a Domain Name
The domain of your site is the name that you type into your browser to get to it, like google.com or themeforest.net.
You’ll first need to think up a domain name for your site. If you’re building a website for your business or school, it’s best to stick to your official name. If you’re building another type of website, you can think up a name that’s catchy and descriptive.
Short domains work best and you should avoid anything that’s difficult to spell or ambiguous (such as numbers, which could be written as “2” or “two” in a domain name for example).
Once you have a domain name you’re happy with, you need to check if it’s available. To do this, use the domain search tool at Bluehost:
If the domain you want is already taken, you can either choose a different extension (like .net, .co, .org instead of .com) or you can try a different combination of words. Bluehost gives you a few alternative suggestions if your first choice isn’t available:
Create Your Hosting Account
Once you’re happy with your domain choice, you can go ahead and get set up with a hosting account.
WordPress is software, which means you need to run it on a computer. Technically you can install it on your own computer and run your website from their but this means that if your computer is off, so is your website – not ideal.
Instead, what most people do is buy a hosting account. This basically lets you rent space on a server, or powerful computer that is designed to run websites 24/7.
Bluehost is one of the most popular choices for beginners because they offer great value for money, good customer service and support, and an easy-to-use control panel that’s fully integrated with WordPress.
Ok, let’s go ahead and get your web hosting account set up.
- Click here to go to Bluehost and click the green “get started now” button.
- 2. Choose your hosting package. The “basic” package is cheapest and fine for basic sites but if you think you might want to set up further sites in future, I’d recommend opting for “plus” or “prime” for a little more as you can run unlimited websites and domains and have a lot more space for your website files and emails.
- 3. Once you’ve selected your plan, you’ll be taken to a screen where you can enter the domain you’ve already chosen. Go ahead and type it in the “new domain” box and click the “next” button.
- 4. You can then create your account by filling out your name and address details, choosing the package length you want (12 to 60 months), entering your payment information, and clicking the “submit” button. You also have the option to add extra security and SEO tools for your site if you wish.
5. After successfully submitting your payment information, you’ll be taken to a confirmation page where you can set a password for your account. You’ll also be sent an email confirming your order.
You’re now the proud owner of a shiny new web hosting account and you can move onto step 3 and create your website!
3. Set Up and Customize Your Website
Now it’s time for the fun part – actually creating your website and getting it looking and working the way you want.
- Log in to your Bluehost control panel (your username and password can be found in your welcome email)
- Scroll down to the “website” section of the control panel and click “install now”
- Click the “install” button
- Choose the domain name to install WordPress to – if you’ve just set up your hosting you’ll only have one option here. Leave the directory blank
- Check the box to agree to the terms and conditions and click “Install Now”.
After a few moments WordPress will be installed and you’ll be able to view your website by typing your domain name into your browser
Choosing a WordPress Theme
Your new website probably doesn’t look very exciting right now. Depending on the default theme that was set during installation, it might look something like this:
Luckily, WordPress comes with thousands of free themes that you can use to make your website look a bit more professional.
If you’re after a free theme, one of the easiest ways to install one is via your WordPress dashboard:
- Log in to your WordPress dashboard at www.mysite.com/wp-admin/li>
- Go to Appearance > Themes in the main menu and click the “Add New” button.
- You’ll see a whole gallery of themes you can browse through
You can sort themes by the latest or most popular, search for themes based on a keyword, or browse themes that have specific features such as a full-width template or two columns.
Let’s say you’re looking for a theme for your photography portfolio website. You can easily find a suitable theme by clicking on “Feature Filter”, selecting “Portfolio”, and clicking the “Apply Filters” button.
4. When you’ve found a theme you like the look of, hover over it and click the “Preview” button to see it in action.
5. If you’re satisfied, go ahead and click the “install” button, and then the “activate” button to use the theme on your site, or use the navigation arrows to browse through themes or close the preview to return to the main gallery.
Sometimes you can’t find exactly what you want in the free themes gallery. If you don’t mind paying for a theme and want something really professional, there are many more beautiful premium themes available in theme marketplaces such as Theme Forest.
Once your theme is installed, you might want to tweak it a little bit. You can do this from the WordPress customization panel at Appearance > Customization in your dashboard. It’s designed so you can see your changes in real time and you can do things like change your header and background graphics, move menus, and change colors. Have a play around and see what you can do.
Once you’ve installed your theme, you can start creating your website content. WordPress has two main types of content: pages and posts.
Pages can be used to add static content to your site such as your homepage – the first page that loads when someone visits your website, “about us”, and “contact” pages, and any other information that you want to be found easily.
To add a new page, click on Pages > Add New in your dashboard menu:
On this page you can type the title of your page, and its content – which you can format using the editor just like you would with a word processing package.
Start with the content you want on the first page of your site. Title it something like “home”.
To add an image to your content, click the “Add Media” button to upload files from your computer. You can also drag images directly across from your desktop into the content area:
The featured image is usually displayed at the top of the post and sometimes as a thumbnail too, depending on your theme. You can upload one by clicking on “Set featured image”, which will take you to the media uploader.
When you’re finished creating your page, remember to click the “Publish” button for it to go live.
Most WordPress themes will add new pages to your menu automatically. If yours doesn’t, follow these steps:
- Go to Appearance > Menus
- Click “create a new” menu and call it something like “main menu”
- Tick the boxes of all the pages you want adding to this menu and click the “Add to menu” button. Once they’re listed under your menu, you can drag them around to change the order.
- Tick “auto add pages” if you want all new pages you create to be added to the menu
- Tick “Header” under display location.
- Click the “Save Menu” button.
If you want to create a blog on your site, you can do this by creating posts. To do this go to Posts > Add New, and enter your post the same way as you did for a page.
Unless you want your blog posts to be directly on your website homepage, you’ll also need to create a page to list them:
- Create and publish a new page called “blog” or “news” or something else appropriate for your site. Leave the main content blank
- Go to Settings > Reading
- Under “Your homepage displays”, select “a static page”
- Choose the “home” page you created under “Homepage” and the “blog” page you just created under “Posts page”
- Click the “Save Changes” button.
Plugins extend the functionality of your site without you doing any coding. If you’ve thought “oh wouldn’t it be cool if my site could… whatever” the chances are there’s a plugin for that.
For example, you can use a plugin to:
- Add a contact form
- Block spam comments
- Add a fancy image gallery or slideshow
- Backup your site
- Display images from your Instagram feed
- Add an online store
- Improve the security of your site
You can have a browse or search through free plugins at the official WordPress repository.
If you find a plugin you want to install, you can do it directly from your WordPress dashboard. Go to Plugins > Add New, search for the plugin you want, and click the “Install Now” button.
Congratulations on Your New Website!
Well done! You’ve managed to create your first website, and it wasn’t that tricky was it? If you have had any difficulties, please leave a comment below about where you’re getting stuck and I’ll do my best to help.
If you’ve enjoyed the process and you’re ready to dive deeper into the world of websites and WordPress, there’s a lot more to learn. WPHacks is a great place to start so have a browse around and see what else interests you.
Remember, the WordPress community is extremely helpful and friendly so don’t be afraid to ask for help – there are no stupid questions when you’re learning!