15 years ago, creating a website was a difficult endeavor. Unless you were a hardcore nerd with bad hygiene and hardcore coding skills, you had to shell out big bucks to a developer, who would inevitably create something that looked like a bad LSD trip.
A website from the late 90’s
When you wanted to make changes to your site, you had to go back to said developer, who would then charge you $11,000 simply to update the color scheme.
Thankfully, it’s much easier in 2016 to make your own website. You don’t need a degree from MIT or an obsession with computer programming. In fact, if you have even the slightest computer skills, you can build a website yourself.
In this guide, I’ll show you, step-by-step, how to create and build a new website. By the end, you’ll know EXACTLY how to create your own website, and you’ll have so much tech confidence that you’ll want to hack the Pentagon (which is a really, really bad idea ).
Let’s do it!
Stay Away From Free, 1-Click Options
There are a number of options that allow you to create a new website with one click. We’re talking…
*Shopify shouldn’t really be mentioned here, because actually, it’s really great for most ecommerce site needs. They can handle large enterprise solutions (people typically hire out web developers for this). Check Shopify out, they’re still offering a free 7-day trial right now.Visit Shopify Here
These options are great if you just want to putz around with hobby blogging about beekeeping or Minecraft or something else, but if you’re serious about building a website and business, these aren’t your best options.
First, they’re not really free.
With a free plan, you can set up a blog, but that’s usually about it. This blog will probably have ads on it which you can’t control, which isn’t ideal either, and as soon as you want to make any customizations to your site, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan anyway, which costs just as much as when you host the site yourself.
So, yeah. Free isn’t free.
Wix premium plans
Second, you can’t customize.
All the free options come with a variety of prefabricated templates which you can use. Want to make changes to your site? Want to make it fit your personality more? Want to make it not look like mid-90’s crap? You’re out of luck…unless you want to spend money. Custom costs when it comes to making your own website.
If you want to make a respectable web site, stay away from the free versions. Plus, you’re going to see how easy the process of creating a website from scratch really is.
Step One – Pick a Hosting Plan
The first step making your website is to give your site a home (cue Happy Gilmore screaming, “Go to your home!”).
A website is nothing more than a collection of files, and these files need to be stored somewhere.
You will be storing (or hosting) your files on a server, so that people can access them through the Internet. When someone types in “www.YourWebsiteAddress.com” into their browser, they will be taken to the server hosting your files.
I’ve mostly used Bluehost for web hosting and domain registration, both for myself and my web development clients. They’re really affordable, have good customer service, and are perfect for both beginners and enterprises alike — but there are many companies that offer hosting plans for relatively low costs.
When picking a hosting company, there are a few things to pay attention to.
Uptime and Reliability
This isn’t as big a deal as it used to be, but it’s still important to pay attention to. The hosting company should offer almost 100% uptime, meaning that your website will be accessible all the time.
After all, what’s the point of creating a website if no one can access it?
If you have problems with your website, and you inevitably will, you’re going to want an outstanding customer support team.
If not, you’ll end up banging your head against the wall as you wait for them to try to fix it. Or you’ll end up on hold for 18 straight hours, all the while being told by a robotic voice that, “Your call is important to us.”
When picking a hosting package, look for details about the customer support team. You want to know that the support team will always be available.
HostGator promises constant uptime and great customer support
Avoid Sharing Hosting
Shared hosting is when your website is on the same server as many other websites. This inevitably means that your site will load slowly, which will drive visitors away. And, if you’re site is really slow, you can actually be penalized by Google, which is NOT what you want.
You want your site to load faster than Donald Trump posting an ill-advised tweet. Generally speaking, the more you pay, the faster your speed.
If you’re making a typical website that isn’t too technical, then starting out with Managed WordPress hosting is probably your best option. However, if you’re having a ton of visitors and tech needs for your website, you’d be better off on a virtual private server (VPS) or dedicated server.
Step Two – Choose Your Website’s Name
Now that you’ve picked the perfect hosting package, it’s time to select the domain name for your new website. The domain name is what people will type into their web browser to get to your site (e.g. www.Buzzfeed.com, www.Google.com).
— When selecting a name, there are a few things to consider: Ideally, the name should be relatively short and easy to remember. www.RoundhouseKicksOnAHotTinRoofInSummer.com probably isn’t the best choice.
— The name shouldn’t be too similar to an existing, well established site. Stay away from “www.HoofingtonPost.com” for your bareback horse riding website.
The good news is, most domain registrar websites will suggest names for you if your name of choice isn’t available.
If “www.Widgets.com” isn’t available, it will suggest things like “www.BigWidgets.us”, “www.NewWidgets.com”, etc. You may need to play around a bit to find the perfect name.
GoDaddy suggests other options
Remember, the name is important, but your website won’t succeed or fail simply based on a name. Pick the best available and then keep going.
Step Three – Select your Content Management System (CMS)
A Content Management System (CMS) is where you make changes to the website you’ve created. It’s how you add new pages, create blog posts, and change the layout and color scheme. The CMS makes it easy to maintain and update your site on a regular basis.
I’m going to show you the simplest and most popular CMS’s. If you’d rather build using HTML, check out Allwebco, they have options for setting up websites using downloadable, HTML pre-made websites. If you’re trying to develop a complex web app or enterprise ecommerce site, you’ll probably want to hire a developer or development firm. Besides shamelessly plugging my own agency (X3 Digital), I’d recommend Etrecos for custom web development. They do killer work.
Etrecos (They built Metapress)
So which CMS should you use? Well, as you can see below, the overwhelming answer for over half of the websites on the Internet with a CMS is the WordPress website platform.
Most Popular Site Building Platforms (CMS) of 2016
For most sites, WordPress is probably your best bet in terms of CMS’s (It’s what nearly all of our clients use).
Because of all the countless options for CMS’s, I can’t give you individual setup instructions for each one.
The good news is that most hosting packages have one-click installation options which will setup the CMS for you. If that option isn’t available, simply Google “Setup [CMS]”.
CMS #1 – WordPress
I primarily recommend WordPress for most websites due to it’s ease of use. If you’ve used Microsoft Word, you can use WordPress. (Note: This is WordPress.org, not WordPress.com, which offers free sites).
WordPress is the most robust, most popular CMS, powering about 25% of all websites. If you’re primarily looking for a blogging platform, it’s hard to beat WordPress.
Because of it’s massive use, there is a huge support community, which means that if you’ve got questions, you won’t have any trouble finding answers.
If you’re choosing WordPress, skip down to step 4 to start installing your theme.
Creating pages and blog posts in WordPress is really easy, and there is a massive library of around 40,000 open-source plugins which you can use to accomplish just about anything on your site.
One caveat: you do need to be careful with installing random plugins since many of them haven’t been sufficiently tested. Installing a buggy plugin can jack up your site.
Plus, WordPress also has thousands of free templates, allowing you to endlessly customize the look and feel of your website.
CMS #2 – Joomla
Joomla is a bit more difficult to use than WordPress, but is still relatively simple. Like WordPress, you can create blog posts, edit pages, and customize website settings.
And like WordPress, Joomla also has a large database of free plugins which you can use to customize your site. These plugins are always tested, so they too can pose some security risks for your site.
CMS #3 – Drupal
Drupal is significantly more complex than WordPress or Joomla, and will have the steepest learning curve. However, it does offer the most customization options.
Rather than plugins, Drupal offers modules, and Drupal indicates which of these modules is being actively developed, which in turn helps you avoid the security risks.
Unless you really know your web development, I recommend sticking with WordPress for creating your website. It’s powerful enough to accomplish just about anything, without the difficulty of Drupal or Joomla.
Step Four – Installing Your Theme
You’re almost there! You’ve almost built your website from scratch. Are your fingers trembling with excitement?
Now we just need to pick out a theme.
The good news is that there are themes available for just about any type of business. Lawyer? Yep. Podcaster? Sure. Combat juggler? Probably!
Let’s look at how to install a great theme within each of CMS’s mentioned above.
Installing a WordPress Theme
WordPress has become fairly well-known for having a quick 5 minute installation, check out this video to see how it’s done.
You’ve got several options when it comes to selecting a WordPress theme. First, you can install a theme directly within the WordPress CMS.
Go to “Appearance > Themes” in the side menu, and then click “Add New” at the top.
Find your theme
There a number of filters, such as number of columns, popularity, newest, etc. Click anywhere on the theme thumbnail to activate a preview of the theme. If you dig the preview, click “Install” to install the theme.
Install your theme
Once you install the theme, go back to the main theme page for your site, click on the theme, and click “activate”. This will put the theme into effect on your site.
A second option is to purchase a theme from a third party site, such as Themeforest. There are some absolutely gorgeous themes that can be purchased for anywhere between $30-$60.
One distinct advantage of purchasing a theme is that you can get support directly from the creator of the theme.
Installing a Joomla Theme
With Joomla, you have to get your theme from a third party site. If you search for “Free Joomla Themes” you’ll find loads of solid options. If you want to shell out a bit of cash, Themeforest has a great selection.
Simply download the theme, then upload it to the Joomla CMS. Here’s a brief tutorial explaining the process.
Installing a Drupal Theme
Drupal also has a repository of themes, although these are located outside the CMS. It’s a little more difficult to search through the themes, but there are still a fair number of options to choose from.
Unfortunately, Drupal doesn’t offer an easy preview function, like WordPress, so you’ll need to hunt for documentation and demos.
Once you find a theme you like, scroll down to the download section and install the most recent version of the theme. Once you download the theme, upload it into your Drupal theme directory.
Click on “administer > themes” and click “enable” on the new theme. Then go to user preferences and select the new theme.
Select and install your theme
It’s not difficult to do, but if you get stuck, here’s a brief tutorial on how to do it.
Like WordPress, you can also purchase premium themes for Drupal. Themeforest has a great selection.
Step Five – Create Content On Your Site
Now that you’ve got a shiny new website, it’s time to create some content. I’m going to show you how to create content for a WordPress site.
If you want to create content for a Joomla or Drupal site, check out these links:
Your site is going to need a variety of pages, such as an “About” page or a “Hire Me To Be A Clown At Your Child’s Birthday Party” page.
It’s really simple to add a page.
1. In the sidebar in the WordPress Dashboard, click “Pages” > “Add New”.
2. Once you’ve clicked, you’ll find come to a screen that lets you add text, images and more to build the page you want. Make sure to save it when you’re done.
Adding Blog Posts
If you’re blogging, you’ll obviously need to know how to add blog posts to your site. Like adding pages, it’s incredibly simple.
Create a blog post by going to “Posts > Add New”. Once you’ve finished writing the post and adding images, simply add the right category for it. You can create a new category by clicking on “Add New Category”.
And just like that, you’re up and running, ready to build a website that will take over the world.
Here’s what I recommend for next steps.
Get a Kick-Ass Logo Designed
Now that you’ve got a beautiful website, you’re going to want a killer logo. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a graphic designer to get a great logo. There are number of services you can use.
For as little as $5, you can have a graphic designer create a beautiful logo for you. Be careful with who you choose to work with here, as it’s a crowded marketplace with a wide range in talent. Designs can definitely be hit-or-miss here.
You’ll pay more money here, but the quality of your logo will be significantly better. Plus, you can get multiple designers to submit logos, then select your favorite.
Install Google Analytics
Google Analytics will allow you to see how many people are visiting your site, how long they’re staying on your site, what pages are getting the most views, and a plethora of other statistics. If you’re serious about building a great site, you’ll want to install Google Analytics right away.
Use Social Media To Promote Your Content
You want people to read your great content, right? That means you need to dedicate some time to promoting it on social media.
The good news is that there are a number of tools available to help you save time and schedule social media posts.
There are a number of these tools, including:
— Sprout Social
— And many more…
The deeper you go, the more you can do to create and promote great content, including things like optimizing your posts for SEO.
It’s time for you to drop the mic and exit the building. Don’t be gone long, because you need to keep building your site, but you should be proud of yourself.
You now know how to build a site that will have your competitors drooling with envy. You know how to create content that is going to set the world on fire.
Now you just need to get out there and do it.
Be patient. It takes time to build an audience. It takes time to build a great library of content. Don’t expect crazy overnight success.
If you’re faithful to publish great content and faithful to build an audience on social media, people will come.
Find this Useful?
If you found this guide helpful, please don’t keep it to yourself — share it!
Do you still have any questions or need help? Just leave a comment below. I’m happy to respond, and our chats will help to keep this post up-to-date and as useful as possible.
Updated: December 23rd, 2016
About the author
Alex Jasin is the Founder and CEO of X3 Digital, a Google Certified digital marketing and design agency based in Orlando, Florida. He helps companies like Limbitless Solutions increase revenue through paid search, SEO, mobile apps, web design, content marketing, and branding. Alex also serves as a consultant for Ai Media Group, a prominent digital marketing agency in New York, working with Fortune 500 clients such as Intel, Allstate and Wells Fargo. Alex has previously been featured on Business Journal, Fox TV, Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. Connect with Alex on Linkedin, Twitter, or his personal website.
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