How to make a website

An easy, step-by-step guide from a web developer

I’ve been helping people build websites since 2004.

I wrote this guide to help anyone – from bloggers to business owners – make their own website without having to learn code.

So far, this guide has helped people build over 4000 new websites, and you can do it, too.

Robert Mening

Here’s why you’ll love this website setup guide:

Beginner-Friendly

The guide is very detailed, yet very easy to follow – even if you’re not very technical.

Up-to-Date

Other guides are outdated or misleading. I update my guides every month.

Fast Setup

You’ll have a clean, mobile-friendly website up and running in less than an hour.

Platform-Specific

Your website will be set up the right way on the right platform for what you need.

Free Support

I offer free help and consultation via email. I’m more than happy to get you answers and clear up any questions you might have.

3 Quick Steps in This Guide

You'll learn how to...

Step 1

Choose a website building platform

Step 2

Choose your website address (www.)

Step 3

Set up & customize your website

Step one

Choose the Best Website Building Platform

Before you start worrying about color schemes and domain names, you’ve got to decide what platform you’re going to build your website with.

 

What do I mean by “platform”?

Well, back in 2004 when I got started, most sites were built using HTML (code), CSS and even Flash. These took a lot of time to learn and were tricky to master.

That’s why most people still think creating a website from scratch is difficult or requires a lot of coding and design skills – but that’s no longer true!

In 2015, content management systems (CMS) like WordPress have made creating a website accessible to everyone.

A content management system is a user-friendly platform for building websites and managing your own online content, instead of using a bunch of loose HTML pages.

 

Three most popular website building platforms in 2015:

Image and data credit: OpenSourceCMS.com

As you can see, nearly half of the websites on the internet are running on the WordPress website platform. Just look at those statistic made by W3 Techs and Builtwith. This

 

Why WordPress is better than the rest?

Because it’s AWESOME! But more importantly…

  • It’s totally FREE, with loads of layouts to choose from

WordPress doesn’t cost a dime to download or install, and there’s a huge community who have designed beautiful themes and templates, making it easy to get going fast.

  • It’s extremely beginner-friendly

If you know how to use Microsoft Word, you already know how add your own content. WordPress can be expanded with plugins to handle just about any site you can imagine – from gorgeous business pages to social networking sites.

  • Small or Big site? Doesn’t matter…

From basic blogs to beautiful business sites and online stores, WordPress can handle just about any kind of website – and there are plenty of plugins to expand its capabilities. WordPress is used by Facebook, eBay, McAfee, Mozilla,Reuters, CNN, Google Ventures and even NASA.

  • It’s mobile-friendly

The website you build will be responsive, looking great on every mobile device, smartphone and tablet.

  • There’s a huge support community

With so many people on the platform, it’s easy to find help when you need it, and lots of free resources you can dig into.

In fact, the site you’re reading right now is built with WordPress! It’s popular for a reason. If you want to know more about how popular WordPress is, take a quick peek at this article: 14 facts about WordPress.

 

Of course, there are other CMS / website building platforms, too.

Drupal is a very powerful platform that is popular with web developers and experienced coders, 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 online stores, but you’ll need at least a little bit of technical coding to make it work the way you want.

If you want more details, I’ve put together a pretty comprehensive comparison between WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

If for some reason you don’t want to build your site with WordPress, check out my Drupal, Joomla and HTML5 guides as well. They are all FREE to use.

 

But for beginners, I strongly 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, and freelancers to creative artists and bloggers.

 

At this point, you don’t have to install or set up anything.

In Step 2, I’ll walk you through the process of choosing a domain name and finding a great hosting plan for your website.

In Step 3, I’ll show you everything you need to know to install and customize a WordPress website.

Don’t worry – I’ll walk you through the process, with lots of images as a reference.

Remember; I’m here to help!

I’m currently offering free help via email. I can’t set up your site for you, but I CAN give you specific advice – so if you get stuck during set up process, just use my contact form.

Step two

Choose a Domain Name & Web Hosting for Your Website

To get a new website online, you’re going to need two things:

  • A domain name (a web address like yoursitename.com)
  • Hosting (a service that connects your site to the internet)

The WordPress platform itself is free, but a domain name and hosting will cost you around $3 – $4 a month (less than a coffee, so it won’t break the bank).

Owning your own domain name looks far more professional than having your site on someone else’s domain (like yourbusiness.freewebsite.com), and it’s super affordable, too.

Plus, having your own hosting will also make sure your website loads quickly and won’t go down for hours at a time (pretty important for everyone who visits your pages.)

 

Where do I get a domain name and hosting?

I’ve mostly used www.Bluehost.com as a web hosting and domain registrar.

They’re really affordable, have good customer service, and they’re currently throwing in a domain name for free – so it’s worth checking them out.

When you get a domain name, you’ll also get a personal email account(s): you@yoursite.com – way more professional than a generic Gmail or Yahoo address.

Already have a domain name and hosting? Go ahead and skip ahead to step 3, where I’ll explain how you can set up your website.

 

What kind of domain name should I pick?

As an easy starting point:

  • If you’re making a website for your business, your domain name should match your company name. For example: YourCompanyName.com
  • If you’re planning to set up a website for yourself, then YourName.com can be a great option.

Domain names usually end with .com, .org or .net, but in recent months, a huge amount of domain extensions (the end part of the web address, like .com) have come out, ranging from .agency to .pizza.

My best advice? Avoid the weird 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.

 

How should I choose my domain name?

A) Is it brandable? For example, if you make a site about poetry then best-poetry-website.net is not a good choice: poetryacademy.com or poetryfall.com is much better.

B) 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.

C) Is it catchy? You want a name that rolls off the tongue, describes what you do and sticks 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.

There’s one rule that always applies to domain names: If you like it, go for it.

Step three

Setting up your WordPress website

Set up your WordPress Website

Once you’ve bought your domain name and set up 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 to your domain.

 

Installing WordPress

There are two possible ways to install WordPress, one MUCH easier than the other.

1. 1-Click-installation

Almost every reliable and well-established hosting company has integrated 1-click-installation for WordPress, which makes getting going a snap.

If you signed up with Bluehost or any other similar hosting company, you should find your “1-click-installation” in your account control panel.

Here are the steps you should follow (should be similar/same on all the major web hosting companies):

  1. Log in to your hosting account.
  2. Go to your control panel.
  3. Look for the “WordPress” icon.
  4. Choose the domain where you want to install your website.
  5. Click the “Install Now” button and you should get access to your NEW WordPress website.

Need a little more help installing WordPress? See this in-depth guide.

2. Manual install

If for some odd reason (some hosting companies don’t have one-click-install for WordPress) you don’t have the possibility to install WordPress automatically, look this manual guide below:

Installing WordPress Manually

Pssst – if they don’t have 1-click-installation, maybe you’re dealing with a bad host!

 

Choosing a Theme/Template for your site

Once you have successfully installed WordPress to your domain, you’ll see a very basic yet clean site:

default_wordpress_theme

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.

Here’s where it gets fun: There are thousands of awesome, 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:

wordpress_default_dashboard

 

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 along the side bar for “Appearance”, then click “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 HUGE library of themes to pick from at varying costs.

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.

free_wordpress_blog_themes

 

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”.

install_theme

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 lose 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

Create a new page

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. 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”

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”.

wordpress_navigation_bar_website

 

Adding and editing posts

If you a blog on your website, “Posts” will be where you turn to next. You can use different categories to group similar posts.

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”

OR

b. Create a blog post by going to “Posts -> Add New”. Once you’ve finished writing your blog post blog post is ready, 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!

 

Customizations & Tweaks (Widgets, comments & just some “stuff” you need to know)

In this section I’ll cover some of the basics things I’m asked about all the time that will help you to tweak your website.

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 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:

site-title-and-tagline

 

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”

site_discussion-settings

 

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.

static_homepage

 

Editing sidebar

Most WordPress themes have a sidebar on the right side (in some cases 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 pointless, here’s how:

1. Go to “Appearance -> Widgets” in the WordPress Dashboard.

2. From here, you can use drag n’ 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 WordPress’ capabilities, adding features and functions to your site that don’t come built-in.

They’re shortcuts to getting your site to do what you want 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 “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 to 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 and useful 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.

Yoast SEO for WordPress: If you want to make your WordPress site even more SEO-friendly, 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.

Forum: Interested in starting a forum on your site? Look for the plugin named “bbPress” and follow their tutorials.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg! Here’s a list of the top 100 plugins for WordPress by Tom Ewer, someone who knows plugins, really well!

… and that is basically it.

 

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?

I hope you found this guide really useful –but if you have any more questions or need help with one of the steps I highlighted, I’m happy to share some guidance. For this, use my contact/support page.

Last, but not least..

If you find my guides useful, please share my page below. This keeps me motivated to keep all the information on this site up-to-date.

Cheers,

Robert