Choose a website building platform

Let’s make this clear. There are tons of different ways to build a website. Back in 2004, most of the sites were built with HTML, CSS or even FLASH.

In 2014, the game has changed a lot. See below:

Popular website building platforms

Source: Opensource CMS

WordPress websites have started to dominate the competition and let me tell you why:

1) No need of knowing HTML or any other computer coding languages.
2) WordPress itself is FREE and it has tons of different free themes/layouts to choose from.
3) Your website will look professional and it’ll work on mobiles and tablets as well.
4) You can add content, images, videos by just logging in to your WordPress dashboard.
5) Your site will be up and running within less than 30 minutes.

If the website you are planning to build is your FIRST, hands down – go with WordPress. It’s one of the easiest and quickest ways to set up your site. In fact, 90% of the new websites and blogs that are being launched are using WordPress platform – it must be good, right?

As an alternative, you can check out other similar website making platforms, such as Drupal and Joomla. I even made a pretty comprehensive comparison between 3 of them. If you don’t want to make your site with WordPress for some reason, you can check out my Drupal, Joomla and HTML5 guides as well. They are all FREE to use.

If not, let’s start with the WordPress tutorial!

In this guide, we’ll use WordPress to make your site

Quick note: This guide is mainly for people who are interested in making a professional looking website with minimal costs and without any previous knowledge. In most cases, it’s smart choice to make a website by yourself and not spend thousands of dollars on web designers and developers.

Lately, this guide has helped a lot of new: Start-ups, small business owners, creative persons (writers, artists, photographers), freelancers and bloggers (with WordPress you are able to set up a blog as well).

P.S: I’m currently offering free help via email, so if you get stuck during set up process or need any other help, just use the contact form.

STEP 1 – Choose a domain name and hosting

Before I move on and give you the step-by-step instructions for setting up a web page with WordPress, I want you to let you know that it will cost you some money. WordPress itself actually FREE, but a personal domain name (YourSiteName.com) and hosting (service that connects your site to the internet) will cost you approximately $3-$4 per month.

In short, if you want to set up a website for others to read/browse – you’ll need both of them (domain & hosting)

Whenever you buy a hosting & domain, you’ll also get a personal email account(s): you@yoursite.com – Cool, right?

If you already have a domain and hosting, you can feel free to skip this step and move on to Step 2. where I’m going to explain you how to set up a website.

If you DON’T HAVE A HOSTING/DOMAIN, see my suggestions below:

One of the hardest things is coming up with a decent domain name. Here are few tips that could help you in the long-run:

1) If you are planning to create a website for your business then simply use the company name as a domain. For example: YourCompanyName.com

2) If you are planning to set up a website for yourself, then YourName.com can be a suitable option as well.

3) If you are having troubles finding the best possible domain name for your website I suggest you to follow these 3 simple guidelines:

  • Is it brandable? For example, if you make a site about poetry then best-poetry-website.net is not a good choice while poetryacademy.com or poetryfall.com is much more better.
  • Is it memorable? People tend to like short and understandable domain names. If your domain name is too fuzzy and long then when they want to return they have already forgotten it.
  • Is it catchy? Coming up with a catchy and cool name is pretty difficult since there are approx 150 million active domain names in the world right now.

However, there’s one rule that always applies for domain names:

If you like it, go for it.

Hosting & Domain – Where should YOU get it?

As I mentioned above, in addition to domain you will also need hosting. There are literally hundreds of different hosting companies who are all available to host your site.

However, in the past 4-5 years while I have been setting up and managing different websites and blogs I have found out that there are only few real and legitimate hosting companies that actually deliver. From those hosting companies you can usually get your domain and hosting together at the same time.

I’m currently using iPage to host all my websites and thus I’m recommending them. Here’s why I think they are the best in the industry:

  • 1) Their hosting package is one of the cheapest. Less than $3 per month and a FREE domain (Great for beginners).
  • 2) They have been in the hosting business since 2002.
  • 3) They have “one-click-install” for WordPress, Drupal and Joomla platforms (You don’t need to set up your site manually).
  • 4) Their average up-time is 99,8% (Reliable).

However, you can always feel free to use any other hosting company as long it’s reliable and secure. So make sure you double check the background before buying anything.

STEP 2 – Install WordPress to your host/domain

First, you need to install WordPress to your domain. Almost all reliable and well-established hosting companies have integrated 1-click-installation for WordPress. Simply browse around on your hosting cPanel until you find the way to install WordPress. I’ve listed two possible ways to install WordPress to your domain.

Install WordPress with “One-Click-Installation”

If you signed up with iPage or any other similar hosting company, you should find your WordPress “one-click-installation” in your account control panel. Here are the steps you should follow:

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

Install WordPress manually

Here’s a pretty throughout video that explains all the exact steps that are needed to complete in order to install WordPress manually to your web host. It’s 10 minutes long. If you don’t want to watch video, I’ve explained everything below as well.

  1. First, download WordPress from here: http://wordpress.org/download
  2. Create a new folder on your desktop and unzip WordPress in it.
  3. Look for a file named wp-config-sample.php and rename it to: wp-config.php
    Now open the wp-config.php (with notepad for example) and fill the following lines:
  • define(‘DB_NAME’, ‘database_name_here’); – Database name (if you don’t know it, ask this from your hosting support)
  • define(‘DB_USER’, ‘username_here’); – Your hosting username
  • define(‘DB_PASSWORD’, ‘password_here’); – Your hosting password

After you have filled the gaps, save the file.

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.

If there is any file named “index” – delete it. After that upload all the files from your WordPress folder to your FTP server. I believe you can use “drag n drop” function in FileZilla.

Once you have completed the previous steps, go the URL: yourdomain.com/wp-admin/install.php

This is the page you should see:

WordPress site installation

Just fill in the forms and you are ready!

STEP 3 – Choose the right theme/layout for your website

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

Your site after WP installation

1) Log into your WordPress dashboard in order to change themes and start building your site – you can log in from http://yoursite.com/wp-admin

This is your WordPress dashboard:

This is the place where you can build your siteLooks pretty awesome, isn’t it?

2) Now you need to start looking for a proper theme – make sure it fits with the overall topic of your new website. You can find over 1500 free themes from WordPress Dashboard (Appearance -> Themes). In case you want something more professional or elegant, you can feel free to head over ThemeForest.net

However, at first I suggest you to try free themes because some of them are actually really professional and well-made.

Finding themes for your website

As you can see above, installing new theme (outlook) to your website is very easy. All you need to do is look for specific keywords and/or use filters.

Once you have found the theme you like, click “Install” and “Activate” afterwards:

Installing a new outlook/design for your site

Finding a perfect theme can take a while, but it’s worth it. In case you don’t find anything good right away, you can always return and search more later on. Changing themes won’t delete your previous posts, pages and content. In other words, you can feel free to change it more than 5 times a day.

P.S: In case you want a theme that works well on mobile phones, look for the keyword: “responsive”.

STEP 4 – Add content and create new pages

Once you have installed the theme you like, you can start creating content. Adding new pages in WordPress is again very easy, but I’ll cover the basics for you:

Pages: In order to create new pages such as “About me”, “Resources” etc (like I have on the menu), you need to head over to WordPress dashboard and look for “Pages -> Add new”.

If you want those pages to appear on the menu as well, you need to go to “Appearance -> Menus” and add them to the list.

Creating a new menu for your website

Posts: In case 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:

Website categories

Website categories

a) Create a new category by going to “Posts -> Categories”

b) Create a blog post by going to “Posts -> Add New”. Once you blog post is ready, you need to add the right category for it.

c) Add a new category to the menu

STEP 5 – Tweak your website (Widgets, comments & just some “stuff” you need to know)

Under this paragraph I’ll cover some of the basics things that might help you to tweak your website.

Changing website title & tagline: You must have noticed, that my website has a title: “How to Set Up a Website” and a tagline: “… Step by Step tutorial“.

In order to change that, go to “Settings -> General” and simply fill in the forms.

General website settings

Disabling comments for Posts & Pages: Some websites (business/organisation sites mostly) don’t need any comments from visitors.

While you are writing a new page, click “Screen options” (top right) and then tick “Discussion”. The “Allow Comments” box will appear at the bottom and all you need to do is untick “Allow comments”.

In case you want to turn off comments on every new page by default, go to “Settings -> Discussion” and untick those options:

Here you can disable comments

Static front-page: In case you want your site to have a static front page, go to “Settings -> Reading” and pick a static page for your website. Otherwise WordPress will take your latest posts and start showing them on your homepage.

Editing sidebar: Most of the themes have a sidebar on the right side (in some cases left). By default you’ll see something like this:

This should be your default sidebar after WP installation

Customize your sidebar

If you want to delete the categories, meta & archives (which are in most cases pointless) go to “Appearance -> Widgets”. From there you can use drag n’ drop function in order to add different “boxes” to your sidebar.

There’s also a “HTML box” which is basically a text box where you can use HTML code.

STEP 6 – Install plugins to get the most out of your website

WordPress has a great possibility to install different plugins that all add value and make your website more “personal” and unique.

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.

… but before you go and install every single plugin, I suggest you to read this article: Things you need to know about using WP plugins. Below here, I have put together a list of plugins that are useful and popular among many different webmasters:

Contact form 7: My website has a contact form on my About me page. It’s great since people can simply fill in the form and send me e-mail without logging into their email provider. In case you want the same, install contact form 7.

Facebook box: A lot of websites have Facebook plugins on their sidebar. In that way you can drive more traffic and likes to your Facebook fanpage (in case you have one).

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

Actually there are many more, here’s a list of top 100 plugins for WordPress by Tom Ewer.

… and this is basically it. Now you should have a fully working website.