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The guide is very detailed, yet very easy to follow – even if you’re not very technical.
Other guides can be outdated or misleading. I update my guides every month.
Your website will be set up the right way on the right platform for what you need.
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.
Before you start worrying about colour schemes and domain names, you’ve got to decide what platform you’re going to build your website with.
Well, back in 2004 when I got started with web development, 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 2016, content management systems (CMS) like WordPress have made creating a website accessible to everyone.
To put simply, a content management system (or website building platform) is a user-friendly platform for building websites and managing your own online content, instead of using a bunch of loose HTML pages.
Image and data credit: OpenSourceCMS.com
As you can see from the graph above, nearly half of the websites on the Internet are running on the WordPress website platform.
Because at this point there are no better/easier ways to build a website… But more importantly:
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. You’ll never run out of uniqueness…
If you know how to use Microsoft Word, you already know how add your own content. WordPress can be expanded with free plugins to handle just about any site you can imagine – from gorgeous business pages to social networking sites. With “plugins” you’ll be able to add contact forms, subscription forms, image galleries and so on for your website – pretty simple, huh?
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.
The website you build will instantly be responsive, looking great on every mobile device, smartphone and tablet. No need to hire a web developer for that.
With so many people using the platform (Webmasters, Bloggers, Theme developers and Plugin creators), it’s easy to find QUICK help when you need it. In addition, WordPress has lots of free resources both available on Youtube and their support forum.
In fact, I built WebsiteSetup.org on WordPress, too. Below are samples of homepage and ‘blog’ page:
But, I would still use WordPress.
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 websites too, 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.
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.
I would look no further than WordPress.
In Step 2, I’ll walk you through the process of choosing a domain name and finding a space 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/suggestions for this guide don’t hesitate to contact me. Remember: I’m here to help!
To get a new website online, you’re going to need two things:
The WordPress platform itself is free, but a domain name and hosting will cost you around $3 – $5 a month. However it costs 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.my-free-website.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.)
I’ve mostly used www.Bluehost.com as a web hosting and domain registrar for myself and for my web development projects.
Their website hosting costs less than a movie ticket ($2.95/mo) and they throw in a FREE domain name (a nice perk to have).
Of course you can try other web hosting providers and 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 to get a proper web host.
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 to step 3, where I’ll explain how you can set up your website.
As an easy starting point:
For this site (WebsiteSetup), I chose WebsiteSetup.org
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.
There are a few things that can help you choose your domain name:
#1 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.
#2 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.
#3 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.
There’s one rule that always applies to domain names: If you like it, go for it.
Do some brainstorming to come up with a unique domain name that reflects your future website, business or blog.
Secure your domain name and web hosting. For this I recommend Bluehost.com, but you can pick any other web host as long as it’s reliable and simple.
UPDATE: I made a simple guide for Bluehost users (which hosting package to choose & how to install WordPress).
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.
There are two possible ways to install WordPress, one MUCH easier than the other.
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):
If you’re unable to locate it, look here: How to Install WordPress on Bluehost.
If for some odd reason (some hosting companies don’t provide one-click-install for WordPress) you don’t have the option to install WordPress automatically, look this manual guide below:
1) 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
4) Now open the wp-config.php (with notepad for example) and fill the following lines:
After you have filled the gaps, save the file.
5) 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.
6) 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.
7) Once you have completed the previous steps, go the URL: yourdomain.com/wp-admin/install.php
This is the page you should see:
Just fill in the forms and you are ready!
Pssst – if they don’t have 1-click-installation, maybe you’re dealing with a bad host!
Once you have successfully installed WordPress to 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: There are thousands of awesome, professionally designed themes you can choose from and customize for a site that’s all your own.
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.
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.
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!
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 lose what you’ve created.
With your theme installed, you’re ready to start creating content. Let’s quickly run through some of the basics:
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.
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”.
If you have 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”
b. Create a blog post by going to “Posts -> Add New”. 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!
In this section I’ll cover some of the basic things I’m asked about all the time that will help you to tweak your website.
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:
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”
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.
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 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.
“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.
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 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:
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg! Here’s a list of recommended plugins by me.
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.
As I mentioned earlier, WordPress is highly customizable. If you want to truly master WordPress, look no further than this comprehensive guide below:
… if you still have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.
P.S. 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 and accurate.
Last update: 25th of November, 2016.
Check out my other guides, too (they're free)!
Joomla is somewhere between WordPress and Drupal in terms of difficulty. It’s slightly more simple than Drupal, but has a bigger learning curve than WordPress.
If you want to build something more complex, try Joomla.
Fact: As of February 2014, Joomla has been downloaded over 50 million times. (wikipedia)
I wouldn’t suggest Drupal for a beginner, but it’s certainly a very powerful website building platform. If you want to learn how to set up a basic Drupal site, read this guide.
Fact: As of February 2014 more than 1,015,000 sites used Drupal. (wikipedia)
With WordPress, you’ll be able to make a blog, too. It’s pretty similar to creating a website with WordPress, but there are some minor things you’ll need to know.
If you want to start a blog, look no further than this guide.
Fact: The term “weblog” was coined by John Barger. (wikipedia)
If you don’t want to use WordPress, Joomla or Drupal to build your website, you can also try do it yourself with the help of website builders.
In this post, I’ve reviewed 10 different website builders.
Fact: Geocities was one of the first more modern website builders that didn’t require any technical skills. (wikipedia)