You’ve decided to build a website. Whether you’re building a site for your physical business, a personal project or you’re gearing up to launch your own online business, this post is for you.
Luckily, you’re reading this today and not ten years ago. Technology and the internet move so fast, that once impossible or laborious tasks can be done in a single afternoon.
The same can be said for building your website.
Back in the old days of the web, before content management systems, and beginner-friendly website builders existed you’d have to code every aspect of your website yourself. If you didn’t possess the ability to code or didn’t want to learn, then you’d be out of luck. Unless you had the budget to pay a professional of course.
But, today’s web is much different. Anyone with the desire to build a website can go from no website to a published website in a single day.
Below you’ll learn everything that you’ll need in order to build your first website, including a variety of website building tools you can consider using.
The most difficult thing you’ll face isn’t actually building your site but choosing which approach to take.
1. Choose the Right Platform
Like we just mentioned you have a ton of different options for actually building your website. Choosing the right approach is important and might be one of the most time-intensive parts of the process.
For example, you can build your site entirely from scratch, using languages like HTML, CSS, and more. You can use a website builder to drag and drop your way towards creating a basic website. Or, you can rely upon a CMS to provide you with a customizable framework to build your site from.
The best options for beginners are using a website builder or an intuitive CMS like WordPress.
If your plan is to build out a fairly basic website, then using a website builder will be the easiest course of action. Website builders are designed with complete beginners in mind. With these the process is simple:
- You pick a website builder
- Choose a payment plan for your site and traffic needs
- Add your domain
- Select a theme or template
- Customize your site
- Publish it live on the internet!
If you’re going to take this approach, then consider using the HostGator website builder. If you’re already a HostGator customer and want to create a simple site, then this is a no-brainer.
For those with more complex site requirements, then WordPress is the way to go.
With WordPress, your customization options are nearly unlimited. Plus, it’s built to help you create content and get the most out of your site. Nearly every single host will let you quickly install WordPress in a couple of clicks. And even though it’s a more complex platform the learning curve is very small, making WordPress an ideal choice for beginners.
For the sake of this walkthrough, we’re going to assume you went with WordPress as the CMS you’re going to use to build your site.
2. Secure Your Domain Name and Host
In order to have any site live on the Internet, you’re going to need a domain name and host. Without a domain name there’s no way for people to access your site, and without a host, there’s no place to store the files that make up your website.
There are ways to get a free domain name and hosting, like using a subdomain of a larger site, like “yoursite.wordpress.com”. However, this doesn’t look very professional, and you’ll have a hard time building a following without a professional domain name.
Same goes for purchasing your own hosting. There are a ton of different options to choose from, but for those building their first sites, a basic shared hosting plan will suit you just fine. In time you may want to upgrade your package, but there’s no need to complicate things from the start.
With shared hosting, you’re sharing server resources with other sites using the same server. This effectively spits costs between a ton of different users, so your monthly bill will be very low.
Like anything online, there are multiple ways you can secure your domain name and hosting. You can spend time researching all your available options, or to keep things simple, just follow the process below.
Here’s how you can purchase a shared hosting plan from HostGator.
First, head over to this page and select your plan.
On the next screen you’ll be asked to enter more information, and even have the option to add a domain name.
Complete the steps, enter your payment information, and you’re all set.
If you have an existing domain name, then you’ll have to point it towards your new host. You also have the option to purchase your domain name from another provider entirely.
However, if you’re already purchasing hosting from HostGator it’s much easier to add a domain to your order.
3. Install Your CMS on Your Host
With your hosting and domain name taken care of, it’s time to install WordPress. Most beginner hosts make this easy by including software that lets you install your CMS of choice with a few clicks.
Instead of having to download your CMS yourself and upload it to yourself, this software will automate all of those technical tasks.
To do this we’re going to need to access your server. If you went with a host like HostGator, then we’ll be doing this with a tool called cPanel. This software is installed on your server and makes it incredibly easy to manage your server environment.
Here’s how to do it:
First, log in to your server via your control panel. You should have been provided your login link, along with your username and password when you signed up.
Next, locate a tool called ‘Softaculous Apps Installer’.
You’ll see that there are numerous other content management systems you can install, but for this tutorial, we’re going to be using WordPress.
So, select ‘WordPress’, enter your relevant site details and click ‘Install’.
Once the installer is finished WordPress will be installed on your site. Just a few more steps and your site will be ready for the world.
4. Choose Your Theme
WordPress will form the foundation of your site. But, in order to make any customizations to how your site looks you’re going to need to install a WordPress theme. Essentially, a theme is a collection of files that determine how your site looks and functions.
You can think of WordPress as the foundation and scaffolding for your house—it’s basic structure. While your theme is the color your home, your wood floors—what it looks like.
Since the WordPress ecosystem is so large you’ll have thousands of different themes to choose from (and that’s just including the free themes).
There are also premium themes that provide you with even greater functionality, features, support, and a lot more. Premium themes generally look and function better than paid themes, have higher-quality code, and have dedicated support teams behind them.
The cool thing about WordPress is that you can switch up themes at any time. It won’t have any effect on your existing blog posts, pages, and other media. If you’ve done a lot of customizing it might not display properly, but your content isn’t going anywhere.
Here’s how you can select and install a theme on your site:
From the backend of your WordPress dashboard navigate to Appearance>Themes. Then click the button that says ‘Add New’.
Here you’ll be able to browse the massive selection of free WordPress themes or even search for a theme.
Once you’ve found a theme that you like hover over it and click ‘Install’, then ‘Activate’. Now you’ll be able to customize your theme to your liking.
If you want to use a Premium theme, then the installation process will be a little different.
First, you’ll need to purchase and download a theme. There are dozens of places you can purchase high-quality themes online, including:
- Elegant Themes
Once you purchase and download your theme you’ll have a .zip file that contains all of the theme’s files.
Now, you’re going to upload this file to WordPress.
Navigate to Appearance>Themes, then select ‘Add New’. On the next screen select ‘Upload Theme’, then either drag and drop or locate the .zip file on your computer.
WordPress will then upload and install your theme, just click ‘Activate’ and you’re all set.
If you want to more features to your site, then you’ll be relying on the nearly endless library of WordPress plugins. There’s a wide variety of both free and premium plugins that can help you add whatever features you desire to your site.
To install any plugins navigate to Plugins>Add New.
Here you can browse by popular plugins, recommended plugins, or search for a plugin you’ve found online.
5. Customize Your Site
By now you’ve gotten your domain name and hosting, installed WordPress, selected your theme, and maybe even installed a few plugins.
Now is where the fun really begins—it’s time to customize your site.
The first thing you’ll want to do is create a few necessary pages.
- Home page
- Contact page
- About page
- Blog page
Depending on your site there are probably additional pages you’ll want to create as well, like a services page, resource page, or anything else really.
Adding pages to your WordPress site is very easy. Once you’re in the backend of your site navigate to Pages>Add New. This will open up a screen where you can add a page to your site.
Just add your title, text, any images, or media, then click ‘Publish’.
If you want to add any blogs to your site, then you’ll be following a similar process. Click on Posts>Add New, and you’ll be taken to a screen that looks nearly identical to the page editor. Write your blog post and click ‘Publish’.
The approach you take to customize your theme depends upon what theme you’re using.
For example, your theme might have its own customization options which you’ll control from a different tab. If you’ve purchased a premium theme, then check the documentation that came with your theme to see how to make customizations.
However, you’ll also be able to make general customizations by navigating to Appearance>Customize.
On this screen, you’ll be able to do things like change your site’s color scheme, header elements, menus, general theme settings and a lot more.
Once you’re satisfied with how your site looks and functions it’s time to launch your site. If you’ve done everything above then your site should already be online!
Just type in your URL to the browser and you should see your site live.
If you want to build out your site without people being able to see it in an unfinished state, then you might want to use a coming soon, or maintenance mode plugin.
To do this you can install a plugin like ‘Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode by SeedProd’. Head over to Plugins>Add New, then search for ‘coming soon seedpod’. Then, install a plugin that looks like the one below:
Once you’ve activated the plugin head over to Settings>Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode, here you’ll be able to customize the appearance of your coming soon page.
Then, when you’re ready to launch just make sure to disable the plugin.
Building your website isn’t as difficult as it once was. If you followed the steps above you’ll be on your way towards having a fully functional website live on the web. Note that there are multiple approaches you can take, some are easier than others.
For example, if you’re already using HostGator hosting, then one of the simplest options will be using the bundled website builder. This tool is very straightforward and intuitive to use and is equipped with a variety of templates to suit your needs.
For those looking to create a more robust website, then consider using WordPress. This widely used CMS is the foundation for a lot of the largest and highly-trafficked sites on the entire Internet. With its flexibility and ease of use, you can create whatever style of site you desire.
The route you choose is up to you. Just make sure you take stock of your needs, current skills, and overall goals of your site before you choose the best approach for building out your site.