How to create your own website in 6 easy steps

Making your own little place in the virtual world is not nearly as hard as you think. If you spend a few hours on it, over one week, you’ll have your own site, and you can share it with friends. The time consuming part is actually putting stuff on it!

I started my first blog in 2005 to chronicle my move to England. It was like a travel diary for friends to read. It was certainly not something designed for strangers. When I started writing about entrepreneurship this year, my old blog was really not appropriate any more… so it was time fork out a little bit of money and actually make my own website.

My first blog – Adventure Jo. Not very pretty, but it served its purpose for a while.

Once I made the decision, it took me hardly any time to create a very pretty new site. Within 1 hour I had a domain name, website hosting, a theme, and all the contents from my two blogs imported. I then spent a couple of hours tidying some things up like photographs and categories, and wahlah!  josavill.com was born.

True, I did have some help from Amit, but really it was quite simple.

Here are the basic steps, some recommendations, and some links to help you on your way.

The most important thing to remember is that your website is not going to be perfect at the start – but it’s better to have something out there in the world where people can find you, than to keep worrying about it being perfect!

1. Do the thinking

There are lots of important things to think about before you start creating your website. What is your website for? What do you want the name of your website to be? Is it for your business or blog or what? Who is your audience? What do you want people to do when they arrive at your website?

Do all the thinking at the start so it will guide the choices you have to make with the platform, design and content.

2. Buy a domain name

Go to a domain name provider and see if the website name you want is available. As a rule of thumb, a .com web address is the best.

Some choices for domain name providers are:

Godaddy.com – I used these guys for my domain name. It is easy to check and see if your desired name is available. However, they try to sell you tonnes of stuff as you go through the process and that is annoying!

Hostgator.com – This site comes recommended by the successful blog Think Traffic.

Bluehost.com – This site offers you a free domain name when you buy their hosting, which is reasonably priced. Looks good to me! Recommended by Free Range Humans.

I bought mine for 3 years, and didn’t buy any of the extra stuff they try and get you to buy like email and security and who knows what else. To save a bit of money, search for “{name of company} coupons”, and you might find one to use that will reduce the price by 20 or 30%. My domain name cost $32 for 3 years.

3. Buy some hosting

Once you have a domain name, your website needs to be hosted somewhere (like on computer servers in a big room somewhere that are very reliable and will store all your website pages and data (or in a cloud)). You need to buy some web hosting for that.

We use hostgator.com – they seem to be very popular and reliable. It costs about $200 for 3 years and we have multiple websites hosted for that price. Bluehost, mentioned above, is another option. Again, choose the no-frills options on the package you decide on!

See also: I have a website, now what?

4. Install wordpress on your website and choose a design (theme)

WordPress is probably the most popular way to build a website. It is free, open-source, and there are lots of free ‘themes’ (designs) available that you can use with this interface.

I suggest you start with a free theme, and then upgrade to one that costs money when you know more about what you want. Here is a good list of free themes for WordPress,  and another massive list.

screenshot of my old wordpress site

My old WordPress site, built using a free theme and free hosting.

Amit bought a subscription to Elegant Themes, which offers about 70 different themes you can use with WordPress for $39 a year. He uses one for Fly on the Wall, and I chose another for my website. It was really easy to install, and looks very professional. They also help you when you have trouble.

Photo of a baby on the Fly on the Wall website

The Fly on the Wall website, built using Elegant Themes.

We’d also recommend checking out Theme Forest - they have tonnes of WordPress themes that cost around $35 designed for all sorts of websites, like corporate, shops, non-profit, creative etc.

Later on you might decide that you want a much fancier website. Fortunately there are a lot of professional designers who will make you a fancy new website using WordPress - so you can update it and change it as much as you like using an interface that you already know how to use.

5. Learn how to use WordPress

This is not as hard as it sounds. WordPress is a very popular platform to use so there are tonnes of free you tube videos available that help you learn how to use the system. I would say it took me a day or two of playing around until I became really good at using wordpress for what I needed. If you are new to blogging, it will take a few days, but you will get there! You don’t have to know how to use html, you just need to use trial and error. It is a great achievement though to see your own website up and running, so it is all worth it.

Here is a collection of great intro videos to using wordpress by The WP Guru.

6. Write!

Now you need to write some content. Write what ever you want, although an overarching reason to why you’re writing really helps! I also suggest you write quality stuff. Edit what you write a million times. Send it to friends for their opinion. And edit it again.

 See also: A beginner’s guide to social media for small businesses

This is too complicated for me!

If you are more of a visual person, here is a nice video guide for starting a website in under 8 minutes.

If you don’t want to go into this much bother or spend any money at all, you can just make yourself a free blog. I’ve used wordpress.com and blogger.com before, and they are both simple to use.

Having integrated both of my old blogs into my new WordPress website, I can tell you that WordPress blogs transfer over more smoothly because they have the images and categories already in place. The blogger blog took a bit more fiddling. Here is a nice little guide to choosing a blogging platform.

If you want your little place online, dive in! It’s a learning experience, and can be quite fun. The best thing ever is getting comments on your blog, I love it! (hint hint)

Next week: I have a website, now what?

Also available is Part 3 in this series: A beginner’s guide to social media for small businesses.

If you have any questions or comments, I’ll try to answer them! I’m no web guru, but I know my way around WordPress (and google search!).

Jo Savill is a writer, science communicator and entrepreneur. Stay up to date with Jo’s writing by signing up to her newsletter

 

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