Target: anyone who need to create a website (e.g. for small businesses, personal branding or blogging)
In this How to Create A Website: The Complete Guide, you will learn how to create your own website and blog fast and easy. All the steps involved will be covered in details so that you will gain a complete view of the process involved in creating a website and blog on your own. At the end of this guide, you will have a built a professional looking website similar to the ones below. Yes, you can create a website like these.
Tips: if you want to create a website now, you are advised to read the condensed How to Create A Website Guide here.
How to Create A Website: The Complete Guide
Why having a website?
For a business/organization
- Are there any businesses without websites nowadays?
- You can reach visitors all over the world
- A website works for you around the clock without the need for a rest
- You can automate marketing and sales through your website
- You can establish the branding of your business/organization
- You can express yourself freely
- You can build up your own online personal branding
- You can show off your knowledge about website building and technologies
- Through you blog posts, you can demonstrate your passion and knowledge
- You can earn petty cash through online advertisements and affiliate marketing, or even quit your full-time job
What skills should I have if I want to create a website?
No particular skills needed, as you know how to read this post on a computer or mobile device, you have got all the required skills. In the past building a website was exclusive to website designers and developers, business owners and individuals needed to pay a lot of money to hire them to build a website. With the advancement of technologies and web services, nowadays anyone can build a website in as short as 1 hour. No kidding. Read on to know more!
How long does it take to create a website?
As said, it will take as short as 1 hour to have your website up and running and you can announce your website to the world. The website will look just like any professional websites on the internet with a homepage, a short introduction and a working contact form. It’s that easy and simple.
But if you really want to provide values, you need to write quality contents from time to time. Writing website posts may take you long initially, but after you have gained the experience, you might need less than an hour to write a post. You might think of the time taken as an investment because the valuable contents you provide will lead more people find you and come to your website.
How much does it cost to create a website?
The most expensive part is your own time invested in building the website and adding contents to it. Other than that, you will need as low as US$4.95 per month for the domain and website hosting fee (don’t worry if you don’t know what a domain or website hosting is, read on to understand). This is the only essential money input to have your website up and running.
Okay, then how to create a website?
This “How to Create A Website Guide” breaks down the process of creating a website on your own into 4 simple steps. These steps will be explained in details below. It is highly advised that you follow the “learning by doing” practice, do follow the instructions in each steps. You can open another browser window (click on “File” on the toolbar on the top of the window and chose “New Window”) so that you can read this guide and follow the instructions side by side.
Reading alone you will forget, following along you will get it!
Step 1: Choose a domain name
What is a domain name?
If you have even tried to type a website address to go to a website, you have already typed a domain name. Sometimes, you might hear people say “URL” or “website address”, these are essentially identical to the domain name. For example, when people ask you what is the website address of your website, you can just give them the domain name.
The following are the domain names of four popular websites.
The anatomy of a domain name
A domain name is the website address you would type in the address bar to visit a website. For example, in the following diagram, www.wplearner.org is the domain name. A domain can usually be sub-divided into 3 parts.
- Part 1 is called the sub-domain. www is most common for part 1, in fact with proper configurations, you can simply remove this part (i.e. wplearner.org to visit this website) or use other values such as blog.wplearner.org or ftp.wplearner.org
- Part 2 is the most important part for your branding, you can make up it using a combination English alphabets, numbers and hyphens (-). For English alphabets, there is no difference between the UPPERCASE and lowercase characters, you can type WPLearner.org, wpLearner.org, etc. and still be able to get to this website.
- Part 3 is called the top-level domain. The most common ones are .com, .org, .biz, .net. At the time of writing you still could not choose it as you like but there are plans that top-level domains like .nike, .amazon, .apple will soon become a reality.
Domain names are registered on a first-come-first-served basis. If your preferred domain has been registered by others, the only way you can get it is to buy it from the registered owner. However, this will usually be very expensive. The service we will use soon will provide many alternative suggestions based on your preferred domain so that you would not need to buy a registered domain. When choosing your domain name, it is highly advisable to use your name or the name of your company or products and combine the words to form a unique domain name with observation of the following tips. Think of your domain as a real name. You will want people to remember your domain name so that they can type your domain to get to your website instantly. Try to find a domain that is short (around 10 characters) and simple. Look at the domain names of the popular website above and you will immediately notice that they are very short and simple yet memorizable Just as a name, you might need to tell other about your website domain from time to time. It is best if you can just pronounce it without having to spell out the domain letter by letter. For example, for wplearner.org, we call it W-P-learner; for ebay.com, it is called E-bay. Don’t choose a domain name that’s too similar to the established ones unless you want to make fun of the latter. There are a number of internet frauds that involve mimicking established domain names in order to fool people to enter their account credentials. Though you do not intend to commit crimes, your domain name may look suspicious if it looks too similar to other domains and lose the credibility that is vital to its success. This is a convention that businesses use the .com top-level domain as .com stands for company. Again from the above examples, these successful businesses all use .com. People tend to trust more in .com than .biz or .net. If the domain name is available as a .com choose it, otherwise choose .org (which stands for organization) or try to find another domain name. It is far more convenient to type alphabets only on keyboards (especially that on mobile phones). One has to tap several more buttons to get hyphens and numbers. This might deter people’s willingness to visitor your website. If you are selling books, you might want to include “book” or “bookstore” in your domain. But wait! Think about the future development of your business first, chances are that you might like to expand to selling stationery or posters, having a domain name with “book” might not be seen as appropriate. You might try to think of a more general name. In the past, people would suggest you to include keywords (the words typed by people in search engines) of your industry/field so that search engines will rank your website higher. No more now. It is far more important to select a memorable name than to stuff the keywords into it to make it look awkward.
Tips on choosing a domain name
Short, Simple and Memorizable
Choose .com If the Website is About a Business
Avoid Hyphen “-” and numbers
Try not to limit your business
Domain names are registered on a first-come-first-served basis. If your preferred domain has been registered by others, the only way you can get it is to buy it from the registered owner. However, this will usually be very expensive. The service we will use soon will provide many alternative suggestions based on your preferred domain so that you would not need to buy a registered domain.
When choosing your domain name, it is highly advisable to use your name or the name of your company or products and combine the words to form a unique domain name with observation of the following tips.
Think of your domain as a real name. You will want people to remember your domain name so that they can type your domain to get to your website instantly. Try to find a domain that is short (around 10 characters) and simple. Look at the domain names of the popular website above and you will immediately notice that they are very short and simple yet memorizable
Just as a name, you might need to tell other about your website domain from time to time. It is best if you can just pronounce it without having to spell out the domain letter by letter. For example, for wplearner.org, we call it W-P-learner; for ebay.com, it is called E-bay.
Don’t choose a domain name that’s too similar to the established ones unless you want to make fun of the latter. There are a number of internet frauds that involve mimicking established domain names in order to fool people to enter their account credentials. Though you do not intend to commit crimes, your domain name may look suspicious if it looks too similar to other domains and lose the credibility that is vital to its success.
This is a convention that businesses use the .com top-level domain as .com stands for company. Again from the above examples, these successful businesses all use .com. People tend to trust more in .com than .biz or .net. If the domain name is available as a .com choose it, otherwise choose .org (which stands for organization) or try to find another domain name.
It is far more convenient to type alphabets only on keyboards (especially that on mobile phones). One has to tap several more buttons to get hyphens and numbers. This might deter people’s willingness to visitor your website.
If you are selling books, you might want to include “book” or “bookstore” in your domain. But wait! Think about the future development of your business first, chances are that you might like to expand to selling stationery or posters, having a domain name with “book” might not be seen as appropriate. You might try to think of a more general name. In the past, people would suggest you to include keywords (the words typed by people in search engines) of your industry/field so that search engines will rank your website higher. No more now. It is far more important to select a memorable name than to stuff the keywords into it to make it look awkward.
Many will only know they have infringed others’ copyrights not until they have received legal letters from the copyright owners!
As a rule of thumb, don’t use any brand names or product names in your domain name. Do you homework by searching for other domains which use the word and is still doing a brisk business. Then it should be safe to use the word. In case of doubts, you might need to seek legal advices or just avoid using the word for peace of mind.
How much is a domain name? How to register a domain name?
You cannot purchase a domain name for good. Domain name registrations require annual fee (of course you can pay for 10 years at the time of registration). The normal registration fee for a .com domain is around US$10 or above. The fee also depends on the type of top-level domain and the registration company, e.g. .org is usually more expensive than .com.
Traditionally, you need to sign up a domain name via a domain registrar. You will then be given access to an admin interface where you can set the technical details of the domain (e.g. the DNS server, domain parking, etc.). You will need also to log in the admin interface to pay the renewal fee annually. If you forget to pay the renewal fee, your domain will be forfeited and be open to others to register. That means you will lose control of it and the time you have spent building it up would be wasted (or taken advantage by others).
Nowadays, there are some hosting companies that would include a free domain name of your choice in the hosting plan. You will only need to pay the hosting fee and the domain fee plus the technical configurations are taken care by the hosting company. This is the ideal way to create your own website. We will walk you through the process of registering a domain name and signing up a hosting plan in step 2 of the “How to Create A Website Guide”.
Tool: Check if your preferred domain name is available
If you already have a preferred domain for your own website and you can’t wait to get it, just use the tool below to help you check for its availability. If not, just skip this part and read on.
To check whether your preferred domain name is taken, simply type the name into the box below and choose the either .com, .org or .us and click the button “Check Availability”. A message will be shown right away indicating the availability of the domain name. Repeat using another domain name if the one you have just entered is taken.
Once you have identified an available domain for your own website, please read on to Step 2 which will help you secure your ownership of this domain for your very first website. Remember that domains are given out first-come-first-served. Some people on the other side of the internet may know that you love this domain and will try to register it immediately. Afterwards, they might ask you to pay them hundreds or thousands of dollars just to purchase the ownership of this domain. You need to act fast.
Step 2: Sign up a web hosting account
What is a web hosting account?
You will need somewhere to put your website on. The “somewhere” is usually a web hosting server, i.e. a computer server that is always connected to the internet and be able to send your website data to anyone who would like to visit your website. As you will know, there is no free lunch, you will need to pay monthly fees to the hosting company in order to pay for the electricity, hardwares and support staff to run the web hosting server.
In theory, you can put your website on your own internet-connected computer provided that you have the proper technical knowledge to set up such a server. But again, you will need to pay for the internet connection (not your home internet connect but business grade internet connection) plus the electricity required to power your computer all day long.
Therefore you are advised to sign up a web hosting account.
Is there something as FREE website hosting?
Yes or no. If you search for “free website hosting” in Google, you will get hundreds of websites claiming that they can offer you absolutely free website hosting. You can actually sign up a free website hosting account with them. But wait, you need to be very careful for something too good to be true.
The free website hosting companies are no charities. They need to pay their own staff and electricity bills. The majority of the free website hosting companies are trying to get more out of you than the ordinary paid website hosting companies. They would earn money by:
- placing website advertisements on your website with letting you know
- charging you if you would like to use your own domain for the website
- charging you for exceeding their free quota either in website traffic, website usage or website storage
- charging you a large amount of money if you would like to move your website and domain name to some other web hosting companies
- claiming the ownership of all materials you upload to their web server and sell those materials to someone else
If you search in depth, you might eventually find one or two website hosting companies which honestly provide you with a free website hosting, but will the service standards in term of connection speed and technical support be on par as the paid ones? I would seriously doubt about that.
I did not even waste time to try to search for such free hosting companies but instead try to find a quality one with reasonable costs.
How to find a quality web hosting company?
There are a number of established criteria for a quality website hosting which you should use to access any website hosting companies. We have done the hard work of selecting the best hosting company for you so that you don’t need to waste your time. Go ahead and skip this section to our recommended web hosting company if you really want your website to be up and running in no time. Otherwise, get to know our rationales for the choice with the following criteria.
Reliability of Service
There is a huge different between a reliable hosting and a unreliable one. If the web server always crashes and offline from time to time, people or prospective customers wanting to visit your website will only be able see a blank screen or error message on connection fault. That means you will lose a customer for good. Your website needs to be accessed 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, so you should aim at a hosting with over 99% uptime (uptime is the time the service responds properly to send your website to your visitors).
Is the Domain Registration Fee Included in the Website Host Package?
There are web hosting companies who would require you to sign up a domain with other domain registrars and ask you to make some technical configurations on the domain registrars side over the DNS servers, etc. in order to be able to host your domain. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to do all these. For beginners to create a website, the best way is to find a web hosting company which offers you to register a domain and sign up a domain account at the same time. You will also be billed at the same time with the need to pay for the domain fee and web hosting fee separately. This will give you peace of mind as forgetting to pay either fee will result in your website disappearing from the internet.
Unlimited Storage and Unlimited Traffic
Some web hosting companies have introductory hosting plans which limit the amount of storage space you can use (often several hundred megabytes) and the amount of visitors you can have (often several hundred per day). If your website grows to be very popular, the storage space is not be enough to host all your contents and you have thousands of visitors per day, you need to pay extra fee depending on the usage (very expensive) or you will need to upgrade the hosting plan. You don’t want to pay extra, how can you possible stay within the limits? There are some web hosting plans which offer you unlimited storage (disk spaces) and unlimited traffic with one low fee. Again this gives you peace of mind as you know how much you would need to pay from the very beginning.
Unlimited Domain Name Support
Chances are that you might need more than one domain name, for example, one for your online business website, one for your personal website and one for your lovely child, so to speak. Do you need to pay separately for each domain hosting? Try to choose a web hosting plan which offers you the support of unlimited amount of domain you can host with them in one account. This gives you a lot of flexibility in future development (of course, you need to pay for the domain fee one by one).
No Need to Sign a Contract for a Fixed Period: Refund Anytime
Perhaps, one of the most important criteria for a quality hosting plan is that you can try before you buy. Try to find one which will promise to give you a full refund for the first 30 days so that you can really test it out before committing yourself with the hosting plan. Better still, some quality web hosting companies are so confident in their services that after the first 30 days, if you are not satisfied with their services (perhaps out of deterioration of service quality), you can get a refund of services not used (i.e. in a pro rata rate) anytime you want to terminate the services. You can just email them for a refund virtually anytime. You might ask: how about my uploaded files and the domain name? All the uploaded files can be downloaded and moved to another web host in no time and you can not locked in. For the domain name, since you have paid for its annual fee upon signing up the hosting plan, you are the owner of the domain name and you are free to transfer it to another web host.
Helpful Customer Service and Technical Support
It is also a vital factor for a web hosting company to be helpful in customer service and technical support. Though not very common, you might need their help to trouble shoot your website should issues occur or you will need their help to amend your plan or help to make your website better. Helpful and responsive services are key to any service industries, in web hosting, it is especially important.
Cost Effective Hosting Plan
There are hundreds of web hosting companies providing thousands of website hosting plans. You will need to do your homework to compare the services of a handful of them and choose one that is most competitive in terms of services and monthly fee. In the past, it is not uncommon to have a website hosting account for a monthly fee of US$20 or more. However, with the advancement in technology, website storage and server costs have gone down a lot, you can get a website hosting account for much cheaper nowadays.
Is the Website Hosting Recommended by WordPress?
If you are to follow our “How to Create A Website Guide”, you will need to install the website software “WordPress” in the next step. Don’t worry about the technical implementations now as we will give you a step by step guide (promised to be easy). You just need to make sure that the website hosting runs WordPress well and fast. WordPress itself has listed a number of recommended website hosting on WordPress website.
Which is the recommended website hosting?
After judging a large number of website hosting companies based on the above criteria, we have made our decision to sign up the wplearner.org website at Bluehost.
- Bluehost is one of the largest web hosting companies in the world hosting more than a whopping 2,000,000 (two million) websites.
- The fee for the Bluehost account includes a FREE domain of your choice, you do not need to sign up a domain name separately.
- Bluehost provides you unlimited amount of disk space and website traffic, you will not be surprised by the bill.
- A single Bluehost account allows you to host unlimited number of domain names, you can have one or ten or a hundred websites for the fee of one account.
- Bluehost is one of the web hosting companies recommended by WordPress, the website software we will install in the following step.
- All these services are provided for a minimal cost of US$4.95 per month if you sign up through the link below (normal charge US$6.95 per month). As there is no contract required, you can terminate the hosting plan any time and get a pro rate refund. Plus, you can get a full refund (minus the domain name fee) in the first 30 days and take your own domain name somewhere else.
How to sign up a domain and web hosting account on Bluehost?
Signing up a domain and web hosting account on Bluehost is very easy. Once you have thought of a preferred domain name, you can head instantly to Bluehost to check the availability of the domain by clicking the “get started now” button. Then follow the steps described below to complete the whole registration process in under 5 minutes.
Step by step visual guide to sign up a domain and a web hosting account
The 3-year plan offers the most cost effective option. Remember, you can always ask for a refund if you are not satisfied with the service of the hosting company. You can virtually cancel at anytime and get a pro rata refund of what you have paid. Bluehost has been in service for many years and is currently hosting more than 2 million websites, it is one of the largest and most established web hosting company in the world.
If you are following this guide, you do not need to pay for all the extra services. Just uncheck all of them except one – the domain privacy service. Contact information of domain owners need to be disclosed to the world as a policy. Spammers might be able to get your email address and send you spam mails. If you prefer others to register the domain on your behalf, you will need to pay for US$9.99 per year.
You can choose to pay the fee by Credit Card or Paypal.
Once you have settled the payment, you will be redirected back to Bluehost. In order to keep your cost low, do not add any services on the page to your cart. Just scroll down to the bottom and click the “complete” button.
Then you can set the password for your hosting account. The domain registration process is now finished!
Step 3: Install WordPress and Configure Email Accounts
What is WordPress?
WordPress is the website software to help you create and amend your website fast and easy with any need for website programming knowledge. Around 20% of all websites in the world are powered by WordPress. Anyone knowing how to email will be able to build a website. You can forget about the HTML, CSS, PHP others tell you that you must know if you ever want to build a website on your own.
WordPress provides an interface that is intuitive and easy-to-use as emails or Facebook. You can change the website design, add a webpage, write a blog post, rearrange the website menu, etc. with WordPress. WordPress is also known as a website builder or content management system (CMS). Best of all, WordPress is free.
How to install WordPress?
Traditionally, you will need to download WordPress from WordPress.org and upload it through FTP to your web hosting account. Then you will need to choose some technical parameters to configure WordPress properly in order to successful install it for your website.
But with our recommended web hosting account, you can install WordPress easily through clicking a few buttons. The “1-click installation service” allows you to install WordPress on your web host in under 5 minutes without knowing the technical details. Just follow the step by step instruction below and you will have a website up and running instantly!
Step by step visual guide to install WordPress on your web host
Next, there is a warning asking whether to overwrite existing files. If you are following this “How to Create A Website” guide from the beginning, just click “Continue“ to begin installing WordPress.
If you are curious, the files to be overwritten are files put as a placeholder there by the web host so that you will not see a blank page when visiting your domain for the first times. These files are of no use to you. Just overwrite them and your website will be fine.
You are advised to check the “Show advanced options” and copy & paste the Admin Username and Admin Password in a safe place. These are needed to log in your WordPress to make changes to your website. Remember to put a valid email address to the Admin Email Address field. In case you have forgotten your password, you will receive the reset email there. As for the Site Name or Title, you can change it here or later.
Click “Install Now” and you will be able to get WordPress installed in a few minutes.
How to create your own email accounts?
No more @gmail.com or @yahoo.com email accounts on your business cards. With your hosting account, you can get unlimited number of email accounts with your own website domain name for FREE. Having email accounts bearing the domain name of your website will not only looks more credible but also allow you to have more control of the email settings.
It is very easy to set up your own email accounts in minutes, just follow the step by step guide below.
Step by step visual guide to create your own email accounts
Scroll down to the list of email address below and click the “More” link to:
- Access Webmail – This allows you to check your email online, just like mail.live.com or gmail.com. You will need to enter the email address as well as the password. Then you are asked to choose an email client from among three. There are little differences among them, just choose one and you will be able to check your email online.
- Configure Email Client – If you would get the emails in an email client like Outlook or Apple Mail, etc., you can get the details on the settings here including the mail servers, etc.
Step 4: Website Design and Adding Contents
Where to edit your own website?
How to do website design using WordPress Themes?
Perhaps the very first thing you would like to do with your own website is to change the website design as the default design does not look very good. Don’t worry if you don’t have website design skills, there are thousands of “themes” that can help you easily transform your website with professional looking design templates. Many of these are free too (of course, the paid ones will give you more control over your website appearance).
It takes only 1 minutes to change the website from the left to the right. Follow the step by step guide below to beautify your website now!
Step by step visual guide to do website design for WordPress
If you have already known the name of the theme, you might type it in the search box. Or, you can specify the requirements like the color, the number of columns,etc. “Responsive Layout” in the “Layout” section is highly recommended as this kind of layout perfectly fits desktops and mobile devices. Responsive layout is considered as the future of website design. Then click the “Find themes” button or press “enter”.
A number of matching themes are displayed, you can click “Preview” to have a full size preview of the website design. If you are satisfied with the design, you can click “Install Now”. All the themes here can be installed for free. But just be reminded that some themes might have certain features disabled and urged you to pay for the theme to unlock them. We chose “Customizr” as an example here.
After installation, press the “Live Preview” link again to understand the options you might have. This “Live Preview” gives you a realistic look of your website (together with your contents) if you enable the theme.
Here you can customize the color theme, the logo, the home page design (Front Page) as well as many other parts of the website. You can almost design your website with a line of HTML or CSS code.
After clicking on “Save and Activate” in the last step, your new website design has been adopted instantly! Congratulations, you now have a beautiful website!
How to add contents to your website?
Adding contents to your website is as easy as creating a new email, all you have to do is to type the contents and save it. The content will be available to your visitors immediately. WordPress provides two sections “Posts” and “Pages” for website owners to add contents.
Posts or Pages?
When to use “Posts” and when to use “Pages”?
Beginners in WordPress might be confused by these two terms as they look very similar. They both can allow you to add a new piece of contents to your website. As a rule of thumb, if you would like to add a webpage to your website, you will use the “Pages” (this has the added benefit that WordPress will add your new pages to your website menu automatically). If you would write a blog, you should use “Posts“.
Technically speaking, “Pages” are for website contents that are NOT time-sensitive (you would not need to add a date and time to it) while “Posts” are for time-sensitive website contents (e.g. for normal blog posts, you would add the date and time as the contents of the blog post usually have something to do with the events and news during that time period).
To add a new webpage, you just need to click Pages > Add New and then click “Publish“. Below you will find a step by step guide to help you getting started with your first webpage.
For a normal website, one will be able to find these pages: “About”, “Contact Us”, “Our Services”, “Our Products”, etc.
Step by step visual guide to create your first webpage
Congratulations! Your new page has been published. You can immediately view the new page on your website. Notice that your new page has been added to the menu.
How to change the website menu?
WordPress is such a flexible website software which allows you to add items to the website menu and rearrange them in the way you want easily. Just head to “Appearance” and then “Menus” and you can change the website menu in a visual way.
Step by step visual guide to change the website menu
To add an item to the menu, you might select a page/link/category/format on the left box and click “Add to Menu”. A new menu item to appear to the bottom of the menu structure on the right.
To rearrange the menu items, click on the gray boxes and drag it to the correct position. You can even group the menu items into 2 levels or 3 levels (called the sub item).
To delete a menu item, click on the inverted triangle of the menu item and click “remove“.
Congratulations! You have created your own website!
To create your own website, you need determination and willingness to learn. It is by no means an easy task. We at WP Learner are extremely proud of you and your achievements. You are now a proud owner of your own unique website. Wish you every luck with your new website! (Register your domain here if you still haven’t created your own website yet.)
We are continually publishing beginner’s guides for first time website owners on various aspects of running a website. Please check back from time to time to upgrade your website knowledge and make your own website even better!
If you find this “How to Create A Website Guide” useful, please consider passing on the love by sharing it with your friends. Thank you!