5 steps to create a simple website, even if you know nothing (and you are not Jon Snow)
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few” — Shunryū Suzuki
If you want to make a website and you don’t know how to do it, then you’ve come to the right place (this sounds like a bad commercial). I was in a similar situation and I hope that this guide will help some of you to make a functional and simple website.
I cannot explain everything in detail because this article would be so hard and long to read. Anyway, feel free to ask me anything in comments.
I will do my best to help you.
Take a note: I am not a developer or a designer, so these tips are for absolute beginners. If you need a professional or complex website, then it’s better to contact professional web designers. Also, English isn’t my first language, so please excuse any mistakes.
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First step: Choosing and buying hosting and domain
To set up a website you need a hosting. Hosting is a place where your website is located, and it is usually on some computer far, far away. :) Basically, you can treat it as a hard drive where your “website” files are stored.
In the beginning, shared hosting may be a good and cheap option. Shared hosting means that your website is located on the same computer as many other websites. This won’t be a super fast option for large companies or blogs with a lot of readers, but it could get your blog running for a couple of months (or years).
You will need a domain too, and this will be your website address. For example, Facebook domain is www.facebook.com.
Both hosting and domain can be purchased through hosting companies, and they are often purchased for 1 year or more. I prefer Namecheap.com because of their fast and nice customer service.
To buy it:
1. Go to Namecheap.com and find a domain name which is not already in use (you can add it to cart after search)
2. Choose your hosting plan. For small websites, their Value hosting will do just fine
3. Pay for it (the cheaper version of hosting and domain will cost about $50–$70)
4. Wait for an e-mail with information about your account and hosting
Second step: Installing WordPress
So, now you have a website address, but you still don’t have a website. The best way to make it is to use an already developed platform, like WordPress (WP).
WordPress is a free blogging and website creation platform. It is used worldwide for serious and big websites, not just by small companies or beginners.
After you set it up, you can add new articles, pictures or videos in a few clicks. The best thing is that you can install it automatically, through the Namecheap control panel.
How to install WordPress:
1. Find e-mail from Namecheap and look up for Cpanel username and password
2. Go to Cpanel for your hosting (usually cpanel.domainname.com)
3. Scroll down to Softaculous Apps Installer and click on WordPress
4. Follow the instructions
Voila, your website is up and running! Well, sort of. :)
Third step: Choosing the right theme
WordPress can be customized in any way you want. You can use free themes that are circulating over the web, you can buy premium themes (the best source is probably themeforest.net), or you can hire a developer/designer to make you a unique theme which no other person on the internet use.
For a start, you can use free themes and after a while you will see if they work for you.
Here are a few interesting and free themes:
How to install themes:
1. Download it (you should see a download link on the websites above)
2. Login to WordPress (usually http://www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin)
3. Go to Appearance — Themes — Add new
4. Click on “Upload theme”, find it on your hard drive and activate it
Fourth step: Basic WordPress setup
Create some pages first
In WordPress, you can create pages that you can later link to the main menu. For example, with this option you can create “About me” or “Contact me” page.
To create a page login to WordPress first (www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin), go to Pages — Add new. Give your page a title, for example, “About me”, add some text and click on the Publish button.
Do this for all the other pages you need on your website. Later, when you create a menu, these pages can be shown there.
Logically, your website needs menus. That doesn’t need to be complicated, but you will certainly need Home button, About me and Contact page. Medium.com has a rather simple menu, and you can follow that style too.
Good thing in WP is that menus can be formed from different items. For example, one item can be “Home” which links to your home page, one can be a link to a page you created (About me, or Contact page), or it can link to categories on your site (for example all post that you have written about Customer service).
To create a menu, go to Appearance — Menus. Click on the Pages button on the left side and check the pages you want to assign to a main menu. These pages will now show on the right side of the screen, where you can change the order and finally save the changes.
In the next step, this menu will be assigned to your theme.
In this example, I will use the Sparkling theme. This theme is free and has a lot of options that you can setup by yourself.
First, go to Appearance — Customize.
Here you can set up:
- Site title — this is shown in the upper left corner of your site
- Header image — you can add your logo here or some interesting picture
- Background image — puts an image behind all content
- Navigation — choose what menus will be shown in header or footer
Play with these options and see how they change the look of your site.
Then, go to Appearance — Theme options and set up all the other features you want. For example, here you can add a Favicon (a small icon shown in the tab of your browser), or add a social button with the link to your Facebook or Twitter profile.
With plugins in WordPress, things can go really complicated. Mostly because there are tons of them, and it is difficult to say what you relly need in the beginning.
To add a plugin, go to Plugins — Add new, and you will have a search option (here you can activate the plugin you installed).
This is one basic list, but you can (and should) add other plugins:
- Akismet — protector of the realm. It protects you from spam :)
- iThemes Security — offers basic protection by hiding vital parts of your site, and by guarding important files
- Yoast SEO — this plugin can do a lot of things that are important for SEO (search engine optimization), for example, create XML sitemaps. It also gives you the ability to create keywords and meta description for pages and posts, to create a different post title if someone shares your post on Facebook etc.
- W3 Total Cache — speed son, it gives you speed! I mean, your site can have performance benefits with this plugin :)
- Google Analytics by Yoast — with this plugin connecting Google Analytics with your site is simple. GA is a tool that tracks your website traffic: the number of visitors, the number of page views etc). After opening GA account, just paste the UA code that you got from Google. It should look like this: UA-11111111–1.
- BackWPup Free — with this plugin you can backup your website in case something goes wrong. You can, of course, use some other backup plugin, but this can be all right for a start.
Widgets help you organize content and design of your page. For example, you can add search bar, social buttons or a list of popular posts in a few steps.
Positions of widgets are defined by the theme you use (footer, left sidebar, right sidebar etc).
To activate a widget, just drag one from the left side where available widgets are, to the right side where are, for example, sidebar widgets located.
Pages and Posts
The main difference between pages and posts is really simple. If you need a static website for your company then you probably don’t need posts, because you will have four or five static pages (home, about me, contact page, portfolio etc).
But if you want to write a blog and add new content often, you need to write posts. These posts will then show in chronological order, so your readers can follow and read them easily.
If you want to set up a static home (front) page, go to Appearance — customize and chose a page you want. Note that you must create it first in Pages section of WordPress.
Fifth step: have a beer.
Or soda. Or potato. Whatever makes you happy. Cheers!