So you want to create a website. You’ve got an idea. Maybe you love cooking and want to create a digital recipe book that you can share with anyone. Maybe you want to offer travel tips based on your past experience and/or annoying travel mistakes. Or maybe you’re all about knitting?! Whatever your reason for thinking about creating a website, the goal of this post is to dispel any concerns about how difficult it is to create a website and give you a step-by-step guide on how to turn your idea into reality.
This post is the first installment in a 4 part series on How To Build A Website. In part one, we’ll tackle questions, definitions and my advice on what you should do! If you follow all the steps, you’ll have your own website set up in under an hour from now! If you’re interested in skipping ahead, here’s what you have to look forward to:
- Create A Website (Questions, Definitions, WordPress, SSL Certificate)
- Customize A Website (Themes, Plugins)
- Connect A Website to Google (Analytics, Search Console, Breadcrumbs, XML Sitemaps)
- Create A Post with Good SEO (Writing, Keywords, Yoast)
Remember what is easy to you now was hard at some point in your life. Although it may not feel like it now, soon you will look back website creation and think the same thing.
NOTE: This series does not cover how to start an E-Commerce website. Although I’m sure plenty of of the learning are applicable, there are probably better articles that you can use to help you get your online store started.
Questions I Had Before I Ever Created a Website
Do I Need to Know How to Code?
NO. No, you do not need to know how to code to create a website. I still don’t.
I thought before I created my first website that I would need to learn to code over time to make it look good. But, over two year later after building out a cooking website and this travel website, I have not learned how to code nor do I need to learn.
All of the “code” you need has already been written by other people! Woohoo! Creating a website is now an exercise in visual editing. You have a number of components – search boxes, text boxes, images boxes – that you can pretty much drag and drop into any location you want. Anything you can sketch on paper, you can create on your computer!
Do I Need to Hire a Developer?
NO! No, you do not need to pay a developer to build out your website. Developers make money by convincing you that building a website is hard and, therefore, you need someone else to do it. The purpose of this post is to show you that creating a website is easy. We will walk through it step-by-step.
How Much Does It Cost?
Probably less than you expect. There are very few costs that you must pay to create a website. They are the following: purchase a domain name (aka www.yourwebsite.com) and purchase a server to host your website (more on hosting later). Everything else can be done for free! Here are your approximate costs per year:
- Domain Name: $15/year
- Hosting platform $48-$84/year
Total Cost of a website: <$100 per year
A domain name is the name of your website. It’s www.yourwebsite.com.
When you purchase a hosting platform, you are renting the space on the Internet where your website will live. You are literally buying space on a server.
If your domain name was a person, the hosting platform would be the apartment it lived in.
A plugin is piece of code that can be downloaded and easily inserted into your website to perform a specific function. Think of them like Lego pieces that you just “plug into” place.
Plugins are how you customize your website and make it faster. Plugins allow you to compress images, increase page load speeds and even display your Instagram feed. Even the table of contents in this post is a plugin. The best part is that plugins are usually free. I pay $0 for the plugins that I use on my websites.
There is much more on the free plugins needed to start a website in Part 2 – How To Customize A Website.
What is WordPress???
This is the most important section of this entire post. WordPress is two distinctly different things and if I had known this when I created my first website, I would have done it very differently. From this point on, the word WordPress does not exist. There is only WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
WordPress.org is free website building code that you will use to build your website. You will not touch or modify this code. In fact, you will never even see this code. Instead, you will see search boxes, text boxes and image boxes that you can drag and drop wherever you want. Remember, you do not need to know how to code to create a website.
WordPress.com is a hosting platform that uses WordPress.org code. It is an expensive hosting platform compared to your other options on the Internet. The major problem with WordPress.com is that you cannot install plugins unless you pay for a business account which costs $300/year!
WordPress.com is the easiest way to start an absolutely free blog though ($0 cost for a domain name or hosting platfrom). By selecting their “free” option, you will be given an inflexible template and a domain name with their name at the end (“www.yourwebsite.wordpress.blog). This option will give you practice pressing the “publish” button and sharing your work online!
My Mistake: I created my first website with a Free WordPress.com plan and then upgraded to their paid “personal” plan thinking that it would give me the flexibility I wanted. It took me a full year to realize why I could not install any plugins! I thought that there was only one WordPress. Please avoid making my same mistake and do not pay for a WordPress.com plan!
But What About Wix or Squarespace?
Wix and Squarespace are similar to WordPress.com. They are all-in-1 packages that have their own website building code, their own specific plugins, and their own specific hosting platform. Their basic plans without ads cost about ~$150/year. I am not sure whether you have to pay additionally for plugins on Wix or Squarespace. I do know that WordPress.org has more free plugins and that I pay $0 for all the plugins I need for my WordPress.org websites.
What Should You Do?
The most flexible and lowest cost option is go with free WordPress.org software and connect it to an independent hosting platform. I’ll go through how to do this in the next section.
How to Create a Website
Create a G-Mail Account
Trust me, it is so much easier to create a website if you have a G-Mail account. You can either create an email address specific to your website or use a personal account. I linked my website to my personal account and have had no issues.
Select Your Domain Name
Remember, your Domain Name is the name of your website. There are plenty of sites that for free will quickly check if the name you want is available. You can also type the name you want into the google search bar and if no website pops up then the domain name you want is probably available.
A quick note on picking your domain name. I have read too many times how important it is to pick a “good, creative” domain name. I do not agree. Do not let the search for the perfect name delay you from starting your website. If you have a name you like, that means something to you, go for it. I named my cooking website “cafe4111.com” based on the apartment number that I learned to cook in. What’s more important is that you write and create the valuable content that is currently locked up in your mind and share it with the world.
Besides if your website becomes one of those super successful unicorns, people will get on board with your name no matter what. One of the most popular food websites is called “Food52.com” for goodness sake.
Purchase a Hosting Platform
There are multiple hosting platforms that you can choose from such as BlueHost, HostGator, InMotion, or Siteground. You could spend your life reading positive and negative reviews of each and only end up more confused. I chose to use Siteground because of their reputation for quick live chat support since I figured I would have a lot of questions. In the almost two years that I have used Siteground, I have been able to resolve all my issues quickly and the server where my website lives has never gone down.
Siteground’s current pricing can be found here. If you only plan to create one website, purchase their StartUp Plan. If you think that 2 or more websites is in the cards for you, go with their GrowBig plan.
Purchase Your Domain Name
Once you’ve created your Siteground account, go to the “Add Services” tab on Siteground and confirm that the domain name you want is available.
If available (cafe4112.com is still out there folks!), you can purchase your domain name directly through Siteground. Siteground will automatically check the domain privacy box in an effort to charge you an extra $1/month. Domain privacy hides your personal data from someone, somewhere out there in the world. Seems like overkill to me so I didn’t include it in my purchase.
Once you have purchased your domain, you should see it appear under the My Accounts tab on Siteground. Click on the red “Go To cPanel” button near the top of the page. On your cPanel, go to the Auto-Installer section and click on the WordPress icon. Follow the steps to link your domain name to WordPress.org. Ignore anything regarding SSL or HTTPS, we will deal with this in the next step.
Installing WordPress.org will create an administration dashboard for your website which you will access by typing “www.yourwebsite.com/wp-admin” into your Google search bar. Once you install your SSL Certificate, you will make all visual changes to your website and write all your posts through your WordPress.org administration dashboard, NOT Siteground.
Install A SSL Certificate
You need to install a SSL certificate on your website to change it from a HTTP to HTTPS website. Although I still don’t understand exactly what a SSL certificate does, it apparently makes your website and it’s data more secure and it is important for Google. Ever clicked on a website and got the warning that it is “not secure” and got a little nervous about your computer getting infected by a virus? This means that that website has not installed a SSL certificate yet.
Thankfully, a SSL certificate is free and can be installed quickly. To do so, I recommend starting a live chat with a Siteground representative and typing that you need help installing a SSL certificate on your website. They will walk you through the process and you should be good to go with your SSL certificate installed in less than 30 minutes.
SIDE NOTE: Siteground live chat is awesome but can be a little hard to find. To get there, log on to your Siteground account and click on the Support tab. At the bottom of the page, you’ll see something like the box below. Click on “Proceed to contact us here.”
This will open up a dropdown menu of potential chat support items. Although it shouldn’t matter which you choose, click on Domain Assistance and type “SSL Certificate” and then click “Continue.”
This will open up the “Recommend Support Channel” box. Clicking on the “Post to Chat” box will open up a Live Chat with a Siteground representative. I have used this feature numerous times and have always received a quick response and gotten my issue resolved.
Fun Fact: Though not important at all for creating your website, SSL stands for “secure sockets layer”.
Congratu-frickin-lations! You just created a website! You’ve leapt over a hurdle that many people will never cross! Once you’ve given yourself a good pat on the back, log into your WordPress.org administration dashboard, and check out the next post on how to Customize Your Website with Themes and Plugins!