Set Up and Build a Website: the Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide 📖
Therefore you need to to set it up right.✔
Remember, if there’s a will there’s a way 🙂.
To have more control and to save money in the long run, you most likely may want to set up a website by yourself. And you want to have fun while doing it!
Whether you are re-building an old site or creating a website from scratch, several things need to be considered. Let’s walk through them step by step.
5 Key Steps to Setting Up a Successful Website
Website Creation Process
- 1 Planning a Website – set objectives, do a market research, create a budget, pin down the site layout and design, choose a website platform
- 3 Choosing a Web Hosting Service – pick a reliable provider, suitable hosting plan and the place/server where your site will be physically located
- 4 Setting Up & Building a Website – work with website files, CMS (Content Management System), theme, codes (if any); add text, images, media, links to create and launch the website!
- 5 Shaping Up, Updating & Marketing – keep adding and customizing content, perform regular website updates, focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) & web and social media marketing
The last point #5 could be split in two as Marketing is, in fact, a distinct field. I’ve refrained from doing so. That would be simply too much. First, you need to learn how to build a productive website, which is the main objective of this tutorial. However, since marketing is essential to a successful website, we have to keep it in view. I’ve included the vital marketing steps that you’ll need to follow.👣
Remember, you can always outsource work you are not comfortable with. But that costs money. On top of it, no knowledge gained. Later, when your site becomes bigger (generating a ton of traffic😀), you can start thinking of having a team of dedicated marketing specialists, webmasters or graphic designers. Until then, you have to learn how to swim if you want to keep yourself afloat. So let’s dive in.💦
1 Planning Your Website
Don’t underestimate it. Take a piece of paper and start putting down your ideas, visions.
You really need to write (or type) them down! 📝
Think. Brainstorm. Make some mock-ups, sketches. It’s not enough just to “have it in your head”.🙄
Setting Objectives and Goals
Already seen some sites you like? How do you picture your future website? Is it going to be a simple personal site? A lifestyle, fitness or a fashion blog type? Maybe a website for a small business or an online shop?
Try to be clear about the objectives and your target audience. Know the purpose of your site. Establish the type of your website and the niche of your business. The next steps depend on it. Determine your website goals.️⚽️ The goals should be specific, realistic and achievable within a predefined time period. For this, I advise to take a closer look at the market.🔎
Doing a Market Research
- Search for similar sites and potential competitors
- Bookmark them, carefully browse through their websites
- Observe their content, website structure, design
- Read reviews, testimonials, comments, feedback
Ask yourself. Can I do better or at least just as good? Or perhaps find some other suitable products/solutions? Do your math. Make sure that your slice of the market pie is attainable.
Creating a Budget
For a business card-like website you can go with an HTML based site or WordPress + free theme. Your cost will be just the domain name and the hosting. The rest you can do yourself. I’ve seen many “web pages” like that – lawyers, insurance agents or some small businesses.
- Web design – logo, layout, structure, use of paid themes
- Content – articles, images, media
- Features – functions, plugins and future site expansions
- Users – membership section, rules, privileges
- Shopping – product showcase, shopping cart, checkout, shipping integration
- Payments – payment processors, implementation, support
- Email Autoresponder – landing page with sign-up incentives to build an email list
Website Layout and Design
- Think through your website structure and layout: main pages, categories, posts. You may want to draft a basic hierarchy diagram. Don’t forget to compose your website header/footer, the main menus and navigation.
- Draft your logo, specify your site’s colors, typography/fonts; table, box, section formats.
- To make things easier, find a pre-built theme that suits your needs. With a little customization you can achieve all the desired results
- Prepare basic content – about us, services offered, contact, etc. – so you’ll have something to put on your website once you set it up.
Have you come across a theme you’d like to use? It is definitely worth it to spend a little money to obtain a fully functional and versatile theme (or call it template).
With a paid theme you will also get support and access to extensive resources for further website development. Some of you have probably already picked a theme. For the rest, no hurry. You can do so once we get to the “Setting Up and Building a Website” phase.
Selecting the Website Platform
- Will my website change frequently?
- Do I want my website to be a blog or a more advanced site?
- Do I have any coding (html and css) skills or am I willing to learn?
- Do I want the ability to use pre-built templates and work with more visual tools?
- Will other people be responsible for adding content to my website?
- Will I be performing basic maintenance on the website myself?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, I would recommend WordPress (WP). Yes, a famous CMS (Content Management System) that makes anything possible.
You might have heard about many other well-known CMSs like Drupal, Joomla, Magneto, MODX, Typo3, Processwire, etc. that are powerful as well and widely used. In my opinion, though, none of them is as user-friendly and intuitive as WordPress.☀️
Some of you may find success working directly with specialized paid website builders like Wix, Weebly or Squarespace. Or with online shopping platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce or PrestaShop. If you just want to sell products and don’t have time to build a fully functional online shop, go with Shopify. It’ll be a bit pricey but you can be up and running in no time.
All those platforms are valid options for building a website. Still, many developers prefer WordPress for its vast web resources, flexibility and versatility.
If you’ve set your mind on a simple presentation-like site that won’t changed often, than go with an HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) based website. If you really don’t need anything complicated this option is a clear winner. The main reasons: low hosting demands, website speed and overall cost.
HTML Site Versus WordPress
Any shared host (ideally with cPanel) should offer a basic HTML page design option. This is useful for websites that just need a page (or two) to show a phone number, address, and basic description of services. You may also want to include a few pictures and links.
Learning a new skill opens doors. With a bit of knowledge, building a simple HTML page is not that difficult.
HTML Site Advantages?
HTML ADVANTAGES ✅
- Much Lower Cost for website development
- Faster Speed since it’s not resource demanding
- Low Maintenance, no need to update it regularly
- Lower Security Risk comparing to WP for example
- Platform-Independent, it’s used everywhere
- Easy to Learn, no special tools/apps required
HTML DISADVANTAGES ❌
- No Dynamic Features, mainly used for static pages
- Lots of Code to Write for making a simple webpage.
- Manual Updates do require HTML knowledge to manage
- Limited and Inflexible Styling options and capabilities
- May Get Too Complex especially for bigger sites
- Must Utilize Other Scripts for added functionality
For some folks a basic static HTML site is all they need. And there are HTML page templates for this kind of site as well. Some already have built-in scripts (e.g. Bootstrap) for extended functionality. I’ll share some with you later in this guide.🙂
Note💡: You can always start with an HTML site and later convert it to WordPress or other CMS. It usually doesn’t work the other way around.
WORDPRESS PROS ✅
- Free CMS, continuously developed, large community
- Huge Selection of themes, plugins, third-party extensions, add-ons
- SEO Friendly features out-of-the-box, mobile compatible
- Built-in User Roles for better content and site management
- E-commerce Ready, made to comply with online shopping needs
- User-Friendly, suited for beginners, easy to pick up
WORDPRESS CONS ❌
- More Resource-Hungry, better or more advanced hosting plans are advised
- Potential Security Issues, due to its popularity it is often targeted by hackers.
- Automated Security Actions require use of managed WP hosts
- Advanced Customization may require additional paid plugins or coding
- Higher Cost, usually more expensive than an HTML site development
- Functional or Design Limitations of added plugins or selected themes
WordPress is a very popular website framework. It allows you to create both dynamic posts and static pages, like an “About Us” page or page featuring a restaurant menu, along with blog posts should you want to keep your visitors updated on things you’re doing. WordPress also offers an extensive amount of plugins and themes. Plugins allow you to add functionality to your WordPress site quickly. Themes allow you to change the design of your website on-the-fly.
With a very supportive and massive web community this out-of-the-box CMS can be used for any kind of project. It’s been continuously developed and improved for versatile site use and easier management. There is a gazillion of WP articles floating around the web in case you want to learn more. Just read our WP WHS posts.
Nevertheless, feel free to explore other CMS frameworks. Don’t be surprised when, after a long research, you’ll find out that WordPress is the best bet.
Now, let’s take a closer look at two crucial things: Domain Name and Web Hosting.
2 Domain Name For Your Website
You want to ensure that your domain (or website) name is easy to find and remember. The domain name will likely stay with you “forever”, it won’t change. In a certain sense a domain name is not the same as a website. Website content can be changed, rewritten or replaced. A domain name is a “constant”. A word or an expression with a simple .com, .net, or other .something extension that can point to any chosen location on the internet.
Domain Name Best Practices
Wondering who’s webhostingsun.com domain registrar? Yes, it’s NameCheap (NC)🙂. In this guide we’ll go with NC as our “domain” point of reference.
Most registrars also sell web hosting – like a “one-stop-shop” for getting your website online quickly. In the same way many web hosting providers offer domain names.
Having the domain name and web hosting under one roof isn’t a bad idea, but it is better to keep them separated. You won’t have to deal with your domain registrar much – maybe once or twice a year. You may have to deal with your web hosting company more frequently. Ideally, you want a hosting company you don’t have to think about. But sometimes hosting companies become unreliable. They might get “overloaded”, slow, unresponsive. Sometimes too “pushy”, instead of solving problems they would rather up-sell you on other “better” products and services. In some instances they could be acquired by another provider. If you find it’s time to migrate your website to another hosting company, you won’t have to deal with migrating your domain.
Don’t worry too much about this now; a new (good) web host will offer free website migration and will handle the details. If you start off with a good web host, you won’t have to be bothered about that at all. I’ll list a few good ones in the next Choosing Web Hosting step 🙂.
When purchasing a domain, try to keep it at short as possible while still conveying the name you want to express (your name, brand or business). Most common domain names are already taken, so you might have to spend some time finding the “perfect” one. If the name you want is already taken, avoid using dashes to differentiate it. Your visitors will not think about entering dashes first. If your business name has dashes, like “T-Mobile”, you may want to purchase two domain names – one with dashes and one without. You can redirect one of them to your official domain, just like T-Mobile.
Registering a Domain Name
To find and purchase a name, I’ll use our selected domain registrar NameCheap.com. In this example, we are searching for “MyAmazingDomain”. Unfortunately, the name is already taken using the most popular top-level domain (TLD), the dot com. However, the domain is for sale for $918.85 should I really want to purchase it from someone else. Moving on with another search for “FutureSite.com”, no luck again.🙁 This time the owner asks no less than $1,000 bucks! My third attempt – “MyWebsite.com”. Taken, of course. For sale again for astonishing $100,000 dollars😲!!🥴 You will find that many popular names are taken, but their owners are selling them for a hefty price 😕. Believe it or not, “domaining” is a business.
The price of the domain will vary based on the TLD you choose. For example, myamazingdomain.rocks costs $8.99, while myamazingdomain.net costs $12.99. Registrar prices are almost always yearly, and you can usually pay for up to a decade at once. But for this example, I really want a dot-com. With a bit more searching, I discovered MyFantasticSite.com was available! Cool 😎! It only costs $10.69/year 😉.
When you add a domain to your cart, the registrar may try to upsell you on “Whois Privacy”. Every domain has public ownership records contained in a “whois” (Who Is) database. Anyone can perform a whois lookup on a website to view the owner’s name, email, phone number, and address. If you’d like this information masked, you can pay for the Whois Privacy service, which is usually less than $5/year. This service is probably more valuable to personal websites where the owners may not want their address made public.
Note: Many shady companies will scour Whois databases and send official-looking letters to domain owners regarding renewal. These renewal prices typically cost $60+ and trick customers into paying 5-10x the normal price for a domain❗😯 I have received calls from clients who were ready to pay these companies over $100 for renewing a domain that only costs around $10. Whois Privacy can prevent these letters from showing up in your mailbox. Also will block spammers from collecting and using your e-mail address.
After purchasing the new domain using NameCheap, it will appear in your account dashboard. It’s all yours! You may want to enable the Automatic Renewal option for the domain (I did so later on).
Some TLD’s (such as dot com) require you verify the domain ownership. Namecheap should have sent you a verification link to yor e-mail address for confirmation. Make sure you click it.
3 Choosing Web Hosting Service
What to Look For, Basic Features
- CPanel – A control panel used to manage your web hosting services. CPanel usually offers one-click installation of common web applications – like Joomla, Drupal, and the ever-popular WordPress. This makes it really easy to get started. The nice thing about CPanel is that it looks very similar regardless of which hosting company you pick.
- MySQL Databases – MySQL is a popular database that is required by many web apps. If you intend to install WordPress or another popular website framework, MySQL will almost always be required. If your web host is already advertising WordPress compatibility, MySQL is a given. For all intents and purposes, MariaDB is the same thing, so don’t be confused if you see that listed instead.
- Storage – Sometimes advertised as “unlimited”, storage space is usually advertised in units of gigabytes. For a simple personal or small business website, you will not need more than 1GB. However, if you’re a photographer that wants to showcase a gallery, you may want to consider a hosting package with enough space to hold the photos you intend to display.
- Bandwidth – Also advertised as “unlimited” by some web hosts, bandwidth is usually advertised in units of gigabytes, just like storage space. What is bandwidth? In simple terms, it’s the amount of data your website can deliver to guests. For example, if your 2MB website is visited 1,000 times, you will use 2,000MB in bandwidth (about 2GB). The amount of bandwidth should be considerably more than the advertised amount of storage space. I would recommend choosing a hosting plan that offers 5x more bandwidth than storage space; if the host offers 10GB in storage, they should offer at least 50GB in bandwidth.
Unlimited bandwidth and storage is great for low usage websites, but if you expect your website to become popular or host a lot of files, I would advise against unlimited plans. They are not as unlimited as you may think. It’s always a good idea to read the fine print before signing up for an unlimited hosting package.
Tips and Recommended Web Hosts
Many of you are looking for a bullet-proof, reliable, and secure web host. Since the web hosting industry keeps constantly evolving and changing, this “search for perfection” becomes a never ending quest. Don’t waste too much time deciding though. One of the purposes of this guide is to help you with the selection. Save yourself time. Don’t overthink, here are a few recommendations to choose from:
Disclosure: We may earn a commission if you end up buying a host package through our links. Please keep in mind that there is no extra cost to you. In fact you may save money since we often get great deals/coupons for our readers whenever and wherever possible. Thanks from the WHS team!
A word of recommendation. Try to avoid those “big mammoth” over-advertised companies. They don’t care so much about their customers comparing to smaller or medium-sized providers. Have you heard abour EIG (Endurance International Group) company? It is a colossal shark that eats up all the successful web hosting companies. Unfortunately, it turns them into money-making farms (bar a coupple of exceptions). See the list of web hosts owned by EIG. Avoid them if you can.
The exceptions that are still “holding up” and can be considered as well (at least for starting websites): BlueHost and HostGator.
Of course, you will come across various reviews and feedback (good and bad), but be realistic. Searching for “the best” provider will make you go in circles. Not a single one is perfect.
4 How Do I Build a Website
Setting Up Your Domain and Web Hosting
- Sign up for the shared hosting package that meets your needs. When the signup process asks for a domain name, make sure you enter the domain name you just purchased (in our case it’s myfantasticsite.com).
- Change the DNS nameservers at Your Domain Name Registrar:
- Since our domain is at Namecheap we will update the nameservers there. The process is easy, but should you need more details, see this tutorial: Change the DNS Nameservers in the NameCheap Control Panel.
- Click the “Manage” button next to your domain
- In the Nameservers section, choose Custom DNS
- Enter the two nameservers provided by your new web hosting company. For BigScoots, this is ns1.bigscoots.com and ns2.bigscoots.com
- Click the green checkmark.
- Access CPanel from the account area of your new hosting provider. CPanel looks similar, regardless of the host you choose.
- Scroll to the “Softaculous” section and click WordPress. In the BigScoots CPanel, it’s listed at the bottom.
- In the WordPress window, click “Install Now” and fill out some basic information about your website.
- Choose Domain: TheDomainYouBought.com
- In Directory:<Leave Blank>
- Site Name: Your name or your business name
- Site Description: A slogan or one-liner about yourself
- Admin Username/Password: Choose a username and secure password – use letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Select a Theme: Choose whichever theme you like the best. You can change this later, so don’t worry which one you pick. I chose “Sensible WP”
- Click Install!
If everything was completed correctly, try going to the domain you just bought. For example, MyFantasticSite.com now displays the WordPress site I just installed.
From here, it’s up to you what you want to include. If you’re a business, make sure you add your phone number, your address, and your services.
If you’re a restaurant, include your menu. Make sure your menu is written out with text and not simply a scanned picture. A text-searchable PDF is also acceptable since these can be open directly in the browser. If a customer wants to find something on your menu, they can press CTRL+F to search. This is much easier than looking through a picture for the text you want.
There are some tips you may want to follow. Some of these are specific to WordPress, but many can be applied to any website:
- Focus on the content of your website first! Different templates will yield different results. An empty website won’t look good with any template!
- Do not go overboard with plugins! On a basic website, you won’t need many (or any). They must be kept updated, or you run the risk of your WordPress site being vulnerable to a hacker.
- Avoid using images with text to convey information! Search engines are not able to look for text within images. It also makes it challenging for mobile users to copy information like an address or telephone number if it’s part of a picture.
- Keep WordPress, your themes, and your plugins updated! On BigScoots, your WordPress site will be automatically updated to the latest version, but you will have to update plugins on your own.
- Make sure the text color, size, and type of font is readable! Avoid using cursive fonts, or grey text on a white background. In the above screenshots, you can see I adjusted the default text color from grey to black to improve readability.
- Avoid using “Under Construction” on any page if possible! You should know what content you want to add before adding a new page. You can also save pages or posts as drafts before publishing them. This will hide them from public view until they are finished.
As you continue to build your WordPress site, you may have some additional questions about the platform:
What Is the Difference Between the WordPress I’m Using Now and WordPress.com?
WordPress.com is the commercialized version of WordPress. It does not provide quite as much flexibility and is managed by the WordPress.com team rather than yourself. You may find that certain things that work with your version of WordPress may not work on WordPress.com.
If you’re looking for more resources on your version of WordPress, check out wordpress.org instead.
Some Themes Cost Money. Should I Purchase a Theme If I Like It, or Are There Better Free Options?
WordPress themes can be expensive. I would recommend a paid theme if you think it will increase business to your website. For example, if you find a paid theme geared towards professional photography, it might be worth purchasing it so your visitors are impressed with your photography skills. It’s usually more effective to have a theme designed around your business model than using stock WordPress features, as you may not get as much customization with basic WordPress. Paid themes are great if you want your website to be the focal point of your business – that is, if you expect people to spend a lot of time on your website, or think the design of your website will further encourage them to use your services over your competitors.
If you’re a small restaurant, people will be visiting your website to view your menu, address, or phone number. Your website will be used more for informational purposes than anything else, so a paid theme is probably not worth the money. The only exception is if you’re a one-of-a-kind or upscale restaurant that wants to showcase the atmosphere to potential customers or entice them to make a reservation.
The company or individual behind the theme should be actively developing the theme over time. Make sure the they have created other themes or maintain a history of active development. You want to avoid spending $50 or more on a theme only to realize it will never be updated again, which might make it incompatible with future versions of WordPress.
5 Website Updates, Optimization and Basic Marketing
Who Do I Contact If My Website Isn’t Working Properly or I Receive Errors?
If you receive errors on your WordPress site, you want to make sure your themes and your WordPress installation are up to date. You can also reach out to the web hosting company so they can troubleshoot. Some web hosting companies are better than others, and will have professional staff to handle errors that come up. Keep in mind that your hosting company is not responsible for the design of your website, and will be apprehensive to assist with helping you in the creation of your site. Some hosting companies also offer professional services should you want to outsource the website design to them. Remember: Hosting companies are responsible for the maintenance of the servers and making sure your website loads quickly. They are typically not web designers. Professional website design services take time and cost money.
They should be more inclined to assist you with:
- Resolving cryptic error messages or broken functionality
- Doing a virus scan on your website, or at least informing you of a virus
- Connecting your website to your domain name
- Migrating your website from another hosting company.
Does Paying My Web Hosting Company Also Renew My Domain Name?
Typically, no. If you followed this guide, you should renew your domain name with your domain registrar (like NameCheap). Your web hosting should be kept separate.
Your domain registration is billed on a yearly basis, and is usually inexpensive – around $10 to $15 per year.
I received a letter in the mail about renewing my domain. I don’t recognize the company that sent me the letter, and they want a lot of money. Is it legit?
It’s legitimate, but completely unnecessary. As mentioned earlier, some companies – such as “Domain Registry of America” (or some other ambiguous name), will send letters in the hopes you use them as your domain registrar. They get your information from public WhoIs databases, which can show your address if don’t opt for Whois Privacy service.
You can lookup Whois information on your domain name here: https://whois.icann.org/en
I have never received an important letter in the mail about any domain or website I’ve owned. Sending letters costs money – most businesses aren’t going to be spending 50 cents to a dollar on a letter unless they expect money in return.
Marketing steps will be added in the upcoming days..
I hope this guide was helpful in getting your WordPress website working from the beginning. WordPress is a powerful platform that can do many things. This is why it is used by both small and large websites globally.