How to Set Up a Website

Setting up a website

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Starting a website might seem like a daunting task that can take days or weeks of your time. But the web has been around for over 20 years. With millions of websites in existence, tools and entire platforms have been created to make building a website a fast process that can be done over the weekend.
 
A website contains many different parts. While a website can just be a single HTML file on a computer, we usually think of a website as a URL we enter into our browser that displays a page.

There are two key parts to a website:

  • A domain name, such as google.com
  • The website itself (text, images, videos, links)

Domain Name For Your Website

Although the two work together to ensure your website is easy to find, a domain name is not the same as a website. A domain name is simply a .com, .net, or other .something that can point to a location on the internet. In this case, we’ll create a domain name that points to your website. Domain names can be purchased through numerous companies on the internet called domain registrars. Most registrars also sell web hosting – like a “one-stop-shop” for getting your website online quickly.

This isn’t a bad idea, but it is a better idea to keep your domain registered with a separate company. 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, or would rather up-sell you on other products and services. 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; a good web host will offer free website migration and will handle the details.

When purchasing a domain name, try to keep it at short as possible while still conveying the name of yourself or your business. Most common domain names are already taken, so you might have to spend some time finding the perfect name. 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.

To find and purchase a name, I’ll use the 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. 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! 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.

In this case, NameCheap gave me WhoIs privacy for free. Awesome.

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.

After purchasing the new domain using NameCheap, it will appear in your account dashboard. It’s all yours! Some TLD’s (such as dot com) require you verify the domain ownership. Namecheap should have sent you a verification link to confirm. Make sure you click it.

Hosting a Website

There are hundreds to thousands of web hosting companies around the world. A simple Google search will likely yield your typical “unlimited”-everything fanfare at cutthroat prices. Your standard, run-of-the-mill web hosting company will advertise several things:

  • CPanelA 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 DatabasesMySQL 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.

How Do I Make a Website Once I Choose a Hosting Package?

When creating a website, there are some things you should ask yourself:

  • Will my website change frequently?
  • Do I want my website to be a blog?
  • Do I want the ability to purchase pre-built templates and upload them?
  • Will other people be responsible for adding content to my website?
  • Will I have time to perform basic maintenance on the website?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, I would recommend WordPress.

If not, CPanel should offer a basic page design option. This is useful for websites that just need a page to show a phone number, address, and basic description of services. You may also want to include a WordPress link.

WordPress is a very popular website framework. It allows you to create 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.

Let’s get started signing up for a web hosting package. Check out some of the shared hosting reviews here on WebHostingSun. In case you were wondering, shared hosting means the server is shared among many different users. This is fine – we don’t need our own server for our tiny website!

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. Don’t overthink, here are a few recommendations to choose from:

As per our WHS Disclosure page, all web hosting companies have been thoroughly tested and verified. They provide top-notch reliable services and exceptional customer support. There are for sure many great web hosts out there, but these are simply the ones we have used and have had great experience with!

Yes, WHS 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. Thank you for your support!

Web Hosting Plan – Things To Do

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Access CPanel from the account area of your new hosting provider. CPanel looks similar, regardless of the host you choose.
  4. Scroll to the “Softaculous” section and click WordPress. In the BigScoots CPanel, it’s listed at the bottom.
  5. 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.

WordPress is designed to be easy for everyone. By default, it includes sample content of one page and one post. A page is usually static, whereas posts can be used to write blog posts. To login to your WordPress site to make changes, go to TheDomainYouBought.com/wp-admin. Login with the username and password you created during the Softaculous setup process.

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.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. 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:

How do I update my website and plugins?

WordPress makes updating easy! You will see an update button next to any plugin or theme that requires updating.

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.

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.


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.

Stay tuned for our next article, where I take you through designing a basic restaurant website from start to finish.

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