How to make your own Website by Yourself (WITHOUT resorting to free website builders)
I have had this ‘how to’ guide in my mind for quite some time now and finally decided to get on it and write it out. If you are reading this, then you understand that you NEED a website. A professional one. Because of course, you’ve heard this probably countless times in the form of a sales pitch from web designers, internet marketers, and your buddy Phil who is super into computers and needs rent money.
But here’s the thing: Yes it is true that you do need a professional website, but it is very easy to do it all by yourself.
So I’m going to write this as a “here’s what you should do” guide. I have done web development for all types of companies for over 10 years, and the way the web is now, and the technology that is available to us now, you CAN do this yourself. This guide is exactly how I go about creating my own websites. Even this website of mine right here was built this same way. Of course, it needs to be said (to satisfy all the die-hard web programmers out there) that this isnt the only way to create a website. However in my professional opinion, if you are a small business owner or a freelance professional, this is the ideal method in creating a website yourself with your own domain name, website hosting, high-end site design, and most importantly, can work on all mobile devices.
In this guide I will show you step by step, starting at registering your own domain name, setting up web hosting, and creating your website using a wordpress theme (no worries, I will go through this later on here.)
Time and Costs
With this method of doing it yourself, your only cost is domain name registration (approx. $25 a year), web hosting for the first month (Approx. $15), and a website theme (approx. $45). So be prepared to spend about $80 to $100 getting everything going.
As for time, with this guide, getting everything set up should only take you under a couple hours. Once this is complete, working on getting your images, logo, and any content on your site, developing your pages, and getting to know how WordPress works, should only take you a couple days. Think of it as Facebook – if you can figure out how to post comments, manage photo albums and navigate around the popular social media site, then you can definitely tackle this!
But first! – Domain name, Website Hosting explained
When working with clients over the years, I’ve come to realize that this topic can be confusing to some. So I have created this simple graphic to help explain the differences between domain name, web hosting, and a website.
In our analogy, your domain name is your physical address. Imagine my address is simply ‘Mike’s House’. My address can even be “Mike’s Rubber Chicken Emporium”, or anything I want it to be. Just like your domain name. For my domain name, I didnt need to get too creative and went simply with ‘mikeroshuk.com’.
Domain names cost around $15 to $25 to register (for one year). When you sign up, you have the option of registering your domain name from anywhere from a year or beyond twenty years, whichever you feel comfortable paying for at the time.
I suggest using a .com domain name, or often an extension name from your country may also be appropriate (eg: using .ca if Canadian, .uk for British, etc)
Now you have your address, where is your house going to be? Well you need to have a plot of land, or Lot for your home. This is your web hosting. Unlike a real plot of land, you rent this space monthly or yearly. Web hosting costs around $15 a month.
Ok so now you have your address, you have your plot of land, and all the people typing your address into their GPS to visit your house will just be faced with an empty Lot! Now you need to build your house. Er, website. Hopefully you get what I mean by now.
OK! Lets get on with it!
STAGE 1 – Set Up Domain Name and Web Hosting
Register your domain name and set up your web hosting account. You can do this at the same time when you pick a web host company. I personally recommend Bluehost or Hostgator (I have used them for years, never had any real issues, tech support pretty good, etc)
Below are a few screenshots of the sign up process through Bluehost. In the second image, you will see I selected the middle plan. The difference from the cheapest plan on the left is that this allows me to order additional domains and create other websites and host them all under the same account.
The next image is typical sign up process. You will see the top field ‘Enter your domain here’. This will automatically register the domain name for you with the sign up process. Unless someone else already owns it, then it will return you to this page to select a different domain name. You will be given your total costs and payment options at the end.
Once you’ve registered and paid for a hosting plan, you are now ready to build your website. At this point your domain name is now active online. If you type in your domain name, you will see a temporary holding page automatically posted by the webhosting company. It will dissappear once you place your website there.
STAGE 2 – Install WordPress
You will now log in to your control panel. You can do this by finding a ‘login’ button on your web hosting company’s website, (or if using Hostgator, in the address bar of your browser, type in your domain name, followed by /cpanel like this – www.mikeroshuk.com/cpanel). Enter your username and password at the prompt to log in.
Your control panel is where you can create email addresses, manage billing info, and all different aspects of your hosting account. For our purposes to create a website, all we need to do here is install WordPress. Once we have wordpress installed, we will install a wordpress theme to give it a unique design.
About WordPress and WordPress Themes
Wordpress is a content management software – simply put, it is the framework of your website. Remember our House analogy? WordPress is essentially the ‘frame’ of our house. Its the plumbing, wiring, lumber – the basic structure. The wordpress Theme that we install afterwards is the look and design of our house – the hardwood / tile, granite countertops, bonus room or vaulted ceilings.
So, in your control panel, locate and click on the icon that says WordPress. (note: in Bluehost, it also may be under an icon called ‘Mojo Marketplace’. In other web host’s control panels, most look like this however in Hostgator, WordPress is under the icon ‘Quick Install’. Anyways almost all Web Hosts offer WordPress as a free quick install from their control panel).
Once you have clicked WordPress, you will go through a series of screens to install. Pretty straight forward – below are screenshots of the process. Reminder: write down the username and password you are given on the last page of this process.
Once you have completed this process, you will now have WordPress operational on your website. Congratulations, the framework of your website is built! If you visit your domain name on the web, this is what you will now see:
Pretty uninspiring hey? Well that’s because we don’t have a theme installed yet.
STAGE 3 – Choose a theme and install
For this part, although there are free wordpress themes available, I find that the ones that are available for purchase by dedicated designers are much more professional looking, versatile, and most importantly, have great instruction documentation showing how to exactly customize the theme to their examples.
For my themes, I purchase from www.themeforest.net.
Here’s an important part. When I browse for wordpress themes, I make sure I have the list sorted by ‘Best Rated’. I do this since based on experience, these are the themes that usually have the most thorough instructions with them. When you install a WordPress theme, it manipulates the structure of WordPress, and often it is needed to read through the documentation of the theme to see exactly step-by-step how the theme designer laid everything out in WordPress’s Dashboard (The Dashboard is your WordPress admin area).
On Themeforest.net, browse through some themes, and click on their ‘Live Preview’ to see how they look and work. Once you decide on one, you will need to sign up to create and account, and then purchase and download the theme. For the purpose of my example here, I selected and purchased a Theme called ‘Elegance’.
Now that you have purchased and downloaded your theme, we need to log in to our WordPress Dashboard to install it. In the address bar, type in your full domain name, and add /wp-admin to visit the login page. Once you enter your username and password, you will arrive at your WordPress Dashboard. This is the ‘back-end’ of your website, where you will do everything from creating blog posts, adding pages, portfolio items – everything.
Click on ‘Appearances’ then ‘Themes’. Then on the right, click ‘Add New’. Follow the screenshots below to see the process:
Once you have clicked ‘Activate’, your theme will be installed.
Now, if you visit your website, this is what it will look like (with my particular theme in this example):
You can see how the theme has restructured the layout. But! This is what I want it to look like: http://preview.ait-themes.com/elegance/wp1/
And this is where you now follow along through your Theme’s instructions that are provided with the download.
This is about as far as I can go with you, as each theme has their own instructions on how to customize their own particular design to become like the example that impressed you. This also helps you familiarize yourself with the different areas of your WordPress Dashboard. As I stated above, from this point on, it will take you about a day or so, becoming familiar with getting your theme to look the way you want, as well as assembling your content and resizing photos as needed.
Well I hope this guide has helped! I know it may seem daunting at first, but it is really quite simple, and of course will save you the cost of hiring a web developer. Because honestly, if a web designer is quoting you a website under $2000, it is most likely he/she will be doing this exact process I outlined above. And in the end, by purchasing a WordPress theme, you still are getting a professionally designed website, but you’ve also gained the confidence and know-how to create it and manage it yourself.
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