Step 1: Choose a Website Building Platform
If you want to create a website that is functional and looks professional, then the easiest way is to use a website building platform.
What is a website building platform?
Over a decade ago when I was learning how to make websites you had to know how to code (HTML, CSS, etc.) in order to make a website. This need for coding is what gives people the impression that creating your own website is really difficult and something that should only be done by professional designers.
However, in 2018, a website building platform, also called a “content management system” (CMS), can be used to easily build and customize a website without having to use code. A website building platform is software that does all the complex work of coding for you, so you don’t need to learn how to create a website from scratch with code. It lets you build and edit a website through your internet browser, change your design and layout with the click of a button, and create pages and posts using a simple editor that is similar to most common text editors.
Popular Website Building Platforms
While there are literally hundreds of website building platforms, far and away the most popular platform is WordPress. WordPress was first released back in 2003 as a simple platform for creating a blog. Since then it has grown to become the most popular site building platform in the world, with over 60 million users.
Here’s why you should use WordPress for your website
1. It’s free to use. WordPress is what’s known as “open-source software”, which means it is free to use and customize.
2. It’s easy for beginners. You can get a simple website up and running in a few minutes by choosing from thousands of pre-made templates and using simple copy and paste editing features. No coding necessary.
3. It’s customizable. Whether you are looking to create a business website, a portfolio website to showcase your work, a blog, an online store, or just about any other type of site, WordPress is easy to customize for your needs.
If you’re interested in learning how to make a website that looks professional without spending lots of money or learning to code, WordPress is what I recommend.
Many people have asked me about using a website builder such as Squarespace, Wix or Weebly. The problem is that these services come at a price – you’ll generally have to pay between $10 and $40 a month for a single site. You’ll also be limited to basic customization of the template designs they offer, which means that there’s a good chance your site will look just like everyone else’s site.
In this guide, I’ll show you how to use WordPress to create your own website because it’s the best option for nearly everyone. But before you can start making a website you will need to register your domain name and get web hosting.
Step 2: Choose a Domain & Web Hosting
In order to setup your WordPress site (or any other type of website for that matter), you need two things:
1. A domain name (a web address like yourwebsite.com)
2. Web hosting (the service that puts your website on the internet)
The WordPress software is free, but in order to run the software you need a domain name and hosting, which cost around $5 per month. This combination gives you a professional website that is easy to build and customize.
If you’ve got some idea of the domain name (example: yoursite.com) you’d like to use, you need to check to make sure it’s available:
If your desired domain isn’t available, come up with a different name by using synonyms or rearranging words. Once you find an available domain you are ready to move forward.
Where to get a FREE domain name with web hosting
I personally use and recommend BlueHost.com for web hosting and domain registration.
I like BlueHost for a few reasons:
- They will register your domain name for free when you purchase web hosting.
- They offer a free, automatic installation of WordPress.
- They include free professional email accounts (for example: YourName@yoursite.com)
- They have good customer service and offer a money-back guarantee if you are unsatisfied for any reason.
A BlueHost package will give you everything you need to get your website up and running. Here’s how to register your website with BlueHost and get WordPress installed:
1. Click here to get BlueHost for the discounted price of $2.75 per month and then click “get started now”.
2. Choose your web hosting plan. The basic plan is all you need when first starting a website, so don’t waste your money on the higher level plans. Click “Select” to choose your plan.
3. Put the domain name you want in the left box and click “next” to confirm that it’s available to register.
- If you already have a domain name that you have registered and want to use it for your website then type your existing domain in the right box and then click “next”. Note: The right box is only for those who have a domain they have already registered.
4. Now you need to put in all your details to get registered.
5. You will also need to choose some options for your hosting package.
- The 36 month plan gives you the lowest monthly rate. The 12 month plan has a lower start-up cost. You can cancel either at anytime and get a refund for the months remaining on your plan.
- I suggest avoiding the additional products for now. They aren’t necessary and you can always add them later if you want to.
6. Now you will need to create a password for your account and then choose a design for your website, which you can easily change later.
Now WordPress will be installed. When the installation is complete click “Start Building” to login to your WordPress website.
You will get an email with your website login information. Make sure to keep track of your login info!
Having trouble installing WordPress? Get help here.
Step 3: Customizing your New Website
Now that you’ve installed WordPress we can get to the fun part: customizing your website!
Login to Your Site
Adding new pages and posts, changing themes, adding plugins and editing the settings of your WordPress site is all done using the Dashboard interface.
The Dashboard can be accessed by visiting yourdomain.com/wp-admin/ (replace yourdomain.com with the name of your domain) and entering your username and password.
A Quick Tour of the WordPress Dashboard
Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do from the Dashboard.
In the top left corner of the top menu is the My Blog icon. You can click on this to see what your site currently looks like.
To the right of that is the Update icon. You can click on this (or click on “Updates” in the sidebar) to update your software when necessary.
The next icon is the Comment icon. You can click on this (or click on “Comments” in the sidebar) to read, edit and delete blog post comments.
The last icon is the New icon. This is a quick link that allows you to add new posts, pages, users and media to your site. Each of these options can also be accessed using the sidebar.
The Sidebar is used to access menus that let you do things like change the appearance of your site, add plugins and edit the basic settings of the site. We’ll look at some of these options in more detail later.
The Welcome to WordPress box contains links that help new users get started with their first WordPress site.
The At a Glance and Activity boxes show you basic information about your site. The Quick Draft box lets you save a quick draft of a new blog post. The Events and News box shows you current information about WordPress news and events.
Choose A Theme
If you click on the My Blog icon, you’ll notice that your site looks very basic.
You can change the style of your site by adding a new Theme.
Themes are templates that instantly make your site look better by changing things like the layout, font, colors, icons and menu style.
WordPress users have access to thousands of free themes that have been professionally designed and coded and are easy to install. All you need to do is navigate to the Theme menu, find a theme you like and click the Install button.
For most users, free themes are the best place to start. When you install a new theme, it doesn’t change the content on your site, only the layout. This means you can download and install a number of different themes to see which theme suits you best. If you feel like you need something more advanced than a free theme, you can always install a paid theme at a later date.
Let’s try installing a new theme.
Click on “Appearance” and “Themes” in the sidebar, then click the “Add New” button.
You can use this page to browse or search for themes. You can click on the Feature Filter to filter your search by layout, features and subject. This feature can be useful if you have a particular style in mind for your site, such as a portfolio or an e-commerce site.
Take your time to search for a theme you like. You can click the Preview button on each theme to see a live preview of what your site will look like with this theme installed.
When you’ve found a theme you like, click the “Install” button. Once the theme has been installed, you need to click the “Activate” button to activate it. You can then click “Customize” to change various theme settings.
If you click on “My Blog” and take a look at your site, you should see a much nicer design and layout than before, with new colors, images, menus and widgets all pre-installed.
Add Some New Content
Now that you’ve installed a new theme, it’s time to start adding some content.
However, before you start adding content, it’s important to learn the difference between pages and posts.
Pages form the structure of your site and contain content that you most likely won’t edit very often.
For example, if you’re creating a site for a restaurant, you might have a Home page, a Menu page, a Reservation page and an Access page. If you’re creating a fan site for your favorite soccer team you might have a Home page, a Players page, a Results page and a Blog page. If you take a look at your current site, you should see two pages already in the menu bar – Home and Sample Page.
Posts (also known as blog entries) are content that is added to a Blog which is located on a Page.
Posts are used for regularly adding content. They can be sorted chronologically and tagged by category and author. You can also let people add comments to a post. If you look at your Home page, you should see a Post titled “Hello world!”.
Add A New Page
To add a new page to your site, click on “Pages” and “Add New” on your Dashboard.
You should see a page editor that looks similar to Microsoft Word or Apple Pages.
You can add a page title in the Enter title here box.
In the main text editor area, you can add content to the page just like you do when using a regular text editor. You can use the toolbar to add headings, bold text, italic text and change the text alignment.
Above the editor you can click on Add Media to add images or video, and Add Form to add a form that can collect data input from users.
In the right sidebar, you can change various page attributes and set a featured image that will appear on this page. You can also Save, Preview and Publish the page.
Go ahead and create a test page with any title and content you like. Don’t forget to save the page when you’re done. Once you’ve saved the page, the content will be stored but the page will not yet be visible on your site. To make the page visible, you need to click “Publish”.
Once you’ve published the page, click on the View Page link to see what it looks like.
Add A New Post To Your Site
To add a new post to your site click “Posts” and “Add New” in the Dashboard sidebar.
You should see a post editor that looks very similar to the page editor.
Just like the page editor, you can add a post title, text content, media content, forms and a featured image.
The biggest difference between the page editor and the post editor are the Categories and Tags boxes.
Categories are used to create groups of content that are relevant to the purpose of your site. For example, if you’re creating a site about Italian Food, you might have a category for Recipes, a category for Restaurant Reviews, and a category for News.
Categories are important for both organization and SEO. Generally, you want to put a blog post in just one category.
Tags are used to create groups of content that apply to multiple categories. Using the previous Italian Food blog example, a single recipe post may include tags such as Pasta, Vegetarian, Dinner, Cheap and Healthy.
Tags are important as they allow visitors to quickly navigate your site and find what they’re looking for.
To add your post to a category, you need to check the box next to the most appropriate category. If there is no appropriate category, you can make a new one by clicking on the Add New Category link.
To add tags to your post, simply type the tags in the box and click “Add”.
Go ahead and create a new post. You can add any title and content you’d like. Try adding a new category and tags to your post. When you’ve finished, don’t forget to save and publish the post.
You can click on the Permalink or navigate to the Home page of your site to see your new blog post.
Install Some Plugins
One of the things that sets WordPress apart from its competitors is the large range of plugins available for download. There are currently over 40,000 plugins in the WordPress Plugin Directory than can be installed in just a few seconds. In most cases, all you have to do is find a plugin you’d like to install, click “Install Now”, then click “Activate”.
Plugins are used to add features to your site without having to write any code. With the right plugins, you can turn a simple blog into a gallery, a forum or an online store.
You can check out the Plugin Directory by clicking “Plugins” and “Add New” in the Dashboard sidebar.
Once the page has loaded, you can sort plugins by Featured, Popular, Recommended and Favorites, or you can search for keywords using the search tool.
Here are a few things to consider when installing plugins:
- Look for plugins that are regularly updated as that’s a good sign that the developers will quickly address any security vulnerabilities or other problems.
- Make sure the plugin is compatible with your version of WordPress.
- Read the reviews to make sure the plugin is stable.
- Some people argue that too many plugins can slow down your site. Others argue that poorly coded plugins slow down your site. If you suddenly experience a site slowdown, it’s a good idea to try disabling recently installed plugins to find the culprit.
Here are a few of the most popular plugins that you should consider installing on your site:
Yoast SEO is a plugin that helps you optimize both your site and your content for search engine crawlers.
Akismet is a plugin that comes pre-installed with WordPress. It helps you keep your comments free of spam.
Contact Form 7 is a simple form plugin that allows people to email you without having to log in to their email app.
WooCommerce is a powerful plugin that contains everything you need to turn your site into an fully-functional e-commerce store.
Let’s practice using plugins by installing the Yoast SEO plugin.
Search for Yoast SEO by using the search tool or look for it under the Popular tag. Once you’ve found it, click “Install Now”. When the plugin has finished installing, click “Activate” to start using it.
Once you’ve installed the plugin, you should have a new item in your sidebar called SEO and a new quick link in the top menu bar. You should also have a new entry on the Installed Plugins page. You can view this page by clicking “Plugins” and “Installed Plugins” in the sidebar.
From this page you can change the settings for each plugin, deactivate plugins and delete plugins you are no longer using.
Edit Your Site’s General Settings
If you didn’t specify a site title during the installation process or you want to change your site title, you can do this by accessing the General Settings page. Click on “Settings” and “General” in the sidebar.
On this page you can edit the Site Title and Tagline.
The site title can be different from your domain name, but it should explain in short, simple language what your site is about. It should also contain any keywords that you want search engines to focus on.
The tagline is a short blurb that is displayed after the site name. It can be slightly more detailed than the site name, and should also contain any important keywords.
If you scroll down further, you can change other settings such as the Site Address, the Admin Email Address and the Site Language.
At the bottom of the page you can change the Timezone, Date Format and Time Format. These settings will affect the date and time shown on new blog posts.
Edit Your Site’s Front Page Settings
The final thing we’ll look at in this tutorial is your front page settings.
If you take a look at your front page, you’ll notice that it displays your most recent blog posts. This is fine if your site is focused on blogging, but if you’re running a business site, you might prefer your front page to be a regular “homepage” that always shows the same content. A page that doesn’t change is called a Static Page.
To edit your front page settings, click on “Settings” and “Reading” in the sidebar.
If you want your front page to be a static page, check the static page option under Front Page Displays. You’ll then need to use the dropdown box to select which page you want to be your front page. If you don’t have a front page ready, you’ll have to make a new one using the page editor.
You can then use the Posts Page dropdown box to choose which page will display your latest blog entries.
You can edit some of the other settings on this page to change how many blogs are displayed on your blog page, how many posts are displayed in your blog feed, and whether the full blog post is displayed or just a summary.
If you’ve followed this tutorial, you should be able to install WordPress, customize your site with a theme, add new pages and blog posts, add some useful plugins, and change some of the main settings for your site.
But all this is just the tip of the iceberg!
To make your site even more unique and functional, you’ll have to delve deeper into WordPress’ amazing array of customizable settings. You can do this by searching for specific WordPress tutorials or just playing around with your site’s settings.
Here are some ideas that you might want to try:
- Add a background image to a page.
- Add a new logo to the site header.
- Customize your site’s menus.
- Change the default font for your headers and text.
- Customize your dashboard menus.
- My guide to making money with a blog (applies just the same to a website).
- Add some dashboard widgets.
- Add some more users who can edit or add posts to your site.
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