How to Make a Website
A beginner’s guide to building a website without writing code
If you want to learn how to build your own website but don’t know where to start, this page is for you.
Want to start a blog instead? This guide will help: how to start a blog.
Carry on reading if you want to learn about:
- The best platform to use for your brand new website.
- Choosing, buying and managing a domain name.
- Finding a reliable and affordable web hosting company (many people choose BlueHost).
- The best software to use for building your website.
- Installing the website software.
- Making your website look the part.
Sound good to you? Great! Let’s get started.
Choosing the best platform for your website
Most web designers use something called a Content Management System (CMS) to do their work. You access a CMS through a web browser such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer (now Microsoft Edge) or a dedicated app.
You may have heard of the world’s most popular website building software. It’s called WordPress.
I’ve used WordPress to build websites since 2006. Before that, I used an application by Adobe called Dreamweaver. You can still buy Dreamweaver but it’s complicated for a beginner to use. You need to know CSS, HTML and other coding languages.
WordPress is easier software to use, and if you want to, you can avoid coding altogether. Making it perfect for people who want to build their own website but aren’t that technical.
It’s also a great system for budding web designers to learn the basic skills.
There are other Content Management Systems around. Three of the most popular are Joomla, Drupal and Wix. For now though, let’s stick with WordPress.
One more thing to mention about WordPress – it’s free. More on that soon.
The main reason I like working with WordPress is because of the huge community that’s built up around it. Programmers, developers, designers and experts all willing to work towards improving WordPress.
You see, the basic WordPress software is just that – basic. To make a WordPress powered website function you need to add plugins. To make a WordPress look good, you need to add something called a theme.
Don’t worry. You might be thinking it’s all starting to get a bit technical. It isn’t. Plugins and themes are usually easy to install and setup. And often they’re created by professional coders/designers and available to you free of charge.
It’s worth mentioning at this point the Premium side of WordPress. When you see the word premium attached to a plugin or theme, it means there’s a cost involved. The cost varies depending upon the job the plugin does or the complexity of the theme.
You don’t have to spend money on premium products or services to build your first website. But you may have to in the future to get it looking and working the way you want it to.
How long does it take to setup WordPress?
Minutes. Most web hosting companies provide a quick way to install WordPress.
Here’s a screenshot from inside my hosting account with Vidahost. Clicking the large blue button starts the WordPress installation process. That’s all you have to do to with most hosting companies. Looks simple, right? That’s because it is.
Who uses WordPress?
Official figures state that 27% of all websites run on WordPress. Making it the most used Content Management System in the world.
If you’re a regular blog reader, I’m sure most of your favourites run on WordPress too.
WordPress also provides an enterprise hosting and support service called VIP. It’s designed for big sites like CNN, TED, UPS and TIME.
So far we’ve covered the software we’re going to use to run your brand new website. Now it’s time to explore the rest of the process.
Finding the perfect domain name
A domain name is the address people type into a browser to visit your website. Before you start a website, you’ll need a domain name.
Ideally, it’s best if you choose a domain that reflects your business or the topic of your website. If you want, you could even use your own name.
Some folk use keywords in their domain(s) as they believe it helps improve search engine rankings. As Google uses over 200 factors to determine which pages appear in the results, the words used in the domain do have an impact. But nobody knows for sure how much of an impact they make.
Domain name extensions
A domain name extension is the second half of the URL. The most popular is .com.
Not so long ago you could only buy standard domain extensions like .com, .net and .org. Nowadays, there are a wider range of domain extensions to fit any industry or topic. For example: .photography, .agency, .pizza and .coffee.
You could grab one of these if you like. They’re a little quirky and unusual at the moment.
The biggest issue with these domain extensions in 2017 is unfamiliarity. If seen offline, on a poster for example, some people might not realise that family.photography is actually a web address
For this reason, at least for now, you’re best staying with the ones everyone knows: .com, .net, .org etc and securing any others you like for future use.
If you want your website to target people from a specific country, buy a domain with the relevant extension: .co.uk (UK), .fr (France), .it (Italy) etc
If you need more tips, read our guide to choosing the perfect domain name.
Registering and managing a domain name
Once you decide upon a domain name, the next step in the process is buying it. It’s an exciting time!
Expect to pay around $10-$15 to register a .com domain for the first year. It’s about the same to renew it every twelve months.
If you shop around and search for voucher codes, you can pick up a domain for a lot less. Fasthosts ran a promotion for at least three months where domains cost £1.00 for the first year. I grabbed a few and there’s a good chance I won’t be renewing them all #implusebuy.
Extensions such as .legal, .blog and .finance can cost a lot more. Here’s an extreme example!
And another example that’s still quite expensive, but a little more affordable for the average Joe.
Prices from GoDaddy.
The minimum period for registering a .com domain is one year. The maximum period is 10 years. When each renewal period ends, you must renew the domain to keep it under your control. If you don’t renew and you’ve built up a successful website, you could lose it.
Choosing and buying web hosting
This is where things start getting a little tricky.
While buying your first domain is fun and exciting, choosing a suitable web hosting company could give you a massive headache.
There are tons of companies to choose from. And loads of technical jargon to get your head around: storage, bandwidth, servers, cloud hosting, Apache, FTP, SSD, PHP. The list goes on.
If you’re starting your first website, it’s a good idea to choose an established hosting company with a good reputation.
As you learn more, if you don’t like the hosting company you signed with, you can leave and go elsewhere.
Many hosting companies offer a migration service, where they move your site (and associated email accounts) from your old host to the new one.
Changing hosts shouldn’t affect your search rankings as long as both servers provide the same experience. Page loading time is a ranking factor, so if you move from a fast server to a slow one, your rankings might drop. Not overnight, but over a period of time.
And if you move from a slow server to a past one, your rankings might improve.
One of the most popular hosting companies is US based, Bluehost. Other ones you might like to consider are InMotion, SiteGround and A2Hosting.
Let’s go through the process for buying a domain and hosting from Bluehost.
Step 1: Visit Bluehost.com and click on the ‘get started now’ button
Step 2: Choose a plan – the Starter plan is good enough for beginners
Step 3: Choose a domain name
Step 4: Success! Now enter your personal account information
Step 5: Setup your hosting package
You should pay careful attention to the detail at this stage otherwise you could end up paying more than you want to.
The image below shows the default options offered by Bluehost. If you don’t change any of these, the bill for setting up your website could be more than you expect.
You probably don’t need Site Backup Pro (although it is cheaper than VaultPress and similar premium services) or SiteLock Security, but if you want to keep your personal name and address out of public databases, such as WHOIS, you do need Domain Privacy Protection
Many businesses choose to reveal their name and address on public records to improve customer confidence. In some countries, businesses are required by law to make this information public.
Tick and untick the boxes relevant to you.
Pay special attention the information in the Account Plan box at the top as this is the one that determines the length of service and the amount you pay
Step 6: Enter your billing information
Here’s a mind-numbing statement for you: WordPress powers a quarter of all websites online!
That’s because it’s easy to install, and although there is a learning curve at the start, once you get to know how it works, it’s easy to use.
Bluehost and other web hosting companies make it easy to install. All you have to do is click the install button and follow the on-screen instructions.
Instead of walking you three each step with a series of screenshots, take a look at this video to see how easy it is. Skip to 1.25 if you want to get straight to the instructions.
Making your WordPress website look good
Once you’ve installed WordPress, the next step is making it look good.
WordPress uses something called a ‘theme’ to create the design. You can choose from thousands of themes, many of which are free. You do this from inside WordPress.
The default theme that comes with WordPress changes each year. It’s usually good enough to get going. The current theme is called 2017. This is what it looks like:
Once installed, you can make changes to the theme. All you have to do is log in and look for, and click, the blue Customize Your Site button in the dashboard.
Once clicked, you’ll see a list of options. They enable you to do many things including: enter or change your site’s name, change colors, add a video to the front page, change the default photo and create menus.
Play around with them to see what you can do. If you like what you’ve done, hit Save & Publish. If you don’t like the changes, hit the X button to switch everything back.
Changing the default WordPress theme
If you don’t like the 2017 theme and prefer choosing another, while in the dashboard, click the Appearance link in the menu or change your theme completely under the blue button.
On the next screen, you’ll see the currently installed default themes. When you move your mouse over the icon for the theme, two text boxes appear – Activate and Live Preview.
If you have content on your site, use the Live Preview button to visualise how your site will look if you use the new theme. If you like it, click Activate. If you don’t, keep looking.
This is how you test and install any new theme you want to use. Not just the default ones.
To find themes created by the WordPress community, click on the Add New button or enter a keyword into the search box.
On the next screen you’ll see a few recommended themes and a menu you can use to switch the filter between: Featured, Popular, Latest and Favorites and you can use the Feature Filter to search for themes with the features you want.
And the features you might want to search for:
As you can see, there are loads of themes you can search through to find the perfect look for your website. When you find one you like, just click the Install button, as shown here.
That’s how to make a new website!
I hope this page helps you understand the process for making a brand new website? As you can see from each of the steps I’ve described, the process is reasonably straightforward. And it’s probably one of the easiest and cheapest ways to setup a personal or business website.
If you have a question about any part of the process, please feel free get in touch through the contact page and I’ll do my best to help you.
Best of luck!
*Please note, this article contains affiliate links, which means, if you buy after clicking one of our links, we earn a commission from the sale.