How to Make a Website: A Simple Guide for Complete Beginners
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Regardless of what niche you’re working with, creating a website is one of the first tasks that you’re going to want to do. Overview the five basic steps to publishing a website and get your site live today!
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- Video Overview
- How to Make a Website in Five Easy Steps
- Step 1: Get Web Hosting
- What is Web Hosting?
- What Type of Web Hosting Should I Get?
- Step 2: Register a Domain Name
- What is a Domain Name?
- How to Choose a Quality Domain Name
- Registering a Domain Name
- Email Addresses @YourDomain.com
- Step 3: Install a Content Management System (CMS)
- What is a Content Management System?
- Which Content Management System Should I Use?
- How to Install a Content Management System
- Step 4: Customize Your Site’s Style, Theme, and Configuration
- Webmaster Tools (Is Unimportant)
- Step 5: Add Articles and Content to Your Site
- Main Site Pages
- Articles and Posts
- Conclusion and Next Steps
Regardless of what niche you’re working with, creating a website is one of the first tasks that you’re going to want to do. Having a website:
- Makes you more professional and legitimate, improving your conversion rates;
- Gives you a central platform that clients can find you through, which removes your dependence on other platforms;
- Lets you create content that can be used effectively for search engine optimization and social media marketing.
Despite all these benefits, it is common for people to put off making a website because the task seems technical, complicated, and time-consuming. Which is partially true, but much less so than you may think. The process can be simplified into a few simple steps:
- Get web hosting
- Register a domain name
- Install a content management system (CMS)
- Customize your site’s style and theme
- Add articles and other content to your site
This guide is designed to walk you through these steps in a way that could be done by even the dumbest person reading this. I mean, there are people who, right now, are living in trailer parks, drinkingentire glasses full of whiskeywho have made websites. Presumably you can also create a website.
How to Make a Website in Five Easy Steps
Step 1: Get Web Hosting
What is Web Hosting?
It’s important to understand that a server used for web hosting does the same things as any other computer. It has files on it. It can run programs. It’s just a computer. All you need to do to host a website is to:
- Make some website files;
- Put them on literally any computer; and
- Connect that computer to the internet and set it up to serve files when users request them from their web browser.
You can literally host a website on a laptop that you found in a dumpster.
Of course, there are particular setups and types of computers that are better at serving websites than a dumpster laptop. Because of this, basically everyone who has a website rents server space from a web hosting company that stores and serves your website for you around the clock.
What Type of Web Hosting Should I Get?
When deciding on web hosting, regardless of what hosting company you’re looking at, you’ll have a few options. Here’s the extremely short and oversimplified version:
- Shared hosting is inexpensive hosting. Certain advanced configuration options may be unavailable, but you almost certainly don’t need those for your first site.
- VPS hosting is moderately more expensive and allows for more control over advanced server configuration.
- Dedicated hosting is even more expensive and allows for even more advanced customization and control.
- Some hosts also offer custom setups optimized for out-of-the-box WordPress sites to be created as easily as possible. They’re can be useful depending on your use case.
If you want to read more about these hosting types, there are sections about them inour review of DreamHost. Regardless of whether or not you decide to use specifically DreamHost, those descriptions of different hosting types will be accurate.
If you’re making your first website, you’re going to wantshared hosting. If you need a VPS or a dedicated server, you’ll know. If you want to learn more about the various types of hosting, read through thethe DreamHost review previously mentioned, which covers all of this in more depth.
You can get a full year of very-solid hosting through DreamHost withthis $50 off link, which also gives 256 Kilobytes a $50 commission if you sign up with it.
Step 2: Register a Domain Name
Once you have server on which to host your website’s files, you’ll need to set up a domain name.
What is a Domain Name?
When users connect to websites, they’re really making requests to the IP address of the server that hosts the website. However, typing IP addresses into the address bar is inconvenient for a variety of reasons. Because of this, domain names allow for human-readable website names to map to particular websites.
How to Choose a Quality Domain Name
While ultimately the decision is entirely subjective, there are a few best practices that are good to keep in mind:
- Choose a brandable domain name. A domain like buygold.com may be descriptive, but it is also extremely generic. It also limits your potential for expansion in the future, such as if you wanted to later add a different product or if you stopped selling gold. A more general brand offers more flexibility and is more memorable to users.
- Shorter domain names are generally better than longer ones, as they are easier to remember and type. Based on our analysis of the Majestic Million, most domain names are somewhere in the range of five to twelve characters (excluding the TLD).
- When choosing whether to use a .com, .net, .org, or another top-level domain (TLD), the .com is always a solid choice; the Majestic Million article linked above indicates that roughly half of all websites use the .com TLD. In general, unless you have a specific reason to use something else, use the .com.
- Plan to keep your domain name indefinitely. While it is possible to move to a different domain name, this process can require some technical work and, when done incorrectly, can break your site or otherwise result in massive losses in traffic.
Registering a Domain Name
Once you decide on a domain name, the process of registration is straightforward. Basically every web host will:
- Have a built in panel that you can register domain names through; and
- Include a free domain name registration with a shared hosting plan.
The registration screen will look something along the lines of:
Regardless of what domain name you choose, you should be able to do this step within a few minutes.
Email Addresses @YourDomain.com
Excluding the absolute worst web hosting packages, you should be able to set up @yourdomain.com email addresses through your web host once you have this domain name registered.
Step 3: Install a Content Management System (CMS)
What is a Content Management System?
- A basic site template and layout;
- Baseline, bug tested code that gives your site most common site functionality, like adding comments to articles, adding contact forms, and so on;
- An administrator panel that allows for you to upload and edit your sites articles, pages, theme, settings, and other content without needing to work with HTML or other computer code; and
- Access to a plugin library made by other developers who use the same content management system, which can be installed easily into your project.
Which Content Management System Should I Use?
There are three main content management systems that exist. As summarized previously:
- WordPress Is generally considered to be the easiest to use, particularly for blog/news type websites. For more heavily customized sites that aren't purely article/blog post based, it can often feel like attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole.
- Joomla Is generally considered to be fairly similar to WordPress, although with less of am emphasis on blogging, designed to be more flexible for other types of sites.
- Drupal Is generally considered to be the best suited for heavier customization at the cost of ease of use
Seethis threadfor more information on these differences. For context, the chart below shows the relative popularity of various content mangement systems using data from the builtwith.com page on CMS usage distribution:
For your first website, you should use WordPress. It is the most widely supported, which means that it has the most documentation. It is also generally user-friendly. Unless you don’t want to, in which case, I’m not your dad, do whatever you want.
How to Install a Content Management System
If your web host happens to have a “one-click install” or similarly-named option that supports your CMS of choice, this is generally the easiest option. On DreamHost, for example, the UI looks like this:
This will install your CMS of choice without having to set everything up yourself. If this option is not supported, the WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal documentation cover how to set up new installations. The general process is to:
- Download the CMS' latest version from the official site
- Create an new database through your web host
- Upload the CMS files from step 1 to your server
- Run the CMS' installation script to complete the process
Once the content management system is set up, you should be able to access a login page to your CMS’ admin panel. On WordPress, for example, this is by default located at:
Where you can login to the back end of your site where content, configuration, and settings, and other options can be set and modified.
Step 4: Customize Your Site’s Style, Theme, and Configuration
Now that your site’s CMS is installed, there are basically infinite things that you can do to customize it for your use case. Here is an overview of some of the first areas worth looking into.
One benefit of using a content management system is that developers can create plugins designed to easily work with that platform, which can then be installed with a few button clicks. These can give your site access to features likestructured data,star ratings for posts, various forms and tools, analytics (see below), and other features.
When installing plugins, it is important to note that each additional plugin also adds additional complexity to your site. An insecure plugin can cause your site to become vulnerable; a slow plugin can hurt your site’s performance. While most plugins are reasonably safe, note that issues with your site can stem from plugins.
Keeping track of what pages on your site are doing well, where your traffic is coming from, and other traffic-related data is useful for obvious reasons. It is generally a good idea to install analytics as soon as possible. Even if you aren’t using it immediately, once analytics is set up, it will start collecting data that can be looked at retroactively, which ensures you have analytics data going back as far as possible.
Basically any analytics plugin works reasonably well. Google Analytics is generally fine; some people prefer to use other analytics tools to limit the amount of data that might be available to Google. You can also install multiple analytics plugins, if that’s something that you want to do.
Webmaster Tools (Is Unimportant)
One of the first tools that is often set up early on by new website owners isGoogle’s Webmaster Tools. You can set this up if you want to, although the data that it provides is fairly minimal and the tools providedare mostly placebo.
Step 5: Add Articles and Content to Your Site
Once you have a site live, you can put content on it. Your content consists roughly of two parts.
Main Site Pages
Your site’s main pages such as “Staff,” “About,” “Order,” “Contact,” and so on will generally:
- Contain custom styles, images, and layouts; and
- Each be linked to in your site’s main navigation.
WordPress refers to these as “pages."
Since these pages are generally going to be viewed often, spending more time on these pages is a good idea. Generally, these pages will be set up to funnel users into ordering, signing up, or otherwise doing the thing that you want them to do.
Articles and Posts
Most standard site setups will include a page called “Blog,” “Archive,” or something similar that will include a chronologically-ordered list of articles published on various topics. Creating new posts consists only of writing the actual content. Each post appears using the same template. WordPress refers to these as “posts.”
These posts will generally be set up to funnel users to your site’s main pages. A standard blog setup is to:
- At the top of each article, show a banner with a “buy/signup/whatever now” button
- Then, show the text of the article
- At the bottom of the article, include another call-to-action (CTA) as another button linking to your conversion page, such as your order/sign-up page
This setup allows you to make as many articles as desired that can be used for SEO and SMM while also then funneling interested users to follow up and convert.
Conclusion and Next Steps
Congratulations, you now have one of the finest websites. At this point, you might focus on:
- Adding more content that can be used for SEO, SMM, and other Internet marketing; and
- Refining your site further by adding custom logos, stylesheets, scripts, structured data, and so on.
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