If you are looking for an easy guide to how to build a website step-by-step, this is a very basic website building tutorial to get you started.
You can spend as much time and money on creating a website as you like, however, it is not necessary, at least not initially.
In this tutorial I will teach you how to create a website without any programming skills or having to learn graphic design. We will be building a website on your own hosting account, using a free content management system, WordPress.
Granted, you do need to have access to a computer and need to possess some basic computer skills, but if you know how to write and send an email, or post pictures on Facebook, you have all the skills that are required.
Now, I’m NOT talking about creating a website for free. There is going to be some money investment involved, but the cost of building a website is really not significant if you are willing to get your hands dirty a little :-).
How to Build a Website Step By Step
The important thing is TAKE ACTION, so let’s get started NOW!
Building a Website Step 1: Register a Domain Name
First, you’ll need to find and register a domain name.
Your domain name represents the URL (or permanent web address) of your website. Therefore, when anyone types in “yourdomain.com” or “www.yourdomain.com”, they will see your website.
You register your domain name through a domain name registrar or hosting provider.
You simply check that your preferred domain name is available, then register it (online).
Domain names are registered on an annual basis, and you can usually register it many years in advance (or set ‘auto-renew’). Prices usually range from between $8 to $15 for new domain registration.
Usually the hosting companies provide one free domain registration when you sign up for a new hosting account. If you register the name with anyone else other than your hosting company, you will have to take several extra steps, including changing name servers. So, for your first domain I recommend that you go with your hosting company.
If you want to register more domains and want to save on domain name registration costs, you can use 1and1.com, Godaddy.com or www.NameCheap.com.
If you don’t have a domain name yet, get your domain name now!
How to Choose A Domain Name for Your Website
You should choose a domain name that truly reflects what your website is all about.
It’s also worth trying to get a keyword or two that is relevant to the market you intend to target if possible, although these days this practice is questionable and not necessary. It used to be helpful for search engine rankings, but after recent Google updates, having a keyword in the domain no longer provides benefit from the SEO perspective.
It’s unlikely to be able to get exactly the domain name you want, so be creative and look for good variations. Brainstorm a few ideas and using some generic words that you can add to your keywords and you should come up with a few possible domains to choose from.
As a general rule it’s best to grab the .com version if you can, as it is the extension that most people will use automatically, as it’s the most popular.
If you really want a particular domain name and the .com isn’t available then you could go for the .net domain, a local country (or state) version like .co.uk or .ca, or if you are going to be building a primarily information based (non commercial) blog, then going for a .org is a good choice as people tend to recognize these sites as “non-profit” free information sites. Some people advise avoiding .info domain as they have been used heavily to build spam sites, because they are so cheap to register.
Having said that, for Search Engine Optimization purposes and how the search engines treat your site for ranking, it really doesn’t matter which you go for, there are some very popular sites and blogs that are on .net for instance.
Building a Website Step 2: Sign up for hosting
A web host (or hosting provider), is a company that makes your website available for the world to see. They have the equipment and technical skills to make sure your website is available to the world, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can opt for what most small to medium size online businesses use which will run you from $5 to $15 a month.
Choose your hosting provider carefully – a good host will have excellent support. A bad host can have almost no support at all! If you’re new to creating websites, good support can reduce the stress that comes from doing something for the first time.
Here’s what you need to look for in a good web hosting : a platform that allows you to install scripts for content management and forums. You should also look for one with SSL that provides security for online transactions. And most good web hosts will also provide email capability. One that has a free autoresponder system is good although I would look into investing in a good email marketing solution to manage your list when you can afford it.
Look for a plan that gives you hosting for an unlimited number of domains for a set monthly fee. When choosing a host there are a few things that you want to make sure are included, specifically it should be a cPanel host with Fantastico and PHP installed.
Hosting Companies I recommend:
I personally use and recommend Blue Host and Hostgator (these links are affiliate links, by the way). I’ve been happy with both companies so far. Other hosts that I heard good things about are Super Green Hosting and Lunar Pages. I’m sure there are plenty of other good choices out there!
Let’s use the Hostgator as an example. Go Hostgator and click on the “Order now” button.
On the next screen you will want to choose “register your domain name” and enter the name you have chosen:
On the next step you will choose you hosting plan.
I suggest that you go with the Baby plan which allows unlimited space and unlimited domains (if you build more sites – you can host them all in one place), or you can start with “Hatching” plan, which provides unlimited space for single domain.
Next you will need to fill in your contact and billing information.
Once you have signed up you will receive a Welcome email from Hostgator hosting with your hosting login information to access the cpanel. Your cpanel can be found at YourDomainName.com/cpanel.
Building a Website Step 3: Install WordPress
In this step we’ll be installing the entire, ready-to-rock WordPress site on your hosting domain.
Don’t worry, it will only take a few clicks.
Side Note: If you purchased a domain via the hosting company, you will not need to do anything else with your domain. If you purchased a domain via a different domain provider, you will need to do some domain redirection first (I’m going to write about it separately soon).
WordPress is open source software and is freely downloadable directly from their website WordPress.org. However, to install from the download directly requires some technical skills.
DON’T BOTHER. It’s far easier to use a web host that has one-click WordPress installation so that it can be set up with a few clicks of the mouse literally in minutes.
Follow the instructions to login to your Host Gator dashboard called Cpanel. Once you login you will see your Cpanel dashboard, which should look like this:
Scroll down and click on the “Fantastico” icon. Don’t worry about all the other options at this time.
Note: If you have already have a hosting account that does not provide one-click WordPress setup, follow these instructions http://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress to install your WordPress site.
You will now see the following screen. First click “WordPress” on the far left column, you will then see the right side of the screen will say “WordPress”; click the “New Installation” link.
On the next screen you will be able to enter your username & password. Use the something you will remember. Leave the space blank where it says “Install in Directory” (this will install your new blog into the root directory).
After you have filled in the info requested on this page, click the “Install WordPress” button.
1. Type in a unique administrator username (1).
2. Type in a unique password (2).
3. Give yourself a nick name (3), this will be seen by people reading your blog.
5. Add an email address (4). You could use a Gmail address because it’s good at cleaning spam.
6. Give your blog a name (5). Keep in mind this is the same name/title that the search engines list in their directories. This can be changed later.
7. Give your blog a description (6). This too can be changed later.
8. Go ahead now and click “Install WordPress” (7).
Just click “Finish Installation” on the next window.
Congratulations! You have now completed your WordPress website installation.
Now you should be able to open a web browser and type in your domain address and see your new blog. You will see the boring basic WordPress blog at this point.
Now you are ready to install your new theme to make your site look pretty, so continue to next lesson!
Here are some videos you can watch on Youtube.com that walk you through the steps that I just described.
Using Fantastico to install a WP Blog (for people in a hurry: only 47 seconds)
Using Fantastico to install a WP Blog (5 min 53 seconds)
Building a Website Step 4: How to Install a WordPress Theme
There are many free themes available on the WordPress.org website, but if you expect quality design and support that will provide answers to your questions, I recommend you purchase your theme template from a respected source.
My suggestions for best theme templates are (these are affiliate links):
** Thesis Theme from DIY Themes (this site uses Thesis theme)
** StudioPress themes.
When you change a theme, you are not changing the content of your website, just the way it looks. WordPress stores all your pages and blog entries in a database – so content is separated from design. So when you change themes all you are doing is changing the look and feel of the site – not the content.
There are two ways to install a theme in WordPress. One is really easy to do from the WordPress Administration Panel of your blog, and the other one is a little more involved, requiring you to use an FTP program, such as FileZilla to do it.
I will describe both methods, because the first one does not work with every theme (at least it hasn’t worked for some of my themes), so you can use the second method as a backup.
Method #1. Using the WordPress Administration Panel
1. Log in to the WordPress Administration Panel of your blog – just open up your favorite browser and type in the URL like this: http://www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin. Enter your username and password.
2. Go to Appearance, Add New Theme, choose the theme (it needs to be a zipped file .zip) that you want and click Install and Activate.
It’s really that simple.
Watch this video: How To Install A Theme In WordPress 2.8 for more details.
Method #2. Using FTP Client to Upload a Theme
The good news is that WordPress comes with pre-installed default theme, so you can skip this step and start posting right away. To make your site your own, you may want to choose a different design, so that’s when you’ll need to upload a theme. (Update: When I wrote this tutorial originally, a few years ago, there was no easier way of installing the theme. Today, it’s actually possible to install most themes without using FTP, simply via your administrator panel.)
To add a new theme to your WordPress installation, follow these steps:
1. Purchase the selected theme and follow the directions to download it to your computer.
2. Extract the files it contains preserving the directory structure in the archive. If the theme that you are installing provides instructions, be sure to read through and follow those instructions for the successful installation of the theme. Note: Themes are downloaded to your computer in ZIP format – condensed files that are smaller and quicker to download. You will need a program to “unzip” these files before you load them onto you hosting companies server. WinZip is the standard for this software.
3. Using an FTP client (I use FileZilla) to access your host web server, connect to the host server.
4. Upload the theme files to the to “public_html/wordpress/wp-content/themes” directory on your host server. All you do is drag and drop THE ENTIRE DIRECTORY from your computer to your host. Once the files copy you should see this folder on both sides. Make sure all the files are transferred by watching the bottom left corner of your screen. Once the transfer is complete you can close your FTP client.
5. Log in to the WordPress Administration Panel of your blog – just open up your favorite browser and type in the URL like this: http://www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin. Enter your username and password and continue to the next step.
6. Select the Appearance panel, then Themes.
7. From the Available Themes section, click on the theme title (or theme screenshot) for the theme you wish to activate.
A preview of the theme will be shown.
8. To activate the theme click the Activate “Theme Name” link in the top right. Your selection should immediately become active.
Clear as mud, right?
Watch this video that will show you what to do.
Adding Themes to WordPress
Note: Whenever you do something to your site, you can click the View site link to test it. I tend to just keep it open in a different tab and then refresh the resulting page.
Building a Website Step 5: How to Install WordPress Plugins
WordPress plugins are small applications, almost always free, that add to the functionality and usability of your site.
WordPress Plugins are available from several sources. The “official” source for WordPress plugins is Official WordPress Plugins Repository.
As with themes, there are two ways to install a theme in WordPress.
1. From the Administrator’s Panel, go to Plugins, Add new.
2. Watch the video and follow the instructions:
How To Install Plugins In WordPress 2.8
You can also use the FTP client to upload the plugin files. If you choose to do that, download them to the “public_html/wordpress/wp-content/plugins” directory on your host server.
Once you upload a plugin, you need to go to the Plugins page in your Administrator’s panel, and Activate the selected plugins.
Some of the most popular and recommended plugins that I use include:
Google Analytics – Go to Google and login or sign up for an account.Under My Account choose Analytics to register your site. Copy and paste your ID # in the plugin page.
Akismet – you will need a key from WordPress to activate this spam stopper.
Contact form 7 – allows you to configure a contact form to use on your website.
WP database backup – configure to send you an with a copy of the database every day.
Google XML sitemap –leave the basic configuration as it is. Automatically notifies Google, MSN, Ask. If you want to notify Yahoo (you should) click the link to apply for a free Yahoo ID key.
Some of the plugins will need configuring, so you may have to read the documentation. However, don’t feel too stressed about your plugins. You can always install a new one when you need it.
Building a Website Step 6: Configure Permalinks
One more thing I recommend you do right away is to set your permalink structure. Permalinks are the permanent URLs to your individual posts, as well as categories and other lists of your content. A permalink is what another weblogger will use to link to your article (or section), or how you might send a link to your story in an e-mail message.
The default links will look quite ugly, for example, something like this:
To change the links into more user-friendly and search engine-friendly structure, follow this video.
How to change Permalinks in WordPress
For more information on WordPress, to download free themes and plugins, go to WordPress.org (do not confuse it with WordPress.com).
You can find detailed tutorials here: http://codex.wordpress.org/Main_Page. Or email me your question, and I’ll try to help you as best as I can.
Many people are posting really useful videos on Youtube.com about WordPress.