It’s 2020 and it’s never been easier for an absolute beginner to design and build a website. I mean someone completely new to websites. No programming or coding experience, no need to understand complicated graphic design software.
In fact, building a website is not only easy it’s also enjoyable! You get a real sense of achievement once you’re finished and you have something to see for your efforts.
That’s why I put this guide together, so with a little help, you can be building websites in next to no time. I’m talking about blogs, business websites, personal sites. Even eCommerce stores.
When you know which tools and resources to use, it’s a breeze. It can be done for almost nothing too. There are other tools you can use, that cost a little bit more, including leaning on freelancers, but the goal of this guide is to show you how you can do everything yourself and for next to nothing.
The only commitment you need now is 1-2 hours, to follow the steps in this guide and you will have a functioning website by the time you’re finished. You’ll be a web design master in no time.
The 3 things you will need when creating a website
Domain name – this is your unique URL for your website, like www.google.com I am going to walk you through some of the do’s and don’ts about picking the right domain and then show you how to get your own domain and set it up ready to build a website on.
Website hosting – The internet is basically millions of servers connected to each other. When you create a website, you need your own little part of a server where your website can sit. This is about as technical as it gets, you don’t really need to know anymore, and it can be set up in less than 5 minutes.
WordPress – If you’ve been looking into websites you will have stumbled across this name. WordPress is the largest platform in the world. It’s what’s called a Content Management System (CMS) and it’s popular because it’s so easy. Most importantly, it’s free! You are going to build your website on WordPress too.
So that’s what you need to get started. A website domain, that is unique to your website, that’s like your website’s address on the internet. A little part of a server (called web hosting) for your website to sit, and finally, you need WordPress, the platform I use to create and manage our websites, the same as over 30% of all the website owners in the world.
Excited? I am, it’s such a great experience creating a website and I’m going to show you how, step-by-step, I am happy to be on this journey with you. Let’s get this party started!.
- Selecting a domain name
- Choosing your web hosting
- Setting up your hosting
- Installing WordPress
- Designing your website
- Adding pages & blog posts
- Setting up the Menu
Now, I’m going to do my best to make this as easy for you as possible. But if I lose you somewhere along the way, firstly, that’s my fault, not yours, and secondly, feel free to contact me with your questions, we’re always happy to help people starting out.
Other people were around to help us when I was in your shoes, I am only too happy to return the favor.
How to create a website? Step #1: Selecting a domain name
Warning, this is probably the hardest step when it comes to building your WordPress website. And not difficult because it’s technically difficult, it’s just that for a lot of people picking 1 name is difficult. People tend to overthink it like they’re trying to pick the name of their firstborn child. It’s just a website, and domains cost $10-15 only.
If you’re not quite sure what a website domain is, think of it like this. Essentially it’s your website address. When people want to visit it, they have to tell Google the address they want to go to. Search engines go to something like a directory, it tells them the website location by looking up the website name and finding it’s location on the internet.
Actually, for a search engine like Google, it’s a bunch of numbers, that look like this: 216.3. 128.12. That’s what they see when we give them the URL for our website.
But could you imagine having to remember a bunch of numbers every time you wanted to visit your favorite websites? Could you imagine a world with domain names? It would be impossible.
So, some genius decided to mask these numbers with a domain name that’s unique to you.
The domain name was born! The address of your website, all nicely packaged as a memorable name.
You have to pay for the privilege of having a domain name. But, the good news is, it doesn’t break the bank. Most domains cost $10-15 a year. Whether you’re building a business website, an online store, or just a blog, $15 a year for a unique domain name is not too much to pay.
So how do you pick a name? Let’s run down a few dos and don’ts:
- Pick something easy to remember. The shorter the better.
- If it’s a company URL then why not www.mycompanyname.com?
- Domain extensions matter. If you can try to stick to .com, .org, .net. You can also add your countries most common extension to that list. People trust these domain extensions.
- Separate long words with a hyphen if you think it helps for people to remember or if the original has been taken eg. www.sydney-dentists.com.
- Overcomplicate it by being too long
- Use words visitors can’t spell easily
- Use too many hyphens so it’s difficult to remember eg. www.best-dentists-in-Sydney.com
- Don’t overthink it. I’ve said it again and I’ll repeat it. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck at step 1. You can always change it later if you grow to hate it. It’s only $10-15, but most likely you won’t.
It can take a little time to pick a name that isn’t already taken. There are a billion you could choose, but as luck would have it, sometimes someone else has thought of your name before you. Be persistent.
I’m going to explain how you check if a domain name has already been taken, but please don’t buy it yet, if it’s available. I am about to show you how you can get your domain for free.
Checking domain availability:
Head over to https://www.bluehost.com/domains
Once there, start to think of ideas for your domains and typing them into the search box and clicking the search button
It will check the database and either return a result saying it’s available or it’s unavailable.
Shame…it’s not available:
So, I have a think and have another idea. I type it into the search bar and I click the search icon.
Great, it’s available! I have found my domain. Now it’s time to think about hosting (and this is how we are going to pick up our domain for free).
How to create a website: Step #2: Choosing your web hosting (and a free domain)
Now, you are going to have to pay for web hosting. That’s the bad news.
That’s the nature of having a web presence, you need someone to give you a server or better still, rent you a spot on their server, and that’s what web hosting is. Someone renting you space to put your site.
The good news is. It costs just a few bucks a month. $5 to $10.
That is your total cost of having a website. You can pay for other tools, but they aren’t necessary. Having your own website requires you to have hosting, and this is the only true cost.
More good news, if you go to the right web hosting they’ll give you the domain for free.
How to pick the right web host?
- Speed matters. You need a good quality web hosting and here’s why. We don’t need to get too technical but basically, if your page takes 3 seconds or more to load, people get bored and click to another site. 40% of people. So speed matters.
- Easy to use. Some hosting providers require you to have some prior knowledge of servers, you might have to know server settings to optimize it. Avoid them, find a hosting service that has a dashboard that is super simple, and require 1-click to set up your site.
- Great support. 99 times out of 100, if you have a site and you install WordPress, that’s probably the last time you have to log in to your hosting. But if something breaks you want providers that have great support, and they fix it for you.
- Affordable. When you’re starting out, you want to keep costs down. The good news is, you don’t need to break the bank, you can spend $5 a month and get good quality hosting with no stress of hassle. Many will give you a discount on a domain name too.
- Free Domain. The better web host companies, especially for beginner hosting, will give you the domain for free. You can search a domain name on their site, and purchase the domain name when you buy the web host package.
- Free SSL Certificate. Your SSL certificate verifies to the user that your site is safe and doesn’t have any viruses or other nasty stuff. Good hosting providers, give them away with the initial domain name.
If you don’t know what an SSL certificate is, there is a good chance you’ve seen them before, you just didn’t realize it. They are represented by a lock icon next to the search box, where you type in your search and where the domain name is shown.
Free emails. If it’s a business site especially, you’ll want emails from your domain. For example [email protected]. You can get emails for free, with the right web host. They allow you to have your email address look professional. Especially important if you are going to have an online store, you want a real-looking email address, not just Google Gmail.
So that’s what you need to look out for when choosing your hosting provider. But if all this is a bit over your head, don’t worry. You’ll get used to the lingo. I want to help educate as well as show you, but if it’s too much, just do what we say and you’ll pick it up over time.
In the meantime, I’ll just tell you which hosting services have all these features.
For a starter website, I like Bluehost because they have one of the best reputations for beginners hosting, it’s cheap, good quality, and they provide good customer support. They have all the above.
I’m going to show you how to set up your website using this provider. There are others that are pretty decent, but I can’t show you them all and blue is one of the most popular so it makes sense.
How to create a website: Step#3 Setting up your hosting
Right, we’re using Bluehosting for this guide, for all the reasons we spoke about above follow along by clicking here. If you’re using another host, follow along anyway because many features will be similar, just the layout will be different.
Step 1 – picking your plan.
There are different types of hosting, but all you need is what is called shared hosting. It’s a place on a server next to other websites. Servers are pretty big and if your site is less than a few hundred pages and doesn’t get more than 100,000 visitors, it will be fine. And most of all, it’s cheap.
Click on Hosting in the navigation menu and choose shared hosting. This is all you need for your first site.
Now you’re left with one real choice, in my opinion, if you’re starting out. Do you go for the Basic plan, which costs a few dollars a month, or do you go for the Choice Plus? That’s a little more expensive. It’s essentially double the price, but still, we’re talking less than $10 a month.
It comes down to this. Do you plan to design 1 site or multiple sites?
If you plan to host multiple websites, I’d suggest the larger package because this one hosting will host unlimited websites. If you only plan to have one website right now, the basic will be fine.
The only other thing to consider is if you plan to have an eCommerce store with hundreds, if not thousands of pages. Then again, I’d go for the larger plan.
It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. 1 site pick the basic if it’s an eCommerce site or multiple sites pick the slightly more expensive option.
Step 2 – Registering our domain (for free)
Once we’ve selected our page, the next step is to add the domain name we’ve picked out for ourselves.
If you already have a domain, you will need to do things a little differently during this step. I’ll definitely have something about how you set up a site with an existing domain in another article, but for now, we’re focusing on taking advantage of our free domain.
It’s very important to remember that when I say “free” I mean for the first year. Domains renew yearly. Next year you’ll have to pay $10-15 for the year. But by then, your site will be making you money (fingers crossed)!
Add your domain to the “Create a new domain” and click next.
Take your time to fill out the form and select the package you want again. You have the option of paying for 1 year, 2 year, and 3 years. The longer you sign for, the cheaper it is per month. The question is, how committed are you to your new site?
Step 3- Setting up your SSL
The good news is, Bluehost automatically sets up your SSL for you, but just so you know where it is and how it works, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s switched on. This is how you check:
- Log in to your Bluehost portal
- Click on “My Sites”
- Find your site and click on “Manage Site”
- Go to the “Security” tab
- You should see that the switch for the SSL certificate is switched on
Note: It can take a few hours to activate, but it shouldn’t stop you. Just continue setting up your site.
How to create a website: Step#4 Installing WordPress via your hosting
We are building our site on the WordPress platform. This is called a CMS (content management system).
It’s free. It’s also extremely popular because it means you need no technical knowledge beforehand. Most bloggers use it because it’s really simple to use. It’s easy to create a design you like, with the inbuilt website builder. It hat’s some great advantages of other website builders/design platforms.
- It has themes, that help with pre-selecting a design.. It has plugins that add additional features, like a form, table, pop up an advert, etc.
- We also like WordPress and Bluehost because it’s what we call a “one-click install” that makes it super easy to set up, as you’re about to see:
- Start by logging into your Bluehost account, click on My Sites, and then choose the Create Site option.
- Add some basic information to set it up, like username and password, then click to start the setup.
- Congratulations, you’ve just completed the most complicated aspect of creating a website.
- Bluehost will show you the installation and login details. Be sure to save this information somewhere safe.
- If you want to check your nice new website, go ahead and type your URL – www.myexamplewebsite.com
If you don’t like what you are seeing, don’t worry. WordPress installs a basic theme to get you started, we can completely change that. We’re just checking it’s up and working
How to create a website: Step#5 Designing your website
So you have a website… kinda.
But we want to make it your own. You have an idea of what you want it to do and probably an idea of how you want it to look.
Let’s start to customize it and make it our own. Time to introduce the website builder component of WordPress Starting with:
Step 1 – Choosing a theme for your website
A WordPress theme is like the foundation of your website design. There are thousands of them, all with their own unique feel, often with different features. The good news is, there are thousands upon thousands of free themes.
But then, the bad thing about WordPress themes is there are thousands of themes, so how do you pick?
There are plenty of sites that have pages called “best free WordPress themes” so that’s a good place to start.
If you have an idea what you’re looking for, like a minimalist feel, or a business website, then just Google it:
“Best minimalist free WordPress themes”
It’s also time you get introduced to www.WordPress.org
This is the site that has the official directory of WordPress related things, including themes. They have a list of the most popular themes that you might find useful.
Personally, I prefer to Google it, because in my mind I have an idea what I’m looking for and someone will have created a top 10 list for me. But it’s just my personal preference many people like to use the official directory.
You can try both until you find a theme you like and remember it’s not like you can’t change it later on. It takes minutes, so don’t allow yourself to get stuck with indecision.
You need to download the theme onto your computer/laptop. It will come as a zip file.
Step 2 – Installing your WordPress theme
This next part is super essential. This is how you’re going to access your WordPress platform to be able to design and add content to your site. To access your site, you need this URL:
So, it’s the domain name, followed by / and then wp-admin
This will take you to a login page, where you add the login details you were given when you installed the WordPress on your hosting 5 minutes ago.
Welcome to your WordPress dashboard.
Very simple, right?
The left-hand sidebar is where you’ll find nearly everything you need, so try to get used to it. That’s about as complicated web development is going to be. You can literally make a website in an hour, and this is how:
Go to Appearances, and choose Themes from the options you get as you hover of it.
Now you need to install your new theme by clicking Add New.
Now click Upload Theme and Choose file when it appears.
After the installation is done, click on the “Activate” button that will appear in place of the “Install” button.
Every theme has slightly different features, but they tend to mostly be in the same place and you’ll quickly learn to navigate them.
But, for the sake of getting you started, I’m going to pick a theme that has some good features, it’s free and I can use it to show you how you can now start to design your site.
The theme is called Neve, it’s in the WordPress library, which you can get here
Follow the previous steps to install it and activate it. This has got some preset designs that are good quality and super easy to use.
Step 3 – Optimizing your WordPress theme
Like I just mentioned, there are some pre-set designs to use, for this demo we’re going to use the Original set.
Click the original image and click import. Wait for it to import and then click View Website
Now, you have to admit, that’s a pretty good looking site for a beginner, with no experience, and in less than an hour.
To get back to the dashboard, at the top of the page you will see the home icon. Hover over that and click dashboard.
Step 4 – adding a logo
I’m going to assume you have a logo. But if you haven’t you can create a logo here for free.
Go to Appearance → Neve Options then click on the link for Upload Logo
Introducing the content optimizer
If you need to make changes to your website, in terms of layout and design, you’ll find yourself here so it’s a good idea to get comfortable with the features and changes you can make. Have a play and a click. See what you can change. As long as you don’t click the publish button which will save the changes you make, you can have a play around.
In our case, we’re adding our new logo
So we click on the Logo option – Select logo
You should see your logo in the corner of the page shortly.
When you click Publish, it will stay there
Click on the “Publish” button when done (the top left corner), and then click on the “X” button to exit the Customizer.
Step 5 – Change your website’s color scheme and fonts
Every theme comes with default colors for the theme, but you can change them easily enough.
Again, you’ll need to end up at the content customizer page which you can get to via the lefthand sidebar: Appearance → Neve Options → Change colors and fonts
First, click on Set Colors
You have a few options to play around with and change the colors.
Most themes have the same color options:
– Text color
– Link color
– Link hover color
Again, have a play around with it. You’ll see them change color in real-time so you can see how your changes look.
Click on the color and you can see a color palette, you can also put the color code in if you know it.
Once you’re happy with the changes you’ve made, click in the publish button at the top and it will save your changes
Step 6 – Do you want to add a sidebar?
If you are creating a blog, you might think about adding a sidebar, they’re pretty useful. It’s not necessary, it’s completely a style and function thing.
Again, we can access those features by the same route.
Appearance → Neve Options → Content / Sidebar
You have three main options here
- no sidebar
- sidebar to the left
- sidebar to the right
Select your option and click publish again
For the sake of this training, choose one of the options tor having a sidebar, you can simply remove it later if you don’t want one.
Now let’s add some cool stuff to our sidebar
Widgets. That’s the name of the components we add in the sidebar. There are plenty of free ones, and some paid ones too. Lets have a look at some of the free options to get you started.
From the main dashboard again. Appearance → Widgets.
On the left-hand side, under Available Widgets, you have the options you can choose from. On the right-hand side, we have the widgets currently in our sidebar.
You can simply drag them in and drag them out, as you wish. You can change the order by dragging them too.
There are so many options, it’s difficult to tell you what you should choose. At this point, you can have a play around, it takes seconds to add and remove them and you should get a feel for them.
How to create a website: Step#6 Adding pages & blog posts
Websites will have most, if not all of the following pages:
- About page
- Contact page
- Services page
Let’s look at an existing page, for example, the homepage. And then I’ll explain how you create a new page.
1 – Homepage
As we are using Neve we have the homepage already set up.
But, you can edit the structure of this page as well as the elements on it (all texts and images).
To be able to do that, you need to go to the main WordPress dashboard, and select Pages → All Pages
As you hover over the page, you will be presented with some options. You need to pick Edit with Elementor
Website building has never been this easy thanks to site builders like Elementor. The king of free website builders.
Elementor is what is known as a web site builder. A front end builder. This means you get to see what you’re doing as you change the page, without knowing any code.Making a website has never been so easy.
I like Elementor because it’s probably one of the easiest to use. You have to understand that even thought websites look fluid, but they are actually built with blocks or columns.
You create a section, decide how many columns are inside it, then add ready-made elements in each column. That could be an image, text, a button.
Editing existing elements – you can change the feel and content of existing elements. You click on the element on the page, and you can write directly on the page, or the box appears on the left sidebar, together with a whole host of features.
Creating new elements – You can remove elements, add new ones pretty easily. You could even start with a completely blank page and start to add the elements you want to.
The great thing about Elementor is, it’s intuitive. There are thousands of videos on Youtube, showing you how to do the basics, how to use every single component, and change the format and features.
For example, you can change, color, font, size, formatting of each image. You can add shadow, dividers, boxes, and they all have different features too.
The best way to learn is to use it. It only takes a few hours, as an absolute beginner and you’ll be amazed by what you can learn to do with it in such a short amount of time.
2 – Creating a new page
Start by making sure you’re in your WordPress dashboard. Click Pages → Add Page from the lefthand sidebar
Add the title for your page, click Save Draft
Now it’s time to start creating our page. The easiest way to do this is by using Elementor – click the big Elementor button to get started.
Now the page is your canvas!
Using the Elementor you can start to build your site, once section at a time. Maybe you want to start with a header, then some text? Maybe a testimonial next or a button?
It’s really straightforward and easy to learn. As I’ve said there are thousands of Youtube videos to get you started.
The good news is, that all pages go through the same process. You just add different features to the pages. Contact us, gallery, service page, etc.
How to create a website: #7 Setting up the Menu
You have your WordPress installed, you have a theme, a sidebar maybe. You know how to add new pages, and you’re learning how to design those pages using Elementor, with the help of some playing around or YouTube.
The only thing left to do is the menu.
You want all your new pages (or at least some) to be findable and the best way to do that is to add them to the menu.
From your WordPress dashboard, you can get to the menu section by Appearance → Menus
You need to make sure the Primary menu is ticked in the Display Location, as it is in the example above.
The pages you can add are on the left half of the page, the menu layout is on the right.
Now just tick the pages you want to add to the menu and click Add Menu
Once they are added, you can drag and change the order, and even move things to be in a submenu On the example here, Example page is under About Us
You can create blog posts too.
There is a section on the WordPress dashboard called Posts, it works identically to Pages, so you can also now create posts. All you need to do now is decide what content to create because website design is important content is king!
If you’ve followed along with the blog, you should now have a website of your own. Hopefully, I’ve answered the question of how to create a website, for next to nothing (about $50 for the year to create a website.).
You’ve actually done the most complicated tasks associated with a website builder, you have actually learned how to set up a website, now you just have to learn the features of Elementor, which has been designed with complete beginners in mind, so you can learn how to make a website for every occasion. Please, don’t be intimidated by it.
Of course, the options are endless, when it comes to websites, especially using WordPress. You’d be amazed at the sites in the world that are built on WordPress. Like Skype, Microsoft, BBC America.
But you can put a simple site together and if we’re being honest, people like simple sites because they give a better user experience on a mobile device.
I pick a domain, that’s the first step. It needs to be unique so go to our future hosting company to make sure it’s available. Shorter is better, easier read too.
Once we’ve picked the domain, we now select our hosting plan. We’ve used Bluehost in the example because they’re cheap, offer good support, and give free domains and SSL certificates.
I also love how easy it is to set up a WordPress install so I’m all ready to build a website.
I added a Theme. There are thousands of free versions to make your website look unique, and they have some great look and feel. I use the theme called Neve because it allows us to build the pages using Elementor, which is one of the best website builders because for a website builder it’s super easy to use for beginners.
Now you can become a king of website design. You can design a sleek looking business website or attractive blog posts for your personal blog. It’s never been easier to publish your website, and now that you can create a web page and publish your website you can share it with the world via social media.
Website building has never been easier.
Purchasing your domain – Get your domain registrar to be the same as your hosting provider. If you have a different domain registrar to your hosting provider, it adds another step of having to point your domain at your hosting, which isn’t too difficult, but unnecessary.
Picking the right web host – I’ve mentioned it before, but you want a web host that will take care of you. You’ve limited information so you need a web hosting service that will help with anything technical. Some web hosts will, other web hosts will just point you to the knowledgebase. That’s why we recommend Bluehost as your web hosting service.
Images make for a great site. Content is important, but so are images. There are plenty of sites with stock photos, plenty free as well. Don’t use the most popular stock photos because they get used by thousands of sites, especially if it’s for a business website. You start to recognize the business images of handshakes and smiling workers. Make your web presence unique.
Connect social media. We all know social media is important and there are so many social media channels these days. Having your favorite social media channels connected to your website is a trust signal for search engines and will help users interact with you on social media too. Maybe share your posts on their social media.
Create your web pages for search engines. There is something called search engine optimization. It’s a business in itself. It’s creating your site to give search engines what they want so they help other people find the site too. Part of search engine optimization is connecting social media profiles, another creating blog posts regularly. Be aware it exists so people can find your site.
Website builders. Elementor is one of the most popular website builders out there because it’s easy to use and also because it’s so cheap. There are others, they offer something. If you take to building sites, try the different builders especially the front end website builders, that means you can see what you’re doing when you design.
If you have not started to build a website yet, then the first step is to make a start. The first step is always the most important. Choose a domain name and buy some hosting, it will force you to get into website creation properly. You will have spent $40-50 and that should be enough of a kick to get you started.
You can’t build a website for free. Not with the same amount of control. Free websites have their place but they are limited. If you can afford the $50 you need for hosting and a domain, with a good quality of website builder the sky the limit.