If you’re looking to get your name out there, either to gain personal attention or for business, it is still important to have a website. Sure it’s great to have other social media channels such as twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. set up. However, those channels are just part of a larger marketing arsenal. Building your own website lets you have a voice not limited by characters. It allows you to send a message to your customers or followers the way you want to. While the internet exists it will always make sense to have a website.
Luckily, today it is much easier to create your own website. Building a website used to be something reserved for large companies with huge budgets. Today anybody can get set up with a website with virtually no coding or design skills. You can have a basic site up and running in less than an hour.
While there are tools that make creating a website easier, unfortunately there are so many options that it can be confusing. This guide is meant to set you in the right direction regarding what type of setup to use based on your needs, what each option is, and how to go about doing it.
This is an extremely comprehensive article with over 3800 words. If you want to skip straight to the good stuff, simply check out the table of contents and click on the link that interests you the most.
- Who is this Website guide for?
- Who is this Guide not for?
- What is a Domain Name
- How Much Does A Domain Cost
- Domain Name Extensions
- Where To Get A Domain
- Cost of Hosting
- Website Building Tools
- Types of Website Building Tools
- Website Builders
- What is a Website Builder
- Free vs. Paid Website Builder
- Cost of a Website Builder
- Building a Site with a Website Builder
- Popular Website Builders
- Who Should Use a Website Builder
- Blogging Software
- Starting Your Blog
- What is WordPress
- WordPress Themes
- WordPress Plugins
- Cost of WordPress
- Installing WordPress
- Customizing WordPress
- Choosing the Right WordPress Theme
- Adding WordPress Plugins
- Who Should Use WordPress
- Pros of WordPress
- Cons of WordPress
- Ecommerce Software
- What is Ecommerce Software
- Popular Ecommerce Software Site Builders
- Cost of an Ecommerce Site Builder
- Features of Ecommerce Software
- Building a Site with Ecommerce Software
- Designing Your Ecommerce Store
- Who Should Use an Ecommerce Site Builder
- Pros of an Ecommerce Site Builder
- Cons of an Ecommerce Site Builder
Who is this Website guide for?
Who is this Guide not for?
If you’re looking for a paid version, there are companies that give online classes on this subject. A few of them are:
If you’re looking for free tutorials on web design, I’d have to say that your best best is going to Lynda.com. There are tons of tutorials on design with tools like Photoshop.
If you’re looking for paid classes, you could probably find some good ones on Udemy.com.
What is a Domain Name
A domain name is your address on the internet. When you hear someone say “google.com”, or “www.google.com”, they are referring to google’s domain name. Domain names are unique. If a domain that you want is taken you can either try to contact that person to try to purchase it from them or simply look for a different variation. 9 out of 10 times it is better to simply look for a variation that no one has since it is cheaper.
How Much Does A Domain Cost
A domain name’s cost will depend on a combination of factors such as it’s availability, extension, and where you’re buying it from. If you’re buying a “.com” domain name and it’s readily available you shouldn’t pay more than US $10 per year.
If you use a Website Builder or Ecommerce Site Builder, they will offer allow you to get an available domain for free.
Remember, just because you purchase a domain it doesn’t meant that you own a website. You still have to get hosting, which is where you’ll store the files for your website.
Domain Name Extensions
The most common domain names are “.com”,”.net”, and “.org”. The “.com” extension is the most common and therefore is almost always recommended when deciding on a domain name. “.net” has become more common but as of 2016 it still doesn’t “feel” as official as “.com”. “.org” is usually best for non for profit or community organizations.
There are new domain name extensions being created every year. Which one you choose is a matter of personal preference and technically will not affect the performance of your site.. Some are cheaper than others. I still stick to “.com” just because it has been around the longest and it looks less gimmicky. With time I’m sure other domain extensions will become popular but that’s my personal preference.
Where To Get A Domain
There are companies known as domain registrars where you can get a domain. If you just want to get a domain, here are a list of companies from where you can check to see if your domain is available and if it is buy it immediately with a credit card or a paypal account:
Also, if you use a website builder or an ecommerce site builder, they will give you the domain for free. If you still aren’t sure as to what you’ll be using, hold off on buying the domain.
Hosting is the place where you’ll store the files for your website. All of the pictures and designs you upload have to be stored somewhere and that’s where the hosting comes in. Think of it as the rent you pay for your website. Some of the same sites that let you buy a domain also offer hosting:
Cost of Hosting
Hosting costs are usually fixed month to month. They can go for as little as US$4.95 a month to as much as US$250 or higher a month. While there are many factors that determine your cost of hosting, the biggest one will be your bandwidth requirements. Without getting too technical a rule of thumb is that the more visitors you have and the more complicated your site is, the more bandwidth you will need.
Unless you know you will have 500,000 visitors a month you will probably qualify for the cheapest plans.
Hosting companies offer different plan packages. Some are month to month which can be canceled at any time. Some you can pay for months in advance. The more months in advance you pay for, the cheaper it comes out to. If you have an established business it makes sense to pay upfront. Even if your needs change and you need a better plan, most hosting services are flexible and will apply the proper discount.
If you’re using a website builder or an ecommerce site builder, hosting is already included in the monthly price you’re paying. There is no additional cost for hosting.
Website Building Tools
Website building tools are exactly what they sound like. They make it very simple for you to build a website because they come packaged with two types of templates: a coding template or a design template. Since it’s built this way, it makes it easy for a non technical person to make a website. If you can use Microsoft Word, then you can build a website.
Types of Website Building Tools
All of the tools mentioned in this post are also known as Content Management Systems (CMS). There are lots of them out there, but for the sake of this article I want to break down these tools into three categories:
- Website Builders
- Blogging Software
- Ecommerce Software
Technically, all of these categories can do the same functions. However, in my experience, there are some tools that are better depending on what it is that you want to do with the site.
What is a Website Builder
Usually when you hear the term Website Builder, you’re referring to a company that allows you to build a website by just dragging and dropping elements of the site. They come with prepackaged design templates. Some website builders will have 100s of templates while others will literally have 1000s to choose from.
The templates are categorized based on what type of business or hobby site you are trying to create.
They will usually come with a free version and a paid version.
Free vs. Paid Website Builder
Website builders will either allow you to build a site on their platforms for free or give you a free trial, usually 14 days. If you are serious about creating a website and you decide to use a website builder you usually want to upgrade to the paid version.
The free version will have the website builder’s ads and logos on your site. You will also have more restrictions as far as access to design templates and your domain name will technically be under their domain name.
With the paid version you don’t have as many restrictions and you actually own your site. People don’t realize this.
If you have a page on another property, you do not own it and you can lose the page at any time. For example, if you have a Facebook page, Facebook can take it away from you at any time due to a change in policies.
It doesn’t make sense to build up a property that you don’t own. If you do opt to choose a website builder, once you’ve tried it out and feel comfortable with it, make sure to opt for the paid version.
Cost of a Website Builder
Website builders offer monthly plans. If you pay for the year, your monthly costs will be less. There is always the option of paying month to month.
There are plans from good website builders that start for as little as US$6.95 per month.
When you pay for a website builder some of the features include a free domain and free hosting.
Building a Site with a Website Builder
Website builders are created with the purpose of making it as easy as possible for a non technical person to build a site. If you can click, drag, & drop, then you can build a site with this software.
When you visit a website builder you can sign up and simply follow the instructions. Some will urge you to pay right away, but you can try out a free version at worse for 14 days.
They tell you step by step how to choose a domain and what design templates are available. Once you’ve chosen a template, you decide what you want to type and what parts of your template you want to change by simply selecting an element and dragging it.
It really is that simple
Popular Website Builders
Here is a list of the most popular website builders:
Who Should Use a Website Builder
I think website builders best meet the needs of local business owners that are simply looking to showcase their products. If you’re a business looking to generate leads for your site you can use a website builder but I do think there are better options.
As a local business you most likely aren’t going to have bandwidth issues and building an elegant site is straightforward and affordable.
You don’t have to worry about hiring designers and coders. When you think of the general cost of hiring someone to build a website and compare it to a website builder the choice is obvious.
Starting Your Blog
Whether you are starting out your own 1 person business or you want to voice your expertise on a certain subject matter, blogging is the best way to get this done. Throughout the years there have been many blogging software companies but the undisputed king is WordPress.
What is WordPress
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that lets you blog with ease. When you log into a wordpress account, you have a very intuitive backend that allows you to type as if you were typing a word document. WordPress then structures what you’ve written based on the themes and plugins you have already installed.
There are themes and plugins available for free and/or paid.
There are many marketplaces that dedicate themselves to selling different WordPress themes. Since WordPress has been around for so long, there are many more options as far as choosing a theme. Themes cost anywhere from $US35 – $US250, but on average you can get a good theme for about $US50.
Depending on the licensing, some themes can be used on various sites. The themes themselves are editable so you can have the same theme on different sites but with a different color scheme and layout.
Themes are easy to install. You simply go to Appearance > Themes, you choose the theme you want to install and that’s it.
WordPress plugins are add ons that let you do more things with your site. Whatever you can think of most likely WordPress has a plugin for it. There are plugins for adding code, contact forms, making your site easier to optimize for SEO, and email popups just to name a few.
WordPress has a vast library of plugins that have been time tested and most of them are available for free. Even if you feel the need to get a paid version of a plugin, it usually is at a very affordable price.
Usually no more than $US20.
Cost of WordPress
Technically, WordPress by itself is free. It is free with any respectable hosting company. The catch is you’ll need to get a hosting company and a domain name.
I mention how to get a domain name and a hosting company previously in this post. Here is a quick list of companies where you can get both.
If you are pretty sure you will build lots of traffic to your site (100+k visitors per month), you will want to sign up with Wpengine.com. They are more expensive, but they are perfect for WordPress sites when it comes to optimization of speed and reliability.
Once you are have signed up to a hosting company and have a domain name, you’ll want to install WordPress. If you used any of the web hosting companies that I’ve mentioned, then when you’ll log in you’ll be logged into something called Cpanel.
If you scroll down, you’ll see an option for WordPress. You click on it and there will be a step by step screen asking you questions for your install.
When you get to the question regarding whether or not you want your password and username info sent to an email address, I usually fill that out. It’s important to have that information on hand.
Once you complete the steps and your installation is successful, you’ll be given a url to go to that will allow you to log onto the backend of your wordpress site.
It usually looks something like this: yourdomainname.com/wp-admin.
You log on with the username and password you’ve just created and voila, you’re in!
Choosing the Right WordPress Theme
Once you have your wordpress installed you’ll most likely see a very plain page. How you change the look of your site will depend on the purpose of your site and the audience you are writing for.
If you are creating a personal blog then you will be fine with the free theme provided. Eleven Forty works well. Most themes are responsive, so they will change elements on the site automatically so they can look good on mobile devices and tablets.
However if you are working on a site for a business, an audience where design and art are important or to create a brand you’ll want to go with a paid theme.
Some popular theme marketplaces are :
Adding WordPress Plugins
WordPress will usually come installed with two plugins, Hello Dolly and Akismet. Akismet is meant to help you filter through spam comments while Hello Dolly, well, I don’t think anyone knows what Hello Dolly is for.
I usually delete it.
While you don’t necessarily have to install any more plugins, I do usually find myself adding the following plugins:
Those plugins will help keep statistics on your site such as who is visiting them and for how long. They also help with making your site easier to find on Google. You may not understand their full purposes now but when you do you’ll be glad you installed them.
They are free to install so make sure you do.
Who Should Use WordPress
If you are looking into becoming a professional blogger then you should be using WordPress. If you have a business that needs to generate leads WordPress is compatible with lead generation tools such as Unbounce and Leadpages. They also have themes like Thrive that help.
WordPress has a bit of a learning curve when it comes to design since each theme will have it’s own process.
However, when it comes to publishing content, writing articles, and editing them with photos, there is nothing simpler.
Pros of WordPress
-So popular that most writers are familiar with the platorm
-You can hire coders to make specific plugins and/or themes
Cons of WordPress
-Higher learning curve when comparing it to website builders
-So many options that it can cause analysis by paralysis
-Sometimes the plugins make loading time slower. That becomes more of an issue once your site gains more traffic. At that point you may have to upgrade your hosting
What is Ecommerce Software
Ecommerce software allows you to build a site with the purpose of selling online. They are an alternative to selling on Ebay and Amazon. While Ebay and Amazon are great as far as volume of traffic is concerned, they do take big chunks of commission. Not only that, but you do not own the customer as you do with an ecommerce sites.
Ecommerce software offers many design templates, free or paid. They also offer easy integration with social media channels and seller sites such as amazon,etsy, and ebay. Ecommerce site builders have become more and more sophisticated over the years.
Now you can easily sync with your POS system as far as tracking inventory is concerned. You can also use your own payment processor, accept multiple payment methods, or use whatever payment processor is partnered up with the site.
Most ecommerce site builders will offer you a free trial, usually for 14 days. After that you will have to pay if you want to use one.
Popular Ecommerce Software Site Builders
Two of the most popular ones I’ve seen and recommend because of ease of use are:
Cost of an Ecommerce Site Builder
Since ecommerce software allows you to build an online business in a matter of hours they do charge a bit more than more traditional sites. On average, you’ll pay less than $US30 per month on the most basic packages.
When you realize the capabilities you’ll have for selling your products the cost is low in comparison.
Features of Ecommerce Software
- Ecommerce site software lets you accept many methods of payment
- Through apps they let you sync with other selling channels
- Adding a domain is easy. If you don’t have one you can set one up through the site
- The cost of hosting is already included. They use more powerful servers then regular hosting
Building a Site with Ecommerce Software
The initial set up process is as easy as filling out a form. Once you go to the ecommerce software site of your choice, you sign up.
During the sign up process they will ask you what your site domain will be. If you use the free trial, you will have a domain name under their domain.
So for example, if you were to use Shopify, your domain would be yourdomainname.myshopify.com.
Once you get the paid version, you can either add a domain that you have purchased or you can get the domain through Shopify itself at no additional cost.
Designing Your Ecommerce Store
There are a good 20-30 templates that come free on these sites. The ecommerce sites usually have an app store that allows syou to choose from templates and plugins you may want to add down the road.
As always, the premium templates are usually better. You can get a good one for around $US99 and it will look as good as a $US5000 designed website.
Once you’re done with the basic setup it’s important to follow through on your basic settings. Important settings include your tax information, setting up your payment processor, and setting up the payment methods that you’ll accept.
There are more advanced settings such as adding your Google Analytics and Facebook Pixels that should be added but that’s beyond the scope of this article.
From there the next logical step is to start adding your products. You can add the title, description, price, and picture. You can decide if you want the store to track inventory or not.
Who Should Use an Ecommerce Site Builder
If you are serious about selling online and you have a large selection of physical products to sell then should consider using Ecommerce Software. You can also sell digital products through this software if need be, but there are other options that allow you to setup a simple system to accept payments and deliver the digital product.
Many people that start out in ecommerce usually start through dropshipping, and these sites are the ideal solution. If you have a local retail store and you deliver, this type of software can also come in handy as well.
Pros of an Ecommerce Site Builder
-Already setup with conversion optimization in mind
-Many templates and apps available to improve sales
-Easy integration with social media and selling channels
Cons of an Ecommerce Site Builder
-It is more expensive than traditional web hosting
-Support is improving, but sometimes it is bad when it comes to partnering with other programs
Hopefully this guide has helped you learn a bit more about websites, how to create one, and what option would best suit you. We will try to add more information with time and keep the guide as up to date as possible.