Hi. My name is George and I’m a 43-year-old software engineer, which is another way to say programmer.
I’ve been building websites since the dawn of the internet (that’s a bit more than 20 years), and I have helped hundreds of people build theirs, either for free or as part of my job.
I got tired of having to teach these same things every time someone asked me how to do it, so I decided to write this stuff here for anyone to see, for FREE.
Do you want to make your own website, without paying huge web developer fees?
If the answer is yes, then you are in the right place, and you won’t believe how easy it is if you follow the 3 easy steps that I have detailed in this guide.
Can I really build my own website?
Yes. If you follow the three (3) easy steps detailed in this page, you will have the first version of your site online, in less than an hour.
Here’s an example of what you can build (e.g. a small business’s website) if you follow this free step-by-step guide:
It will probably take you more time to read this guide than actually start your website!
But I’m not a web developer, how can I possibly do that?
99% of all websites are extremely easy to self-build, without you having to be a computer geek and without learning to code.
In this guide you will learn how to:
- Get a domain and host for your site,
- install in one click the basic platform (WordPress) for publishing your content, and
- parameterize it: choose an nice appearance for it, upload your logo, change the basic colors, etc.
Then, everything, like:
- posting new content,
- editing existing one,
- uploading media files,
- managing the site and
- engaging with your visitors,
requires no more “skills” other than being able to type in a Word Processor program like MS Word.
It’s as easy as posting status updates on Facebook.
It’s so easy to build your own website these days, that I don’t believe it every time I hear that someone paid $500 or $5,000 USD for a simple website, like a 10-page site for a small business with a “contact us” form, or a local news site, or a simple products’ presentation for a small shop, etc.
Is this guide free? Do I have to download something or give you my email?
Yes, it is free, and you really don’t have to download anything or give me your email.
Just keep reading and follow the detailed instructions.
So will I become a web developer / designer all of sudden?
No, you won’t.
And you’re not going to build Facebook or something, and your site is not going to win any design contests.
It will however be beautiful, fully functioning, responsive (which means that it will work perfectly on mobiles and tablets), and best of all, it will cost you nothing, except for hosting and domain costs.
How much will it cost me exactly?
There are the only two costs associated with having your own website:
a) domain, and
The good thing is that they are negligible cost-wise, about two cups of Starbucks Grande Latte per month!
What is a domain and how much does it cost?
A domain is how people know you, e.g. www.your-site.com.
Getting your own domain will set you back around $10-30 per year. So it’s less than $1-3 per month.
What is hosting and how much does it cost?
Hosting a site means that you rent some hard disk and CPU space in a “web server” (which is a computer that is connected to the internet and serves your site to the visitors).
I know it sounds kind of complicated, but all you really need to know now is that hosting will cost you around $3-20 USD per month for a simple website with modest traffic (up to 20k visitors per day – which is A LOT).
The costs can rise if you have a super busy site with many thousands of visitors daily, but this is usually a nice problem to have!
But I’m not a technical person, what if I fail?
Even though making your own site is extremely simple, I understand that you might be afraid it might get too complicated for you along the way, and fear that all the work you have done will go to waste.
However, the good part is that if you give it a go, and for some reason you later decide to drop it and hire someone else to do it for you, you’ll still have to write the contents, and you’ll still have to pay for your own hosting and domain, so none of the work you have done will be thrown away.
What is WordPress and why is it the best platform for beginners?
WordPress is the platform that powers over half the sites on the internet! (source)
It is estimated that more than 50% of all the sites on the internet are built on WordPress, and some sources raise this number up to 70%, while some more conservative ones say it’s around 20%.
What really matters is that it surpasses all the other platforms by a lot, leaving Joomla and Drupal to share less than 15% combined.
Why is WordPress so successful?
- It’s super user-friendly to install and configure.
- It’s super easy to manage, post & edit content.
- It’s constantly updated, which means it’s very secure.
- It’s extremely expandable with thousands of plugins and themes (templates).
- It has very good support via the millions of people using it and the huge resources dedicated to it.
- It’s available in 164 languages.
- It’s free and open source.
How far can I go with WordPress?
The sky is the limit. Here are just a few well-known sites that are built with WordPress:
This is only a handful. There are literally millions!
So let’s begin with the first step you have to do to make your first WordPress site:
Step 1: Get a Domain
How can I get a domain?
The companies that sell (or more precisely rent) domains are called registrars, and there are thousands of them.
When you visit their website, the first thing you can do is search for a domain you’d like to get.
As long as a domain is available (meaning: nobody else has already taken it), you can buy it for a year.
You are actually “renting” it for a year, and as long as you keep paying the yearly rental fee (called “domain renewal cost”), it will remain yours.
All of the registrars allow you to search for your desired domain with the extension of your preference (e.g. .com, .net, .org, etc) and if it’s available, you can get it for a yearly fee.
Some Quick tips on good domain names
A good domain generally:
- Is relevant: If you are building a site for a business or a personal website, you should aim to get a domain like BusinessName.com or JohnSmith.com.
- Has a .com extension: Unless you are building a site for a specific country (like CanadianSite.ca), .com is usually your best bet. .net and .org are also good choices.
- Is short: Short domains like MariahsCrafts.com are easier to type, easier to remember and more brand-able than something like: MariahsCollectionOfCrafts.com.
- Is memorable: singing-bell.com is better than SBYKsongs.com.
- Is easy to type: Try to avoid numbers and dashes. People tend to forget them and they are much harder to type on mobile screens.
- Contains simple dictionary words: Pretty much self explanatory.
Ok, I found a nice domain domain that is available, what’s the next step?
Great. Here’s how you will buy it, along with the hosting:
Step 2: Get some Hosting
What is hosting?
Hosting is where you will place the code of your site, and where it will be served to the whole world from.
Practically this means that whenever someone in Alaska or Tokyo types www.your-site.com in their browser, they get instantly connected to the web server you are renting (which can reside anywhere in the world), which sends the page they requested back to them. That page is then loaded in their web browser.
Hosting companies charge a monthly (or yearly) fee to provide you some hard disk space, CPU space and bandwidth in their data-center.
There are thousands of hosting companies, and not all of them are created equal.
What is the best hosting company for me?
I highly recommend www.HawkHost.com. I’ve been with them for 4 years now and I’m really happy with their performance and prices.
Hosting starts at $2.24 per month for simple websites with modest traffic and for $15.99 month they offer some professional hosting plans that are extremely powerful and stable.
All my websites (including this one that you are now on) are hosted on their professional shared hosting plan called “semi-dedicated hosting”.
SPECIAL DISCOUNT: I’ve managed to secure an exclusive GoCreateWebsite.com DEAL: get a 30% recurring discount (recurring means forever, so every time you renew hosting, you’ll get the discount) in all their hosting plans. To get this deal, you’ll have to click this link (disclosure: affiliate link):
and then in the final step of the sign-up process enter GOCREATE as the Promo Code, and click “Validate Code”.
Any other good hosting companies out there?
Either way, you don’t have to be with any of these companies to follow this guide. Any host that supports 1-click install of WordPress will do, and almost all of them do.
(If you already have a host that doesn’t have a way to install WordPress with the click of a button, then you should probably go somewhere else!)
So how do I buy hosting and the domain?
Then I add the domain at the second screen, and check if it’s available, before proceeding with the purchase.
Some hosts also offer domain privacy. I always buy domain privacy to avoid spammers.
Ok, I bought the hosting, what’s the next step?
Soon after you buy a hosting plan, an email will arrive with information about how to access your hosting account. It will have some weird information like that:
This mail can be a bit scary at first sight, with lots of information and technical jargon, but the only important thing at this stage is your login credentials and the Control Panel (usually called cPanel) URL.
Note: URL is an acronym that practically means web address. So “http://www.MySite.com” and “https://www.MySite.com/page.html” are both URLs.
Click on the cPanel URL and log in with the login credentials you received in the above email:
And you will be taken to the control panel that most probably looks like this:
Installing WordPress with one click install
Here’s the typical way to install WordPress in the most common Control Panels:
Search for WordPress, or locate Softaculous.
Or you might be on a new cPanel theme:
Or you might see something like that in hosts like BlueHost:
Clicking the WordPress button will take you to this overview page. Click the “Install now” button:
In the following screen you will be asked to configure some very important stuff:
Congratulations! You made it! Your first site is ready:
You will also receive an email about it, keep it for future reference.
Here’s what your site looks like 🙂
I know, it’s not that impressive, but let’s make it a real site with real data.
In case you’re concerned about an empty website being already online, don’t worry: no one knows its web address (URL) and it doesn’t appear anywhere when you look it up on any search engine yet, so no one will see it (although they can if you tell them).
Step 3: Parameterise it, make it suit your needs
How do I manage the site?
First you have to go to the administrative URL, which typically is www.MyDomainName/wp-admin.
And this is the WordPress admin area dashboard, where you can manage all aspects of your site.
For example, to change the site’s appearance you have to click on Appearance->Themes.
How can I change my site’s looks?
By clicking Appearance->Themes you will be transferred to the themes area:
As you can see in this page, there are already 3 themes installed at your website for you to choose from.
By default, when you install WordPress, it uses a theme called twenty seventeen. My recommendation is to find another template that suits your needs.
How do I try on a new theme? Will I lose my data (posts and pages) when I change to a new theme?
You can try as many themes as you like without losing any data (posts, pages, images, etc). WordPress gives you a Live Preview of how the site will look with the new theme, and if you like it you can Activate it.
Where can I find other themes?
Changing the theme is the easy part. Deciding which one to use out of thousands of options is the difficult one 🙂
Here are some places that have free or premium themes:
1) Inside WordPress’s own theme directory which carries around 5,000 FREE themes.
2) Premium themes from WP dedicated companies or marketplaces that usually sell them with a license.
There are multiple companies and marketplaces on the net which offer free and premium WordPress themes that cover every imaginable subject, and usually add additional features to WordPress (like for example: advanced social media sharing options, job boards, etc).
One of the best marketplaces for premium WordPress themes from designers from all over the world is https://themeforest.net/.
3) Have a custom-built theme around your specific needs by a web designer.
Customizing a free or premium theme with you favorite colors, fonts, logo and menus, will be more than enough for 99% of sites, but if you really need something special, then you can hire a WordPress theme designer. However, this is really not something I recommend for your first website.
Any tips in selecting a theme, what should I look for?
The number one requirement for any theme these days is to be responsive. Responsive themes adjust their layout in different devices (desktop PCs, tablets, and smartphones) in order to fit smaller screens and display properly everywhere.
b) Widely tested
Themes that have been downloaded thousands of times are usually the most secure and feature-rich, and have proven to work well.
c) Offers multiple customization options
A good theme must be highly customizable. It should offer many different layouts, and options to add/remove menus, sidebars, footers, galleries, and more.
I’m lost, there are thousand of themes. Can you recommend one for me?
Sure! I’ve built multiple sites with these 4 themes:
a) Hueman by Press Customizr (FREE)
So if you try the first one (Hueman) the site becomes:
It’s quite clear at this point that the site lacks content! Let’s add some pages, articles and media.
How do I create my own pages?
WordPress out of the box offers pages and posts.
Posts usually carry information that is tied to a date, and when sorted in chronological order form a blog.
Pages usually carry information about the site that is not tied to a particular date.
You can have as many posts and pages as you like, or none at all.
If you write posts that document your daily life or work, then these are called blogs. A blog is really nothing more than a site with posts about a particular subject (e.g your life, your hobbies, your work, etc).
Most news sites are simply blogs, where each news article is simply a WordPress post, and they are displayed in reverse chronological order.
But I want to make a site about my small business, how can I create it myself?
So let’s say you own a pet store, and you want your site’s first page to describe what your store offers and where it is located.
You must create a page titled “About our pet store”, and write the text the same way you would type it in MsWord. Don’t forget to style it with headers, paragraphs, links and multimedia files (images and videos).
Always add relevant images or photos to your posts and pages. People get bored by reading large blocks of text, and images make articles easier to read.
How can I change the first page of the site to not show latest posts, but a static page instead?
Typically, WordPress shows a list of your latest posts on the first page (also called home page) of your site, along with the header, footer and sidebars.
This is what you have to do to change your first page to show a static page instead. Go to WordPress administration area (dashboard) and select Settings->Reading:
So now your site is like that:
Now that’s better, it has started to look a lot more like a real site!
Right now the site desperately needs a few more cosmetic customizations like adding your own menus, choosing more suitable colors, uploading your logo, etc.
Most of the changes in the WordPress appearance happen by selecting Appearance->Customize.
This is what you’ll see when trying customize this particular web theme (Hueman):
Navigate to “Web Page Design” -> “Site Identity : Logo, Title, Tagline And Site Icon” and upload your logo, change or remove the site’s tagline, and also check all available options for changing the site’s colors and menus.
Here’s an example of how this site can be after 10 minutes of editing the theme’s options:
WordPress is really intuitive in modifying and customizing. Most templates support multiple menus, different layouts, changing colors in everything, unlimited categories/subcategories, embedding videos, images, audio, etc.
Plugins: What are WordPress plugins and why are they needed?
Plugins add additional functionality to WordPress. They can either be given for free download or sold, but the majority of their creators only ask for your donations optionally.
For example, let’s say you want to have a contact form where visitors can send you a message (“contact us” page). This functionality is not directly supported by WordPress, but you can very easily implement it with a plugin.
The most popular one for this job is Contact Form 7. There are many other plugins that offer this functionality, but this particular one has some impressive stats:
As you can see it has over a million active installations, and it’s rated really high, so I definitely recommend it for this functionality.
There are thousands plugins that cover every imaginable functionality, from putting social sharing buttons (Facebook, Twitter, etc) on each page, to turning your WordPress site to an e-shop, to handing membership accounts with online payments, to running classifieds, to running beautiful photography sites with galleries and portfolios, …you name it!
Some common questions and answers, and a few WordPress tips
How do I customize my site’s URLs to be like www . myDomainName . com / my-custom-page-title?
WordPress by default uses this URL format for your articles: www.myDomainName.com/p=3245. It’s highly advisable to change this format to www.myDomainName.com/my-custom-page-title. You can do this by going to Settings->permalinks:
Any tips about crafting beautiful posts or pages?
This question deserves a post on its own, but here are the best tips I can give you in 2 lines:
No, it’s not OK to copy text or images from other sites or wikipedia, and post it in your site.
Craft your own original content if you want to get any love from google and user engagement.
Try to write lengthy posts, google likes them, and use images or videos to break large blocks of text and make them easier to read.
What is the exact process to check if a domain is available?
I’ve written a detailed guide on how to check if a domain is available for registration.
Can you help me (but I don’t have money to pay you)?
Yes, I can!
You can ask your question by filling in this contact form, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible. No guarantees are made, of course, as this will be made on my free time, but generally I try to answer all questions the day I get them.
Do yourself a favor before spending a few thousand dollars to have a website created “professionally”, try it yourself!
So what are you waiting for? Go Create your Website NOW!