So, you want to know how to make a website, well...what a question that is. As you can imagine, deciding to make a website opens up all kinds of possibilities from framework choice to content strategy to design direction to maybe commissioning a web agency to complete the work etc, but sometimes all that's required is a simple step-by-step answer. So here, I'll attempt to answer that in the most simplest terms possible;
Choose Your Website Platform
In order to build a website, the first thing you'll need to consider is what platform or framework you’re going to build your website with.
Back in the day, most sites were created using HTML, CSS and PHP. Each of these took a lot of time to learn and were difficult to perfect, which is why most people still think setting up a website from scratch is difficult or requires tonnes of Zuckerberg-esque code with design skills that match Apple, BUT thats not true. Not anymore...
In 2021, content management systems (CMS) like WordPress have made creating a website an achievable goal for almost everyone.
A CMS is a user-friendly platform for building websites and managing online content that essentially replaces creating a website from scratch using HTML, PHP and other coding languages.
Take our website for example; it's a custom site built in React JS using server-less deployment platform called Netlify, which specialises is static deploys. It uses an Uber attractive CMS called forestry.io. Hell, its even been showcased on the official Forestry Showcase page for great sites built with that specific CMS!
However, having a website like this is a benefit of having an in-house React JS expert, which isn't really the norm for most businesses. The aforementioned Wordpress CMS system is an excellent choice when it comes to making a website and in our opinion a far better option than the heavily marketed Web Builders you'll have seen everywhere.
Why use WordPress and not website builders?
It’s FREE and open-source
Unlike website builders or web design software, WordPress doesn’t cost a dime to download, install or use. It’s built by web developers and there’s a large developer community who have designed beautiful free themes and templates, making it easy to get going fast.
It’s customisable and user-friendly
WordPress can be easily expanded with free add-ons to handle just about any site you can imagine – from small business brochure websites to bigger e-commerce sites. With WordPress “plugins” you’ll be able to add contact forms, subscription forms, image galleries, stores and so on for your website.
Your site will work on smartphones & tablets
Mobile users are key, which is great because the website you build will instantly be responsive and display well for most mobile users, looking great on every mobile device, smartphone and tablet. No need to hire a web developer for that.
We build all our sites in WordPress
Check out some samples of the great sites we've created on Wordpress platforms.
Choose a Relevant Domain and Hosting Solution
In order to get a new website online, there are two things that you’re going to need:
- A custom domain name (a web address like yoursitename.com) from a domain registrar.
- Website Hosting (a service that connects your site to the internet)
Having a quality hosting service will also help you make sure that your website won’t go down and loads quickly, which is very important for your visitors and optimisation within search engines. There are two types of hosting to look at;
Dedicated hosting - having dedicated hosting for your website ensures a unique IP address for your site.
Shared hosting - offered regularly by many a large hosting provider, shared hosting is exactly what it sounds like. You’ll share a server with countless other websites and all use the same IP or derivative of.
Where do I get a domain name and hosting?
We use Flywheel as the service is geared towards agencies offering staging sites, backups and excellent speeds.
Of course, you can try other web hosting providers and even try to host your site by yourself, but it’s a very complicated process and often wouldn’t be capable of serving your website visitors. So save yourself some money and get a proper web host.
Configure An SSL Certificate
A secure sockets layer (SSL) on your website means data sent to your website’s visitors is kept secure. SSL is an important search ranking factor, and it’s essential to ensure a positive user experience by prioritising user privacy and security.
All hosting companies will offer an SSL and some methods are easier to install than others. Personally, I find the SSL offered by Cloudflare the easiest and quickest to install, plus its free. Some hosting companies charge yearly for an SSL certificate. Companies like Cloudflare and LetsEncrypt are providing this for free, ensuring security and privacy is a basic free right. Within search engine optimization, priority is given to sites that are SSL secured.
Its Time To Install Wordpress
Almost all well-established and reliable web hosting companies have integrated one-click installation for WordPress these days.
You should find your “one-click installation” either in the account creation process or in your account control panel likely called cPanel.
A common way to install Wordpress is via Softaculous, a package installer within cPanel.
Choose a Theme for Your Site
WordPress themes are design templates that make changing your site’s looks a lot quicker and easier.
Luckily, WordPress has loads of themes to choose from. The official WordPress theme directory alone contains more than 8,000, which are completely free to use.
You can access themes directly from within WordPress without having to navigate to an external site.
Simply navigate to Appearance > Themes, and select one of the themes or for custom sites click on the '+' sign and upload the zip file for your theme (THEMENAME.zip). After this step, click on activateand install the required plugins needed for the theme to work properly.
If what’s available in the official theme directory doesn’t suit your needs, check out premium digital content theme markets such as:
Add Content To Your Pages
Before getting to site customization, you need to have some content on your site.
After all, it’s hard to customize your site when there’s nothing on it to show the changes. What you need in terms of fresh content will vary depending on the subject matter of your site and your goals.
However, there are a few key pages that nearly every site has:
- Homepage - when building your home page, ensure the navigation menu/navigation bar is visible, clear and easy to use, the search bar returns results. Choose your design templates carefully to ensure it reflects your business brand and select the right stock photos that are either royalty free or you have permission to use.
- About page - this is where a business ascertains trust from its users. Users often visit the about us when they are considering an enquiry or a purchase from an online shop.
- Contact page - most business websites will need a page with a contact form, business address and relevant contact info. If choosing a contact form over an email, this will need configuration in the backend of your site and there are plugins that can make this easier.
In deciding which pages to add, consider what information would be most helpful to your visitors. You’ll also need to think about both text and visual content, such as photos and illustrations etc.
After this, you can consider adding blog content to your site, which you can then use in your email marketing, social media and various other marketing activities.
For additional customisation and design options, go back to Appearance > Customize. When you look around, you will see that it offers a lot more options to make changes to your site. You are able to modify other parts of your site like:
- Title and tagline
- Primary Menu
You can also make adjustments to your homepage, blog page, and add custom code. The options that appear will vary depending on which theme you’ve installed.
Beyond theme customisation, there are many plugins available for WordPress, both free and premium. In the official WordPress plugin directory alone, you can find close to 60,000 plugins that can add all kinds of new features and functionality to your site. Plus, there are many more available from third-party marketplaces.
To install new plugins, navigate to Plugins > Add New.
You’ll be presented with a list of some of the most popular plugins currently available. Use the search field to find anything else you are looking for.
To get plugins onto your site, hit the Install Now button. Wait until it has been downloaded and then click Activate. You can find all plugins on your site plus the possibility to activate, deactivate, and delete them under Plugins in the WordPress main menu.
As to what plugins you should install, some choices worth considering include:
- Rank Math – An essential SEO plugin, far superior to Yoast SEO in my opinion. Allowing meta changes and the ability to add social media tags etc.
- WooCommerce – This is the most popular e-commerce store plugin for WordPress and makes it easy to set up an online store. Read more about it on our other blog about why WooCommerce is great for your online business.
If you want even more control over how your website looks, you can install a page builder plugin. These plugins add drag-and-drop functionality to your site, which means you can visually build entire web designs — not just individual pages and posts, such as;
- Elementor – This all-in-one website builder offers visual website editing, fast load times, and a vast selection of templates to choose from.
- Beaver Builder – An easy-to-use page builder plugin that speeds up website design considerably.
9. Launch Your WordPress Website
Once your site is ready, it’s time to officially launch it. Make sure to double-check your settings and proofread your posts and pages one more time and perhaps even conduct some user testing on a small group of trusted people.
Now you can check your live website.
Click through each page to make sure all links work, your text looks good, and your images are formatted properly (you can use this checklist for reference).
And It's Live!
Learning how to make a website is hard and there's so much to think about, but give it a go. Use your new knowledge to learn more and implement more complex functionalities and features. This way, you won’t just learn how to make a website but exactly the site you want.