Why you need a website
Whether you are a college student trying to make your resume stand out from everyone else, a business owner, or just someone trying to make a difference in the world a website is something that every modern age renaissance man should have, it’s basically a necessity in today’s time.
This guide is designed to save you lots of time and hard work because I have already done the hard work for you.
More reasons you should have a website
- Unlike a classic resume or business card, a website is dynamic. It can change over time to better suit your needs. You don’t have to go out and hand it to people for them to see it. If you set it up well, all they would have to do to find you is type your name or business into google and your website will show up.
- Having a website will make you stand out, it will also make people think that you have some crazy technology skills while in reality it is pretty easy to do, and you don’t even need to know how to code at all.
- Having a website is essential for establishing your personal brand and for highlighting your accomplishments. You can be offered jobs and meet new clients that you would not have met if you didn’t have a website.
- You will also gain some new useful skills along the way. Learning to build a website is simple, but if you want to learn how to customize the design yourself……
What you will learn in this guide
- How to get your own domain name.
- Get your website hosted.
- You will learn how to install WordPress on your website so you can easily customize it without knowing how to code.
- You will learn how to improve, and optimize your website with different plugins and widgets.
- You will learn how to install a theme to your website.
- You will also learn what all of these things I just said mean.
Estimated time to complete this tutorial: 30 – 45 minutes (after that you will still need to spend time adding in your own content, but you will have your own website)
Time to get started.
Note: If you ever need help at any point during this tutorial feel free to ask me any questions, id be more than happy to help you. Even if you need help with your website after you are done with this tutorial I will still try to help with any problems you may have.
Full Disclaimer: If you choose to use the domain and hosting option I recommend in this tutorial and click my links to get to it, I’ll earn a commission (though there is no extra cost to you – it will actually be cheaper since I’m able to offer a coupon code). I want to be very clear that there are definitely other good choices for your domain and hosting out there. This is simply the one I’ve been using since the beginning, and I’m very satisfied. If you do choose to use my link, thank you!
Step 1: Getting a domain name and hosting
This is the first step to building your site and it is getting your site hosted. There are a number of ways to do this. There are some free ways but I recommend you have a self-hosted site. If you go with the free way you will wind up having a site that isn’t under your control and when the website that is actually hosting your website goes out of business you will lose your site.
It also looks a lot more impressive to have a self-hosted site that has a real domain name. This will show people that you actually took the time to learn how to create your website.
Before we actually start getting your website hosted you should start thinking about what you want your domain name to be.
What makes a good domain name
- If you are trying to make a personal website you should make it your first name + your last name .com. If that is taken you can also add your middle initial.
- If you aren’t making a personal site you still want to try to keep the domain name simple so people can find it easily.
- Try not to use numbers in your domain name unless you really need to.
- A .com domain is highly recommended, but in a pinch .net, .org, or (for personal sites, .me).
- One of the most important things is that your domain name should be fairly easy to spell, this way if you want to mention your site to someone they will be able to remember it easily
- The simpler the better, you want your website to be easy to talk about.
Once you have figured out the sites name we can get started.
It’s finally time to get your Domain and get it hosted.
A note to you: this is the only part of this guide that will cost you any money, but once you have your website set up it should more than pay for itself in the long run.
There are a lot of different hosting companies out there and they will work perfectly fine for you too. However, for this guide I will be teaching you how to use Bluehost.
I use Bluehost because they provide a good quality hosting service while still remaining relatively cheap. It also has some nice features like their quick install options. They also have great customer service.
To get started click on the image above and then click on the big button that says get started.
Then you need to select your plan. Since you are just starting out I recommend just getting the basic plan but feel free to look around on their site to see if your business needs more features.
After that you should be on a page that looks like this one
Now try to enter your domain name and if it is available it will tell you(as you see above johnasorrenitno.com is already taken because it is my personal site so I added a one for the demonstration). It is very likely that the domain you were planning on using is already taken so try changing slightly on here until it is available.
Under the domain selection, you can choose to add Domain Privacy Protection to your domain. This will prevent your name, address, and phone number from being shown in WHOIS searches. I don’t use this option, but I do receive spam emails from companies that look on WHOIS just to send people emails.
Next, you need to fill out a few things.
Next, you will be offered to select a few Hosting Add-ons. Personally, I don’t think you need any of them, I don’t use any of them myself.
You can choose to add Domain Privacy Protection to your domain. This will prevent your name, address, and phone number from being shown in WHOIS searches. I don’t use this option, but I do receive spam emails from companies that look on WHOIS just to send people emails.
Lastly, review your order to make sure everything is correct. Then agree to the terms and check out.
once you have paid, you will receive an email with your account info. This email will have the information you will need to continue.
Step 2: Installing WordPress
WordPress is known for only taking 5 minutes to install. WordPress used to be only for blogging but recently it has become so popular that it has become great for building nonblogging sites too.
Bluehost makes installing WordPress even easier with their quick-install options.
Log into Bluehost (my.bluehost.com) and you will be redirected to your control panel. From there choose “install WordPress.”
Now I’ll guide you through the install process.
First, you will need to click Install WordPress.
Fill in the form that comes up like so:
- Choose your domain from the drop-down menu.
- Leave the install path blank as it is
- if you get an error that says “Some files already exist in that location” don’t worry about it and click continue.
Once you’ve done that, you should see a screen that says your installation is complete! Click View Credentials to see your login URL, username, and password (which you can change later). You’ll also receive an email with all this information.
To get to the Dashboard, click the Admin Area link in that View Credentials menu, or just type yourcoolnewdomain.com/wp-admin into your browser – this is where you’ll do everything else related to building/customizing your site. It’d probably be a good idea to bookmark that link!
Note: It can sometimes take an hour or two for the web host to set up your account. While you’ll be able to access your Control Panel right away, your domain might not be accessible for 1-2 hours.
Time to setup your site.
Hopefully, your version of WordPress is the version that I have and I will guide you through the setup process.
if you do have this version then when you log in you should be greeted by a screen that says let’s launch your new site.
Here’s my recommended course of action for moving through these steps:
- Set your Site Title and Description as you like. In some themes, they’ll be displayed at the top of the site; in others, one or both will be hidden (for example,
- Next, you’ll be asked, “Are you planning to update your site with news or blog posts?” – if you’d like to add a blog to your site, click Yes.
- Choose a static welcome page – since you will probably want a homepage on your website, you’ll want the first thing your visitors see to be a page with information about you, rather than a blog.
- Click No when you’re asked, “Build a starter Contact Us page?” – you’ll be able to easily create a contact form for letting people email you (and I’ll walk you through it), but this automatic option doesn’t use the tool we’ll be using.
- Next, you’ll be given the option of connecting a plugin called Jetpack. This has its uses, but I don’t personally use it – so let’s skip it for now. You can add it later if you want, and I’ll also suggest some alternative plugins below for increasing your site’s security.
during the last step of this guided process, you will see a button to customize your site. On this page you can start playing with some of the customization options to learn what they do. (You shouldn’t really start customizing until we pick a good theme for your site.
Now you should exit the guided setup process by clicking the “X” in the top-right corner of the page.
Time to learn how to navigate around Wordpress
WordPress is one of the easiest ways to make a website, but for a beginner it can still be confusing until you know where everything is.
Here is what you will see when you log in:
The first thing I would like to show you is what everything in that sidebar is used for.
- Dashboard – the “home base” of WordPress. This is what you see when you log in, and it contains whatever widgets you’ve chosen to show on it.
- Posts – the heart and soul of WordPress. This is where you’ll go when you want to write a blog post or edit an existing one.
- Media – a central repository for any pictures, sound files, video, and other pieces of media that you upload to your site. Here you can browse through and edit media you’ve uploaded to your posts and upload even more.
- Pages – here you can create Pages, which is what you’ll be using for the main content on your site. Pages are different from Posts because they will show up in your site’s main navigation instead of going on your list of blog posts. This makes Pages good for “timeless” content like your biography, work history, and contact info.
- Comments – here you can see the comments on your blog (if you decide to have one).
- Appearance – this is where you’ll customize the look and feel of your site. There are options for your site’s theme, menus, and the widgets you want to display. There’s also a rudimentary code editor, but it’s not very good. If you’re getting to the point where you want to manually edit your site’s theme, I recommend ShiftEdit.
- Plugins – this is where you can add and manage your plugins, which are like small apps that can give your site new functionality. There are a number of great plugins you should be using, but we’ll get to those a little later.
- Users – here you can manage the user profiles on your site. Since this is a personal site, the only one that should be here is your own.
- Tools – by default, the only things here are the Import/Export options, and a Categories/Tags converter. Right now, you won’t need any of these.
- Settings – this section houses all the general settings for your site. There’s a lot of stuff here.
- My website has a few more options that you won’t see on yours and that is because they are for certain plugins that I have installed.
Now that you know what everything does it should be easier to continue in the customizing process.
When you create a page WordPress creates a new URL for that page and instead of having that URL be a bunch of random numbers you should have it set to something that people can remember easily.
To do that you will need to go to settings and then your permalink settings
Once you are there select the option that says Post name. Make sure you save your changes
Now your URL’s will be easier for people to remember.
Making a Homepage
your homepage will be the first thing people will see when they go to your website. On this page, you will want to have a short summary on your website so people know whether or not they want to stay on it.
How to make it
Go to the pages section of the WordPress dashboard. Find the button near the top that says add new.
You should see this page
It is pretty easy to get a homepage started in WordPress, first enter a title in the title bar. It would make sense to call this the home page or “About Me” if this is a personal website.
Next, you will need to enter your content in the body area.
Once you get used to all the tools you can start writing whatever you would like on your page. You can also use the Add Media button to add photos to your page.
Once you are satisfied with everything you wrote, go ahead and hit Publish. This will make your page go live.
Time to make your homepage the homepage
- In the sidebar, hover over Settings and click on Reading.
- Where it says Front Page Displays, click the radio button that says A Static Page.
- Choose your home page to be the front page.
- if you don’t want a homepage you can also make it a blog.
- Save your changes.
now you can go back to the Pages section of WordPress and make the rest of your pages. the process is basically the same for all the other pages.
Adding a blog (optional)
If you’d like to add a blog page to your site, it’s ridiculously easy.
Simply make another new page on the site called “Blog” (or whatever you want, it doesn’t matter). Then on your Dashboard go back to Settings -> Reading and set your Posts page as that page you just created.
From there, all you have to do is go to Posts and start writing. All your published blog posts should show up on that Blog page.
Step 3: Customize your site with a Theme
One of the best things about WordPress is the stupidly large amount of themes available for your to use. Using a theme, you can change the look of your site without needing to know any CSS or have any graphic design skills.
A theme is basically a skin for your site. It changes the look while retaining all the content you created.
The first step in customizing your site’s look is to simply find a theme you like. This can be easier said than done, due to the huge amount of themes out there. I’m going to try and help you pick one out.
Note that not all themes are created equal. Some themes are simple, offering just the basics, while others are monstrous creations with dozens of post types, animations, and extra bells and whistles. Some themes are made for specific types of sites, like magazines or restaurants.
Likewise, some themes are free and some are not – AKA “premium“.
It’s hard for me to recommend a theme for everyone because everyone wants to use their site for different reasons, so you will just have to look around and find the one that is right for you.
Install Your Theme
if you don’t get your theme from WordPress (if you got it from WordPress just click install and it will be added to your list of themes. make sure you go to your themes and activate it.), download it to your computer. The theme will probably come in a .zip file. Look inside this zip file.
If you see files like index.php, header.php, and footer.php in that very first folder, you’re good. If you find that those files are buried in subfolders, you’ll need to extract everything and create a zip folder of whatever folder contains those files.
Most themes will come with documentation that tells you how or even if you need to do this, so consult that for help if you need it.
Once you have the final .zip file, it’s time to install it.
- On the WordPress Dashboard, hover over Appearance and click Themes.
- Click the tab at the top that says Install Themes.
- Find and click the link that says Upload.
- Choose your .zip file and click Install Now.
- Make sure the theme was installed successfully, and click Activate
How to setup your Menu
To edit your menu you will need to hover over appearance in the sidebar and click on menus.
you should have already created the pages you want to add to your menu. once you have that it is pretty simple to add them to your site. you just select which pages you want in your menu and then you can drag them in the order that you want.
How to add plugins and widgets to your site.
Plugins are really what make WordPress great, they are like iPhone apps but for your website. If you have something you would like to add to your website then odds are that there is a plugin for it.
Adding a new plugin is pretty simple here are the steps.
- On the WordPress Dashboard, hover over Plugins and click Add New.
- Search for the plugin you want. The search function isn’t amazing, so you’ll usually get the best results by typing in the exact name of the plugin you’re searching for.
- Click Details to read about the plugin or Install Now to install it.
- After you install, click Activate.
- If there’s any setup required for the plugin, take care of it.
now that you know how to add plugins here are the ones that i use.
- Akismet– quite possibly the most important plugin your could ever install. It limits the amount of time an IP address can try to log in. This is really important because every day more and more malicious scripts are trying to hack WordPress blogs by guessing the password over and over. With this plugin, you can stop them in their tracks. (This plugin has locked me out of my site before but I was able to delete the plugin from my HostGator cPanel. Then I was able log in and reinstall it
- WordPress SEO by Yoast – a great plugin that optimized your site’s SEO (search engine optimization) potential. This makes you more findable by search engines. It’s also pretty complex, so follow this tutorial to set it up.
- Custom Favicon – See that little logo in the corner of this website’s tab in your browser? That’s called a favicon. If you’d like to set a custom one after building your site, this plugin will let you easily do it.
- SumoMe– This plugin is used for a few things. It can create a pop-up to ask people to subscribe to your email list (you should look into creating an email list. I also use it to track how many people visit my site every day.
- WooCommerce– this plugin is what you need if you want to sell products online, it makes the whole process dead simple and it basically does everything started. It will basically make you your own online store.
There are more plugins that I use but they are for specific things I need that you probably won’t. but this list should get you started, after you get some of these plugins you should look around on the plugin store and see if anything else seems useful to you.
Widgets are elements that you can place on any part of your theme that has been “widgetized” – that is, set up for widgets to display. There are already a few widgets displaying on your site by default, like Category, Recent Posts, and Meta.
To edit the widgets that are displayed on your site, follow these steps:
- On the WordPress Dashboard, hover over Appearance and click on Widgets.
- On the right side of the screen, you’ll see all of the widget areas that have been created for your theme.
- Drag the widgets you want from the middle area into the correct boxes.
- Change any specific widget settings you need to change.
Widgets are automatically saved when you drag them in or out of a box. By the way, you can use the Widget Context plugin if you want to specify certain pages that a widget will or won’t be displayed on. This keeps things from getting redundant.
It is up to you to pick which widgets you want to show to your audience.
You should now have a fully functional website! You’ve got all your pages created, your menus set, a cool theme, some great plugins, and a few widgets in your sidebar.
If you have any further questions or if you think I should add something else to this guide please feel free to comment below and I will be happy to help.