Join me for a quick jaunt down memory lane. I remember when the job that first exposed me to the power and capabilities of software development. In 2010 I joined a team at Pearson Education. My role started as an assistant project manager and it eventually involved into my first full time marketing job. But my role on the team isn’t really the point. Our team was building a web based software program for students, and it totally transformed my understanding of what developers are capable of bringing to life, and how they do it.
At that point I had years under my belt of fiddling with HTML and CSS and designing table based websites, but everything I was doing was front end. With the exception of one semester in high school when I took Computer Programming 101, I had zero, and I mean zero comprehensive of how the hell everything we used online and on our computers actually worked.
It seemed like actual magic and fairy dust that a person could type a whole bunch of mumbo jumbo into a text editor and somehow make complicated, complex software… do things. Lots of things.
What I’m trying to say is that up until that point, how software worked and how it was built was completely and utterly over my head. I simply could not comprehend it.
When I launched The Digital Whit and began working professionally with businesses to build them new (or better) websites, I quickly learned that to many people – they feel the same way about websites as I once did about software.
It’s okay if you feel completely and utterly out of your league when trying to talk about or understand anything about websites.
If you don’t know the difference between a domain and a hosting provider, and if DNS means absolutely nothing to you, and if you don’t even know that there’s a WordPress.org and a WordPress.com, let alone know the difference between the two and which one you need… take a deep breath, and realize you’re not the only one.
Many people in your shoes choose to outsource some or all of the new website project. Some people can power through the technical setup thanks to countless YouTube tutorials, but have no eye for design. For others, anything creative and content is totally their jam, but acronyms like DNS and SSL make their head spin.
But if you’re wanting to create your own website, and you’re ready to do a little reading to figure out what needs to get done, you’re in the right place.
Today we’re talking all about the first 5 steps you’ll need to tackle to create your new website. These steps focus on purchasing, acquiring, and setting up the core infrastructure needed before you begin designing and adding content.
Short on time or not in the mood to read? If you want to skip all the details and explanations, and think you can get by with the super quick and dirty, then here you go:
- You’ll need to buy a domain. This is what makes your new website’s URL or “address”. It’s what lives between the https://www. and the .com, so: https://www.thisisyourdomain.com
- Then you’ll need to purchase a hosting plan from a hosting provider. This is the company that will provide you a place to PUT your domain and give you the ability to build / create / publish an actual website.
- Next, you’ll need to choose a tool to build your website using some combination of platform / theme / tools. A majority of the internet is built using WordPress, but other options for beginners include things like Squarespace, Wix, Weebly etc.
- Most platforms provide you with an out of the box look and feel to create a super barebones, super generic website or blog, but more than likely you’re going to want to search for a theme that you like. A theme gives your site the design / look / layout / customization that makes it pretty and unique.
These Are The Exact Tools I Use to Create New Websites
- Domain: I buy all of my domains through GoDaddy
- Hosting: I always host my websites using SiteGround
- Platform: I use WordPress.org 100% of the time for both myself and clients
- Theme: I use the Divi theme for 7 out of 10 new websites
- Other Themes: And for all other websites I usually use the Genesis framework with a StudioPress theme, or purchase a Bluchic theme
If you’re the jump in and just start learning as you go, I hope those few bullets set you off on the right course! And don’t be afraid to come back to this step-by-step guide if you need a bit more detail to help you along.
Now for a Step-By-Step Guide How To Create a New Website
Okay, so for all of my detail oriented, read and research type folks, let’s break this down with a lot more detail. Below I’ve summarized the primary steps required to create a new website. This doesn’t go so far as to tell you how to design your new website, but it will help you get something created and live on the internet!
And if you get to the end and still feel stuck, keep in mind you can always hire a professional to help with any or all of these steps. I can crank out high quality websites quickly, so if you’re in a rush or just feel over your head, let me know.
1. Buy a Domain
The first step in launching a new website or blog is often the part that we get most excited about! What will your new website be called and what domain name will you snag? Your domain is your website’s address or URL. It’s what lives between the https://www. and the .com, so for example: https://www.thisisyourdomain.com
The .com portion is also technically part of your domain, because in this day and age you can choose from a whole range of options. This section of your domain is called the top-level domain (TLD). While the .com ending is the most common and generic top-level domain. Depending on the type of business or website you’re looking to create, you may want to consider other TLDs such as .org.
Purchasing your domain is usually a quick and simple step, assuming your preferred domain name is available. You can use any number of domain buying websites, but my go to recommendations are GoDaddy and Namecheap. A lot of people have issues with GoDaddy, and you may find article after article steering you away from this provider, but generally that guidance is referencing GoDaddy as a hosting provider.
For simply buying your domain name, I think both GoDaddy and Namecheap are great options that provide quick and easy to follow ways to purchase.
When you’re buying a domain you’ll “buy” it for one year. Many providers allow you to purchase the name with a multi-year license. This option will save you some money, but it requires a commitment to a new website/business/blog that many first timers don’t want to take.
To keep things simple, purchase a one year license. Your domain provider will send you plenty of email reminders when it’s time to renew your license next year.
2. Pick a Hosting Plan
Next up, you’ll need to purchase a hosting plan from a hosting provider. This is the company that will provide you a place to PUT your domain and give you the ability to build / create / publish an actual website. Without a web host, people who put your domain into their browser’s URL bar won’t be able to view your website!
So a domain + a hosting plan is critical to create your new website.
Many people choose to purchase their domain and hosting plan from the same company. For example, you can do both with GoDaddy if simplicity and streamlining accounts is really super important to you. You can do both with SiteGround. However, there are some people who recommend actually using two different companies for security purposes.
Regardless of where they’ve purchased a domain, I always recommend new clients choose a hosting plan with SiteGround. You can get started for as little as $3.95 a month, and for 9 out of 10 businesses I support, the SiteGround Managed WordPress Hosting options cover exactly what they need.
Most hosting plans are purchased for 12 months, so similar to your domain license, you’ll need to renew your hosting plan next year.
And while your hosting provider allows you to make your website visible, so long as you are creating a self-hosted WordPress website (like I describe below), your hosting company isn’t going to take your website hostage. If you want to move your website from one hosting provider to another down the line, you can always migrate your site.
3. Connect your Domain and Host
Here’s the tricky technical step that might throw you for a loop. You’ve purchased your domain from one company, and now you have a hosting plan with another. This next step is required before anyone will find your new website at your purchased domain.
You’ll need to point your domain address to your new hosting provider.
If you use GoDaddy to purchase your domain and SiteGround for hosting, fortunately there are dozens of very straight forward tutorials available to check out.
And if you’re in over your head here, shoot me a message and I can take care of it for you! I run into countless creative folks and writers who are ready to design or build out their own website, but just need help with their domain and hosting setup. So don’t sweat it if it’s easier for you to outsource this step to me.
4. Install WordPress
I’m not going to get into the WordPress vs. Squarespace vs. Weebly vs. Wix debate here. If you’re a reader and researcher, do your due diligence and read the heck out of all the different points of view and opinions. And if you decide to use WordPress, you can come back here and keep reading!
I recommend WordPress over, and over, and over again. Time and time again. Almost always. To everyone.
As a technically savvy, seasoned marketing and software professional turn web designer, a self-hosted WordPress website is just a no-brainer to me.
The only exception I make is for large, legitimate e-commerce sites. In many cases, these businesses still turn to self-hosted WordPress sites, but this scenario does open up the available options and platforms like Shopify are great.
So if you’re here, and looking for my guidance, I’m going to recommend you use WordPress for your new website. Most hosting providers have a simple one click installation process so that you can add WordPress to your new site without any heavy lifting.
If you’re using SiteGround, they have a WordPress installation wizard that takes less than a minute. Seriously. It’s that easy!
The problem is that once you install a fresh instance of WordPress, your new website is going to look a little bit… lacking. This is what your website will look like. It’s not exactly, pretty. Or professional looking. Or ready to go, at all.
In order to zhuzh it up, you’ll want to look for a theme that is designed for your business’ needs and matches your design vision.
5. Choose a Theme
You’re getting close to the finish line, friends! After you’ve installed WordPress, you’ll want to find and set up a new WordPress theme. You can read more about themes here but the quick and dirty is that a “theme” is what you install on your new site to make your site look better. Consider it a nice layer of paint or new wallpaper for your bare, construction grade room.
WordPress comes with a few default options, but chances are you want your new website to look more unique than the out of the box options made available to you by WordPress. The “default WordPress theme” is named after the current year, so you’ll see something like Twenty Twenty listed in your Dashboard > Appearance > Themes section.
Some themes like Divi are intended to work across all industries, all verticals, all types of businesses. But others are pretty specific and niched. For example, if you’re a real estate agent, or a wedding photographer, or local coffee shop, chances are you can find a theme designed just for your type of business!
Some themes are available for free, and others are paid. More often than not I will tell you it is worth it to spend a few extra bucks for a theme that will best serve your business. Usually, free themes aren’t very flexible, they lack reliable updates, and don’t provide speedy support when needed.
Also keep in mind that while you can search for a theme directly in your WordPress dashboard, the good ones typically need to be downloaded elsewhere on the web, and then “installed” and “activated”.
Here’s a look at where you could browse the WordPress repository for available themes:
Instead, find a reputable theme builder and download the theme directly from their website. It will usually download as a ready-to-go .zip file that you can upload, install, and activate.
My Go To WordPress Themes
You can find themes by Googling, or browsing sites like Creative Market. In case you find yourself paralyzed by the endless options available online, here are my go to combinations for WordPress frameworks and themes.
More times than not, I use Divi by Elegant Themes. In 2017 I made the decision to purchase a lifetime license for $249 and it was the best decision I’ve ever made for my business.
I try to avoid annual licenses and fees at all costs and the Divi lifetime license pays for itself very quickly. Plus, you can use the same license across multiple sites.
And if you’re looking for a more modern, feminine vibe I can’t say enough good things about the themes made by Bluchic. All of their products are great (themes, graphics, templates), and their support is top-notch. Quick responses from real people that you can easily connect with! If their shop is at all overwhelming, I’ll let you in on a secret: my favorite theme for service based business owners is their new ChicServe theme! They have one option that works with Elementor (if that’s your jam) and another option specifically designed with Divi.
Setting Up Your Theme
I wish I could say you’re all done, but usually themes require a bit of set up and configuration. Depending on where you purchase your theme, you’ll likely be given installation and setup guides that walk you through every single detail needed to make your new website look just like the theme’s demo site.
If you don’t realize this is a necessary part of the process, you might have a mini freak out. I’ve had countless people come running to me, screaming for help when…
They find the perfect looking theme. They get over the price tag and buy it. Yay! Then they do the quick install. They activate the theme, refresh their browser and… panic. Possible tears. Possible yelling ensues.
Some themes require a lot of heavy lifting to configure properly and recreate the demo environment. Other themes are lovely and provide a seamless one click setup. Unfortunately, unless you read reviews thoroughly, you don’t always know what you’re signing up for when you purchase a theme!
This is actually why I created a specific offering for WordPress theme install and setup. But hopefully you’ve found a theme that is a little bit more lightweight in terms of setup. Fingers crossed!
And Then Comes The Fun Part!
When you’ve made it this far, you deserve a huge high five, and probably a cocktail break. But at this point your website should be in your ownership, and visible to anyone who types your domain name into their browser. Congratulations, friend! You’re ready to be seen.
Next up, you’ll need to actually populate your website with your strategic website content and copy. But we’ll save that conversation for another day.
Let me know how you do setting up your new website! I’d love to see your finished product too!
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