I've had many private questions regarding how to make your own website, the process involved, and how difficult it is to do with no previous experience. Because of this, I'll be dedicating today's article to the topic of "how to make your own website", creating a step-by-step guide of EXACTLY how I've developed StairwayOfPhi, having no prior website developing experience, and the challenges that I faced.
You might be interested in owning a website for a number of reasons, but regardless of what reason it is you should get one right now. In the modern world, the internet is the tool which connects us all and not being a part of it is only doing you a disservice! Businesses of any size should have one to show their wares, as well as provide information on their services to their customers. Job-seekers can use their own website to make an impressive portfolio (plus, if you work with computers, owning a website is proof that you know how to use modern technology!) Bloggers can use them to get their opinions heard and entrepreneurs can use them to cheaply reach large audiences. And everybody with a website has the potential to make self-provided money from it! Any amount of money coming from yourself is worth pursuing, in my eyes.
How I Got Started
Originally, StairwayOfPhi began as a blog on one of those "get a free domain" sites. I didn't really own it, I just started writing content with the intent to see if I could continue to write quality content. After a while of being able to keep it up, I decided it was time to actually own my content and migrate everything over to a new site - this site. When it came time to do this, I had to teach myself everything.
While I did receive a BS in Computer Science, we had never really been taught web development - almost everything we did was C-based or theoretical - so web development was brand new to me.
However, despite this (and some problems you probably WON'T encounter!), I had the site up and running in just a few days. A few days later, it was customized and running the way I wanted it to. This is how easy it is to make a website with today's technology.
So before we begin, allow me to break down the key elements behind a website.
Key Website Elements
- Domain name: The actual name of the website. These names are generally sold in increments of 1 year owning periods for around $10/year. (Ex. Mine is stairwayofphi.com)
- Hosting: The place all of your files are stored and where traffic requests information from each time someone tries to access one of your pages. There are many different hosting companies which may give you better service based on your needs, but hosting isn't hard to come by. Generally, you pay month-to-month at around $12/month or upfront for a longer period of time.
- Code: All the fragments of html, css, and php that make up your actual site. Don't worry! There are so many tools out there (like WordPress and Bootstrap) that you can get by without knowing how to code AT ALL!
Make A Website With No Previous Experience
Assuming you already have your website's design somewhat put together, the first thing to do is to find your domain name. Take your time to choose it as once you buy it, it's yours (though if you wanted to change your name after you bought the domain, you could always buy another for only an additional $10. So not a big loss.) If your goal is to get high traffic, it may be worth doing some research on commonly searched terms or, on the other hand, niche terms where your site might stand out immediately. I bought my domain name through Namecheap and haven't had any issues with them. Their admin panel is simple and easy-to-use. Because of how simple working with domains are, that's all you're really going to need. This will run you $10.69/year unless you can find a coupon online. (I managed to save something like $2 with one I found.)
Next, you need hosting. Unlike choosing a domain company, this one might actually take some research depending on your level of expected traffic. If you're looking for a standard package for a site (that probably won't grow to a massive level very quickly), then all of the deals are about the same. HOWEVER, I will say that there are a few perks that are worth considering, even at additional charge. When I started, I chose BlueHost because of their competitive pricing for a level of service that I was satisfied with. At the time, I anticipated growing my wealth primarily through investing and I did not realize that in the not-too-distant future, I would become so interested in entrepreneurship. NOW, I am glad I chose their second-tier (slightly more expensive) plan which does give me better hosting capabilities, but MOST IMPORTANTLY allows me to host as many domain names as I want on their hosting plan! This is worth a lot to me now and I'm sure in a few weeks, I'll be utilizing this key feature (as I will be starting other websites for my businesses).
Of course, BlueHost also offers domain names in addition to their hosting, but I found their domain prices to be more expensive than the other options I had available to me so I did not go with their domain services. If you do choose to purchase hosting and a domain name through the same company, you can skip this next step, though.
If you bought your domain and hosting through different companies in order to get the best deal, you will need to point your hosting to your domain. Don't worry - it takes less than a minute! Really all you have to do is navigate through their menus to assign the domain name to your account. I'm linking the exact step-by-step guide for domain assigning from BlueHost in case they ever change their process. (In which case, I would assume they would update these steps, making this link always relevant.)
Now your site should be online (or online after a short amount of processing time)!
In the event that you cannot see your site active, you should contact your hosting company. When I first did this, I actually had a strange issue on my computer which blocked me from being able to access my own site! The BlueHost customer service staff was knowledgeable and helped me navigate through the issue even though the problem wasn't on their end. Because of this experience, combined with never having any other issues from them, I've been happy with their service which is why I personally recommend them.
Now that all the hassle is out of the way, you can actually start developing your site! If you aren't all that computer-savvy (or maybe you don't care about the subtleties, you just want to get your content out as fast as possible!) then you can install WordPress (which BlueHost and other hosting companies should automatically give you the option - in a way that you can't accidentally ignore!), then install a WordPress template.
From here, you'll start learning the WordPress control panel and start being able to customize your site. If there's a feature you want, chances are that someone else has wanted it, too! There might be a premade plugin out there that will fit your needs. By Googling what you want to do to your site, followed by "how to wordpress", something helpful should come up.
For those of you that aren't scared of getting dirty with some code, you can install FileZilla for free and, using your hosting's FTP server (which is connected to your domain), transfer files back and forth, making modifications as you see fit. FileZilla is pretty easy to use after you've connected once. Anything beyond the connection, I can't help you with, though - that's where the code will come into play.
Lastly, you'll want to begin brushing up on how search engine optimization works and begin building a backlink directory (a series of links referencing your website for the sake of gaining ranks in search engines, like Google)! Feel free to get your first backlink here by registering and placing your new website in your profile information!
What I Use
BlueHost - Hosting
NameCheap - Domain Name
WordPress - Website-building tool
FileZilla - File transfer and code modification
NotePad++ - Text editor (for editing code)
(General rule of thumb: Don't link to your website in the comments. They'll be considered spam and removed. If this guide did help you, please do leave a comment saying so, though!)