Website building guide updated: May 2020
So you want to build a website from scratch? Well, that’s quite an ambitious goal—luckily it’s not nearly as hard as it you might think! With all of the technology out there to make building a website as easy as possible, it’s something that anyone can learn to do!
Here are the basic steps to build a website from scratch (for beginners):
- Register a domain name
- Get web hosting
- Point your domain name at the new hosting account
- Choose a format for your site (WordPress, HTML, etc.)
- Create your content
- Let people know your site is live!
On this page, we’ll walk you through each step, one at a time. But first, a quick note—if you decide to buy hosting or any services from our recommended links on this pay, it’s possible that we might be compensated. But don’t worry, that doesn’t affect our commitment to creating great unbiased content!
With that said, let’s jump into this website building guide for beginners!
Step 1: Register a Domain Name
A website can’t exist on the Internet without a publicly-available name that people can use to find it, and in this case—that’s a domain name.
In order to register a domain name, you’ll need to first think of an idea. We have an entire page dedicated to coming up with a blog name, so you may want to check that out in order to think of the best domain name possible. But to summarize, here’s how to register a domain name:
1) Decide on a Name
As mentioned above, you’ll need a unique, catchy, and interesting domain name. A brainstorming session or two is a great way to come up with ideas. After that, there are a few things that you want to make sure of:
- Your domain name shouldn’t contain any combinations of letters that spell strange words, unintended swear words, etc.
- Your domain name should be memorable, and as short as possible
- It should not contain hyphens unless there’s no way to avoid them
- .COM domains are generally the best choice unless you’re a nonprofit (.ORG) or you really need a specific name and the .COM is taken
2) Check to See if Your Name is Available
This is an important step in registering a domain name. Just because you thought of a great name, doesn’t mean it’s available—in fact, someone else may have already thought of it before you did and already registered it. So, you need to check and see if it’s available.
The best way to do this is to visit a domain name registrar, type in your name and see if it’s available. And for this—we recommend Namecheap. They’re an amazing no-nonsense registrar and we use them ourselves all the time.
3) Register the Name
Yep, that’s it—if the name is the right one for you and it’s available, then lock it down! A couple tips with respect to registering domain names:
- A good rule of thumb is to register the domain for at least two years on the initial registration
- Adding privacy (so spammers can’t view your information) is generally recommended
Once you’ve got your name locked down and registered, you can move on to the next step in creating your own website from scratch! If you’re looking for a registrar to lock up a domain name, we definitely recommend NameCheap!
Step 2: Get Web Hosting
You’ve got a domain name and you’re ready to get your website live—so what’s next? Well, it’s time to get web hosting!
If you don’t already know, web hosting is a term that essentially means renting space on someone else’s web server. On this server, you store all the files that run your website. When someone visits your website, their browser requests these files from the web server and this is how they view your site.
Without a doubt, our favorite hosting company is Bluehost. They have 24/7/365 US-based telephone support (which is extremely rare), as well as a lot of other great features. And, with our exclusive Bluehost coupon, you can get this hosting for $2.95/month, which is incredibly cheap. The main thing we like about Bluehost is that they don’t sacrifice quality even though they have a great price point.
A Few Tips About Web Hosting in General
Below are a few important tips about web hosting that most people don’t think about…
Tip #1: Shared Hosting is Probably Enough Power
There are different types of web hosting, but the most common form is shared hosting. This is where you “share” a server with other people, and it’s much cheaper than having your own web server. This divides the cost among multiple people to make it more affordable.
For most people with a regular blog or website, shared hosting is all the power you need. If you’re looking at more than 1k visitors per day, you may want to consider something a bit more powerful, but below that most people will do fine with a good quality shared host.
Tip #2: Make Sure to Choose a Host With Good Support
Whether or not you think you’ll need it—you will! No matter what, there will be some problem eventually that will take your website down and you’ll need to fix it, often times at odd hours or when it’s extremely inconvenient.
This is when great support is worth its weight in gold. When you’re looking at hosting, you can skimp on server specs a bit, on discounts etc., but don’t skimp on support, ever—especially if you’re new to building websites. A good support team can get you out of a jam fast!
Tip #3: Paying for Multiple Years Can Save Money
Like many other products and services, you can typically save money on hosting by buying more than one year at a time, or at least paying for a full year instead of paying monthly. If you think you’re even reasonably serious about building your website, it may be worthwhile to buy more than one year—a year goes by pretty quickly and most of the time you can’t get the initial discount offered by hosting companies again.
Again, if you’re looking for solid hosting that’s got great support, features, and more—we strongly recommend Bluehost (we use them too)!
Step 3: Point Your Domain at Your Hosting Account
In order to “connect” your domain with your web hosting account, you’ll need to log into your account at your domain registrar and update your DNS settings.
DNS is short for “Domain Name Servers” and these are servers that map an IP address to a human readable domain name. For example, when you type “Example.com” in your web browser and hit enter, how does your computer know to find the web server attached to that site? Simple—it pulls up information from the DNS that connects that name to the appropriate web server.
When you sign up for web hosting, your web hosting company will provide you with the names of their domain name servers, and this is what you need to update at your domain name registrar. Every registrar is different, so you’ll want to check the help documentation with your registrar for specific examples.
Using Namecheap and Bluehost as an example, you’d simply login to your Namecheap account and click on your domain to edit it. Then you’d put the Bluehost nameservers—ns1.bluehost.com and ns2.bluehost.com (there always needs to be at least 2 nameservers) in the nameserver blanks, and click save. It can take up to 24-48 hours for the DNS system to fully-propagate with your changes, but generally speaking it’s often updated in an hour or less.
You can clear your cookies, cache, and check to see if typing your domain name brings up your new web server (which will probably be a default Bluehost page, for example, if you used Bluehost). If it does, then the DNS is propagated and you’re ready to move on to the next step. If not, then you’ll want to wait a little bit and check again, moving on once the changes have taken affect.
Step 4: Choosing a Content Management System (CMS) for Your Website
Back in the day, there was really only one choice for a website format—everything was done completely in HTML files, and a folder structure. It was simple, but also complicated for people who didn’t know much about writing code and building websites.
Nowadays, that has changed significantly, and WordPress is the newest, most user-friendly website management software—and best of all, it’s free! And the awesome thing about WordPress is it takes care of most of the things that you’d have to do yourself in the past. On top of that, WordPress has a share of over 30% of all sites on the Internet, which is huge! When you couple WordPress with one of the best WordPress hosting providers, you can be sure that you’ve got a strong platform to build a great website!
Your options for a CMS are basically:
- Custom coding
- Drupal or another lesser-known CMS
In all reality, the easiest and most robust option is WordPress, and it’s completely what we’d recommend! After you’ve decided on a CMS then you can install it via your Bluehost (or whatever host you’re using) admin panel with a one-click installation. If for some reason you can’t figure this out, you can get support to help you.
During the installation process, you’ll need to create a username and password, which need to be unique and hard to guess. After WordPress is installed, you’ll be able to login at example.com/wp-login.php (replace example.com with your domain name). From there you can configure your website and get things rolling.
There are a lot of configurations, plugins, and things that you can change in WordPress, and we’ll cover how to set up WordPress specifically in another post. Once you’ve got WordPress installed and configured properly, you can move onto creating your content. In fact, you don’t even need the site ready to create all of your content. You can create a content map using a spreadsheet, and then write and save all of your content using Word or a similar word processing program, and then post the content once your site is configured properly. Let’s take a look at content creation…
Step 5: Create Your Content
Creating content is one of the most crucial parts of building any website, and it’s something that you should take care in doing. Content isn’t just text and writing, but it can also be images, videos, or other things that your visitors will see or interact with.
The best way to start creating content is to create a content map, so you can plan out all of the pages, where they’re going to be, what type of overall theme you want, etc. As mentioned above, this can easily be done with a spreadsheet, and then you can write or create your content from there.
Your site doesn’t need to have a million pages in order to get started—it could just have one, and you could grow it from there. But it shouldn’t be:
- Have pages that don’t load properly
- Have images that don’t load properly
- Look half-polished or done
- Have duplicate or low-quality content
Instead, you want to create a site that adds value to the Internet, and that people want to come back and read. This means your site should be:
- Have great content with pages that provide massive value to visitors
- Load properly at all times
- Not appear half-done or sloppy
- Mobile-friendly (this is very important nowadays)
- Images should be sized properly
- Loading time should be quick, ideally less than 3 seconds
Once your content is done, published, and your site is polished and in its final version, you can move onto the last step.
Step 6: Let People Know About Your Website!
One of the best things about having a website that’s all done, is that you can now get visitors and watch the site grow, as you add more and more great content. There are a variety of ways you can reach out to let people know about your website.
Sharing Your Site on Social Media
One of the best ways to get the word out about your new website is sharing it on social media. This is a great way to showcase your new site to people you know, their friends, and more!
Connecting with Other Website Owners
Sometimes it’s beneficial to reach out to other website and blog owners in the same niche as you in order to help promote your website. For example, if you have a website about cooking gluten free food, you may want to reach out to other gluten free foodie blogs to promote your own site.
Doing a Podcast
This takes a little more work, but a podcast is a great way to promote your site to a different audience of interested readers. If people end up liking your podcast, they’ll check back frequently and may become a regular listener and visitor to your site.
Sometimes a paid jump start is helpful to get some initial traction with a great website. There are a lot of options for this online such as AdWords. This option really jut depends upon your budget and overall goals for promoting your site.
Writing Great Content
If you write amazing content, people will naturally find your website through search engines and may like it so much that they’ll share it on their own sites. This can help drive people to your site and increase its popularity.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this guide on building a website from scratch! Go out, get started and build a website—it’s amazingly fun and like nothing else you’ll ever do! And if you’re looking for a good hosting company to get started with that’s good for beginners, you can’t go wrong with Bluehost!