Whether you’re considering building a brand new website or want to redo your current website, you’re faced with some basic, but important, decisions.
In this guide, we are going to help you with these decisions by showing your choices and explaining how specific options will fit your unique needs. We’ll cover everything from understanding what type of website you need and choosing a domain name, to the finishing touches that will help you launch your website successfully, no matter what your goals are.
Also, we’ll show you how to use specific tools or systems to create your site. As an example, we’ll explain how you can make a website step-by-step with one of the most popular content management system (CMS) WordPress.org.
The essential steps to launch a website:
- Understand what type of website you need
- Pick a domain name and hosting provider
- Install and setup WordPress CMS
- Design your website and make it look great
- Write and prepare your content
- Make money with your website
- Test your website before and after launch
We hope that you are excited at the prospect of having your website. Now, let’s look at what are the steps you need to take to get it right.
Understand what type of website you need
There are different types of websites. The type, or combination types, you choose, will depend on what you want to achieve with your site and the functionality you’ll need to accomplish this.
Following are the main types of websites:
Blog or website with a blog. A blog can be an extra feature for any website, or it can be a separate kind of site on its own. Blogs are usually arranged in chronological order, with the most recent entry at the top of the main page and older entries toward the bottom.
Recommended reading: How to Start a Blog in 2019
Business card site. For some small businesses, a simple one-page website with the name, description, contact info and maybe a logo may be all that’s needed. You can also include some product information, but the basic concept is a one-page website that represents your company or yourself.
Portfolio site. A portfolio site is similar to a business card website, except you’ll have a section on the web page where you showcase your work and give people options for contacting you. Photography studios commonly use this type of website, so do design firms and other creative endeavors.
Product brochure site. This kind of website is an extension of your company’s sales and marketing efforts. You’ll be able to include goods and services your business offers for visitors to browse through. This website may include some pricing guidelines but doesn’t enable customers to make purchases online.
E-commerce site. With an e-commerce site, you’ll be able to showcase your products or services and allow visitors to buy them online. At first, the setup process for an eCommerce site may seem daunting, but there are many simplified methods and tools on the internet today that will enable you to sell online.
Select the right tool to build a website
With so many options available today, it can be difficult to choose the best instruments for the job. Choosing the best platform upon which you build your site will be one of the most important decisions you make. This choice is critical because you’ll be tied to that platform for some time and it’s never easy (or possible) to move your website from one platform to another.
Website building solutions can be divided into two groups: self-hosted content management systems and hosted web builder platforms.
The best and most popular tool for making a website is the WordPress content management system (CMS). It’s recommended by 90 percent of experts we’ve surveyed.
You can make any website with WordPress, be it one-page business card website, a site with a blog, and even an e-commerce website.
Pick a domain name and hosting provider
To create your new website with the recommended WordPress platform, you’ll need a domain name and web hosting provider.
Once you’ve selected the right platform for your site, you need to start thinking of a domain name. This domain will be yourname.com, yourbusiness.com or something similar.
If you’re marketing yourself, you’ll want to use your first and last name. Think johnsmith.com. Even if you aren’t promoting yourself, it’s not a bad idea to get your name as a domain now, in case you want to use it in the future. If you are marketing your business, you will want to use your company name. Think “yourbusiness.com.”
For most websites, the first goal when choosing a domain name is to get the .com top-level domain whenever possible. Here is a useful guide to help you learn the details and secrets to selecting a valid domain name.
Web hosting provider
After choosing a domain name, selecting reliable hosting services will be one of the most important decisions you make. To a large degree, the functionality and performance of your website will depend on your hosting provider. The host makes sure your site is available to potential readers 24/7, and it’s where your files are stored online.
The wrong web host can cause many problems with your website. Just imagine choosing a mobile company that has no reception. Your web host is a major piece of the puzzle to maintaining a successful internet site. Therefore, it’s crucial that you choose a reliable provider.
We highly recommend Bluehost, which powers over 2 million websites worldwide. And for our visitors only, they offer an exclusive deal that includes a FREE DOMAIN NAME and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Bluehost web hosting company is recommended by WordPress.org as one “of the best and brightest of the hosting world”.
There are two ways to install WordPress: one-click install (recommended) and manual install (advanced)
This section provides detailed information to help you signup for the Bluehost web hosting account. We also included screenshots of the pages that you need to go through.
While each hosting provider has slightly different control panels, the installation process will be similar.
Step 1: Visit Bluehost
Use this link to get the special deal from Bluehost. Then click the “Get Started Now” button.
Step 2: Select your blog’s hosting plan
You should start by selecting your plan. If this is your very first one, you should go with the basic one – at least until you explore your options. The one called basic should be able to cover all your needs once you get your website going, and you should consider the prime version once your popularity skyrockets.
Step 3: Input your blog’s domain name
Your domain name has an important say when it comes to the future success of your website, so you should take your time to come up with something new. Just type in a desired domain in this “new domain” box and BlueHost will show you whether it’s available or not. If not, it will provide you with a list of similar names for you to choose from.
Step 4: Register for Bluehost
After you pick out your domain name, BlueHost will take you to the registration page where it will be required from you to fill in your personal info including the billing data. A couple of minutes is all you need.
Step 5: Select your hosting options
Pay additional attention to your hosting options. Obviously, the 12-month package has the lowest price, but the other two are great when you want to make a long-term investment. You can feel free to uncheck the rest of the boxes – you can always get them later when you find them necessary.
Step 6: Set your password
After you enter your payment information, you’re ready to set your password which will be used for account verification purposes.
Step 7: Login to your new account
After successfully creating your new password you will be able to login to your account.
Step 8: Choose your WordPress theme
When you enter your new account, you will be given the option to choose a WordPress theme which can make your website look better. If you don’t like any of the themes provided by Bluehost, simply go to the WordPress.org repository and find one that you like.
Step 9: Welcome to WordPress
When you log in, you will be greeted by a “Welcome” message and offered help with creating your site by Bluehost. You can accept the offered help or continue alone, the choice is yours.
As simply as that, your new website will now be live and you can start working on it immediately!
If your host doesn’t have one-click installation, WordPress has full instructions on how to install it manually at wordpress.org (for advanced users). Keep in mind that a host that doesn’t offer one-click WordPress installation may not be your best choice.
Recommended reading: How to install WordPress CMS
Setting up WordPress and managing your website
WordPress has two zones: the front-end and the back-end.
The front end is what your visitors will see when they come to your website. Many of the tasks performed on the back-end will be visible on the front end, such as theme customizations, plugin functionality enhancements, and content publication. Actions can also be performed by you and your visitors directly from the front-end of the website, including commenting and social sharing.
The back end, also known as the WordPress dashboard, allows you to fully manage your site’s content, community, functionality, and design. It’s accessible only by users who have an account on your site. To access your WordPress dashboard, you need to type yourwebsite.com/wp-admin in the address bar of your browser and login using your WordPress username and password.
The Dashboard is the center of website administration. It consists of three main parts left-side menu, top toolbar and middle section. The left-hand column of your WordPress dashboard is where you’ll find all of your admin options and where most of your creative effort will be focused.
The left-side menu items include the following:
- Home takes you to your dashboard.
- Updates show you any themes or plugins that need to be updated because a new version has been released. If WordPress itself is updated, you’ll see a number in a red circle next to this menu item.
- Media shows every photo, video, and file you’ve uploaded as part of a post or page. You can also upload files directly to the media section.
- Pages are usually evergreen, static web pages. Examples include the “About Us” section on a company website or the “Services” page.
- Comments are what visitors comment on in response to one of your posts or pages. If you have comments, a number inside a red circle will appear next to this menu item.
- Appearance contains themes, design, and features related to the appearance of your site.
- Plugins are extra mini programs that help increase the functionality of your site. You can use plugins to turn your website into a membership site, add social media sharing, eliminate comment spam or just to do something cool or fancy with your graphics.
- Settings are used for just about anything. It’s the first place you want to go when setting up a new site.
Recommended tutorial: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing WordPress Website
Design your website and make it look great
The design of your website is essential, and people will form an opinion about your business based on the look and feel of it. Visitors will make an instant decision (in 3 seconds or less) whether to stay on your site or move on. To make an impact, it’s important to have great design.
Depending on the type of the website and the way you choose to build it, you will have some options as far as selecting a design for your site. If you decide to use CMS or web builder, you will be dealing with the premade theme and templates. Key things to keep in mind about your website design are the following:
- Use clean design
- Make sure it’s mobile optimized
- Fit your site’s niche and goals
- One or two columns layout is the best option
- Use unique design elements
- Make it easy to navigate
If you are looking for customized options using some of the platforms mentioned above or creating a website from scratch, you can turn to professional web designer/developer.
Find the right theme
Your website’s design equals user experience. What does this mean? Website design reflects its usability and functionality.
The better job you do, the better the user experience will become. Your visitors will fall in love with it and decide to spend their time browsing your content. Should you fail to do so, you risk losing those visitors and experiencing high bounce rates.
Since WordPress offers you access to hundreds of themes, you will have to choose carefully. Here are the most important things you have to pay attention to when finding the right theme for your website.
Decide on its features before you start searching
Deciding which features your website will have is a groundwork that makes this process fail-safe. The more time you devote to it, the better. Attention to details is paramount here. The first thing you have to do is write down all the features you want your website to have.
Clear Navigation. Navigation helps visitors find and access your website pages with ease. The most common option is Top Navigation. You need to decide which type of navigation you want to use because not all themes have support for all types.
Contact Form. Using the contact form has become a common practice in doing business online. Having one integrated along with a lead magnet will help you build email lists effortlessly. On the other hand, it allows users to effortlessly contact you directly with any questions.
Social Media Integration. People love using social media. With almost half the Earth’s population using it, you should consider integrating social media share buttons or social media feeds into your website. Again, not all themes will support this.
Comments Section. The comments section is a great way to keep your audience engaged. It is a convenient way for them to express their opinions, ask questions, and interact with you, after reading your blog posts.
Favicon and Logo Support. Branding is one of the most important online efforts that can be supported by your website. If you want to leverage the favicon (tab icon), logo, and color palette to create a unique experience for your visitors, you should choose themes that support these types of customization.
Search Bar. In some instances, website owners want to make it even easier for their visitors to navigate a website. This is where Search Bar comes in handy. If you are planning on uploading a lot of content on your website, themes that come with a built-in searchability function should be at the top of your list.
Search Engine Optimization. To appear on search engine result pages, and steadily increase your rank, you will have to optimize your website for search engines. Fortunately, there are plenty of SEO-friendly WordPress themes to choose from. And you can always seek additional help in powerful SEO WordPress plugins.
ECommerce Support. You never know when you might decide to start an online shop. Going with a theme that offers this support will save you a lot of trouble in the future.
Premium vs free themes
Now that we’ve got the features out of the way, it’s time to address the ultimate question of Premium vs Free themes. We are aware that choosing a WordPress theme can be overwhelming, given the number of themes available. Free themes are very tempting, as they offer a decent number of features and good functionality overall, but the Premium ones are the most beautiful and have significantly more features.
Free themes are convenient solutions for people who want to build simple websites and hire external help for future modifications and customizations. They lack customization options by default and come with no or very limited support.
There are several established vendors which provide free themes but it appears that this offer is designed to attract people to buy premium versions, as the free offers come with very limited options.
The price tag on premium themes is there for a reason. All the best-selling premium themes come with a variety of features, and support for mobile. On top of that, the vendors themselves offer documentation, support, and maintenance. The support usually includes access to the theme author, help with known issues and bugs, and assistance with plugins included in the theme.
Furthermore, premium themes are on a more regular update cycle than their counterparts. This means regular bug fixes, better security, and an overall better experience for both you and your visitors.
Responsiveness is an industry standard
A few years ago we would probably tell you to consider responsive design for your website. Today, it is a must-have. Why? Because responsiveness has become an industry standard.
Since almost everybody has a smartphone in their pocket, the chances are that a lot of your visitors will be browsing your website on a mobile device. Going with a mobile-ready theme will ensure the best experience for these visitors, and prevent frustration and a spike in bounce rates. This is why it’s important to check whether the theme supports the mobile, tablet, and desktop view before choosing it.
Font and color
As we mentioned earlier, color is an important part of the user experience, but it’s also commonly used in branding strategies. There is another important factor here – typography.
If you want to make your branding efforts consistent through all channels, you should be able to use specific fonts and colors on your website. So, before you make a final choice, make sure to check whether the theme allows you to use custom typography and colors. More specifically, check:
- The fonts supported by the theme
- Number of typography options
- Color and background management options for each website section
Test it out
Finally, to make an informed decision, you will have to test the themes on your list. After playing with a theme, you will be able to see if it fits your goals and objectives, whether it is compatible with the plugins you plan on using, and check whether you like its specific gallery and video formats.
There are ways to see how the theme performs and feels. You can take a look at the demos, or pre-built websites. Spend as much time as you can afford clicking around, testing navigation, exploring the loading animations, and so on. If you visit the official website of the theme author, you will be able to see which live websites are built with the theme. Go and visit those ones as well.
Recommended reading: The Best WordPress Themes for 2019
Write and prepare your content
Content is information that will be presented on your site. It’s important to create and maintain useful, unique, and clear content so your visitors can easily understand your message. Poorly written and badly presented material can frustrate and discourage visitors from staying on your website or coming back.
There are two questions you have to consider when creating content:
- Is the content relevant and exciting to your audience?
- How should the content be presented to your target audience?
Today, search engines reward (by ranking them higher) websites that make an effort to create quality content to educate people in their niche. You will have to make sure your content is: unique, relevant, legit, and current.
Once you have an overview of your website plan/sitemap, you can drill down to the specifics of the content you need to create for a website launch. It will be important to create evergreen content (content that will not be changing much and will appear on the static pages) and also important to have fresh content appearing on your website on a regular basis.
Create content and promote your website
So, you’ve decided which theme you want and installed it on your WordPress website. Where do you go from there? Now it’s time to start filling your website with content. But first, you will have to create the most important pages on a website.
Create basic pages
The chances are that your theme will create some pages for you. While in the dashboard, go to Pages to see which pages you have on your website. If you already have the About Us, Contact, Services/Products, and Blog pages, you are fine. If you don’t, while in the Pages windows, click Add New to create the ones you don’t have.
About Us page
About Us is one of the most important pages on your website. It will help you build a relationship with your visitors and instill trust in them. Use it smartly to introduce yourself to the visitors. Be open about it. Tell them what you do, why you created the website, and what your plans for the future are. If you offer some products and services make sure to mention them.
Make sure that everything you write is easy to understand (refrain from technicals terms and jargon). Keep it real by being creative. Corporate-speak doesn’t work here. Use this page to show your and your business personality rather than a formal and general one. Open up with an engaging statement, such as “We’d love to hear from you” or “Stop by and say hello”.
The next thing you want to do is to include images. Images of you and your team (if you have one) will help you build trust. Putting a face on a cyber-entity will help your visitors relate, and serve as a credibility boost.
Contact Us page
The Contact Us page is not only visited by the users who intend to contact you. Suspicious people like to check it out to make sure that your entire website is not just another way to scam a dollar from their pockets. You can do a lot here to grab visitors’ attention and show them that you can and will cater to their needs.
Besides the regular contact form, this page should also contain:
- Your and your business name
- Your email address
- Legal info
- Physical address if you have one
- Open hours
- Availability of support
If your theme allows it, try to incorporate as much white space and text blocks as possible to make the content more readable and easier to find. Adding a minimap with your office location is also a convenient addition.
Service and product pages deserve some love as well. The rule of the thumb goes like this:
- Include high-quality photos of products from different angles.
- Use the description section to disclose all important product/service details.
If you support numerous payment options, this is the perfect place to inform your potential customers about them. A return policy is also in order to set clear refund/return boundaries and help your customers learn what their rights are and who they should contact if they want to return a product, or are not satisfied with a service.
Blog section on your website has the potential of becoming your primary lead magnet and converting tool. Since a lot of people have trouble deciding what to blog about, we suggest that you read our insight on choosing the right content type for your blog.
Your blog is the place where you can shine. You can share your own personal insights on the topics that your website visitors want to read about, write comprehensive guides, and how-tos, or share industry trends and data.
You should always aim to enrich your content with high-quality relevant images and infographics. If you have decided to go with a blog that has a comment section, make sure to stay active. Respond to your visitors’ comments, answer their questions, and resolve their doubts.
Blog content plan
Mastering the craft of content writing is not an easy one. But this is not the only challenge that you will have to overcome. You need to be consistent with your blogging activities. This is why you should make a content strategy and devise a content plan.
The content plan is not just important for improving the buyer journey. By consistently delivering valuable content to your readership, your website traffic will grow and you will be able to monetize your online presence more efficiently.
So, what is this content plan all about? It consists of several actions:
- Picking the general topic for your blog
- Choosing the topics for your content
- Writing blog posts
- Create and stick to post schedule
Recommended reading: The Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Great Content
Website promotion campaign
Once you start posting new content on your blog regularly, you don’t just leave it there to chance and hope that search algorithms drive traffic to your website, especially if it is a brand new website. This is why you need to learn how to promote your website.
After all, you won’t be able to monetize your blog with minimal traffic. By promoting your content, you will be able to increase traffic, start generating revenue and capture more leads. Your next stop – social media platforms.
First, you have to answer one question: “Where does my audience like to hang out?” Only then will you be able to choose the right social media platform. The go-to tactic is to create a buzz by announcing your new blog posts and follow up with a post that has a link to your new content.
To get the biggest bang from your social media campaign, you will also have to post at the right time, share relevant posts from other blogs, utilize compelling headlines and hashtags, and thank your followers for being such a nice crowd for reading, liking, and sharing.
Recommended reading: How to Promote Your Website and Its Content
Make money with your website
Once your website becomes a traffic generating engine, you can consider monetizing your efforts. Here are several very effective ways to do it.
There are dozens of affiliate marketing platforms out there. Each one of those offers you an opportunity to earn a commission for helping them sell their products. Let your blog and all around website niche help you decide which product category to aim for.
Also, make sure to inform your readership about your new actions and be upfront about the affiliate links on your website, especially if you decide to start writing reviews and comparing products.
That white space on your website can turn into a money generating machine once you have enough unique monthly visitors. Many website owners already use Google Adsense as one of the major sources of income. This is a convenient way to handle and automate this revenue stream.
But there’s nothing stopping you from directly selling ads on your blog. There are plenty of bloggers with “Advertise with us” pages offering ad space for a fixed price or to the highest bidder. If you decide to pursue this tactic, make sure to disclose your traffic stats, such as Google PageRank and Alexa, so that your ad buyers can make an informed decision and assess how much their investment is worth.
Finally, you can turn your website into an eShop. This is why we suggested going with a theme that supports ECommerce integration in the first place. If you already have products/service pages, you can use this content to create and launch an online shop. Invest in a reliable and secure payment gateway, enhance your website security, and start selling directly to your website visitors.
Recommended reading: How to Make Money From Your Website
Test your website before and after launch
Beta testing. Launching your website is an exciting process and people eager to get it live as soon as possible. With all the excitement, often people ignore the testing step. It’s critical you test your website before it goes live. The testing process can seem overwhelming, and you are not sure where to start. We are here to tell you that it’s not that complicated, you just have to check the following points carefully:
- Content related materials (spelling, punctuation, etc.)
- Design related elements (images, fonts, etc.)
- Web development items ( live URLs, broken links, etc.)
- Search engine optimization details ( title tags, meta data, etc.)
- Network administrator areas (hosting, backup system, etc.)
Even if you’re on a tight budget, you can use free tools like Google Analytics to get a lot of data on how your website is being used, including overlays of your pages to see what links people click on most as well as the ability to track conversion funnels
Post-launch. Once your website goes live, you need to have a strategy in place on what to do next and how to maintain your site. Here are some basic things to consider:
- Prepare your site for promotion.
- Prepare to measure website stats.
- Find maintenance if and when needed.
- Make sure you backup your site.
- Collect visitor’s feedback.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I create a website?
Creating a website is not as complicated as it was before. Today, you don’t have to know much about technology to develop and successfully run your own site. That’s because there are more than few popular content management systems that are designed for the users. So, the first thing you should do is to choose a content management system. Although it depends on the site you want, we would strongly suggest self-hosted WordPress.
- Choose a reliable hosting provider for your site and register a domain
- Install and set up WordPress
- Choose a theme and customize it to your needs
- Find best plugins, install them and configure
How much does it cost to build a website?
The cost of making a website depends on a lot of different factors. If you decide to build your site with WordPress, you can get a new site for less than $50. For example, hosting a WP site with Bluehost will cost you only $2.95 per month, and that includes the registration of a custom domain! You will definitely need to invest a few bucks extra on a premium theme (which will probably be something in a range of $40-120), maybe a few premium plugins (on average, a plugin will cost you about $70), but that’s pretty much it.
On the other hand, if you want a custom website, you should go much deeper in your pocket. For a quality custom design, you will have to pay something in a range of $1,000 – $3,000 when working with a freelancer, and don’t be surprised if an agency asks more than $10,000 for a custom design. Custom e-stores might cost you up to $50,000.
How do I learn WordPress?
WordPress is the most popular content management system, and because of that, the internet is swamped with tutorials, articles, videos and different guides that will help you to learn WordPress. But you don’t have to go far and dig deep to find what you need. We at First Site Guide have prepared everything you will need to learn WordPress.
What to do if your domain name is taken?
Majority of businesses today have gone online. Which means that a lot of domains are unavailable, especially those that end up in .com extension. So if you are trying to register a new domain, the chances are it is already taken. But don’t worry, there are still ways to go around that:
- See If the Domain Is for Sale – although your preferred domain might be taken, you can still get it in some cases. You can go to Domaintools and check if the domain you want is open for sale.
- Set Up Domain Monitoring – if you set up a domain monitor, it can notify you when your desired name becomes available.
- Try different extensions – while yourdomain.com might be taken, try registering yourdomain.net, yourdomain.eu or yourdomain.io.
- Use a different keyword – if you can’t get the business name for your domain, you can always use a different name or maybe a keyword. Try to think of a slogan or a catchphrase that would be a good fit.
Whatever you decide to do, don’t rush because Bluehost allows you to skip the registration of the domain. So you can focus on building your website, while you can register the domain anytime later.
How do I switch from HTTP to HTTPS on Bluehost?
It’s not a question of choice anymore – if you want to run a proper site, you just have to switch from HTTP to HTTPS and secure the blog. Luckily, Bluehost has made it easy for everyone to make the switch. After logging in, it takes just one click to secure your site with the SSL:
- Login to your Bluehost account
- Click on “My Sites” from the menu
- Choose “Manage Site” option (it shows on the main screen)
- Select the “Security” tab which is located on top of the page
- Toggle the “Free SSL Certificate” switch by clicking on it
Please note that it might take several hours before the SSL certificate becomes active on your site.
Useful Resources to help you maintain and grow your website:
We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to creating a website. Remember that nothing you do in website creation is permanent. Many websites evolve as time goes by. The key is to do the best you can in the beginning with your website and to always look for opportunities to improve it. There are always more things to learn, so feel free to visit our Resources page to improve your webmaster skills.