Creating a website is a very daunting task if you haven’t done one before. How do you get a URL? How will I make it look nice? What about all that Analytics & SEO Stuff?
Luckily, in this modern era, there are so many tools available to us that make it simpler. And there is so much education available online to help you in the process. You can easily do it without understanding anything about HTML code.
Of course, there is always the option of having someone design your site for you, but if you were anything like me when starting out, funds to invest are limited. But if you are still totally uncomfortable with it after reading through this post, by all means outsource.
Below I provide the 8 Steps to Getting your Website up and running. These are the broad strokes and each point could easily be a blog post on its own. But I wanted to provide a big picture so you can see what is involved. Some of the points below are the technical necessities (the not so fun stuff for me anyway) but I’ve also included points on the look & feel and purpose. These are decisions you will need to make no matter if you choose to do it yourself or outsource.
Please note these steps are all based on my personal experiences having worked on websites for a number of different companies over the years (without knowing anything about HTML). Having recently gone through the process from scratch myself in setting up this site I have faith this is a good, up to date overview.
Step 1: Find a Domain Name
Depending on where you wish to do businesses it is likely you either want the .com version or a location specific version (.com.au, .co.uk). Or you may want both. List our your URL ideas and start typing them in the URL bar of your browser. If this is what you get then it is likely available:
Ideally, when deciding a business name part of the process is to check to see if your preferred name is available as a website (and also social media). If not and it’s not available there are ways to work around it. For example, you can add “go” or “the” in front of it. Another way is to add “what” you do after the business name. As you can see by my website, I went for this approach. I was so keen on the name mixsavvy but someone already had the .com for a totally unrelated business. So I just added “marketing” to the end.
If you wish to register the location-specific versions of your name like a .com.au you need to do this separately before moving to the next step. This is because in order to get these URLs you must have a business with that name registered in your country. The domain name can then be transferred to your preferred web host.
Step 2: Decide on your Platform & Host
There are a number of web hosting companies out there but the most popular choices are either Wix or WordPress.
Wix is really good if you are totally new to websites as it makes design and layout easy. They provide a number of free templates you can base your site around. They do have a free hosting package but to get the best out of it, you can choose from a number of reasonably priced monthly subscriptions that include your domain name registration for the first year.
Apart from the easy design options, Wix also has a controlled development policy so you can be assured everything will work.
Personally, though, I prefer WordPress (.org not .com) for a few key reasons. I find it simple to use and much more powerful. Some though might find the interface a bit more confusing.
It is an open-source platform so that means that anyone can create “plugins” for the site. Meaning it is not so strictly controlled and some things can actually damage your site. But if you are careful to check reviews and that the plugin is regularly updated (and you do backups) you should be ok. The benefit of this is there are so many more options as to what you can do with your site and you have 1000’s of themes to choose as a result.
The final thing that is a key selling point for WordPress is it’s URL structure. Wix’s structure is not very SEO friendly and you are stuck with what you are given. So if Google organic search results are key to your businesses success I would recommend WordPress over Wix.
The easiest way to get started with WordPress is to register your domain with a host like Bluehost* or GoDaddy. They can even register the domain name for you (unless it’s the aforementioned location specific domains like .com.au). Once signed up you can download the WordPress interface onto your computer which you then open in your browser.
Bluehost has a range of packages available ranging from $3.95 to $14.95 a month which includes the domain name registration and a range of other options.
Just be careful -they do try to upsell you to all sorts of different options for your site. You don’t need to decide on these straight away so it is worth doing your research separately to see if there is a better plugin that you can get from WordPress itself later.
However, there are two things I would suggest you do get initially. Firstly, “Domain Name Privacy” so that Bluehost’s contact details show up as the website owners in a public directory and not your personal details. Otherwise, expect lots of spam from website designers!
The second is to register any other similar domain names like the .com, .co or .org versions of your site. Otherwise, you run the risk of someone else scooping them up and possibly confusing your customer base. This is a personal choice but probably worthwhile.
Step 3: Create a Site Brief
Ok, now into the fun stuff… your site brief!!
It’s important to take the time at the start to think about the purpose of your website and what you want to see. Do you require a blog? An online storefront? A portfolio? A call to action? Answers to these questions and more will strongly influence decisions you make when choosing your theme and plugins- saving you time and money.
To make this as simple as possible I have created a FREE worksheet for you to complete. You can get it here (no email address required)
It covers not only the site purpose and structure but also things like style and branding. For more help on your Branding and Brand Identity, check out this post.
Step 4: Choose a Theme and Customise It
Now you have a brief in place, it’s time to choose your theme. There are 1000’s out there for WordPress and you can get them in a number of places like Mojo Marketplace, Creative Market or even Etsy.
Unless you are really savvy about website design I would suggest you try and find a theme where their demo is as closely matched as possible to what you want your final site to look like. Things like colours and fonts are generally easy to change but layouts can be tricky if you don’t know what you are doing.
I fell into this very trap by firstly purchasing a theme that was very popular and “could do everything”. And to be honest it probably could but it would take me months to figure it all out. After battling it for some time I gave in and searched deeper and found a theme that matched my vision closely. Trust me, it’s a massive time saver!
A few things to look out for are:
- The theme matches your site brief requirements
- The theme is regularly updated
- The reviews are good
- Support is good (test this by sending an email asking a question about the theme, their response time will be a good guide!)
- Mobile-friendly (this is a must have these days!)
Once you have purchased your theme and added the plugin to WordPress (On your left-hand menu go to “plugins” > “add new” and upload the zip file then “activate” it), it’s now time to make the key customisations.
Each theme is different in the way they manage this but most of the settings you can access by going to Appearance > Customise on your left-hand menu. This should be where you can select default colours, fonts and add your logo. For more details on building these brand identity elements, see this post on DIY Branding.
Step 5: Build the Essentials
With WordPress, there are 3 main types of content you can put on your site: Pages, Posts and Widgets.
Pages are self-explanatory. These are your Home Page, About Pages, Contact, Product Pages, Portfolio’s, etc. A page can also show a collection of posts.
Posts are commonly used for Blogs. Each time you create a post it has it’s own URL but can also appear embedded in pages or widgets. Unlike pages which could potentially all look different from each other, posts tend to follow the same style.
Widgets (found under Appearance > Widgets) are the rest of the random boxes that appear around your site. These could be in your sidebar if you choose to use one or in your header or footer. Examples include search bars, social media links, categories or even customised text or images you want throughout your site.
To get your site going, just get the essentials up and running. Home, About, Contact, Blog and/or any key product pages. You can always add more later. It is easy to get caught up trying to get everything up, complete and perfect but you could lose a couple of months of site reputation building by doing so, so just get it up when it is “good enough”.
Step 6: Add other Necessary Plug-ins
As with the previous point, the key here is to get your site up as soon as possible. But you still might need to add some other plug-ins that will enhance your site. Examples include:
- Forms: Either integration into MailChimp or ConvertKit or standalone ones like Gravity Forms or Ninja Forms
- Social Media: “Share” Buttons or also Custom Widgets that show recent posts
- SEO: Plugins where you can customise the information that is presented to Google. The most popular choice is SEO by Yoast
- Home Page Sliders: Layer Slider and Slider Revolution
- Comment Spam Filters
- Backup & Security
- Call to Action (Subscribe) Pop Up Boxes
There are thousands of possibilities out there and much has been written about them. The best thing to do is to just start with what you think is necessary and add/change as you grow.
Step 7: Add your Google Analytics Code
The first thing you are going to want to do when you launch a site is to see how many people are looking at it! Or is that just me??
Google Analytics is an amazing tool to finding this out and so much more like where your visitors are coming from, where they are located, how long they are spending on your site and most popular pages/posts. You can also set goals, create reports and quite frankly unless you really geek out over this stuff more than you would ever want to do.
But you need to set it up for it to work! To do this first create a Google Analytics Account. Once it’s set up you can get your tracking code by going to Admin > Tracking Info > Tracking Code. Copy the text under “Website Tracking” ready to paste on your website platform.
For Wix, you can set this up under the site admin for WordPress it depends on your theme but generally, it will appear in the Appearance > Customise section. If in doubt, check with your theme provider.
Step 8: Review & Launch
Congratulations you have a site!! And while it may never be “truly” finished you are ready to press the publish button! You may want to read over everything first. Or better yet get someone to do it for you (I know I can never spot my own spelling mistakes)!
A few things you need to make sure you check are not only spelling and grammar but also picture alignment and that any hyperlinks you have used work.
But once that’s done… you have a site! Well done!!
Hopefully, this guide has helped provide you with a good big picture of what is involved. If you are stuck at any point I highly recommend looking through YouTube as there are 1000s of videos demonstrating how to do very specific tasks.
What are you stuck on in creating your site? Put it in your comments below and I can see if I can help!
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